Where the Music and Technology Matter (Part 2)

Editor's Note: Our thoughts are with those impacted by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. While it may be some time until the full impact has been assessed, we will continue to work with our nonprofit partners to determine where our support can be of the greatest benefit. More on our efforts supporting relief in Japan can be found here.


(read part 1: The Leadership View, by KEXP's Tom Mara)

Part 2: The Technology View

Guest post by Eric Schmidt, Sr. Director, Developer & Platform Evangelism Group, Microsoft Corporation

Photo courtesy of KEXP; "Yo La Tengo" Photo taken by Renata Steiner / Nataworry Photography

For the past decade KEXP has been a visionary in pushing the limits of technology to serve the music community.  In late 2010 Microsoft and KEXP entered a multi-year partnership to evolve the core technology platform that powers the KEXP.  This partnership focuses on the three areas: the "Play", supporting infrastructure, and the listener.

Play in the Cloud

The life blood of KEXP is the "Play".  DJ's select the play and listeners receive the play.  Each play contains a wealth of information: title, artist, release, genre etc. Today this information is surfaced online via the real-time playlist .  KEXP is investing in new cloud based technologies via Windows Azure to extend the value of the "Play".  At the station this investment is called the "Music Service Fabric".  The Music Service Fabric is a set of cloud based services which run on Windows Azure.  These services normalize all play data throughout the station and will be used to power the real-time playlist, streaming services and will enable new features like contextual social sharing.

Contextual social sharing will enable the KEXP community to share and syndicate KEXP play information in a manner that provides attribution for KEXP as the source of the play.  For example - Rebecca is at working listening to KEXP online, she hears a new song she enjoys. She scans the real time playlist and "Likes" the song. This triggers a "Like" against that play - which is really a "Like" for the artist, the release, the track as well as the show and the time it was played.   If Rebecca has enabled authentication via Facebook and or Twitter she can seamlessly promote her "Like" to her social network.  As the "Like" is shared traffic and promotion is tied back to KEXP, this in turn provides a mechanism to promote further information about the play or related content.

KEXP is utilizing Windows Azure to host the new service fabric. The service fabric is built with .NET Framework 4.0, leveraging the ADO.NET Entity Framework and is exposed with standards based REST services.  The implementation supports a multifaceted relational model that bridges external meta-data schema with KEXP specific meta-data which is ultimately stored in SQL Azure.  With Windows Azure and SQL Azure, KEXP can dynamically scale processing and storage needs as demand and complexity of related services fluctuate.

Internal Productivity

In late 2010 KEXP finished their migration from Pine email and Oracle based calendaring to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).  Specifically KEXP has adopted Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Office Communications Online. This migration has created new efficiencies and more effective communication for KEXP's full-time and volunteer staff. 

Internally KEXP operates on average with 150 staff, of which 60~ staff is volunteer based.  The volunteer pool is constantly changing. Efficiently on-boarding new volunteers is crucial as KEXP has limited IT administration resources.  Once rolled into a BPOS account volunteers have access to the mainline discussion groups and collaboration tools required to support their duties.

KEXP's full-time staff now enjoys unified calendaring and email through Microsoft Outlook backed by Microsoft Exchange Online.  Staff can now also stay connected via Active Sync mobile devices like Windows Phone 7, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

Net-net Microsoft BPOS has bridged the communication processes for KEXP's full-time and volunteer staff. BPOS provides a cost effective mechanism to on board new resources as KEXP's staffing needs grow. 


KEXP is truly listener powered; roughly 80% of KEXP's operating income comes directly from individual donors also known as KEXP members.  As a non-profit organization KEXP is faced with the ongoing challenge of motivating existing members to renew their membership while at the same time attracting and converting new listeners into members.  Currently KEXP utilizes six separate systems to manage its membership and gift processing workflow. These systems operate in an autonomous manner and in most cases cannot be extended to implement new business processes.   KEXP is challenged with the need to have a highly flexible technology foundation for its CRM workflow.

In early 2011 KEXP made a commitment to adopt Microsoft Dynamics CRM online as a means to implement a more unified CRM workflow for both member management & underwriting management. This initiative will model new automated workflows for new member on boarding, existing member account maintenance, gift processing and donation management.  Ultimately these workflows will be integrated with applicable data flowing in and out of the music service fabric.  For example, the station strives to model geographic listening/usage behavior with donor behaviors. 

Another benefit from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online implementation will be streamlined interaction with new workflows via Outlook and existing collaboration tools.  This will provide KEXP staff the means to drive long running workflows in a more consistent manner.

The net impact from this new architecture is that KEXP will have a more extensible CRM technology platform to both improve existing workflows as well as extend new workflows to their collaboration tools and within the music service fabric.  Ultimately these investments will provide a more meaningful and transparent connection between KEXP and its global listener and member community.

The technology partnership between KEXP and Microsoft focuses on three most important pillars of the station: the core staff, the play and the listener.  Innovation around meta-data management, combined with new CRM workflows layered on top of unified knowledge worker tools will take KEXP into the next decade of leadership and to further drive their public service mission.

Listener powered, technology powered - where the music and technology matters -

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