Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #221

Radio: May 18, 2018

When I was young, my father used to ask questions about Sam Hill. “Who the Sam Hill is that?” Or “What the Sam Hill is going on?” My brothers and sisters always wondered who Sam Hill was ... asking Who the Sam Hill is Sam Hill?

I thought I found the answer one time while visiting downtown Prescott, Arizona, when I saw a store called Sam Hill’s. But I think the definitive answer comes from the All Access Music Group, AllAccess.Com, a website dedicated to the music and radio industry.

“Sam Hill Ends Midday Duties at KALC (Alice 105.9)/Denver” reads the headline posted last week. The story reads: “ENTERCOM Hot AC KALC (ALICE 105.9)/DENVER, CO MD/midday host SAM HILL is coming off the air to focus on programming Classic Hits sister KQMT. She'll continue handling music duties for ALICE.

“That leaves an opening for middays on ALICE.” Interested persons are asked to click a link “if you'd like to fill it.”

The mystery is solved.

New Knee

Saul Levine, the amazing independent radio station operator who owns KKGO (105.1 FM) and KSUR (1260 AM) is recovering from knee replacement surgery. I send wishes for a full and fast recovery.

Rumors are running wild that some tweaks will be made to the formats on the secondary HD channels available through KKGO as well as KKJZ (88.1 FM), which Levine operates under contract from the CSULB Foundation. No details yet but I am told that the tweaks should be well-received.

Bonus!

As two of the three largest radio ownership groups, iHeart and Cumulus, make their way through bankruptcy and continue cutting costs, positions and their future viability, the top executives of both companies continue to receive huge amounts of money in regular salary compensation and bonuses.

Bonuses? Yes, bonuses. They can’t run a company to save their lives, but the top executives of both companies received huge bonuses as the companies they run go down the proverbial toilet.

iHeart’s compensation board authorized billions in bonuses for CEO Bob Pittman, COO Richard Bressler, and General Counsel Robert Walls for each quarter of 2018; the CEO of Cumulus, Mary Berner, netted $3.8 million in bonuses last year. All of this made me realize that they really do have the wrong people running those companies ... I could run each company into the ground much cheaper.

Bustany Passes

The last living co-creator of American Top-40, Don Bustany, passed away in late April at the age of 90. 

Bustany, along with Tom Rounds, Casey Kasem, and Ron Jacobs, launched American Top-40 on July 4, 1970. Originally airing on just a handful of stations, AT40’s affiliate list eventually grew to hundreds of stations nationwide and around the world. Kasem hosted until 1988 when Shadoe Stevens took over; Stevens hosted until the program was cancelled by its distributor in 1995.

Kasem re-launched the countdown show in 1998; Ryan Seacrest has been hosting the program since 2004.

You can hear recordings of the ‘70s version of AT40 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio Saturdays at 9 a.m., Sundays at 6 a.m. and Sundays at 9 p.m. on Channel 7.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #220

Radio: May 11, 2018

Dave Beasing isn’t your normal radio guy. He spent ten years designing and programming The Sound (now KQLZ, 100.3 FM) and developing it into a ratings leader. Previous experience had him working with radio stations nationwide as a consultant with Jacobs Media, and he programmed KYSR (and its predecessor KXEZ) before the current alternative format.

He’s always been an innovator, looking for ways to push the medium forward while recognizing its history. At The Sound he knew the importance of social media and websites as extensions of stations, and he made TheSoundLA.com into one of the most visited station websites in town. The Sound was more than a station, he explained to me long ago, it was a full brand of entertainment designed especially for Los Angeles.

So with a long history of success with radio programming, consulting and innovating, what’s he doing now?

Podcasts.

Podcasts? Yes, podcasts. The anti-radio.
 
Borrowing on his experience putting content on his own station website as well as on Facebook and more, Beasing has produced all types of podcasts. More recently he moved into a new field: branded podcasting, designed to be a part of a brand’s marketing. Think infomercial, but better - designed to be interesting enough to compel people to download and subscribe.

He recently had one of his podcasts -- nameless, due to the wishes of the company behind it -- debut toward the top of the podcast chart with thousands of subscribers. But Beasing is very happy with the success. Marketing, after all, is in his blood and is one of the reasons The Sound was such a success. Beasing knew that the most successful stations throughout history were not only well-programmed, they were well marketed.


