This October marks the tenth anniversary of the groundbreaking collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania's radio station WXPN and music venue World Cafe Live. The private-public partnership operates within the same three story complex of stages, event and performance rooms and a restaurant.
The collaboration project was the brainchild of World Cafe Live founder Hal Real , who in 1997 came up with the idea to "create a music venue where they could simultaneously have a radio show in the same building," because he knew that the Penn radio station was looking for a new location at the time. It took years of convincing, but eventually the station agreed and the move-in was completed in October 2004.
The partnership has run pretty much the same way since its creation, with a few popular events added in along the way and increasingly popular artists being attracted to the venue.
"One of the huge benefits of this collaboration is that we bring between [WXPN and World Cafe Live], both separately and together, an amazing amount of music and wonderfully talented artists," Roger LaMay , general manager of WXPN, said.
"We've done some things that could only be done by the two of us together," Real agreed.
With the partnership in place, there are some days when multiple artists can be found performing on the main stage of the venue, the stage upstairs by the restaurant and in the station's recording studio all at the same time. A few stations around the country have tried to imitate this formula, LaMay said, but never with the same success. "It's totally unique," Real said. "There's nothing like it in the entire country."
The official anniversary show was held on Oct. 1 , the actual anniversary of the partnership, with artist Sean Hayes as the opening act and Valerie June as the headliner. Special events will continue throughout the month, with other live artists such as the Bangles and Blake Mills on the roster.
A host of programs and events have been running since the collaboration's inception and will also be celebrating their tenth anniversaries in the coming year. These include Musicians on Call, a program which brings local artists to hospital bedsides in the Philadelphia area, and Free at Noon, a weekly event where artists from all over the country perform at the venue at no cost. LaMay said Free at Noon is especially popular among Penn students, though he admits it's still "a bit of a secret in the Penn community." Students who discover it early in their careers often become regulars, while others never even hear about the venue.
Though both men confirmed that the main concept of the collaboration will not be changing any time soon Real hinted at plans for expansion over the next two years. They also discussed the idea of including a digital element to their partnership. According to LaMay, they've become "part of a collaboration with some other music stations across the country in launching a national video service that focuses on emerging bands and local artists." The goal is to share the "live, intimate experience" present at World Cafe Live with as many people around the country as possible. Though expansion is on their minds, they agreed that the traditions that WXPN and World Cafe Live began ten years ago will continue at the original location right on Penn's campus.
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