Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #174

Radio: May 26, 2017

Years ago when AM radio reigned supreme -- with a few exceptions -- the competition among top-40 stations was intense. KHJ (930 AM), KTNQ - “Ten-Q” (1020 AM) and KFI (640 AM) were battling it out in the mid to late 1970s locally, all of them essentially playing the hits in their own way.

Ten-Q was the adventurous one with an expanded playlist, it and KFI both presenting a high-energy on air approach, while KHJ tried a softer style to try to attract and keep listeners who had already ventured over to the FM dial.

Ten-Q was the first to sell out ... literally. A station sale meant that Ten-Q was the first to abandon music in the Summer of 1979; for a time the high-energy format was moved to FM on KHTZ (now KAMP, 97.1). On the last day of top-40 Ten-Q, the format was broadcast on both KTNQ and KHTZ to help launch the format on FM.

And if you happened to miss that last day, ReelRadio.Com has come to the rescue ... “hour zero” of the last day of Ten-Q was just added to the exhibits -- named “zero” because it was just recently found and is a recording of the hour preceding the previously available “hour one.” It is the 5-6 a.m. hour of Charlie Tuna’s show; Reelradio has a total of four hours of that last day ending with the switch to Spanish on AM and the Ten-Q jocks relegated to FM.

It’s a fun listen and just slightly ahead of its time, as KHJ and KFI controlled hit music radio just a little longer, (KHJ realizing the mistake it made and going high-energy again) while KHTZ moved in a more mellow direction and proved temporarily that FM was not quite ready to dominate as it would just a short time later.

While you are at ReelRadio.Com, check out the many different exhibits ... it’s a great way to pass the time.

Survey Says!

“Lately, KSURF (1260 AM, 105.1 digital HD2) has begun mixing in ‘70s songs from artists like T Rex, Steely Dan, Carole King, etc. Personally I wish KSURF’s format was “Cruisin’ Oldies from the 1950’s and 60’s” and keep their playlist limited to songs released in 1969 and earlier to keep the format more pure and focused.

“I was perfectly content with KSURF before it recently started playing 70’s songs which dilutes its uniqueness. I can hear T Rex and Steely Dan on KLOS and The Sound (100.3 FM) and Carole King on Mimi Chen’s “Peace, Love, and Sunday Morning”. KSURF is more unique if it sticks with artists you would typically never hear on those other stations (well apart from Mimi Chen’s show anyway). When I turn on KSURF I don’t want to have to look at the dial twice to make sure I am on the right channel and not a Classic Rock station instead which happens when I hear some of the recent songs they added. 

“How about if you take a survey on your radio column of what year KSURF listeners would prefer as a cut-off for song releases. I would like to know if I am in the minority or if other KSURF listeners agree with me.” -- Rick Koenig, Torrance.

I’m game, though I have to admit I haven’t heard many songs outside of the ‘50s and ‘60s on KSURF. What do you think ... if you programmed the station, what would you do? Drop a quick note to rwagoner@cox.net and let me know what you think.

Summer Nights

KCRW’s (89.9 FM) 2017 edition of Summer Nights starts next week ... 7 p.m. June 1 to be exact, with station DJ Mathieu Schreyer playing music at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara. Yes, Santa Barbara ... a quick getaway if you want a short vacation.

Closer to home, on Saturday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m., you can head out to Pasadena’s One Colorado to see Chico Mann & Captain Planet live with KCRW DJ Marion Hodges.

As always, Summer Nights offers dozens of fun, free, all-ages outdoor music shows over the course of the summer throughout the greater Los Angeles area, Santa Barbara, and Northern Orange County. For a full schedule, head over to www.tinyurl.com/SummerNights17.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #173

Radio: May 19, 2017

Power 106 (KPWR) -- a part of Emmis Communications since the company bought then-Magic 106 from Century Broadcasting in 1984 -- has been sold to Meruelo Group for $82.75 million.

