Last August, I met with the general manager of WXPN Roger LaMay.

At the time, LaMay was taking a gamble. His noncommercial, member-supported Philadelphia radio station was expanding coverage to southcentral Pennsylvania.

LaMay said he thought there was an untapped audience in York, but was unsure if the station would take off.

Having relocated to York from suburban Philadelphia a few months earlier, I was happy that XPN followed me West. The local radio dial offered me ample opportunities to rock out, sing along to Top 40 and groove to the oldies. But when I was in the mood for something indie, I popped in a CD. That changed a year ago when XPN began broadcasting on 88.7-FM.

I recently caught up with LaMay, and he told me his gamble paid off.

"Everything is going along as we hoped," he said. He told me that I'm not the only person tuning in.

It usually takes about two to three years to start to convert listeners to members, LaMay said. But XPN caught on faster in York. Their station has seen a 60 percent increase in recent months. XPN events including Funky Fridays and sponsored shows have drawn hundreds. The CapLive music series -- the most recent development -- brings XPN artists directly to local fans at the Capitol Theatre in York this fall.

When XPN expanded, LaMay wanted to help local artists be heard as well.

Chambersburg band the Shackletons played an XPN summer event. At an Oct. 3 XPN-sponsored concert, Lancaster acts The Sleeping World and Slimfit and Harrisburg band Farewell Flight opened for the Old 97's at the Chameleon Club.


Bands and listeners aren't the only beneficiaries. XPN has generated $150,000 from local underwriting announcements.

"That's a good sign," LaMay said. "It means that businesses see value in the station and use it to get to customers."

XPN listeners have turned into customers at Iko's Music Trade in Springettsbury Township.

Owner Paul Hamilton said that his largest selling title last year was Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's "Raising Sand."

"XPN was the only station I hear that was playing that album," he said.

Hamilton doesn't cater to mainstream artists, who are sold at Targets, Best Buys and Wal-Marts and neither does XPN.

"If they play an obscure artist like the Iguanas on XPN, their album will sell better here," he said.

Hamilton, 52, grew up in Florence, N.J., which was part of XPN's coverage area back when it was known as the University of Pennsylvania's radio station.

He said he was surprised when it expanded to York.

Most of the stations in the area are run by corporations and play a generic database of music, Hamilton said. While XPN still follows a format, it is able to choose music from a wider array of artists. The result, Hamilton said, is variety.

LaMay said the spike in XPN listeners means that people in the region were hungry for variety.

In the next year, XPN plans to continue to host events in the region every quarter. The station changed its Philly Local section to XPN local and LaMay said it hopes to generate more content specific to York, Harrisburg and Lancaster.

"We are looking to blend it into our Philly coverage," he said.

In the meantime, LaMay is taking another gamble with his costume for the Nov. 1 World Café Live Halloween party in Philly.

"I think I'm going to go as a cowboy junkie," he said.

POPeye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. Reach Erin McCracken at 771-2051 or

Speak up

"Not only do I love 'XPN, my wife and I became members of the station. By far the best radio station in the area. 90% of the new music I get into I find on 'XPN. I can't recommend this station enough."

-- The Lager Lad

"WXPN is the best radio station anywhere in Central PA. The variety of music is amazing -- you can hear artists and styles of music you won't hear anywhere else on the radio, especially in these days of the Clear Channel monopoly. In fact, since the station started broadcasting in this area last year, I have not listened to one minute of commercial radio. I highly recommend XPN if you're tired of music derivatives and commercials."

-- teamccloud

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