Todays Musing: What is the deal with KGSR?
A few mornings ago, I was forced to publicly recognize an inevitable fact. That KGSR, Austin’s premiere “Keepin’ It Weird” radio station has officially abandoned its format and gone the way of corporate-owned radio. Everyone in Austin is well familiar with the fact that KGSR recently switched its call number on the dial; they went from 107.1 to 93.3 back in November. They also announced at the same time that they were adding songs to their playlists in order to “expand” their repertoire.
Maybe it’s just the rapid demise of Austin music institutions recently, but KGSR’s musical foray into territory once scoffed at by its DJs, main clientele, and music lovers everywhere has prompted me to call it: KGSR is no longer cool. If you listen to KGSR on a regular basis, you’re sure to have seen it happening slowly, but oh so surely. You were probably baffled when you heard “Tuneless Song” from 199-whatever the first time, but surely, the tenth time you’ve tuned in and heard “Semi-Charmed Life” by 90s one-hit wunderkind Third Eye Blind, or any song by Rob Thomas, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Dishwalla, there’s no denying that it’s all too true. And, though they still play many Austin-friendly tunes, sandwiching that Ryan Bingham song, Vampire Weekend, or Robert Plant and Allison Krauss between every few corporate-approved songs is something many of the stations in Austin do; KGSR is no longer a place to hear music you wouldn’t hear anywhere else.
The simple fact is that KGSR expanded their signal and expanded their playlists in order to be more palatable to the newly-reached audiences. And that’s unfortunate for those of us who originally come from cities where Phil Collins and Journey are still regularly played as if music stopped being produced in the mid-80s, for whom Radio Austin was a refuge from that pop song you never liked and grew to hate more with each play.
KGSR’s downfall is unfortunate, but not entirely unpredictable. In an economy like this, money calls beyond all other things. What is fortunate is that there are still some truly independent radio stations in Austin, such as the student-run KVRX, KOOP Radio, and KUT (NPR). And perhaps it’s time we pay more attention to those types of stations anyway.