Welcome to KEXP Bay Area

Sutro Tower - KEXP Bay Area.jpg

Listener-Powered KEXP 92.7 FM - Coming March 19th

KEXP exists to introduce you to new tunes, to break down barriers between you and the artists who make them, and be a place where strangers become friends by sharing the music that moves them. 

As we shared in November of 2023, an opportunity to do exactly that arose in the San Francisco Bay Area. After submitting a winning bid in a bankruptcy auction and going through a rigorous process with the FCC, the broadcast license for 92.7 FM in the Bay has been reassigned from a commercial station to a noncommercial station—now under the ownership of nonprofit, listener-powered KEXP. 

That means one less radio station serving up algorithm-driven playlists and endless ads. And one more radio station committed to introducing you to new songs and making your life better through music.

If you’re in the Bay Area, tune in KEXP Bay Area at 92.7 FM starting March 19. If you’re not in the Bay Area, we’re still your station — and more than that, we’re still your community. KEXP is not only programmed for, but owned and operated by the music freaks who want to hear the sounds of the underground and songs that transcend genre, who want to do the deepest dive into music they love and discover new artists who channel the experience of life into art that reminds us we’re not alone.


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What can listeners expect from 92.7-FM Alameda/San Francisco? 

To start out with, we’ll be programming 92.7-FM Alameda/San Francisco as a simulcast of KEXP 90.3-FM Seattle - that is to say we’ll be playing roughly the same thing on the air in both markets. A portion of the broadcast will be localized to the Bay Area market, including underwriting and promotional messages that are relevant to Bay Area listeners. We will launch an all Bay Area music show to air Saturdays 6-9PM Pacific in Summer 2024. We’ll also be seeking out and building new relationships with members of the cultural, business, nonprofit, and music communities in the area.

How can I listen to KEXP Bay Area? Where does the radio signal come in?

The KEXP Bay Area stream will be available in the Bay Area and other portions of Northern California at KEXP.ORG, the KEXP Apps, and via radio streaming services. The radio broadcast, originating at Sutro Tower in San Francisco, should come in throughout the City, much of the peninsula, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond as well as other parts of the East Bay, South to mountain View and Fremont, and parts of North Bay. That being said, radio signals can be tricky to predict because of topography, interference, bodies of water, and more. Be assured that we want you to hear us! If you have questions or would like to share feedback about signal quality, drop us a line - feedback@kexp.org.

How can I stream KEXP Bay Area? Is it available on the KEXP App or KEXP.ORG?

Our streaming radio service is set up so that you don’t have to worry about choosing which stream to listen to. The differences between the content on 90.3 in Seattle and 92.7 in the Bay are subtle at this point, and primarily show up as different underwriting and promotional spots in the two markets. That being said, if you are in the Bay Area, or much of Northern California, our streaming service will pick up on that and serve up the KEXP Bay Area stream. Otherwise, you’ll get the same stream as you do on 90.3 FM in Seattle. This should be the case across all radio streaming access points, including the KEXP Apps, KEXP.ORG, third party radio streamers like TuneIn, and smart speakers.

What are your plans for programming that serves the Bay Area market?

Our first priority will be to develop and launch a program that highlights music from the Bay Area, which will air at the same time as the current Pacific Northwest music show, Audioasis. From there, we’ll continue to learn more about what Bay Area listeners want and need out of their new station, and will be making deliberate and responsible decisions to begin to roll out any additional region-specific programming to air only in the Bay Area market. 

We’ll also be working out how we can show up in person for Bay Area music lovers and artists, and how we can act as a partner to organizations that share our mission, or that embrace music and cultural curiosity as a means to foster compassion and connection in the world. We aim to learn from friends new and old to determine how we can best serve the communities that make up the region. We intend to work alongside the existing non-commercial broadcasters and nonprofit organizations that engage in music discovery in an effort to add to the overall cultural scene rather than replace anything that’s already working well for the community.

What's happening longer term on 92.7 FM/KEXP Bay Area?

We're still open to many different options. Much of that will depend on how we do at developing our Bay Area listenership and base of support. As we grow, we are also aiming to keep close tabs on how we can be most useful to the music ecosystem of the Bay. We'll start with a Bay Area analogue to Audioasis, KEXP’s Pacific Northwest music program, and grow from there, informed by the needs of the local community.

How did KEXP come to own a radio station in San Francisco?

KEXP put in a bid to purchase KREV 92.7-FM Alameda/San Francisco in a bankruptcy auction in October of 2023, and we were selected as the top bidder. We paid $3.75M for the station and its assets. In early 2024, the FCC approved the sale and the reassignment of the license from a commercial station to a non-commercial station. The station’s call letters have also been reassigned from KREV to KEXC as of March 19th 2024.

