'XPN expands into central Pa.

Music lovers in central Pennsylvania woke up Halloween morning to find a new alternative on their radio to those tired commercial stations: WXPN.

Penn’s renowned radio station, famous for its unique blend of rock, blues, alternative, roots and folk music, can now be heard on 88.7 and 99.7 FM in the Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, and York areas, as XPN made its first major expansion in years.

Just one week after the launch of the new central Pennsylvania affiliates, ‘XPN General Manager Roger LaMay spoke with the Current about why ‘XPN decided to expand, the state of commercial radio, and ‘XPN’s future.

Q. Why did you decide it was necessary to expand into the central Pennsylvania region?
A.
There is a significant number of underserved music fans out there. They’re not getting anything other than a small handful of commercial music stations. We had good success with a low-powered FM station in Harrisburg over the years, and the opportunity came up to expand and make us pretty much continuous from here [Philadelphia] to Gettysburg, so we took advantage of it. It extends our public service out there and gives us a much bigger footprint.

Q. Harrisburg listeners used to get XPN on 88.1, but that station has been sold. They can now tune into 99.7. Why was that change made?
A.
We bought 88.7 in Middletown, between Lancaster and Harrisburg, and we also bought a transistor west of Harrisburg to beef up our coverage. We sold the smaller station at the same time. The station we bought in Middletown is actually more powerful than the original ‘XPN. We doubled the geographic area and added 20 percent more potential audience, reaching an additional 1 million people.

Q. How much are these changes costing the station, and how are you paying for it?
A.
‘XPN paid for it out of its reserves. It’s a net cost to us of about $3.5 million. We expect for it to pay for itself, through, in just seven or eight years through new members, new business support and grants.

Q. How does this expansion affect the long-term viability of the station?
A.
By increasing our broadcast area and what will result—increasing our membership and whole base—I think it puts us in a stronger position for the long haul and reinforces our commitment to make a difference for our artists and audiences. We sponsored three free concerts over the weekend out there and we had great turnout. People were overwhelmingly positive that we were coming there. Venues in the area will be more likely to book artists heard on the station. We see a number of positive things coming out of this. We have a lot of work to do, but based on what’s happened so far, everyone seems to be excited.

Q. Will the new frequencies have their own traffic, news, and weather broadcasts?
A.
We’re already including some local traffic and weather. We have come to the conclusion, for now, there’s not really enough to do its own, so we’ll incorporate it. We will, from the get-go, have separate concert listings. We’ll be including the new area in our local music initiatives, and we’ll have some local underwriting.

Q. How are stations like ‘XPN staying relevant in this age of satellite radio, Internet radio, and iPods?
A.
We need to commit to new technologies and be available on multiple platforms. We have a real commitment to our Internet streams and Web sites and on demand listening. This strategy of increasing our broadcast footprint and having a little more size and heft to us is a strategy that I think will help us to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
On another level, what’s happening with commercial radio is really kind of helping us. As commercial radio is becoming narrower, it’s helping stations like us that play a wider variety of artists.

Originally published Nov. 15, 2007.

Originally published on November 15, 2007