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40 T/D/Y #38: KEXP Volunteer

Although I discovered KEXP as soon as I moved to Seattle, and promptly became a regular listener, I didn’t start thinking about volunteering for them for quite a while. Around April 2006 it occurred to me that volunteering would be a good way to get out of my house more and meet new people, as well as being more involved with music I love and doing something to support the station I enjoyed. However, I let months pass without signing up, and so I put it down as one of my goals for 2007.

I finally filled out the volunteer application just before their summer membership drive in July 2007. It was so close before that drive that I wasn’t confirmed as a volunteer until afterward, so I did not do any shifts during the drive, but I did start soon after by helping out at a mailing party, when volunteers package the thank-you letters and gifts from the drive. I became a regular at mailing parties, and for the fall membership drive in October I signed up for a couple data-entry shifts, which also became my regular role for membership drives.

I also signed up to work at the KEXP BBQ in August on the post-event cleanup/breakdown crew, and a couple months later went to an orientation meeting for volunteering at KEXP-sponsored events. However, right after that, they discontinued sponsoring shows, so it wasn’t until a year later, in November 2008, that I was able to man the membership table for my first KEXP event, My Brightest Diamond playing at the Triple Door.

At the end of 2008, the station approached me with a special request. They had been discussing an upcoming big data-entry project for the online team, and I’d been recommended for taking on the task. I already had a reputation for speed, accuracy, and attention to detail from my data-entry shifts during the pledge drives. I agreed to help out, and started in early 2009. The project involved updating information in the database of live performance recordings that can be played as audio streams from the KEXP website. In particular, most of the recordings over the past decade had been saved just with file names, such as “yourfavoritesong.rm”, which were hard to read on the website and hard to find through Internet searches. My main task thus was to fill in the title field for all the files, so for example the song would appear on the website as “Your Favorite Song” and would come up in typical search results; naturally, most of the files were missing other required metadata, which I had to fill in as well. I started going to the station each week: although I could access all the work online from my laptop, I felt that it helped me to make a regular schedule of going to the station to get it done, and I also enjoyed the opportunity to be at the station and get to know the KEXP crew. I was surprised though after a couple weeks when I found myself included on the interns mailing list; apparently, simply having a regular weekly volunteer shift was enough to be counted as an intern.

Over the course of 2009, I went in to the station most weeks and spent three to five hours working on this project, as well as another shorter data project for several weeks, and finished up the main one in early December; in total I worked 161 hours as an intern this year. I don’t know for sure what’s next, but I’ll be continuing to do some kind of intern work for the online team in the new year.

When I went in 2007 to the orientation meeting for KEXP events, I explained that I had my own music blog and wrote reviews of the shows I attended, and asked whether that would be a conflict of interest. I was instead told that they were always looking for writers for the KEXP blog, and encouraged to contact their webmaster. I did send an introductory email at that time but never heard back, no doubt simply because he was busy, and I never followed up on it. In August 2008 I attended the KEXP Volunteer Appreciation Party, which featured several bands that had members who volunteered for the station. I was particularly struck by one band, Hotels, and loved their sound so much that I started stalking following them, attending their next few shows and writing about the shows in my blog. When I started my internship at the station, I had the opportunity to introduce myself in person to the KEXP webmaster and offer to write for the blog, with my first suggested article being a review of Hotels’ second album Where Hearts Go Broke, being released that February. The webmaster agreed, and that is how I started writing for the KEXP Blog. That proved to be a great opportunity, as I was able to attend some shows and events I would never have considered, such as My Bloody Valentine’s amazing performance in April, the Sasquatch Music Festival in May, and the Decibel Festival in September. I also expanded my music writing by starting an occasional series of articles about the different subgenres of rock.

It’s funny now for me to think of how long it took me to start volunteering for KEXP, because it’s such an obviously great fit for me. I’ve really enjoyed becoming part of that community and making some good new friends. I also believe strongly in the station’s mission to provide and educate the community about music, and I’m glad to be part of that, enjoying even the mundane work such as data entry that I do for them. Although I’m currently faced with serious financial issues and a pressing need for regular work to get regular income, I still intend to be as active as I can be in the coming year with KEXP.

[Note: Once again, backdated to appear on the day it was scheduled to be posted; I've been just too busy these last couple days of vacation (ironically, busy in part with work) to keep up.]


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