Withdrawal

I am having withdrawal symptoms ... dry mouth, can’t sleep ... due to the sudden shutdown of ReelRadio.Com, the virtual museum of classic top-40 radio stations. Here you once found recordings of stations dating back to the 1920s.

The founder of the site, Richard Irwin shut-down the site, hopefully temporarily, due to health issues. Posted on his Twitter page and reposted on the Fans of ReelRadio Facebook page, Irwin wrote, “REELRADIO will be taking a break until my body is healed. My hands may be broken but my heart is thankful for all the support over 22 years. Thank You!”

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Big Birthday

I missed this one - KNX (1070 AM) just celebrated 50 years as an all news station, having launched the format way back on April 15, 1968.

But that’s not all. May 4th marked the 96th birthday of KNX itself, or at least since the station adopted the KNX call letters.

The station had its genesis as Fred Christian’s amateur station 6ADZ, which went on the air on September 20, 1920 at 1500 AM. It moved to 833 AM and shared time as KCG with other stations by government decree that made all local stations use the same frequency and broadcast different hors of the day.

Power increased to 50 watts on May 4, 1922 when it became KNX, a far cry from the 50,000 watts it broadcasts with today from a transmitter site off of 190th Street in Torrance. It became a CBS-owned station in 1938 and stayed with CBS until it was sold to Entercom last year.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #219

Radio: May 4, 2018

Perhaps it is statistically insignificant, but it must be a nice feeling for the staff of KOST (103.5 FM) that the station finally led the Los Angeles ratings outside of the holiday music season. It happened in the March Nielsen ratings released in late April when KOST jumped more than a half point from February (to 5.9 from 5.3) and former leader and sister station KBIG (104.3 FM)dropped almost a half point (to 5.7 from 6.1).

Rounding the top five were KRTH at 5.0 and a fourth-place tie between KIIS-FM (102.7) and KTWV at 4.7; each rating is an estimate of the average percentage of radio listeners aged 6 and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight.

KFI (640 AM) was the top-rated AM station, coming in 6th place with a 4.2 share. The next closest AM was KNX (1070), which was 10th at 3.2. After that you have to look pretty far for another station from the oldest broadcast band: KRLA (870 AM) was 29th with a 1.1, just ahead of KSPN (710 AM) which tied KLYY (97.5 FM) for 30th with a share of 1.0.

As already listed, KIIS-FM was the top-rated hit music station, competitor Amp Radio KAMP (97.1 FM) was almost two full points behind at 2.9. Power 106 KPWR (105.9 FM) was slightly below that at 2.6 but did manage to stay above its direct competition Real 92.3, which earned a 2.4.

The top-rated alternative station in town was Alt 98.7 KYSR but just by a hair: Alt’s 2.4 tie with Real was enough to stay above KROQ’s (106.7 FM) 2.2.

It was not a good month for country music ... Go Country KKGO (105.1 FM) was down a half point to 2.0 compared with February. This actually makes me think that the March ratings month has a few problems, as the station has been averaging much higher for the past year. I do know that a few changes in the way Nielsen’s Portable People Meters are distributed can have a huge effect on ratings, showing more than anything that the system is inherently flawed. Unfortunately its the best we have right now.

KPCC (89.3 FM) was down slightly from from the 3.0 share it had in February, but the April 2.7 gave it a full 1 point lead above KCRW (89.9 FM) and bragging rights to being the most popular noncommercial station in town.

