Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #193

Radio: October 20, 2017

One of my radio dreams is to take an AM station and program it. Not program it the way most current owners do -- syndicated talk, sports or some other lame format. No, I want to take an AM station and show that you can, indeed, program an AM station to attract actual listeners. Make actual money, serving the community with either programming you can’t find elsewhere or programming done better than any station in town. 

Of course I don’t have a few million dollars sitting around so until Cumulus and iHeart go under and I can pick up a station for pennies on the dollar, I’ll just have to wait. In the meantime, I live vicariously through others such as Saul Levine, who is attracting listeners to AM through LA Oldies K-SURF (1260 AM), and people who post to I Love AM Radio, a group on Facebook.

One such post caught my eye last Sunday.

“Wanted to share this with the group, said member Drew D.  “KASM is a small station in central Minnesota. They've been around since 1950 ... NOT corporate owned. Format is farm/ag, local news, sports, and a good amount of polkas! They sound the same today as they did when I first heard them about 45 years ago.

“But here's the coolest part: they're still live and local! Better yet, they hire young people from the area and give them their first chance behind-the-mic. Almost unheard of these days!”

A quick trip over to myKASM.Com shows a few young people on the staff, including recent high school graduate Travis Ramacher, who can be heard nightly at 5 p.m. At least two other personalities look like recent college graduates or younger.

Local radio is the future of radio. It may not happen soon, but it will happen. The problem is ... will listeners driven to other entertainment sources come back?

I think they will, but it will take super-serving the community. Let’s do it.

September Nielsens

My FM was the K-BIG (104.3 FM) winner once again in the September Nielsen ratings. While down slightly down from August’s 6.4 share, it was still up from June’s 5.8 and more importantly increased its win over second-place KTWV The Wave (94.7 FM) to almost a full point: KBIG’s 6.0 share compared to The Wave’s 5.2.

KRTH (101.1 FM) was third, followed by KIIS-FM (102.7) and KOST (103.5 FM) rounding out the top five.

All told, CBS and iHeart had nine of the top-10 stations, and overall combined control 48.1 percent of the listening audience, with iHeart at 26.1 and CBS at 22. The next highest company is Univision, at 8.8. You can make your own monopoly judgements ...

While Arbitron lists KPCC separately from their online stream, the two simulcast the same programming. Combined, KPCC earned a whopping 2.2 share of the audience and would put it in the top-20 of all LA-area stations. 

And while in the 1970s they were fierce competitors and of course now they are not, I did find it interesting that KHJ (930 AM) and KTNQ (1020 AM) tied. Perhaps that is the Nielsen god’s way of keeping the AM band at peace.

Ratings are an estimate of the percentage of listeners aged 6 and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight.

1. KBIG (6.0) 2. KTWV (5.2) 3. KRTH (4.8) 4. KIIS-FM (4.6) 5. KOST (4.3) 6. KFI, KLVE, KRRL (3.5) 9. KCBS-FM (3.2) 10. KNX, KPWR (3.1)
12. KAMP, KLAX, KRCD (2.9), 15. KKGO, KROQ (2.8) 17. KXOL (2.6) 18. KLOS, KYSR (2.5) 20. KSCA (2.1)
21. KSWD (2.0) 22. KSUE, KXOS (1.9) 24. KPCC (1.7) 25. KCRW, KJLH, KLYY (1.4) 28. KUSC (1.2) 29. KWIZ (1.1) 30. KDAY, KLAC, KRLA, KSPN, KSSE (1.0)
35. KEIB, KFSH (0.7) 37. KABC, KFWB, KKJZ (0.6) 40. KPCC Online Stream (0.5) 41. KSUR (0.4) 42. KHJ, KTNQ, KWKW, KYLA (0.3) 46. KKLA, KLAA (0.2) 

© 2017 Nielsen. May not be quoted or reproduced without prior written permission from Nielsen.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #192

Radio: October 13, 2017

Joe Reiling started his Los Angeles radio tenure in 1977 when he was hired by KLOS (95.5 FM) in 1977. In 1981 he launched the station’s long-running “KLOS Local Music Show” (later called “Local Licks”) that played unsigned acts. He left for KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) in 1982; to moved KNX-FM (now KCBS-FM 93.1) in for a time in 1983; and returned to the Los Angeles airwaves on KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM) from 1988-1990.

He worked for Armed Forces Radio, produced shows for airline in-flight entertainment systems, taught at a broadcast school, worked as a voice-over artist, and more. It is very likely that you either heard him directly or heard the product of his work over the past 40 years he has been living and working in Los Angeles.

Reiling passed away October 7th after a decade of health problems.

Michael Stark led off a series of personal memories as part of a tribute to Reiling on Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com, telling Barrett:

“The one thread you will see in all the memories you receive about Joe will be that he was one of the sweetest guys on the planet. Always making people smile. Always positive.
 