The move takes Emmis out of a bitter ratings war with competitor Real 92.3, and allows the company to focus its resources in cities where the company owns more than once stations ... and can combine resources more easily. But I agree with CEO Jeff Smulyan when he calls the sale “bittersweet.” And the sale actually highlights a stark contrast in how Emmis operates compared with its much larger rivals iHeart and Cumulus.

Emmis is using the funds to pay down debt. Had the company not had debt, I sincerely doubt it would have sold. The $80 million will pay off about 60 percent of its debt and leave the company with a solid footing. 

Compare that with iHeart and Cumulus, both of which own hundreds more stations than Emmis’ remaining 18. The big boys owe billions -- with a b -- in debt, which they continue to try to restructure instead of selling properties to pay it down. Perhaps this is yet another reason to keep radio groups small ... the executives know how to play grown-up and handle their own finances.

"Power 106 has been part of the Emmis family for more than 32 years, so this day is bittersweet, but I am confident that the station and our team are in good hands," Smulyan told Billboard Magazine. "The Meruelo Group will be great owners of this historic brand, and take it to even greater heights."

Rumor has it that as part of the deal Meruelo will keep the vast majority of the current staff on board. For its part, Meruelo -- which also owns KDAY (103.5 FM) and KWHY-TV Channel 22 and is diversified into numerous other industries -- seems to have no plans for major changes anyway.

Still, that Emmis -- the company that let me intern at Magic 106 and the early months of Power 106, treating me well and teaching me much about the industry itself as well as giving me the chance to work directly with numerous true professionals both in front and behind the microphone -- will always be a special company to me, and I hope that they consider a return to Los Angeles when iHeart and Cumulus go bust.

Short Takes

I have to pull out my Carver TX-11B tuner out of the attic: rumor has it that KFI is indeed broadcasting a full audio bandwidth (translation: good-sounding analog audio), even though radios that can play full-bandwidth AM are few and far between ...

I happened to stop by a local Radio Shack store the other day, just a few days after the store put up signs announcing that it was closing. Kind of sad and ironic: not one radio in the store. I think I know part of the company’s problems ...

Oldies are here to stay on K-SURF (1260 AM), says owner Saul Levine. Unfortunately it appears that there will be no DJs on the station, a change of heart for Levine. The reason: the songs appear to be selling themselves and listeners are digging the sound. Still it would be nice to hear some announcers who could tie the songs together and add some more reasons to listen. Johnny Hayes comes to mind ...

Speaking of oldies and K-SURF: notice how even a station that barely covers metro Los Angeles can still attract an audience playing music instead of the typical fare found on the dial? A 0.4 share is pretty impressive for a station that barely makes it above the static where I live. Can I say “I told you so?” I will anyway; imagine what could be done with a real signal like 570, 710 or even 790 ...

I read it on a Facebook meme so it must be true: Congratulations to the busiest man in media, Ryan Seacrest, for being chosen as the next Director of the FBI ...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #172

Radio: May 12, 2017

Seacrest Movin’ On Up

KIIS (102.7 FM) morning man Ryan Seacrest has been selected as the permanent host for television’s newly-named Live with Kelly and Ryan. In joining Kelly Ripa on the ABC-TV show, the busiest personality on earth will be moving to the East Coast. 

In a related move, iHeart Media announced that it is extending the contract with Seacrest ... for an estimated $73 million over three years.

He better get the majority of those iHeart bucks in the first year ... most observers doubt the company will even make it a year, let alone three, especially with deals like this. But I digress. The contract means Seacrest will continue hosting the morning show on KIIS along with a syndicated version of it that airs on iHeart stations nationwide.

Now let’s analyze this ... On Air with Ryan Seacrest airs on KIIS from 5-10 a.m. weekdays Pacific time. Live with Kelly and Ryan airs on WABC-TV/New York from 9 - 10 a.m. Eastern time ... 6-7 a.m. Pacific. Do you sense a conflict?

