Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Nashville Radio: NPR's WNXP Launches Music Discovery Format

Nashville Public Radio, whose flagship is the National Public Radio-affiliated news station WPLN on 90.3 FM, has been through some significant changes in recent years. 

And nashvillescene.com reports another notable shift took place Nov. 30: 91 Classical ceased terrestrial broadcast. The nonprofit operated the 24-hour classical music station on 91.1 FM since 2011, when it bought the broadcast license for that frequency, which had been used by Vanderbilt University’s student and community radio station WRVU. Classical music continues streaming on 91classical.org and on WPLN’s HD Radio 2 channel, which requires a special receiver to listen to.

Jason Moon Wilkens
Longtime local music and media fixture Jason Moon Wilkins, who joined WPLN as a news host in 2016, is now the program director at 91.1. Bearing the call letters WNXP and the tagline “Nashville’s Music Experience,” the new station is modeled on other public radio stations like Seattle’s KEXP and Austin, Texas’ KUTX, whose programming is aimed at music discovery. 

The idea is to help listeners get intimately familiar with rising artists via repeat plays on the station’s weekly playlists, live interviews and feature profiles, videos and audio that will appear on the main NPR Music website, and more. WPLN is hiring an arts and culture beat reporter, who will also regularly produce stories on local music and music business for WNXP. 

While the station won’t be playing exclusively local music, there will be a focus on Nashville musicians. These days, you might expect locals’ best bet for finding a spotlight to be blowing up on streaming services. Wilkins says that WNXP will focus on doing what streaming can’t.

WNXP is emerging into a notoriously crowded radio market. Its most direct potential competitor is Lightning 100, one of an increasingly rare breed of independent commercial music stations. Murfreesboro’s WMOT covers many Nashville artists as part of its Americana format. Though WNXP’s format is distinct, its mission overlaps somewhat with community stations like WRFN, which went on the air in 2005 and got a citywide signal boost in 2014, and WXNA, whose 2016 launch was orchestrated in part by former WRVU DJs. Still, Wilkins sees WNXP as having carefully carved out its own niche.

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