The full story:

1. KOST (5.9) 2. KBIG (5.7) 3. KRTH (5.0) 4. KIIS-FM, KTWV (4.7) 6. KFI (4.2) 7. KCBS-FM (3.8) 8. KLVE (3.6) 9. KLAX (3.4) 10. KNX (3.2)
11 KAMP (2.9) 12 KLOS, KRCD (2.8) 14. KPCC (2.7) 15. KPWR (2.6) 16. KRRL, KYSR (2.4) 18. KSCA, KXOL (2.3) 20 KROQ, KXOS (2.2)
22. KKGO (2.0) 23. KBUE (1.9) 24. KCRW (1.7) 25. KJLH, KUSC (1.6) 27. KDAY (1.4) 28. KSSE (1.2) 29. KRLA (1.1) 30. KLYY, KSPN (1.0)
32. KEIB, KWIZ (0.9) 34. KKJZ, KKLQ (0.8) 36. KFWB (0.7) 37. KABC, KFSH, KLAC, KYLA (0.5) 41. KSUR (0.4) 42. KWKW (0.3) 43. KKLA, KTNQ (0.2)

Frightening fact: The top-two radio companies, iHeart Media and Entercom, command 48.5 percent of the radio audience. 

Bean Back

Gene Ryder, aka Bean on KROQ’s Kevin and Bean Show, was back on the air as of last Monday. While he was off the air, rumors were circulating that he was taking a leave of absence in part to protest pay cuts and related issues. Personally I hope that is true. Regardless, it’s nice to have him back.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #218

Radio: April 27, 2018

If you have an HD Radio -- a special radio designed to receive and decode the special digital audio programming sent along with the regular analog radio signal -- you may have noticed that KKGO (105.1 FM) has been sending a total of four digital streams.

In addition to the regular HD1 stream that, like all HD stations, duplicates the analog programming, KKGO has long been providing an HD2 (simulcast of 1260 AM’s LA Oldies K-Surf) and and HD3 (recently changed to classic country). But for the past two weeks or so, there has been an HD4, which as of this writing is a second simulcast of the Go Country analog programming.

Station owner Saul Levine made mention recently of the fact that stations broadcasting the HD system can have more than the traditional two or three extra sub-stations. But he didn’t say much else on the subject.

Now it appears he’s got something planned. And unlike other HD4 streams I have heard, this one audio-wise sounds more than decent. Levine’s engineers must be working a bit of magic here, as the more HD streams you add, the lower the audio quality as you are splitting a finite amount of digital data.

Levine is tight-lipped about his plans. Could standards return? Big bands? Heavy metal?

Audio Magic

I had a chance to hear 1260 in HD last Friday when I attended a Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters luncheon at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. All I can say is “wow.” The station sounds phenomenal in HD, and I thought the AM sounded better than the simulcast on the FM stream mentioned above. Clean and full-fidelity. And in stereo.

Pioneers

The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters is a group of radio and television broadcasters (or a related field) with at least ten years experience related to radio or television. I am, of course, not worthy of membership as I just write about radio, but the organization took pity on me and let me join anyway due to my 31 years writing this column.

Founded in 1966, the PPB hosts four luncheons per year celebrating and honoring member achievements. April 20 was devoted to television’s Rich Little who can impersonate almost anyone flawlessly; June 1st will honor Lonnie Anderson who among other things was one of the stars of television’s WKRP in Cincinnati, a fictitious station to which those connected to radio can relate.

Through June 30th, the PPB is waiving the initiation fee for new members, a $50 savings. If you or someone you know meets the requirements for membership, consider joining. Go to ppbwebsite.org and click on Join PPB.

The New Sound

Reader Fred Weidman found a new sound ... down under,!
“Enjoy your column always. Also miss The Sound. There is another alternative.
 
“On TuneIn radio I can listen to stations all over the world. Turns out there is “The Sound” in Auckland New Zealand, which shares the same format (same ownership??); 10 @ 10, vinyl, etc. Great DJs, with a bit of an accent, and interesting commercials. I believe you can stream it too, but TuneIn works very well.”


You can also hit the station’s website directly at www.thesound.co.nz; by the way ... it is not the same owner, but you’re right - a wonderful station.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #217

Radio: April 20, 2018

One of the real treats of listening to KRTH (101.1 FM) in years past was the mid-day shift hosted by Brian Beirne, known to his many fans as “Mr. Rock and Roll.”

He gave himself that nickname -- it’s a registered trademark -- after listeners told him he should call himself “Mr. Something,” but it relates to the fact that he is a walking encyclopedia of early rock and roll music, the artists who recorded the songs, and the producers who put it all together.

For many years, Beirne was KRTH. His show was among the top-rated at the station and he was the voice of the station during much of his tenure while it was owned by RKO Radio (a name I’d like to bring back when I buy my first station ... But I digress).

