Classical music in Minnesota with MPR and alternatives
March 20, 2022

Classical MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) turns fundraising 
into riches for its managers and key employees.

The eight highest-paid employees received between $420,000
and $652,000 each in compensation in 2021.

MPR paid out 9 million dollars to nonemployees for 
unspecified services in 2021 alone.  See further down.

85 million dollars in one year just for
employees and professional fees and marketing.

MPR and APM is a suspisciously double entity.

Part One - Good FM classical        Part Two - MPR
----------------------------        -------------------------------

The good story                      Money-rich directors and hosts

Just good classical music           Mammoth budget

The contrast                        Over-reach

How to bring back good              Annoying slogans and commentary
FM classical music
                                    Manufactured speaking styles
Alternatives to MPR

PART ONE -- Good classical FM radio

The good story

I moved to Denver, Colorado in 1973 when I was a year out of high school and immediately took an interest in classical music as a result of happening upon an excellent privately owned commercial-free FM classical music station.

There were live, in-studio, hosts who identified the pieces after playing them and had the sensibilities to not wear out their welcome on the air by engaging in long one-way discussions with their listeners.

The station had no fund drives, yet had no trouble staying profitable.

Approximately once per hour, one would hear the host say, "This is K--- in Denver. To become a member and receive our program guide, call 303-xxxx".

That's it. That's all. Six seconds out of the hour.

It was actually a wonderfully reassuring thing to hear, as it meant that they were efficiently getting the information out to the listeners. -- The health of the radio station was assured.

The program guide we received each month was a simply-constructed pamphlet that listed every piece of music -- along with the time it was to be played -- for the upcoming month.

The cost of membership was a mere ten dollars per year. With such a great product, most listeners were eager to become members and receive the invaluable program guide.

Not surprisingly, the intelligent people who ran the station had excellent taste in classical music.

(Unlike MPR -- whose playlist is heavily populated with plucky, twangy, vapid, life-destroying classical guitar -- the Denver station had no tolerance for it. It's one of the many impetuses for hitting the kill-switch on my radio when trying to listen to classical music on MPR.)

The contrast

In 1976 -- after three years in Denver -- I moved back to Minneapolis.

I immediately searched the FM dial for classical music and found KSJN, which is part of MPR. Over the course of several days of listening, I became ever more mystified that I was not hearing anything about how to become a member. I wanted the program guide and I wanted to contribute in any case.

I finally gave up and looked up KSJN in the white pages. I gave them a call. I asked the woman who answered the phone how I could become a supporting member and receive a program guide.

She seemed surprised by my phone call, which left me dumbfounded. How on Earth could these people keep their radio station afloat? She gave me the address to which I could send a check and told me that after my check was received I would receive a program guide.

I remained dumbfounded.. until a few days later.. when KSJN's fund drive effectively made the station impossible to listen to -- every day and night for two weeks.

I was beyond disgusted -- listening to the hosts' pathetic attempts to cajole and shame their listeners into sending money, using arguments devoid of logic. I called KSJN again and asked them how often they have these fund drives and was told that they had three such fund drives per year.

Six weeks of every year the station was impossible to listen to. Compare that to the pleasant, purely informative, six-second sentence once per hour at the Denver station.

There's nothing that can compare to a printed playlist which one can have on their stand next to their easy chair. But with or without a printed playlist, the six-second once-per-hour informative bit is the only paradigm that can be justified. Beyond that -- really as an aside -- MPR could easily create a better functioning online playlist than the clunker they currently offer. Let the non-supporters have the clunker -- and provide a monthly link to a playlist with better utility to supporters. Call it the members' playlist.

How to bring good FM classical music stations back

Don't give MPR any money.

The best thing that could happen to the world of classical music on the radio is the demise of MPR. It would create a void that people with sensibilities and a sense of duty could fill. Such a group of people could pool their resources and bring the MPR network of stations back to life in the correct manner, even if just by example through the success one of station with no affiliations to MPR.

Alternatives to MPR

Meanwhile, the combination of YouTube and ClipGrab (freeware) allows you to quickly and legally build a vast library of classical music. Simply check for permissions details.

In an evening, you can amass many hours of the finest classical music with which to populate your hard drive and thumb drives.

