R.I.P. Laura Ellen Hopper, Web Radio Pioneer

Posted by: Rob Hof on May 29, 2007

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If you’re as big a fan of Web radio as I am, you’ll want to tip your longneck beer bottle this evening to the memory of Laura Ellen Hopper, who died yesterday. She was the founder and guiding light of KPIG, an alt-country/rock hybrid that not only was the first radio station to Webcast its audio, continuously since 1995, but also showed the world that a Web radio station can make money. As the station describes itself at KPIG.com:

We’re an anachronism - a throwback to the days when real DJs picked out the music, and listeners expected something more from a radio station than just a couple of hundred songs repeated over and over, with some “big voice” guy yelling about how great it all is. We’re also - to the amazement of all of the radio “professionals” who make the rules we thumb our noses at - very successful, though we try not to let it go to our heads.

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I remember Laura Ellen from way back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when I avidly listened to local country-rock radio station KFAT. Before its demise, which I covered for the Gilroy Dispatch, she and other deejays there rekindled my interest in radio with their distinct personalities and great, eclectic taste in music. She brought the same feeling over to KPIG, which she cofounded on the Santa Cruz coast south of San Francisco. Where else can you hear Mimi & Richard Farina, Son Volt, and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole within a few minutes of each other? I hope that at a time when the future of Web radio is still uncertain, folks at KPIG and beyond keep both Laura Ellen’s vision and her business acumen alive.

Reader Comments

Roy Wiprud

June 3, 2007 2:49 AM

As a long-time 'pig listener, I can testify that it is, no doubt, the best radio station in the world. Where else can you send an e-Mail from a small town in Eastern Washington state requesting an onscure song from an even more obscure artist to a radio station near Santa Cruz and have it played over their web broadcast within minutes? Well, this happened on a daily basis on KPIG. What Laura Ellen and her crew created is an absolute joy. Heck, I've even gone so far as to get an Internet-equipped smart phone so that I can listen to the 'pig myself as I'm driving!

What a refreshing change this is from the preprogrammed, manufactured crap that passes for music and entertainment on the airwaves today. KPIG features all types of good music, from Texas blues to bluegrass, from the Rolling Stones to Todd Snyder, from John Hiatt to Robert Earl Keene, with hilareous comic seques in between along with informed commentary from knowledgable DJ's who actually know something about the music they're playing.

The death of Laura Ellen came as a shock to the worldwide KPIG community... they received condolences from all of the continents, including Antarctica, that's how wide her influence is. After the shock and the sadness has worn off, the one thing that concerns all of us swine is what's going to happen now? What does this mean for the future of the station? From what I’ve heard in the last few days, it’s been her insistence to any and all new owners (along with a lot of help from the listeners and advertisers) that the station remain the same... hopefully someone is going to step up to the plate to do that now. I worry that Mapleton Communications will use this tragic event as an opportunity to make what they may perceive as needed changes to increase their short-term profits at the expense of us listeners. I really hope this won’t be the case, but people have tried before and maybe this time... well, you know those Harvard Business School types.

It's rather a shame that it took the death of someone who created this station that almost singlehandedly defined the genre now known as "Americana" to get it mentioned in your magazine. But know that it has been, any of you BusinessWeek readers who want a glimpse of what real radio should be like, go to www.kpig.com and check them out. It's not the flashiest site around, but just listen to the music and the people for an afternoon and you'll soon understand why the rest of us piggies are hooked on this wonderful station.

Wipster

Jay Peterson

June 9, 2007 1:33 AM

Laura - thanks for bringing us some "fresh air" to the radio dial. You will be missed.

Jay

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