How can KEXP afford to do this? How is this project financed?

KEXP has existing investment funds that are being used for the purchase and initial operation of 92.7 FM, and donor funds are not being used directly for this project. Your gift as an Amplifier or annual fund donor will continue to be applied to KEXP’s general operations - our Seattle-based radio broadcast, digital and in-person music programming, educational programs, Live on KEXP, and more.

KEXP fans might recall that a few years back we received a very generous bequest. A long-time supporter and listener had left KEXP around $10M in her will. This donor, Suzanne, wanted to help KEXP be set up for the long-term, while also having the flexibility to pursue big opportunities when they come up. To that end, Suzanne’s donation was placed in an investment portfolio, with the KEXP Board of Directors holding the responsibility to direct how these funds would be invested. 

Over the past few years, this portfolio has grown a bit, while also generating some annual investment income - interest, dividends, etc. - that is applied to KEXP’s operating budget on an annual basis. We will use funds from this investment portfolio, along with funds raised from a small group of donors seeking to give to this project specifically, to finance the purchase of the station and the first few years of operations. Our projections indicate that we will begin to see positive cash flow from the project after that initial startup period. Basically, we’ll be re-investing existing funds in a different kind of asset - in this case a radio station rather than a more traditional financial instrument like stocks or bonds. This will allow us to continue to invest in Bay Area-specific programming while also supporting the work of the station at our home base in Seattle and worldwide.

Are you going to try and avoid sounding like the station is coming from Seattle? How will this change what I already hear on KEXP?

We’re incredibly proud of who we are - a Seattle-based radio station and arts organization that reaches millions of people all around the world. On any given week, KEXP's audience now includes tens of thousands of streaming listeners and over a million YouTube viewers. We already know that a good portion of our community lives outside the local market -- and that's a strength. KEXP is open to music lovers everywhere, thanks in part to your support.

With that in mind, we want to assure you that we'll never turn our back on our Seattle listeners. We'll continue to champion local music and artists in every way we do now. And we'll continue to be up front that our broadcast is rooted in a specific place, with real human hosts on the mic in our Seattle Center home, regardless of where people are tuning in from. 

One thing that will change is our FCC-required top-of-the-hour station identification. We currently plan to announce both the Seattle and Bay Area call letters when we broadcast those legal IDs each hour.

Why did KEXP decide to make this purchase? Why San Francisco?

When an opportunity comes up to significantly expand the delivery of our mission to enrich lives by championing music and discovery, we feel that it is our responsibility to take it seriously. Over the years, we have seen a constraint in our ability to grow our audience due to issues related to the relative weakness of our terrestrial radio broadcast. There are of course many ways we work to get around these constraints, including our focus on streaming and on-demand listening through our website, mobile apps, and smart speakers. However, good old-fashioned terrestrial broadcast expansion has always been an option that we have been open to.

Purchasing a station in another market is certainly a risk. However, we believe that we paid a very fair price for this station; it was offered for sale just a few years ago for $10M, and we will pay about a third of that amount. We also have an existing listener and donor base to grow from in the Bay Area, a niche that we think we can fill in the Bay Area radio and music communities, and a track record of success when it comes to operating a financially-viable, community-focused radio station. We believe this investment will generate greater impact in more communities while simultaneously growing our base of donors and introducing ourselves and our listeners to more artists - particularly artists from a rich Bay Area music scene that deserves to be celebrated.

Will you buy any more stations? Trying to expand to other markets?

We’re not currently in the market to purchase additional stations. That being said, we also don’t want to count out future opportunities as they come, and thanks to our sound financial position, we have the room to take these kinds of opportunities seriously.

Why invest in terrestrial radio right now? Isn’t radio a dying medium? 

While we do have a lot of options for listening to music these days, radio still performs strongly when it’s done right. AM/FM radio still accounts for over a third of the time people spend listening to audio in the United States. Terrestrial radio remains a very efficient means of reaching people at scale, as there is no incremental cost associated with each additional listener.

At KEXP, we have spent 52+ years developing a model of radio that can stand the test of time. Our approach to radio is rooted in the idea that DJs should pick their own songs to play, that fostering a sense of community is just as important as music discovery, and that the best way (and maybe only way) to keep a  station like KEXP running is through listener power.  

We do have some experience with operating a terrestrial station outside of our home market - a short programming partnership with WNYE in New York City. Through this partnership, we learned that terrestrial radio service will drive increased digital streaming faster than would happen without a radio station in that market. Ultimately, while we’re continuing to make investments in our online radio and on-demand radio experiences, available via KEXP.ORG, our mobile apps, and smart speakers, we respect the power of traditional radio enough to recognize that there’s still a lot of value in terrestrial broadcasting.

