With CPB support, public radio Triple A stations team up to showcase music videos

By Mike Janssen

PHILADELPHIA — A new website and mobile app backed by CPB will showcase videos of new and emerging bands, produced by five partnering public radio stations that specialize in contemporary music.

The $750,000 CPB grant was announced Thursday at the opening day of the Non-Commvention, an annual conference for Triple A station programmers hosted by Philadelphia’s WXPN. The station is one of the partners in the project, which has the working title “Music X.” The other stations are KTBG in Kansas City, Mo.; KUTX in Austin, Texas; WFUV in New York; and KCRW in Los Angeles.

A national umbrella site will showcase the best videos, and stations will also curate channels with their own brands for local audiences. A click-and-drag interface will enable curation for local apps and sites. Live webcasts will also be included, and some videos may air on public TV stations.

The site and app will “[help] music lovers and other stations discover local artists while attracting new and younger audiences to public media programming,” said Erik Langner, managing director of Public Media Co. PMC is leading the collaboration and developing the underlying video platform, Channel X, with funding from the Wyncote Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The participating stations used to see each other as competitors, said Roger LaMay, g.m. of WXPN. “You don’t have to go too far back to see that WXPN and KCRW working together was not in the cards,” he said. But “the competitive landscape has changed . . . and we are not each others’ competitors,” he said, to applause from the audience.

LaMay told Current that discussions about Music X began among him, Jennifer Ferro and Stewart Vanderwilt, his counterparts at KCRW and KUT, respectively. Music X marks the first collaboration of its kind among Triple A stations to focus on growing audience and sharing content, LaMay said.

The national site will not be branded with station call letters or as public radio, said Mike Henry, c.e.o. of Paragon Media Strategies. Participants hope that the low-key strategy will help introduce new audiences to public radio. As viewers see station brands in videos, they’ll discover the stations along with new music, Henry said. Henry is serving as the project’s senior creative advisor and is leading efforts to design the “audience experience,” according to a press release.

Capacity for producing video was a criterion for determining which stations would participate, according to LaMay. KTBG is serving as the fiscal agent on the CPB grant and contributes an inroad to other public TV stations — it was purchased last year by KCPT, the Kansas City public TV station. KCPT President Kliff Kuehl said he hopes to interest stations in public TV’s Major Market Group in airing Music X videos.

“From the beginning of these conversations, our intent has been to build this service for stations and by stations so that it can be scaled to include many other public media organizations,” LaMay wrote in an email. NPR is not involved, “but as we develop this we look forward to engaging them in a conversation to see how we might work with one another,” he wrote.

“It’s clear there’s a lot of interest in this,” Langner said Thursday. Partners are already talking to several other stations interested in joining, he said.

Participating stations hope to streamline the process of negotiating rights clearances from performers, LaMay said.

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