Yes, a local studio will be built in New York so that he can just “go up the elevator and do his radio show,” as a Seacrest spokesman said, but it will still take some time to end the television show and just get to the radio studio. And that is still two hours past the KIIS morning show start time.

This means Seacrest is either an amazing human being ... time traveling and doing both shows at once, or more likely, he is no longer live on the morning radio show. Or at least not a large portion of it. Will anyone notice?

I had a professor of Economics at UCLA explain that you can make some big money by taking advantage of opportunities at dying industries or companies ... grabbing as much as you can just before the company goes under. Seacrest must have been in my class.

Readers Write Back

“My name is Ray Lisman, San Pedro High class of Winter 1970. I enjoy reading your column in the Daily Breeze because whenever you reminisce about the music scene of your youth, you strike an emotional chord with me.

“My all time favorite DJ from my teenage years is Robert W Morgan from 93 KHJ. I'd listen to him daily while getting ready for school because he had this way of bringing joy and laughter to his listeners. He connected with me. I remember the time that he'd found several other DJ's named Robert W Morgan throughout the country and tried to get them all on the phone at the same time to share them with us.

“Maybe you can shed light on another memory. As a teen I enjoyed watching Sam Riddle's Boss City television show that came on late afternoons after school. One of his shows stands out in my mind, probably in 1969. 

“As I remember it, he was introducing a new rock group that was becoming very popular at the local clubs. As he was about to introduce them, he had a ‘brain fart’ and couldn't remember their name. After an embarrassingly long moment of silence, Jim Morrison glared at Sam and said, ‘The Doors’. If looks could kill, Sam would have been ashes on the floor. I had never heard of them, but that moment burned the group into my mind, and the rest is rock history.

“Do you think there is any recording of that show on the internet? Did it occur as I remember it?”

Your memories prove that when radio is done right, people do connect. There are few things that can connect as well as good radio with a dedicated listener. Too bad it’s been lost on so many modern programmers.

Regarding Boss City, I don’t have any source for recordings of the program, but I’m hoping someone else does. Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #171

Radio: May 5, 2017


May 5, 1965 was supposed to be the launch day of the all-new “Boss Radio” KHJ, a high-energy top-40 replacement for the well-respected but low-rated middle of the road programming KHJ had been running previously.

It was supposed to be May 5th. But about a week before, new morning man Robert W. Morgan happened to tune into KFWB and was hearing things he should not have been hearing ... like the term “Boss Radio” itself, along with other stolen KHJ ideas. It seems one of the newsmen thought he was going to be fired from KHJ and went to KFWB with the inside information in order to land a job there. We pick up the story from Ron Jacob’s book, Inside Boss Radio (available for $9.30 on Amazon.Com). Jacobs is discussing the situation with consultant Bill Drake and station manager Ken DeVaney.

“We discussed our limited options. Drake proclaimed, ‘We’ll start today with the new format. Today.’ 

“‘We can call it a ‘Sneak Preview’ of the new format,’ I added.

“‘Can we do it and when?’ DeVaney asked.

“‘Three o’clock,’ I said, faking the confidence of Eisenhower on D-Day. ‘Boss Radio 93/KHJ debuts with The Real Don Steele Show at 3 p.m.’ It was about 11:15 in the morning.

We had 3 hours and 45 minutes to do a week’s work.

“Responsibilities were assigned: I’d stay on the first floor, where the studios were. Drake stationed himself close by the traffic people, convincing them that they could have a Boss program log ready in time. DeVaney returned to the executive offices and played free safety. We sent out for two dozen Nickodell’s hamburgers with French fries.

“By then the jocks were back from their session. The Real Don Steele was in the production room rehearsing. That was part of our countdown drill, two weeks of practice before going live. Steele had just done one of his patented manic intros to the Supremes’ Stop in The Name of Love when I walked in.

“‘Don, uh, you know KFWB’s on with all our stuff.’ 

“‘Yeah, Morgan told me.’
“‘Well, ah, we — Drake, DeVaney and me — we decided we gotta go a little earlier, or they’ll cop our whole trip. And you’re the guy to kick off the real Boss Radio.’