Listening to Beirne, much like listening to his contemporary Johnny Hayes on competing KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM), was akin listening to the curator of an audio museum. He brought meaning to the music, told background stories on songs and the meaning of lyrics, and brought artists into your home as friends. No wonder he spent 29 years at the station until he retired in December of 2004 ... one of the longest single-station tenures in the history of radio.

Since he left radio, Beirne has spent his time as a promotor of concerts by artists of the early rock era ... the same music he played in his early days at KRTH .. through his company Legendary Shows.

Earlier this week I received an email from Mr. Rock and Roll. “I wanted to share with you and your readers a special evening I am doing May 17 at the Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont,” he wrote.

And what a show it is. May 17 at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater at 455 West Foothill Blvd. in Claremont, Beirne will tell the stories of his life as a Rock and Roll disc jockey, intimate and personal stories of artists, the history and evolution of the music he played, and first-hand stories from artists he knows personally. I imagine that will include the story of the time when John Lennon and Ringo Starr called in to his show on KRTH to request a song. Yes, they did.

Tickets are on sale now. Call 909-626-1254, extension 1.

Sound Playlist

Reader David Alpern checked in with a nice internet link.

“Knowing how much you enjoyed 100.3 The Sound - here is something I have been using at times to access the station’s music.

“This was assembled by a The Sound listener, and is at https://tinyurl.com/TheSound-End.”

What is “it?” A Spotify playlist of the final Sound A-Z as heard during the final weeks on the late-great classic rock station programmed by Dave Beasing. The Sound dropped classic rock for syndicated Christian rock (and few listeners) in November.

The playlist includes almost 2000 songs and is -- theoretically, at least ... I have not verified -- exactly the same songs in the same order that were played as the station wound down ten years of existence. In order, every song from A to Z. Styx’ A.D. 1928 (which sounds awkward without Rockin’ the Paradise) to U2’s Zooropa

You need a Spotify account to access the full list and the music.

Bell Passes

Art Bell, the architect of the syndicated overnight radio program that focussed on UFOs, conspiracy theories and the paranormal, died April 13th at the age of 72 at his home in Nevada.

His show started as a local political talk program on KDWN/Las Vegas in 1978. First called West Coast AM, the program changed focus and name to what it is now about ten years later and as it moved into syndication with affiliates nationwide, including KFI (640 AM) locally.

He retired from and returned to Coast to Coast or later offshoots numerous times.
 
No cause of death was given, pending the results of an autopsy. Fitting with the nature of the show he launched and hosted for so long, one reader emailed, “he’s not truly dead. He’s just watching us from a radio studio flying overhead.”

Showman that he was, I bet Bell would get a laugh out of that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #216

Radio: April 13, 2018

Flannigan Passes

He only spent a sort time in Los Angeles, but a staple of the post-Drake success of RKO top-40 radio stations has died. John Mack Flannigan spent part of 1975 at KHJ (930 AM) but quickly moved to KFRC/San Francisco where he entertained the Bay Area for years and quickly became one of KFRC’s top personalities.

Airchecks can be found on YouTube and -- if you are fortunate enough to have access -- on ReelRadio.Com. Flannigan was the epitome of the format’s success. Smooth, quick-witted, solid. It was the talent of the likes of Flannigan that helped make KFRC and KHJ among the most popular music stations in the country.

A member of the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame and National Radio DJ Hall of Fame, Flannigan passed away from congestive heart failure on March 31st.

Bean Update

As mentioned in this paper last week, KROQ (106.7 FM) morning co-host Gene “Bean” Baxter has been off the air for the past few weeks. There is still no update on his condition or when he plans to return. 

In case you missed it, Baxter is on medical leave, leaving the following message on the Kevin and Bean Show Facebook page:

“I am humbled by your well-wishes, thank you. Happy to announce I am still physically the healthiest man alive but am taking time for mental health care. We’ll talk soon!”

Kevin and Bean have been a popular staple of Los Angeles radio mornings for decades.

