Pause the podcasts – three ways to dig the radio dial

By :

Posted: Aug 22, 2017

I love my podcasts as much as the next consumer. (Shout-outs to you, Political Gabfest and NYT Popcast!) I stream much of the music I hear, and nearly every movie I watch is piped through Netflix or Amazon.

And yet, I’m not itching for an exclusively on-demand world in which all media is available whenever I want it to be. To the contrary. In fact, I’m a bigger devotee of traditional radio than I’ve ever been.

“But!” I hear you say. “But the convenience of on-demand!” I get it and value it.

I also prize the immediacy of listening to a radio show as it’s happening. When you listen to a great broadcaster, you’re listening to a work of art being created in the moment. Hearing a thoughtful DJ’s insights and in-jokes and spontaneous decisions is pure magic.

It’s gratifying to know that untold numbers of folks are all experiencing the show at the same time. Maybe the person in the car next to me is grooving to the same song. Or someone scrubbing a floor. Or a kid headed home from school. There’s a small pleasure in knowing that a whole swath of people is listening to the same thing, at the same time. There’s community there, however nebulous and ephemeral.

So why not hit pause on one of your regular podcasts (it’ll wait for you!) and check out some of these radio stations rooted here in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t live here? Follow the links for the live streams.

FIRST, GET UNCOMFORTABLE.

Wait, what? Actually, one of the best ways to experience radio anew is listening to unfamiliar voices. And there may be no better place to start than Seattle, which has some of the most dedicated public radio audiences in the country. Witness: classical KING-FM switched from a commercial format to a listener-supported operation in 2011, and last year, fans of jazz and blues KNKX bought the station from a local university.

Why are they so dedicated? These stations are staffed by DJs whose knowledge and passion are bottomless. Give ‘em a shot—especially if they’re not what you typically listen to. The DJs and programming are strong enough to engage any curious mind.

Or try KBCS’s diehard roots and country show “Walkin’ The Floor” on Sunday morning. Of course the gold standard for joy and expertise is KEXP, particularly Kevin Cole’s daily shows. (Full disclosure: KEXP is a former client. Second disclosure: they’re so dedicated people look forward to their fund drives.)

THERE ARE NEW THINGS UNDER THE SUN.

Believe or not, people are still launching new ventures in radio. Portland’s XRAY.fm (that’s KXRY to you old-schoolers) launched in 2013 with a Kickstarter campaign that doubled its fundraising goal. More than 80 local DJs lovingly assemble music, comedy, and talk shows that play on both ends of the dial in town: (91.1 and 107.1 FM). There’s even a Nonprofit Hour for folks doing good in the City of Roses—and it’s not even tucked into a Sundays-at-5-a.m time slot! Check it out Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

GO LOW.

As in low-power. Since 2000, a variety of policies have opened up radio spectrum to small community broadcasters. Seattle’s new low power station in the Rainier Valley, KVRU, is slated to start broadcasting this fall. Also in Seattle, Hollow Earth Radio has long operated with the scrappy spirit of a low power station, though they’re exclusively streaming online. “Our focus,” they say, “is on found sound, field recordings, forgotten music, local musicians, bedroom recordings, low-fi demos, dreams, storytelling, and things that feel real.” Perfect for blasting at work.

Of course, we’re just scratching the surface here. What radio rocks your world? What do you tune into during the wee hours? Tweet us at @pyramidcomms. Our ears are always open!

Twitter: @_ChrisNelson
If Chris was the ocean-going sort, he’d be a deep-sea diver—someone who’s committed to plunging the depths and hunting for every detail. It’s in his nature. He’s a former award-winning journalist who has penned pieces for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune and other outlets. At Pyramid, Chris marries his skills as a journalist with his passion for social causes and the arts. Whether crafting a case statement, helping organizations articulate their purpose, or pitching stories to the New York Times, Chris finds the compelling heart of a story and presents it engagingly to the right audiences. As board chair at The Vera Project, Chris is an advocate for youth in the arts in Seattle. He enjoys taking his kids to the Seattle Opera and watching absurd comedy with his family. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in English from James Madison University.