“‘When?’ asked Steele, casually.

“‘Oh, ah, you know, your regular shift. In about three hours.’ 

“He said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and cranked up his monitor until Diana Ross nearly blew out the studio windows.

“This would be the last day Don Steele would be an unknown disc jockey born several blocks away from that very spot.”

The Sneak Preview began April 27th. And the rest, as they say, is history.

My FM’s Success Story

Last week I wrote of My FM (KBIG, 104.3 FM) dominating the local ratings. The backup story to that win reveals just how dominant.

The ratings published last week include all listeners aged 6 and over; that rating is an estimate of the percentage of that overall listenership tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight. It’s more of a “bragging rights” ratings ... most stations don’t really care about this overall rating since it isn’t what they are selling when they try to attract advertisers.

Depending on the format, many stations will focus more on other demographics. Unlike stations of the past, mass appeal isn’t necessarily the goal today. But My FM manages to do just that in many areas. Consider that My FM is:

• #1 with all listeners 6 and over, as already mentioned.
• #1 with listeners 25-54
• #2 with listeners 12 and over

In mornings, (Sean) Valentine has things pretty well sealed up: 

• #1 with women 18 and older
• #1 with women 18-49
• #1 with women 25-54
• #1 with women 45-54
• #1 with women 36-64
• #1 with all listeners 18-49
• #1 with all listeners aged 25-54
• #1 with all listeners 35-64
• #1 with all listeners 6 and over, 12 and over, 6-11, and teens.

It almost seems as if My FM is becoming the KIIS-FM of the modern time, using a format that might be more like KIIS-FM was in the 1980s than it is now. Could this signal the return of mass appeal top-40? And since Valentine was once at KIIS-FM ... is there some sort of cosmic connection to high ratings?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #170

Radio: April 28, 2017

My FM (KBIG, 104.3 FM) was up a half point to 5.7 from February and a full point since the holiday ratings period, making it the dominant radio force in Los Angeles once again, according to the March Nielsen Ratings released last week. My FM has been moving up every month since the holidays and won the ratings every month in the quarter.

Right behind, though, is The Wave (94.7 FM) at 5.5, which has also seen tremendous growth over the quarter. KIIS (102.7 FM) and KRTH (101.1 FM) came in tied for third at 4.9, with KOST (103.5 FM) rounding out the top-5 with a 4.4.

With the exception of Univision’s KLVE (107.5 FM), the top-ten stations sound like a true horserace between the two dominant essential radio monopolies, iHeart Radio and CBS. It’s kind of interesting to see:

iHeart (KBIG) followed by CBS (KTWV), iHeart (KIIS), CBS (KRTH), iHeart (KOST), Univision (KLVE), CBS (KNX, 1070 AM), iHeart (KFI, 640 AM), CBS (KCBS-FM, 93.1), iHeart (KYSR, 98.7 FM). Combined, all the iHeart stations account for 25.8 percent of the listening audience and CBS accounts for 21.9 percent. The next highest total for any company is Univision with a total of 10.1 percent, while every other company is at 3.9 or lower. Tell me again that iHeart and CBS don’t have too much power in this market and shouldn’t be broken up ...

KNX is the highest-rated AM station in town again with a 3.6 share. KFI is right behind with 3.4. There’s not another AM station on the list, though, until you get to KSPN (710 AM), which earns a 1.1 share of the audience. That means AM is dead, right? 

No, it actually means current programming on AM is generally bad, and AM has the potential for growth. Showing that music can make a difference on the oldest broadcast band, KSUR (1260 AM) came in with a 0.3 share. Not impressed? Consider that the station had no promotions, a very limited signal, no DJs, and was only on the air playing oldies ten days or so during the March ratings period that ran 3/2 - 3/29. I’d call that impressive, and it shows the direction AM stations should take.