Alive and Well

Jim Ladd posted on his Facebook page that he is indeed “alive and well”

“Hello to EVERYONE checking in on social media!,” he wrote March 13. “I know you have been wondering where I am so let me say...I will be back on air real soon and will post the date and announce show returning on Deep Tracks same bat-time, same bat-channel”

Imus Walks

Longtime JJ and talk host Don Imus may not have wanted to leave his show -- cutbacks at beleaguered Cumulus brought on the demise of his contract -- but he actually left on his own terms.

After a monologue that included a recap of his career and thanks to his listeners, he abruptly left the studio, making the station run best-of segments for the last three hours of his four-hour show.

Correction

“Old news,” says KFI (640 AM) news director Chris Little. “We reverted to our full bandwidth about 3 years ago when we did away with the in-band on-channel (IBOC) system on KFI.”

Little was referring to a small line in last week’s mention of KFI’s birthday, in which I stated that KFI is still limiting the frequency response of its signal even after dropping the digital HD system.

Impossible, I responded. I don’t hear the splatter of the analog signal onto 630 or 650 AM. And it still doesn’t sound full on my better radios.

Then he reminded me ... years ago as a way to “improve AM radio,” a broadcast standards group adopted rules that called for limited analog frequency response of AM stations to help minimize cross-channel interference.
This limit set by the NRSC - National Radio Systems Committee -- limited analog radio to a 10 kHz maximum bandwidth. Still much better than many radios, but a far cry from the old standard that allowed 20 kHz. Of course most AM radio barely pass anything past 4 kHz anyway, which is why most people think AM sounds so bad.

Regardless, I pulled out my GE Super Radio and ... Little is right. KFI sounds pretty darn good. A little harsh due to some unrelated processing designed to help the ratings system “hear” the station correctly. But much better than I thought, and I stand corrected.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #215

Radio: April 6, 2018

Country music star Trisha Yearwood has launched a new show on SiriusXM’s Garth Channel 55. Entitled Trish’a Take 5 the concept has Trisha picking four songs related to a chosen theme, then will let listeners pick the last song of the five.

The debut program April 2nd featured the theme “autopilot,” and the songs included Little Red Corvette by (country superstar???) Prince and Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. Obviously the program will not be exclusive to country artists.

The program will air Mondays at 2 PM (Pacific time), then repeat Wednesdays at 10 a.m., Fridays at 6:00 a.m., Saturdays at noon and Sundays at 5:00 pm.

Stagecoach

Go Country 105.1 FM is keeping traditional (local) call-in contests alive; ending Sunday April 8 they are expected to give away 36 passes to the Stagecoach country music festival to the designated caller each time the contest runs during the past week.

The Inland Empire’s K-Frog (91.5 FM) is doing something similar, offering passes to designated callers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.  through April 22nd.

I commend both stations for using an easy, simple contest to hook listeners; I am surprised so few stations do this any more.

The concert will be held in Indio during the weekend of April 27-29, and includes such artists as Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Brice, Ashley McBryde, and many more.

Promotion

Longtime KFI (640 AM) Bill Handle Show producer Michelle Kube has moved up in to a new position: Executive Producer for the entire station. Replacing her in the morning producer spot is Alex Razo.

Kube has been with KFI 24 years; 23 of those connected in some way with Handle. Her new duties will be overseeing every show -- host and producer. That’s a lot of ego-balancing, and I wish her well!

Anniversary

KFI itself has something to celebrate: it is about to begin its 97th year of broadcasting.

It was March 31, 1922 when KFI officially received it’s license to operate; the station went on the air a couple weeks later on April 16. It is said that the original broadcasts were more of owner and founder Earle C. Anthony yelling “can you hear me” into a microphone; radio was in its infancy and few owned radios at the time. 

Due to very little sources of man-made interference in the early days of broadcasting, KFI’s original 50-watt transmitter could be heard quite far at night. Today, with more interference but 50,000 watts, the station can be heard all the way to Fresno during the day and through much of the Western United States at night. 

At one time the station sounded beautiful in analog AM stereo and later through digital HD Radio, but more recently the HD was turned off, the frequency bandwidth was reduced and other technical adjustments mandated by owner iHeart have given the signal a grainy harsh sound. But it’s still one of America’s most power radio stations! It would be fun to hear an on-air biography of the station.