Any laptop computer can be easily connected to your stereo amplifier for playing on your powerful speakers with high fidelity. I have an inexpensive laptop computer devoted to that function. (I also use it to play movies and vintage television shows on a larger screen with the use of simple connectors.)


Money-rich directors and hosts

MPR is a self-bloating entity where management is focused on making as much money for themselves and their comrades as possible at the expense of listeners that they cajole out of their hard-earned money. See the table below which reveals the half-million dollar yearly salaries.

And this is a legal so-called "non-profit" entity.

Here, we capsulize in tables the outrageous excesses of MPR as documented in MPR's 2021 tax return. [1]

Here is where your hard-earned dollars go when you contribute to MPR:


   On their federal 2021 tax form, MPR entered 9.2 million dollars for
   "Fees for services (nonemployees)" under the category of "Other".

   Since that amount is less than ten percent (it's 8.2 percent) of
   their total expenses, they are not required to provide any details
   on Schedule O, and none were provided. [1]

   "Other" services? Who are these nonemployees? Friends of theirs?
   What services did they provide?

Mammoth budget

More than one hundred million dollars per year to keep just 18 radio transmitter towers and a couple dozen relay transmitters operating and playing music provided to them by one entity?

No. Every year, MPR spends tens of millions of dollars on things that are not necessary for facilitating the playing of classical music on the radio or over their streaming service.

The costs of local studios, transmitter towers, miniscule royalty fees (and, as an alternative -- modest wages paid to readily available unpretentious hosts), are (would be) just a small fraction of MPR's bloated budget.

85 million dollars in one year just for
employees and professional fees and marketing.


Total expenses listed for 2021
was 112,380,820 dollars.

Again, 85 million dollars in one year just for
employees and professional fees and marketing.


The summary table of 2023 expenses is from the MPR / APM Board of trustees' report. [2]

Beyond fishy:

And why are there two entities -- Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and American Public Media (APM)?

With the exception of a single radio station in California that is under the umbrella of only APM, MPR and APM are apparently an identical entity. "They" share the same headquarters address -- the same office building -- in St. Paul, Minnesota. "They" share the same board of trustees.

The MPR 2021 federal tax form shows "MPR APM" as the entity filing the tax return. They are, in essence, one corporation. I think it's safe to assume that there are financial advantages in the way of legal loop-holes that allow them to get away with things that they otherwise could not. They seem to be one entity for some purposes, but seperate entities for other purposes. Beyond fishy. Although they are essentially a single entity, there are high paid directors for both MPR and APM. See the first table.


MPR/APM has its own big-budget news-gathering department and public affairs programming -- as if we need more of that. It's a means for MPR to further their political agenda.

In just one year, MPR spent 17.7 million dollars for the sole purpose of cajoling listeners out of their hard-earned money. That is what they paid out in the form of wages, contract-fulfillment to consultants and for other additional costs for putting on their fund drives (membership drives). As further insult, intelligent people have to leave their radios off during those days when the membership drives are going on.

Annoying slogans and commentary

You cannot listen to MPR for more than 30 minutes, by my estimate, without hearing "sharing the power of classical music". You might well hear it three times in the span of ten minutes.

Just play the music. Don't tell me that it has power. Don't tell me how to think about music.

A little commentary from a host now and then is a good thing. It makes the listener feel connected. MPR seems to have a policy that defies sensibilities. I'm not interested in drawn out commentaries on the lives of composers or about anything else. I'd like to be the one who decides whether or not to pursue biographical information.

Similarly, I'm extremely annoyed when musicians are interviewed. Without exception, it seems, they go on at length with an affectatious telling of their profound interpretations of the pieces they've performed. Just play the music. There are some things that go on in your head that I really don't care to know about.

I heard none of these things when listening to my beloved Denver FM classical music station.

Snobbish, manufactured, speaking styles

Most of MPR's hosts come off as snobs with manufactured sophistication. Many of them incorporate sing-song styles of speaking. My message to the hosts: No-one talks like that in real life. For this, you get as much as 400,000 dollars per year? You won't get any of my money.


1. MPR APM 2021 federal tax return

2. MPR APM Board of trustees' summary of expenses for 2023


page updated on 04/24/2024