The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) doesn’t really compete directly against KLOS (95.5 FM) any more, but the comparisons still get made. This time The Sound (2.3) beat KLOS (2.1). The alternative race was won again by Alt 98.7, which came in a full point and almost ten places ahead of the format originator KROQ (106.7 FM).

When Emmis shut down country KZLA years ago, they did it because country doesn’t get ratings in Los Angeles. Saul Levine didn’t believe that then and certainly does not believe it now ... His Go Country 105 (KKGO) earned a 2.5 share and remains the most listened-to country station in America.

And just to show you that ratings can be looked at in many different ways, while KBIG was the big winner in the “six plus” numbers I’ve already mentioned (listeners aged six and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight), it was KIIS-FM that had more actual listeners: 3,762,300 vs. KBIG’s 3.744,400.
Those numbers reflect “cumulative listeners” who tune in for at least five minutes during a particular day-part, usually a three-hour period. Why the higher rating for KBIG? KBIG listeners stay tuned to the station for a longer period of time. 

The full story:

1. KBIG (5.7) 2. KTWV (5.5) 3. KIIS-FM, KRTH (4.9) 5. KOST (4.4) 6. KLVE (3.9) 7. KNX (3.6) 8. KFI (3.4) 9. KCBS-FM (3.2) 10. KYSR (3.1)
11. KRCD (3.0) 12. KSCA (2.8) 13. KRRL (2.7) 14. KAMP, KPWR (2.6) 16. KKGO (2.5) 17. KSWD (2.4) 18. KXOS (2.3) 19. KLOS, KROQ, KXOL (2.1)
22. KJLH, KLAX (1.8) 24. KBUE, KPCC (1.7) 26. KCRW, KLYY (1.6) 28. KUSC (1.2) 29 KDAY, KSSE (1.2)
31. KSPN (1.1) 32. KEIB, KRLA, KWIZ (1.0) 35. KABC (0.7) 36. KFSH, KKJZ, KLAC, KWKW (0.6) 40. KFWB (0.5)
41. KTNQ (0.4) 42. KSUR, KYLA (0.3) 44. KHJ, KKLA (0.2) 46. KLAA, KPCC online stream simulcast (0.1).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #169

Radio: April 21, 2017

Wilde Sound

Rita Wilde has been signed up for another multi-year contract on The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM), which -- along with the recent similar news for Joe Benson -- hopefully means the station will survive the merger (see below for more on that).

Wilde stared her radio career at KEZY/Anaheim (now KGBN, 1190 AM) during their “1190 Rock days” in 1978 under programmer Dave Forman, working through her tenure alongside such legends as Shana, Steve Downs, Rick Shaw, Dr. Timothy Leary, Strawberry Jan, Mark Denis and others ... “so many great people,” she told me. “I had been interning in the building for a couple of years,” she explained, answering phones for the FM which at the time was automated. “Dave asked me to make him a tape and he put me on the air the following weekend.” It was promoted as “Kick A** Rock and Roll ... “a rockin’ AM station playing FM rock on the AM dial.”

I remember it fondly. The first time I heard The Plimsouls, I heard them on KEZY. But I digress.

In 1982 she moved in to KLOS (95.5 FM) and has been at The Sound since 2013. “The Sound is the kind of radio I love, so I’m thrilled to be here,” Wilde said. Reflecting on her career, she commented “I am blessed and grateful.” Hear her nightly Monday through Friday, 7 p.m. to midnight on The Sound.

Merger Update

Entercom president and Chief Executive Officer David Field send an email to employees (interestingly addressed as “Entercom Users”) giving an update on the planned merger between Entercom and CBS Radio. The letter was also filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to keep investors updated as well.

“We have been hard at work, making significant progress towards our transformational merger,” Field wrote. “We are working with various government agencies on deal approval and we are engaging with the CBS corporate team along with a team of expert merger integration advisors to ensure that we achieve as close to a seamless transition as possible when we close.”

The merger is expected to be consummated sometime in the second half of next year.