Why is this different from KEXP's New York initiative or the Tacoma repeater?

Our experiences with WNYE in New York and the KEXP repeater in Tacoma were very different from this one. KEXP's short time in NYC was the result of a partnership that allowed us to broadcast for a limited period of time each day. It was going well in many ways but the partnership itself was unstable and didn't last very long. For the signal repeater in Tacoma, the financing KEXP was relying on through a public media financing group ultimately fell through. In this case with 92.7 FM, we are able to control our own destiny by purchasing the station and license instead of relying on a partnership, and by our ability to self-finance. This will set us up for the long term in a way those other two efforts did not.

Why don't you focus on expanding the radio signal in the Puget Sound area?

We’re trying to! We have been and continue to explore ways to boost or augment our signal strength in the Puget Sound area, including the purchase or transfer of broadcast signals - but ours is a very expensive and highly constrained market. There is a new broadcast technology we’re looking into that would help us come in a bit stronger in areas that are on the outskirts of our current coverage area - hopefully we'll be able to provide a positive update on that soon. We’ll keep working on this as we expand to the Bay Area.

Is this just growth for the sake of growth? Why should a community nonprofit grow at all? When is it enough?

Nonprofits like KEXP are subject to the same economic factors that every other business is subject to - inflation, high cost of living (especially in Seattle), and rising employee healthcare costs. And most of our budget is dedicated to staffing costs. That means that if our budget stays the same year over year, we’d need to cut services, staff, or salaries to keep pace with increasing expenses. The upshot is that we need to raise a little more money in donations each year just to keep our service exactly the same. 

At the same time, we don’t want to just stay the same. We want to evolve. And in fact, our mission to enrich your life by championing music and discovery cannot be fully realized without a proactive effort to reach more people, share more music, and create more experiences with music discovery. So we don’t grow just for the sake of growing - we grow for the sake of our mission. We grow because we believe that more KEXP in more peoples’ lives will make for a more connected and compassionate world that embraces curiosity and a shared love of music. 

We do need to stay grounded. We do need to stay true to what makes KEXP what it is and what it has been for over 50 years. But in a world where nearly all of the media we consume is owned by a shrinking number of for-profit corporations, mostly just looking out for their shareholders with no regard for the impact of their programming or their platform, an organization like KEXP can stand out. We can be a little spot of brightness, an example of what music media could be if we were all more focused on the joy of discovery, connection, empathy and curiosity. We still think more people out there could benefit from having KEXP in their lives, so we will continue to seek out new ways to make that happen.

Isn’t this move at odds with KEXP as a local radio station? As an organization rooted in a specific community?

KEXP reached a similar cross-roads in the early 2000's when we started to stream our radio programming to audiences all over the world. Do we change how we talk to the audience? Become more everytown? Would people really care about the weather in Seattle? At the time the answer was a resounding "we will stay true to our roots, and remain a Seattle station broadcasting to whoever is out there listening." And now, 2 decades later, over 40% of our audience is outside of Washington State and our commitment to staying rooted in Seattle hasn’t wavered. 

This new venture in the Bay Area represents an opportunity to generate impact in another community that has not had a radio station like KEXP for some time. For the most part and for the time being, that impact will be generated by programming that explicitly originates in Seattle. Over time, we will also develop local programming for 92.7 FM Alameda/San Francisco that will air exclusively in the Bay Area. We’re hopeful that we can work with existing champions of music discovery in the Bay Area to play a positive role in that music ecosystem like KEXP does and will continue to do in Seattle. 

Why not launch with a different version of KEXP that’s programmed by hosts in the Bay rather than a simulcast? Isn’t KEXP all about building community locally?

There are a number of reasons we are choosing to launch with programming that is largely a simulcast of the Seattle-area radio station.

Logistically and financially, launching an entirely distinct KEXP would take a really long time and cost a LOT of money. That’s because of how we program. KEXP DJs have a lot of freedom, but they also have a lot of responsibility, and the expectations that we have of KEXP DJs are somewhat unique in the radio industry. We have to be extremely intentional about who ends up as a KEXP DJ, which means it takes quite a while simply to find the right fit. And ultimately, KEXP has real human beings picking the music 24/7/365 - and that just costs more money than a station run on playlists and automation.

Perhaps more importantly, we didn’t feel comfortable parachuting into a new city and declaring that we know what that city wants and needs from its new listener-powered, independent radio station. That is knowledge that we hope to gain over time, which will help us shape KEXP Bay Area into a station that local listeners and musicians can identify as a positive and consistent contributor to the Bay Area music ecosystem.