Colorado Triple A station rebrands in bid for younger audience

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Colorado Public Radio has rebranded its Triple A station OpenAir as Indie 102.3 in an effort to attract new listeners.  


CPR hired Willobee Carlan in March as PD of OpenAir to prepare for the July 1 change. Carlan told Current he saw the importance of reaching a younger demographic to find “the next generation of public radio listeners.”

“A lot of younger people have a preconceived notion of what public radio is, and we want to provide a different perspective,” said Carlan, who previously launched Nevada Public Radio’s NV89 music station in Reno.

According to Nielsen data, the largest portion of OpenAir’s audience in 2018 was listeners ages 35–54, accounting for almost a third of the audience. As Indie 102.3, the station is pursuing listeners ages 18–44, and in particular 25–34. 

CPR had found through research that the name OpenAir wasn’t resonating with listeners, but the word “independent” did. Listeners and Carlan’s team thought that “independent” best described the station’s aesthetic, not just its music.

“People say, ‘Oh, you’re indie rock,’” said Carlan. “And I say, ‘No, we’re independent … but we do play a lot of indie music.’ It’s a double-duty name.”  The station plays a wide array of music while focusing on core artists such as Beck, St. Vincent, Radiohead and Interpol. 

The station is also planning to launch a mobile app with an audio stream, bios of artists and bands, and ticket sales for local shows. And it will increase its focus on local music with the addition of The Local 303 Show, a weekly two-hour program about Denver’s music scene, and the live local concert series Bootleg Sessions. Indie Especial will explore Colorado’s Latin music scene.

Streaming services “aren’t going to show up and give you tickets for a concert in the market,” Carlan said. “And they’re certainly not going to support the local music scene the way we do.”

“We know that most young listeners today are used to a subscription service,” Carlan said. “We want to tap into that mentality. If you’re subscribing to a service like Spotify or Pandora, the main reason you’re doing that is for music discovery and no commercials. We fall into the same category. Why not look at us in the same fashion and subscribe to us for a few dollars a month instead?”

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