“As an organization that fundamentally believes there is nothing more important than the people on our team, our first order of business upon making the announcement was to hit the road to meet and introduce ourselves to the CBS Radio staffs. Since early February, we have traveled across the country to virtually every one of the CBS markets. It is with great pride that we have shared the Entercom story and expressed our enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead for the entire organization,” he said.

While I am most certainly not a fan of huge radio companies at all -- the likes of Clear Channel (now iHeart), Cumulus and even CBS itself have stolen the soul from radio and have put a viable formerly creative industry on life support. But Entercom does seem to be a different breed, and as it is a merger rather than a buyout, the company should be on sound financial footing. Hopefully this may help push some money into promotions and programming.

Locally the combined company will -- or may, depending on whether regulations change under President Trump -- need to divest one station. In response, Entercom announced that it will place two stations into a trust for potential sale: KCBS-FM (93.1) and The Sound. Until the merger in finalized, both companies will operate as completely separate entities.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #168

Radio: April 14, 2017

Eye in the Sky

What a treat is it to hear airborne traffic reports on KFI (640 AM) again. It’s been years since the station featured the airborne reports, focussing instead on ground monitors and information provided by Cal-Trans. I imagine the cost savings were a part of the decision to originally drop them as well.

But airborne gives a birds-eye view of problems including a truly accurate estimate of the backlog and how long it looks before the mess will be cleaned up. Plus it’s great to hear the words once spoken by the late, great Bruce Wayne: “K-F-Eye In the Sky,” now brought to you by Jeff Baugh weekday mornings and Mike O’Brien in the afternoon. 


Reelradio.Com is free again!

Celebrating 21 years of service to radio junkies like me, the board-members of ReelRadio.Com have decided to try the free route again and rely on listener donations to cover the costs of providing a virtual museum of top-40 (and more) radio broadcasting.

The repository features both cut and uncut recordings of radio stations dating as far back as the 1930s. Many of the recordings were taken directly off of a radio and thus are considerably lo-fi; others were direct from the air studio and are quite clean. All are interesting listening and give a nice comparison of radio throughout the decades ... how it’s changed, gotten better or gotten worse. 

I think it also gives information to today’s programmers and owners on how to do radio right ... whether they choose to learn from the past or not.

In years past, ReelRadio tried to have a subscription service, but they still had trouble making ends meet. So they are once again opening the recordings to anyone in the hopes that general donations will increase. Perhaps with a larger potential audience, donations will increase. I’ll do my part.

Slated for News

Julie Slater, best known for her musical knowledge on stations such as The Sound (100.3 FM) has joined KFI for weekend, part time and fill-in newscast duties. She will continue with her weekend new-music show on KCSN (88.5 FM) called Out on a Limb, which airs Saturdays from 5-7 p.m.

Highway Vibes

I haven’t driven to Las Vegas in a few years. But I have fond memories of listening to “The Highway Stations, FM 98 and 99” covering a large stretch of Highway 15 centered near Baker and “The World’s Tallest Thermometer.”

The Highway Stations were the brainchild of Howard Anderson, who believed that advertising to a huge audience of drivers from Southern California would increase the number of visitors to the casinos owned by his boss, Howard Hughes: The Sands, Desert Inn, Castaways, Silver Slipper, Frontier, and Landmark 

Hughes gave his approval but passed away before the venture could launch. But Anderson kept with the project and launched the original Highway Stations in 1980. Since that time, power has increased, as has the number of transmitters, giving better reception along a much longer stretch of highway. 

And now there are even more choices: in addition to the originals that play a top-40 style format now called The Highway Vibe at 99.7, 98.1 and 98.9 FM, there is highway rock on The Drive at 96.9 and 94.9, plus Highway Country at 101.5 and 107.3.

Collectively, Highway Radio still helps promote local businesses with advertisements and features related to tourism in the area approaching Las Vegas, plus traffic, weather and accommodation information. Over 3 million people per month are estimated to tune in to one or more of the Highway Radio stations.