If you are interested in Portland’s local music scene, you probably already know about KPSU, Portland State’s campus radio station. The station’s commitment to local music is well established and known in “the scene.” What is less well known are the policies and ethos that go into the day-to-day decisions made. Enter Myron Kingsbury. Myron is KPSU’s station manager, and he also fills several other roles at PSU, including working for this paper, as a cartoonist. Myron (aka DJ M_RON) and I spoke recently at Food for Thought Cafe.
How long have you lived in Portland?
This is my fifth year in Portland. I grew up in Salem, although I can claim other locations on the West Coast too.
When did you first become interested in local music?
Oddly enough, in Salem. Growing up in that kind of town that has an oppressive youth culture drove me to become involved in finding venues and promotion. One of the shows that really stands out in my mind is a “battle of the bands” which took place about 10 years ago. I also went to a lot of shows at The Grand, which eventually got condemned.
Is there a specific type of programming ethos that KPSU strives for?
To fill the void left by commercial radio. In Portland there are only a couple of alternatives to commercial radio, us and KBOO. KBOO doesn’t seem to make much of an effort to reach out to the youth audience, no matter what they say. We try to make an effort to feature music that is local and progressive – something that isn’t necessarily going to make it onto KBOO or commercial radio. Like electronica – only very large markets support commercial electronica stations. KPSU isn’t just an electronic station but we do a fair amount of representing that scene here in Portland. We also feature a lot of the “mixed genre” bands, which don’t fit easily into the simple programming of Clear Channel.
What sort of responsibility do you think KPSU has, not just on campus but the broader local music scene?
I think KPSU has the responsibility to be fair in how we represent the local music scene. We don’t just do the popular music, we also try to represent the minority music tastes as well.
How does KPSU use technology?
Everything we do is automatically podcast-able. We have a definite goal to be accessible – we don’t want to force people to stay up until two in the morning just to hear a show they are interested in. We want people to be exposed to that new music any way possible. We also sponsor a lot of concerts. Yeah, most radio stations sponsor concerts but we also focus on making local music accessible. Our number one goal is to get the music out there for PSU students. We also receive student funds so when we get large shows, they are very inexpensive or free for students. It is really important to let the people not only hear the music but also get involved in the scene.
Do you think the future of KPSU is mostly online or over the air?
We’re pretty malleable to what the industry is doing – but, like I said, our number one priority is to serve the students. If students think that they are best served by putting their content online, then that is what we will do. Every year I get asked the same questions about why we don’t pursue a larger FM signal or do satellite radio. We’re trying to serve the students first. The 1996 Telecommunications Act keeps us from getting a new signal, and how many students have satellite radios? We focus on getting the music to the students so we are developing our online offerings and podcasts.
How can a student who is interested in the local music scene contact KPSU?
We hold four open houses each term. The focus of those is primarily to get new DJs, but we also tell people what we are and what we do. The best thing a band can do is listen to the radio and support the other local bands. Find a show that plays the type of music you play and get your music into the hands of the specific DJ. Our music director gets a lot of CDs – a lot of them are local but, unfortunately, they are not all good and it takes a lot of time to sift through to get to the good stuff. If you want to be a writer, you have to read. If you really want your stuff played on the radio, you should listen to the radio.
Any closing comments?
Get to know other people who have similar interests. That is what KPSU is for – a place for bands to find fans and fans to find bands. You have to make it an active process. My recommendation is to know the genre you like and do some research. There are a lot of DJ nights and I think it is really important to go out and support them – if you don’t they disappear.