In a city so well known for its live music scene, you might think the radio stations would all be happily playing Austin musicians most of the time. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Most Austin radio stations are owned by large conglomerates, and their playlists are programmed by non-Austinites.
Listener-supported KUTX does feature some local artists throughout the day. The station features periodic fund drives, but it often offers excellent perks for your donation, ranging from concert tickets to access to intimate in-studio performances.
Jody Denberg is perhaps the most well-known Austin radio personality. For years, he worked for KGSR and helped that station earn critical praise. When the station changed its format a few years ago, Denberg left Austin radio completely for a while. Now, he has a show on KUTX and helps lead the station’s programming efforts. He also gets some of the highest-profile interviews with internationally renowned artists such as Pete Townshend, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith and Brian Wilson.
Another favorite DJ is Laurie Gallardo. She’s the consummate music nerd, in the best way possible. Instead of adopting the cynical attitude of so many DJs, she is upbeat without being fake. She’s a genuine fan, and it shows by how well-prepared she is when she interviews musicians. Gallardo was named “Best Radio Personality” for the second year in a row in the 2018 Austin Chronicle readers’ poll. Her afternoon show from 2 to 5 pm Monday through Thursday features her lighthearted humor and clever wordplay alongside her encyclopedic knowledge of Austin and Texas music.
Her popular Austin Music Minute segment promotes up-and-coming bands as well as community-based initiatives such as the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM). She’s also active in a variety of local charities supporting Austin musicians. When she’s not on the radio, she works side gigs as a voice actor for commercials and video games.
For the most part, Austin bands only show up on the other radio stations when they have hit songs.
In March 2017, the highest-rated FM radio stations in Austin were: KBPA (BOB FM, 103.5, classic rock), KKMJ (Magic 95.5, soft rock), KUT 90.5 (NPR affiliate, news/talk), KASE-FM (KASE 101, country), KHFI (96.7 KISS FM, top 40) and KVET (98.1, country).
Format: Eclectic (listener-supported spin-off from KUT; KUT is mostly talk, KUTX is mostly music)
Call letters: KUTX (Music 98.9)
Format: Eclectic (rock, folk, reggae, blues, jazz)
Call letters: KGSR
Format: Hip-hop and soul
Call letters: KPEZ (The Beat)
Format: Classic hits
Call letters: KBPA (BOB FM)
BOB FM is an excellent choice if you want to enjoy familiar old hits from the 1980s and '90s. It's amusing in short doses, but the station's constant promotion of the probably mythical Bob who owns/programs the station gets old fast. They go to great lengths to emphasize the variety of their offerings, but it's really mostly hits from a short window in time.
Format: Alternative rock
Call letters: KROX (101X)
Call letters: KASE (KASE 101)
Call letters: KVET
Format: Top 40 Hits
Call letters: KHFI (KISS FM)
Format: Soft rock
Call letters: KKMJ (Magic 95.5)
Format: Adult contemporary
Call letters: KAMX (Mix 94.7)
Format: Classic rock
Call letters: KLBJ (The Rock of Austin)
Format: Community radio/college. Devoted to the music and political issues of interest to underserved minority communities.
Call letters: KOOP and KVRX
Note: This station is jointly run by KOOP and KVRX. KOOP is a volunteer-run community station and KVRX is the University of Texas' college station.
Format: Easy listening/Classical
Call letters: KNCT (operated by Central Texas College in Killeen)
Format: Local news and NPR shows, eclectic music (rock, Americana, blues, Latin American)
Call letters: KUT
Many of KUT’s shows can be found in the NPR One app. The app aggregates local shows as well as many of NPR’s most popular shows, such as Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, StoryCorp, This Song, the Moth, Live from Here and the TED Radio Hour. Once you select a few shows as your favorites, the app starts to learn what you like and will recommend similar shows in the future, similar to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. It even has a sleep timer, so you can listen to the latest news at bedtime and then let it automatically select other shows and podcasts as you drift off to sleep.
Format: College (Texas State University - San Marcos)
Call letters: KTSW (The Other Side of Radio)
Call letters: KMFA (KMFA Classical)
Format: Jazz/R&B/Gospel/Talk; volunteer-run station focused on African-American community
Call letters: KAZI (The Voice of Austin)