Over its 50-year history, KEXP has evolved from a scrappy college radio station into a renowned multimedia organization with a worldwide audience. As the Seattle institution crosses the half-century mark, a number of changes have been afoot in recent years.
Following the recent departure of longtime CEO and executive director Tom Mara, a new leader for the independent radio bastion has been selected to oversee the next chapter in KEXP’s evolution. Ethan Raup, who’s served as KEXP’s chief operating officer the past six years, has been named the new president and CEO.
“I think we’re on an incredible path right now,” said Raup, who officially starts his new gig July 1. “I feel good about the role I’ve played helping get us onto that path, and I’m so excited about the next steps I know we can take.”
Raup’s hiring follows a six-month international search to replace Mara, who was recently named executive director of the Seattle International Film Festival. A news release announcing Raup’s selection touted his work in addressing pay equity at the station, technological investments geared toward digital audiences and his efforts in programming changes that helped elevate a more diverse array of voices within the organization.
Despite losing its leader of the past 30 years, the search committee wasn’t initially concerned with maintaining a sense of continuity at the top of the organization, said Jill Singh, president of KEXP’s board of directors. Throughout the interview process, Raup continuously brought new ideas and demonstrated “a style of leadership that we knew we were looking for,” she said. His knowledge of the station’s internal workings and “the journey that the organization has been on” ultimately became an added bonus in the eyes of the board, which unanimously selected Raup.
“In the end, Ethan is an active leader inside KEXP and he gets things done,” Singh said. “He’s very action-oriented and that told us, seeing the evidence of that over the past couple years, we really knew what he could do.”
Prior to joining KEXP more than eight years ago, Raup amassed extensive experience in local government, working under former Seattle mayors Mike McGinn and Norm Rice as well as former King County Executive Ron Sims.
In the coming months, Raup plans to begin a strategic planning process with “broad-based engagement” among staff and community members to identify ways to reach new listeners and better serve KEXP’s existing audiences through its radio/online broadcast and popular YouTube channel among other avenues. KEXP has also ventured into podcasting, first with its thoughtful “Sound & Vision” series and the recent “Fresh Off the Spaceship,” a deep-dive limited series exploring the Seattle-based Black Constellation collective.
Two years ago, KEXP reconfigured its prime-time weekday schedule that had previously been filled with mostly white, male DJs, creating slots for Larry Mizell Jr. and Gabriel Teodros, two respected veterans in the Seattle music community. The station also added its “Overnight Afrobeats” show and promoted Albina Cabrera to a full-time role as a Latin American content producer and co-host of “El Sonido,” KEXP’s Latin music show. The moves were part of the station’s pledge to become an anti-racist organization and were accompanied by measures to close pay equity gaps within the station.
“We’re at a point now, I think — between [recent] investments and the deliberate path we set down two years ago to really open up and welcome in more voices — we’re in an incredible position to really think big about the future,” Raup said.