Jun 11, 2023 - Business

KOTO-FM is a local Telluride voice with global reach

In this illustration, an old fashioned metal radio mic is surrounded by giant red exclamation marks.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The high-lonesome vocals and pick-pock banjo chords from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival echo across the globe, thanks to community radio station KOTO.

What to know: The live broadcast from the side of the festival stage β€” starting when the gates open to the final set and complete with artist interviews between β€” is the station's biggest listening event each year.

  • At least 25,000 people tune in through the internet over the weekend and plenty more listen on the FM dial. "We have people listening all over the world," station executive director Cara Pallone tells John.

Why it matters: Founded in 1975, KOTO is one the few remaining community-supported radio stations left in the country, and the festival probably gives it a broader reach than any other of its size.

Between the lines: Outside the festival weekend, it broadcasts local news segments and council meetings, and offers a free on-air lost and found, job line and community carpool.

  • It operates without commercial or underwriting money, hosting two fundraisers a year and accepting government grants to support a full-time staff of four and two part-timers.

The bottom line: "KOTO is as old school funky as it gets," Pallone says. "We are one of the last bastions of old school Telluride and people love that."


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