Radio K offers variety and local charity support

Joel Tomfohr

When Minneapolis’ Rev 105, a source for local and alternative music transformed in 1993 to Zone 105, a melting pot for national alternative pop, Twin Cities listeners were forced to turn the dial elsewhere to hear local and independent rock.

Some turned to 770 Radio K, which had just hit the airwaves as the University’s AM radio station.

Radio K remains one of the last radio stations in the Twin Cities offering an array of musical genres and supporting local musicians, in a time when airwave diversity is becoming scarce.

Since Jim Musil, a then-undergraduate student, headed up a campaign to keep the U radio station in operation in 1993, Radio K has managed to gain a strong listenership among students and residents of the Twin Cities, as well as recognition around the world through their webcasts.

In 1998 the 770 frequency held a listening audience of 25,000, according to City Pages, a local alternative weekly newspaper.

The station offers everything from purely local music on one of its specialty shows, Off the Record, to music from around the world on Radio K International.

As well as providing an outlet for different musical genres, Radio K sponsors Twin Cities events such as Punk for People and Hip-Hop for the Homeless.

April’s Punk for People raised over $800 for the People’s Center in Minneapolis and money garnered from Hip-Hop for the Homeless in February was donated to Families Moving Forward.

Radio K will sponsor mid-June’s Rock ‘n’ Bowl, which aims to raise awareness of and funds for metro charities.

The station recently broadened its scope by offering shows such as Radio Active which, from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. every Sunday, focuses on social activism and gives information on weekly events. The station also reserves time slots for punk rock, ska, reggae and hip-hop.

The Beat-Box, a show dedicated to local and national hip-hop, won a reader’s choice award in the latest City Pages’ Best of the Twin Cities issue.

Radio K receives money from University student fees as well as from local underwriters, some of which are record stores. Angie Simonson, the station’s program director, said she feels this plays an important part in keeping creative decisions in local hands.

Simonson said local stations owned by companies like Walt Disney have prefabricated playlists cut from an office somewhere in Ohio, for example, while creative control at 770 comes from within the station.

She added that creative command is evident in 770s own playlist, which changes weekly.

Oren Goldberg, a University student who volunteers at the station, said Radio K is a valuable resource in the Twin Cities because it lends exposure to local and independent musicians while offering an educational experience to student volunteers.

“It’s not just college radio, it’s a viable competitor to other radio stations in the Twin Cities,” Goldberg said.