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- Can an “all-Colorado-acts-all-the-time” radio station sustain itself over time? KCOS proves the answer is “Yes.”
When Mark White first launched his 2015 interview radio show that would eventually evolve into KCOS Digital Media, it was clear that his enthusiasm for local music — and passion for introducing Colorado’s musical exports to the world at large — was boundless. Of course, while the premise of an “all-Colorado-acts-all-the-time” radio show was an obvious boon to the local and regional music community, we all know that ambition and good intentions don’t always sustain themselves. However, as KCOS recently celebrated its fourth birthday, the venture, which converted to nonprofit status in 2017, is stronger and more diverse than ever. Can an online station that plays only Colorado-based music remain viable?
It seems so, and White’s simple premise, that Colorado has a veritable treasure trove of musicians and bands that are just as good as anything you hear on commercial radio, seems to have been a good one to bank on.
“Commercial airplay is so competitive,” explains White. “KCOSDigitalMedia.com [has featured] around 400 artists in rotation since its inception, and receives more music almost every day from all over the state.”
KCOS’ social media footprint currently reaches around 15,000, and several of their Wednesday night The Beat Goes On live broadcasts from The Gold Room, which is a performance showcase for a different artist each week, have reached 10,000 viewers. Their associated YouTube channel, Colorado Music Network, which is an invaluable performance archive for a large swath of regional acts, has been perused in over 200 countries. (Which I believe implies that, yes, your band could indeed become big in Japan.)
The evolving (some might say fracturing) music industry and its sometimes disorienting pivot to predominantly digital media has frequently invited debate over the merits of old-school industry “gatekeeping.” Has the now-universal accessibility of recording, production and distribution enriched the marketplace or merely turned the musical landscape into an overwhelming, chaotic mess? White believes firmly in the former, acknowledging the effort it takes to be a working musician: “Everyone deserves to be heard. Musicians spend so much time on their craft.”
“During the day, all genres are played, and the station prides itself on being office- and bistro-friendly,” says White. “There are no DJs; the broadcast software is configured to be, basically, Spotify for independent Colorado music. All tracks on submitted albums are played, and you won’t hear the same song [again] for a few days. Diversity and variety is the mission.”
In addition to giving local records generous airplay, KCOS places equal importance on their livestreaming capability. The staff regularly streams concerts from Stargazers, Sunshine Studios and Denver’s Herman’s Hideaway, thus allowing viewers to catch both local artists and some national acts who perform locally. White counts their streams of Firefall, Richie Furay, Mike Zito and the National Women in Blues as major accomplishments. Viewers can find an array of local festivals documented on the Colorado Music Network YouTube channel, along with larger regional happenings, such as the Greeley Blues Jam and Blues From the Top.
White and the staff like to call KCOS “the best music you’ve never heard,” and are confident that a curious audience ranging from the local to the international will agree. Nothing is certain in the music industry, though I’d say it’s probably a safe bet that there will always be a listener base looking for something new. And KCOS is well-poised to continue offering an invaluable service to Colorado musicians and fans alike.
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