Texas Connect


10 years of music on KUTX: The KUT affiliate is celebrating its 10th birthday with a concert series

KUT Staffers at KUTX Live at the Four Seasons during SXSW
KUT staffers at “KUTX Live at the Four Seasons” during SXSW 2017. Photo courtesy of KUTX 98.9

Bass and melodic rhythms reverberate across Mueller Lake Park on Friday, April 21. Children run about, laughing and playing. Parents spread colorful quilts and blankets on the grass. They sip on lemonade as they enjoy the spring weather and live music.

KUTX-FM 98.9, a full-time music service broadcast from UT that streams worldwide, is celebrating its 10th year with a birthday concert series and the release of a limited album, “KUTX Live!: Ten Years On.” The album features 20 different studio sessions with artists over the years.

The radio station launched in 2013, splitting from Austin NPR’s KUT. KUT was originally split 50% music-50% news. The separation came about after market research showed that there was a local interest for a public music station.

“We realized that there was room to do 100% of two things,” program director Matt Reilly says.

We’re member supported, so we have the freedom to take more risks.

Matt Reilly

The vision for KUTX was to reflect the Austin music scene. To do so, it needed to get away from the commercial radio model. As a public radio station, KUTX is a nonprofit organization, soliciting donations from individuals and businesses. Public radio has more freedom and is not held back by corporate interests or bogged down by ratings.

“(Being a public radio station) isn’t, on paper, a safe thing to do, (especially) to be playing unknown Austin artists at a high frequency,” Reilly says. “But we’re member supported and so we have the freedom to take some more risks.”

Grupo Fantasma perform in KUTX Studio 1A credit_ MichaelMinasi
Grupo Fantasma performs at KUTX Studio 1A. Photo by Michael Minasi

One notable risk was launching the program “The Breaks,” a show where the hosts discuss and play hip-hop. Reilly says the hosts, Confucius Jones and Aaron “Fresh” Knight, both Austin natives, came to him looking for an outlet for the Austin hip-hop and soul community. Without a free spot on air, Reilly invited Jones and Knight to serve as guest DJs for a program every Saturday night called “My KUTX.” The pro- gram lets a musician or notable music lover make the station “My KUTX” for an hour.

“One thing that I actually found really compelling was they said to me: ‘You’re on the UT campus, in the middle of 50,000 students. They all have earbuds in. What do you think they’re listening to? It’s hip-hop,’” Reilly says. “So that really struck a chord with me, where I was like: ‘Oh, you’re right. They’re the next generation.’”

Reilly invited them back several times until a permanent Saturday night spot opened, which he immediately offered to the pair.

Confucius and Fresh of _The Breaks_
Confucius Jones and Fresh Knight, hosts of “The Breaks” hip-hop radio show and podcast. Photo courtesy of KUTX 98.9

KUTX has continued to develop its guest DJ program over the years, hosting many notable figures such as Adrian Healey — the commentator for Austin FC — Adriene Mishler from “Yoga with Adriene,” and even the former women’s basketball head coach Karen Aston. Reilly joked that Matthew McConaughey will always have a spot if he wants it.

Programs like this reflect back on the station’s main goal of being local. KUTX wants to show audiences in Austin and beyond what the Austin music scene is all about.

“As we grew and sort of figured out who we are as a station, we all came to the realization that that archetypal Austin sound has more to it than what had been marketed to the world,” assistant program director Jacquie Fuller says. “There was hip-hop, there was R&B, there was soul, there was electronic, there was so much more to Austin music (than rock). We wanted to be reflective of that.”

A band performs in front of the KUTX Concert Club in Studio 1A credit_ Gabriel C. Pérez
A local band performs in front of the KUTX Concert Club in Studio 1A. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez

One of the ways they exhibit local artists is through their “Artist of the Month” program, where rising musicians are discovered. The music team sits down and lis- tens to the artists until they agree on one. The selection is then put on heavy rotation throughout the month and gets a session as guest DJ and an online profile write-up. Last year, one of the selections was San Gabriel, a bedroom-pop (chill-set) musician without a record deal. After “Artist of the Month,” he received four offers.

“It’s using our platform to help the Austin musicians make a good living,” Reilly says.

KUTX will be celebrating its 10th birthday throughout the spring and summer with a concert series, co-hosting shows across Austin. The series will feature some recognizable artists from KUTX, such as Shinyribs, and will debut new local musicians as well.

“It’s looking at who’s active and who’s playing around town and putting our 10th birth- day stamp on it and talking them up a little bit more,” Reilly says. “Each show is a snapshot of what we play.”

Reilly says the station plans to add more to the concert series as the year goes on. He describes the 10th birthday as a big milestone for any radio station.

“The more (programming) on KUTX, the more real estate there is to tell local stories,” Reilly says. “And the better that is for the community.”