Guide to Bay Area Radio That Doesn't Suck

Most music on FM or AM radio sucks. Studies by stuffy lab coats have conclusively proven that today's commercial radio creates more suction than a Hoover in space1. Most stations never play 99% of the music that exists, and you'll never hear the rest unless you check out alternatives to commercial fluff-fueled-radio.

But don't despair, there IS great music out there! It's primarily found on commercial-free college and public radio stations. Their diverse programming is their strength and their weakness, though...

You can pick up the stations on this list throughout the Bay Area, and most have webcast streams too. Remember, they're commercial-free because of listener support, so chip in when you can. For the rest of the pack, see RadioLocator.com's list of all the stations in the Bay Area. For a really long list of non-commercial stations anywhere in the world, check out the Gumbo Pages list.

Station

Tune in @

When (all times PST)

My two cents

KUSF

webcast

In January 2011, KUSF was suddenly taken off the air. The station will apparently still stream on the net, but will no longer be on FM. More to come...

Weekdays: All music except 6-8pm.
Weekend: Cultural shows until mid-day.
See schedule for details.

Always a good choice: Kick-ass DJs with everything from hip-hop to deathrock. Almost all DJs are excellent (few are USF students).
(Music interrupted 6-8PM weekdays by Chinese news, various cultural and musical programming.)

KPOO

89.5fm
San Francisco
or webcast

Jazz, reggae, salsa, blues, gospel, hip hop and public affairs programs.
See schedule for details.

Amazing! This station's presence on today's bleak, $-driven airwaves is a godsend! "The only African-American owned and operated noncommercial radio station west of the Mississippi," with great R&B, soul, funk, jazz, rap and Latin programming. The DJs are honest music fans and community-minded.
(SF Redevelopment Agency meeting interrupts music Tuesday 4-6pm.)

KALX

90.7fm Berkeley
or RA stream

Various shows, lots of musical styles.
See schedule.

Overall, shows are very good. Some are hit-or-miss, but a great alternative if a KUSF show kicks too much ass for you or if your reception is limited in the East Bay.
(Sports games interrupt music.)

KALW

91.7fm
San Francisco
or webcast

Music shows from 9PM-Midnight (weekdays, more on weekends).
Daytime: NPR. Mid-5am: BBC.
See schedule for details.

The music shows at night are very good. Lots of culturally diverse programming. Check out the daytime shows too, if you're into NPR (National Public Radio talk/news), like This American Life (Sun + Fri 1pm).

KPFA

94.1fm in Berkeley,
89.3fm in Berkeley,
88.1fm in Fresno,
or stream

Music shows from 8PM-6AM.
Daytime: Pacifica Network talk/news.
See schedule.

Sort of a Berkeley version of KALW. Instead of NPR, daytime shows are either locally made or from the activist Pacifica Network, talk/news with grass-roots vibe.

KQED

88.5fm
San Francisco
or webcast

88.3fm Santa Rosa
88.1fm Martinez + Benicia

Talk/News from NPR and PRI.
See schedule for details.

No Music. NPR (National Public Radio) and PRI (Public Radio International) shows. Carries some of the same daily shows as KALW (see above), so you can catch repeats throughout the day.

KZSU

90.1fm Stanford
or webcast

Various shows, lots of musical styles.
See schedule.

The DJs are mostly Stanford college students, who cover very diverse musical styles. Better reception on the Peninsula than in SF.
(Sports games interrupt music.)

KFJC

89.7fm Los Altos Hills
or webcast

Various shows, lots of musical styles.
See schedule.

KFJC can be hard to pick up on FM unless you are nearby on the peninsula, but is worth the search for their staunchly independent vibe. Based at Foothill College, they've just added two MP3 streams... They also have simultaneous Russian-language translations of news, movies and events.

KCSM

91.1fm San Mateo
or webcast

All Jazz, 24-7.
See schedule for DJs.

If you dig "real" Jazz, KCSM is commercial free and the only game in town. Recently upgraded with a stronger transmitter and the library of the defunct KJAZ-FM.

10 at 10
on KFOG

104.5fm
San Francisco.
97.7fm San Jose.
or webcast

Weekdays at 10AM and 10PM (35-50 minutes long). There's also a 24-hour stream of reruns!

Check out this excellent show on the otherwise middle-of-the-road KFOG. Ten songs and various soundbites, all from one year. Consult the playlist, and use your browser's "find" function to search within the last few months of shows. An outstanding musical time capsule.

Radio Valencia 87.9fm
San Francisco
or webcast
Anything goes, 24-7! See schedule.
West Add Radio 93.7fm
San Francisco
or webcast
24-7 WAR is straight out of the Western Addition with all kinds of indie, punk, and post-pop during the day. Electronic beats at night.
SF Liberation Radio FM shut down by the FCC, but not webcasts 4PM to 11PM only, 7 days a week, plus a few other hours. Micropower radio, bringing you activism and music. Raided by the FCC 10/2003.
Pressure FM 88.1fm
San Francisco
Only on Friday from 6 PM to midnight Pirate radio: house, U.K. garage (2-step), and broken beat. On the down-low...


Also check out these other Silent Way music and radio resources:
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