Don’t look now, but the long, slow ratings growth of public radio Music Discovery stations have suddenly seen a surge at several long-time “Triple A” stations.  Within the past year, and in some cases just the past few months, KUTX in Austin, KEXP in Seattle, WXPN in Philadelphia and WFUV in New York have joined the long-standing format ratings leader KCMP “The Current” in Minneapolis near the top of their market ratings.

Their stories and paths are as different as their local formats.

  • Seattle: KEXPTriple A Share KEXP KUTX WXPN WFUV KCMP the current exploded in the past year and its Share has doubled since December.   In March 2020, KEXP had a 1.0 share in the total market ratings, which was a typical share going back many years, to now being 4thin the market with a 5.3 share.
  • Austin: KUTX is now 6th with a 4.4 Share in March (4.6 in February), and has been on a consistent ratings roll for well over a year.  KUTX ratings typically ranged around a 1.5 Share prior to breaking the 2 Share barrier in April 2020 and has never looked back.  Like the others, their Cume has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.  But, the TSL is at all time highs.
  • Philadelphia: WXPN has been on a slow, steady ratings climb, and sometimes a rollercoaster, for many years.  They jumped up to a 2.3 Share in the Holiday 2020 period vs. Holiday 2019 when they had a 1.0 Share.  Today in March 2021 they sit at a 2.6 Share, good for 13th in the market.
  • New York: WFUV, which had hovered around a .5 Share for years, started seeing its Share grow in 2019, broke a 1.0 Share for the first time in March 2020, and by June 2020 had a 1.4 Share 6+ and a 2.3 Share A25-54.  WFUV’s Share growth, like the others, was driven primarily by massive TSL including 8 hours 15 minutes among A25-54 at its high point.
  • Minneapolis: KCMP “The Current” has been extremely consistent and near the top of the ratings in Minneapolis-St. Paul for many years.  They have been above a 3.0 Share 6+ for years and their most recent high-water mark was a 5.0 Share 6+ in June 2020.

What do they have in common?  First, great program directors.  Kevin Cole (KEXP), Matt Reilly (KUTX), Bruce Warren (WXPN), the late Rita Houston (WFUV) and Jim McGuinn (The Current) are accomplished, experienced and professional PDs.  Second, these are five great organizations from top to bottom.  All of them are heavily curated on a local level with great air staffs.  KEXP is the outlier with more of a freeform approach, whereas the others are carefully formatted.  All of them play a ton of new music, a hefty amount of local music, are not afraid to play unfamiliar music and break format and have also embraced diverse artists and music.  They are all embedded in the local music scene and the local community.  Most of them have conducted local audience research to guide their music strategies.  Most of them have not benefited from external marketing, but instead rely on earned media to drive awareness.

What do they not have in common?  None of them cater to the lowest common denominators and they don’t play the ratings game.  Go figure.  Maybe there is hope for all of us.

Learn more about Mike.


April 2021 6+ Nielsen Ratings:

  • KEXP Seattle 5.7 (3rd in market)
  • KUTX Austin 4.9 Share (6th in market)