Seattle Indie Radio Phenom KEXP Buys San Francisco Station

As somewhat of a progressive, West Coast kid-sibling city, Seattle is used to inheriting things from San Francisco: high-paid tech workers and hip-hop aesthetics to name a couple. Now, San Francisco is on the receiving end of a distinctly Seattle cultural export.

KEXP has purchased San Francisco’s KREV 92.7 radio station, and pending FCC approval, “will be taking full ownership and operation” of the station “within the next few months,” according to a Thursday donor email written by KEXP CEO Ethan Raup. KEXP submitted a winning $3.75 million bid for the station as part of a bankruptcy auction on Oct. 23.

The revamped Bay Area station is expected to begin broadcasting in the next month or two, a KEXP spokesperson said, pending a few “technical and engineering details.”

When the San Francisco station launches, it will air “more or less the same programming” as KEXP’s 90.3 FM Seattle station, per Raup’s email to donors, with the exception of a new Bay Area local show akin to KEXP’s Pacific Northwest-centric “Audioasis” that it hopes to introduce within the first six months. Those developing relationships with the local music community “will help us define the evolution of the Bay Area station,” Raup wrote.

KEXP’s spokesperson declined an interview request Thursday but provided the following statement from Raup:

“We’re incredibly excited to explore this opportunity to grow KEXP’s platform both for music fans and artists alike. As we look ahead to taking to the airwaves in the Bay Area, we will work to further build out a sustainable plan to grow our connection between different musical and cultural communities and expand on our existing Bay Area audience — all while remaining firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest.” 

“We’ve been proud to call Seattle our home for more than 50 years and will be even prouder to continue doing so as this expansion moves forward.”

In his email to donors, Raup wrote that KEXP “will continue to champion Pacific Northwest music and artists in every way we do now. And we’ll continue to be upfront that our broadcast is rooted in a specific place, with real human hosts on the mic in our Seattle Center home, no matter where our listeners are located.”

KEXP’s cultural footprint has extended well beyond the Northwest for years. Its popular in-studio sessions have garnered a sizable online following through YouTube, and KEXP has made inroads with audiences in Latin America. Its global reach was acutely felt during the first months of the pandemic, when its DJs read messages from isolated listeners around the world who tuned in for some sense of connection and community.

The acquisition was paid for through an investment fund established after a well-heeled supporter left KEXP a $10 million donation in her will several years ago. The board-controlled fund was intended to provide KEXP with financial stability, yielding annual returns and giving the station the “flexibility to pursue big opportunities when they come up.”

Evidently, KEXP brass views the Bay Area expansion as a potential revenue driver.

“Our modeling suggests that we will begin to see positive cash flow from this project within the first few years,” Raup wrote in the email. “That means we’ll be able to sustain and grow Bay Area-specific programming while also providing support for KEXP’s work in Seattle and worldwide.”

KEXP’s expansion into the Bay Area isn’t the first time the renowned Seattle station has dabbled in other terrestrial radio markets. In 2008, KEXP entered a short-lived partnership with a city-owned media group in New York City to create a new station dubbed Radio Liberation. The NYC station simulcast KEXP’s Morning Show with John Richards among a handful of other shared programs, finding at least one famous fan in Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include an additional written statement from KEXP CEO Ethan Raup.

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