Fast Company

How NPR Became the Hippest Way to Discover New Music

decemberists_300Podcasting. Live concerts on-demand. Full previews of albums. Original performance videos. Curated streaming in 100 different genres. It's not on YouTube. It's on Npr.org/music, a fast-growing site launched by the nonprofit as a way to unite and expand its work as curators of music for curious music lovers. It's one of the many ways NPR is surprisingly finding itself on the digital cutting edge, as I wrote about for the Fast 50: there's an interesting affinity between public media and social media.

I sat down yesterday afternoon at South By Southwest, as the Interactive conference gave way to the Music festival, with Anya Grundmann, Executive Producer of NPR Music, Bob Boilen, host of the popular podcast All Songs Considered, and Carrie Brownstein, formerly of the band Sleater-Kinney, who writes the quirky, literate and introspective Monitor Mix blog for the site.(Fun fact: She is a huge fan of NPR and originally tried to get a job on Car Talk). Also joining us, and representing the member stations, was Jody Evans of KUT in Austin.

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Two themes emerged in our conversation: one, public radio people have a deep and sincere and absolutely all-encompassing love of music and of sharing it as widely as possible; and two, they are not interested in monetizing it. They shot down the audience's questions one by one: no, we aren't going to start a record label; no, we aren't interested in exploring new cross-platform advertising or promotional deals; no, we aren't trying to compete with  iTunes or Pandora. I respect and even applaud their integrity, but I still wonder how, under a nonprofit model, artists are gonna get paid. I guess part of the answer comes from celebrating and elevating live music, as a complement to the online experience. 

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[Top to Bottom: artists featured on NPR.org/music and at SXSW: The Decembrists,  Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, The Phenomenal Handclap Band.]

Related: Will NPR Save the News?

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