Listener power is the reason why KEXP can face tough times, make big changes, and respond to whatever is going on in the world. Why we can play whatever you tell us you need to hear, and say whatever needs to be said. Listener power is part of how you know you’re part of a community — how you know you’re not alone. And in the last year, all of these things became more important than ever before.
In 2020, you kept the music coming for your fellow music lovers, for a community searching for a bright spot. You made sure KEXP not only pulled through, but came out sounding better than ever — and pointed in the right direction.
Thank you so much.
The real story of KEXP in 2020 is the story of this community — all of your stories.
Here’s a tiny cross-section of the literally thousands of messages we received over the year — texted to the DJ booth, shared on social media, mailed via USPS. Sent with canceled Amplifier gifts in a time of hardship, and sent by those paying it forward on behalf of others not able to give.
These stories are profound. Your willingness to share them is an act of generosity that deeply impacted the rest of the KEXP community, and helped us all understand that we are not alone. Thank you for being there for KEXP, and for your fellow music lovers.
In July 2020, KEXP announced the addition of new hosts, new shows, and new and expanded roles behind the scenes. These changes served as an initial public step in advancing KEXP’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization. While this work is ongoing, it’s an important part of living up to our stated mission and values, and an investment in making our programming better and stronger. Learn more at the links below.
Put simply: it was a turbulent and complicated year. In 2020, Covid impacts at KEXP led to a loss of approximately $1.7 million, or nearly 17% of our original budget. Filling the gap required us both to make significant budget cuts and find new sources of funding. In particular, a federal PPP loan was critical in carrying KEXP through the months between a first round of budget cuts and our fundraising drives later in the year.
But what made the biggest difference? The answer is this: many, many more people decided to power KEXP in 2020. Nearly 27% more than in 2019. In other words, all of you made the difference. Taking that step to become a first-time donor. Digging deep to give more than once during the year. Giving on behalf of fellow community members. Thank you so much.
Please click through for a more detailed overview of our 2020 finances, as well as explanatory notes for each category listed below.
• "Like many states, our schools closed this week for the foreseeable future. I am the Facility Manager (aka maintenance dude) and, like you, am alone here in the building this week, deep cleaning and disinfecting the school. I am incredibly grateful to you and everyone at KEXP for being on the air for us. It really means a lot as we once again lean on the music we love to get us through yet another of life's tribulations. Thanks to you all so much for making our lives a little brighter and more bearable with the power of music. If you get time could you please play "Rainbow Connection" for all of the kids and teachers who would normally be here with me today. I miss them very much. Thank you." — Jon, Rock Falls, IL
• "KEXP has gotten me through some dark days, especially the overnight DJs. It is so important to me to hear REAL, not pre-recorded, voices. And I always know it’s not just me — there is at least one other person out there listening, too. Somehow, that helps. Thank you for all that you do during these weird days of pandemic viruses and murder hornets!" —Courtney, Port Orchard, WA
• "I'm getting through the lockdown by working as a delivery driver ten hours a day, seven days a week. KEXP has been playing on my radio the entire time, and it's like having a friend in the car with me." — Kyler, Seattle
• "I moved to Seattle almost exactly a year ago. I'm always so impressed with the vast knowledge of international music of various genres. I'm multicultural/mixed race and it helps me feel welcome here during these scary times." —Sherida, Seattle
• "KEXP has remained my constant connection to Seattle since I moved away nearly two years ago. It has been a safety net, that anytime I need to be distracted from the world or feel a little less alone I can tune in and be part of a community. It has also opened my eyes over the years to stories of grief, loss, addiction, and right now the importance of being vocally anti racist and taking action." —Mason, Wisconsin
Music has always brought all this to our lives. And KEXP’s quest has always been to help music play a larger part in your life.
But in 2020 these things were more sharply felt, more deeply needed. We heard this from more of you than ever before. Thousands and thousands. A community tuning in through uncertainty, trauma, conflict, challenge and change. We heard from you how music became a lifeline, a way to connect to a community while staying physically apart. How music was helping you process what was happening in the world, or just get a much-needed break from it all. (Maybe both at once.) How music helped you through a school day or a frontline shift or a sense of isolation.
In 2020 the KEXP listener community grew—to a historic high point, in fact—and I believe it was because our collective need for music grew, too.
2020 was very tough. However, it was not the time to let up, though the year battered us financially, emotionally, and operationally; in all honesty, KEXP has never been in such a precarious position.
But an extraordinary thing happened: our donor community grew, too. 2020 was a year where listeners played a timely and critical role in powering KEXP—and in propelling us forward. Throughout the year, I witnessed you share your financial support, your creative energy, your vulnerability, your critique. We drew courage from you.
And the issues we faced in 2020 did not end at the turn of a calendar page or a fiscal year. How we pursue our mission. How we serve artists and music lovers with the platform we have. How we hold ourselves accountable on our commitment to racial justice. This report—a summary we’re able to share after our financial audit is completed each summer—is a high-level look at all these things, and part of a continuing story.
Above all, when I reflect on the year, it summons a sense of awe. At the KEXP community—and at what music means in our lives. Music helps and heals. God forbid, if we ever face such a daunting crisis again, I’ll have an even greater confidence in music. And in you. And our listener-powered community. Your support in 2020 brought a bit more joy, comfort, and human connection to so many lives, in so many places, when it mattered more than ever.
With appreciation and gratitude,
Tom Mara, Executive Director