We need independent radio. In a world of soulless, corporate-owned Top 40 stations, local radio gives a voice to the people. It breaks the mold, inspires conversation, and injects new ideas into a culture thirsty for something different.
A vanguard of this movement, Austin’s own KOOP 91.7 FM is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. With new ways to listen, a broader programming schedule, and a legendary birthday party right around the corner, KOOP promises to ring in the next 25 years in grand fashion.
Born From an Idea
After years of planning, organizing, and applications with the FCC, KOOP aired its first show on Dec. 17, 1994. For a brand new station, the programming schedule was full of variety. Long-time host of underground rock show “Stronger Than Dirt” and member of the original team, Scott Gardner remembers the time fondly.
“It was euphoria,” shared Gardner. “It was really exciting. I had only been here for nine months, but there were others that had been here for years, fighting to get the last frequency, etc. And once we finally got on the air, it was amazing.”
Across its 25-year history, the radio station experienced all the ups, downs, and changes you’d expect from a community-run organization. From three station-destroying fires to a move from downtown to Airport Boulevard, KOOP continued to march forward with its mission: providing a varied and exciting slate of audio content to the Austin community.
And the term co-op, hidden in the station’s call letters, isn’t a simple catch phrase. KOOP is 100 percent cooperatively funded and run by a team of hundreds. All DJs (or programmers, as the station calls them) are required to volunteer time in other aspects of station operation. From helping with the tech to marketing to writing press blurbs, everyone has the opportunity to use their natural talents.
KOOP’s Exciting Lineup
From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (and until 10 p.m. weekends), KOOP broadcasts on 91.7 FM. In the evening and overnight, the signal switches to KVRX, UT Austin’s student-run station.
KOOP also streams online, keeps past episodes in podcast form for two weeks, and has a presence on the HD radio band.
The lineup itself is awash with variety and quality. KOOP literally has a show for everything. Are you huge film buff? “Lights, Camera, Austin” expertly covers both local film and mainstream movies. “Jamaican Gold” (one of my personal favorites) plays the best first wave ska, reggae, and dancehall from around the world. And does your 3 p.m. Tuesday work day need a jolt? Maybe “Under the Eternal Night’s” playlist of black death metal will do the trick.
As you can tell, anything goes on the KOOP lineup. No program directors, nearly no content oversight by management. So long as you adhere to FCC regulations and agree to a basic level of community standards, the time slot is yours to use. Programmers routinely need to pitch and re-pitch shows to KOOP’s governing board. But once approved, it’s off to the races.
Celebrating the Big Two-Five and Beyond
What’s a silver anniversary without a blowout party? KOOP’s shindig will take place Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at Antone’s. The lineup is as eclectic as the station itself. From Austin legends A Giant Dog and Broken Spoke stalwart Dale Watson, to the beloved samba sound of Cilantro Boombox. the evening is going to rock.
And the train doesn’t stop with a show. KOOP continues to innovate and look for ways to increase its footprint in the Austin cultural landscape. According to station General Manager Frederico Pacheco, an increased focus on marketing is on the docket, along with a potential expansion to the HD2 and HD3 digital radio streams. With the new formats comes new opportunities for shows, increasing the station’s current slate of original programming.
Like I said in the open, the world needs new voices and a platform where they can be heard. By adopting a landmark cooperative business model before the term was a hip buzz word, KOOP remains an independent source of music, opinions, and quality content. A shining example of the power of community and what can happen when people get together to create something great. Here’s to another 25 years and beyond!
Learn more and listen online at koop.org.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite show on KOOP?
The original version of this article was published Feb. 25, 2015.