WAMU/Capital Soundtrack


WAMU debuted “The Capital Soundtrack Project” in 2016 to create a sense of community by showcasing “local” at its best through songs that reflect the diversity and direction of the District’s music scene. 

To start, we began soliciting entries from local musicians. Those who submit are asked to complete a release worked out by our lawyers to ensure that we’re being the best collaborators we can be. (WAMU has – as all NPR member stations do – the blanket license via the network for ASCAP/BMI, but only for on-air and not for streaming. This is an important facet for member stations to remember.) The form is free and easy to complete. We link to it on our website and bump it on social media from time to time to try and gain new work. We also have to download material from music hosting sites to ensure we have enough music to fill all our playlists. 

Each day, a WAMU staffer made a playlist of 20 songs. They are 1:59, :59 and :29, for varying length of promo/host speaking time. We aim to stock the playlist with a variety of musical genres so that we can accommodate varying moods following stories. We try to limit previously played material to 1/3 of the list. We use a google excel sheet to track when a song is played and when it’s repeated. The Capital Soundtrack (CapSound) staffer is also responsible for posting the playlist to the website, so folks can learn more about the music they here. In 2017, we transferred responsibility of the project to a producer who also makes our promos. This allowed us to focus attention on promoting the project. The more we promote it, the more entries we receive, the fewer hours is takes for our producer to curate each day’s playlist. 

Our engineers monitor to ensure that the levels are correct, the fade outs are right and the information is uploaded into our automation software. Engineers send discrepancy reports to alert us to any issues, and we address those in our process. 

Also in 2017 we began to imagine what more we could do with the project. We’re planning a live event with local partners. Our underwriting department has also received a lot of interest from clients to support CapSound. We’ve planned themed days and weeks to celebrate local celebrities like Chuck Brown – the Godfather of Go Go. We’re looking at natural fits for our project, including highlighting local music as entertainment for separate partnerships. 

Jesse Johnson currently produces the Capital Soundtrack playlists, and he’s started to expand digital offerings for more opportunities for our audience to engage. He’s been posting Hot Tracks as digital-only content. It’s a place for us to explore bands who have little to no lyric-free music. We use 99% lyric-free music to ensure the voice overs are crystal clear. In special cases, we might consider lyrics. 

As to why – because we can! Virginia, Maryland and DC have robust and evolving music scenes. We knew it would not be difficult to gain access to enough source material. We started small, and we’ve kept this project lean in budgetary and human hours. For stations like KUT and WPLN this would be an easy win. Smaller stations in areas that aren’t known as musical enclaves could consider a wider region from which to pull their music and still achieve successes. We’ve continued to tailor this project to our strategic goals, and it’s been a blast.