“Even in the face of health issues and an industry that had begun discarding voices that didn’t fit the corporate profile, Joe never let those elements get him down. The last time I saw him, he struggled up my studio’s stairs to record a demo tape. 

“He still wanted to be part of it, as all of us old school radio geeks want. His voice was strong but his spirit was stronger. Rest In Peace, Joe.”

Come to Jesus

The Sound (100.3 FM) may be on the way out to make room  for a cheap syndicated Christian pop music format (because everyone knows that The Fish at 95.9 FM is setting the world on fire and people are clamoring for another similar outlet. Or, um, not), but programmer Dave Beasing and the on-air staff are planning to go out with a bang.
 
The playlist is opening up a bit, special on-air features are planned, and soon the station will play a classic rock A to Z feature, with no idea how far it will get because no one knows the exact date the new owners will take over. Best guess: some time between late October and mid November.

But the best part are the new on-air promos. Such as “We’re rockin’ until Jesus comes.” Or playing classic rock “because Jesus would want it that way.”

It’s too bad the new owners don’t care about actually having listeners. Bonneville Broadcasting -- owned by Mormons -- launched The Sound. You’d think a Christian owner could keep it going.

Respect

Lost in all the news of The Sound going away is the fact that there are some great things going on at some other LA-area stations, even if they do not play the same music. Last week I spoke of KCSN (88.5 FM). I can’t let another week go by without mentioning KLOS.

Under the direction of programmer Keith Cunningham who finally got some real freedom when station owner Cumulus finally fired former CEO Lew Dickey, KLOS has evolved into a station that matters again.

No, it isn’t The Sound. While KLOS does play classic rock, some current music gets mixed in as well. It also features programs that harken back to FM radio’s earlier rock days. Such as:

Jonesy’s Jukebox, weekdays Noon to 2 p.m. Hosted by the Sex Pistol’s Steve Jones, the program plays whatever Jones wants to play. New, old, whatever he wants. 

Whiplash, hosted by Full Metal Jackie, Sundays 9-11 p.m. Heavy Metal on KLOS? You better believe it. Including interviews with past and present Metal stars.

Breakfast with the Beatles, Sundays 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Chris Carter knows everything there is to know about the Beatles and has an extensive collection of rare recordings. His passion comes through in every show.

The interesting thing to me is that KLOS has broken away from being thought of as “only” a classic rock station to the point where it could theoretically go in any direction. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a current-intensive rock station that plays music from all rock and roll genres ... like KLOS, KMET, and even KROQ (106.7 FM) once did? 

Regardless, I have to give KLOS props. It may not have (lately) won the ratings battle against The Sound, the reality is that it hasn’t been competing against The Sound directly for quite some time. KLOS may indeed be the station to watch over the next few years.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #191

Radio: October 6, 2017

The news last week that Entercom will sell The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) to a company that will play satellite-delivered Christian pop music caught people by surprise. Even more surprising is that the buyer - EMF - got the station for a song. The Sound, two other full-power stations and two FM translators made for a total of $57 million; in comparison, The Sound alone sold for over $100 million in 2008. 

Not proof, but certainly a worthy allegation, that Entercom CEO David Field wanted to make sure no broadcaster would compete in any way with his remaining stations once the merger with CBS is completed. Shareholders most certainly lost out on full value in this transaction, which should trigger an SEC investigation, even if it is not against any FCC rules. But I digress.

Where will Sound listeners go? Field may think they will move on to his future holdings KRTH (101.1 FM), or Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1). Others may think they will head over to KLOS (95.5 FM). Wishful thinking, in my opinion. Sound listeners listened just because The Sound was NOT Jack, KRTH or KLOS.
There was a special attitude from the relatively young upstart station with legendary personalities like Joe Benson, Rita Wilde, Cynthia Fox, Mimi Chen and Mary Price. Aside from being our on-air friends, there is a certain respect for both the music and listeners that is sorely missing from most other stations, particularly Jack and KRTH. My hunch? Most Sound listeners will simply abandon radio altogether.

On the Other Side

When I mentioned my theory above to Sky Daniels, he responded quickly with “I certainly hope not.” And that wasn’t just a lament. This man is passionate about music and what radio can be.

Daniels, who in a past life could be found on stations such as KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) is the programmer of KCSN (88.5 FM) which recently merged signals with KSBR, also at 88.5, in order to create a mega station with a potential audience in excess of 11 million (though not, it turns out, including the South Bay where I live). 

Both signals - KCSN originating from the Northridge and KSBR from Orange County - now simulcast KCSN’s Adult Album Alternative format under the name “The New 88.5.” KSBR’s jazz format can be found on the HD digital stream that can be heard if you happen to own an HD radio.

Daniels and I were talking about the merger and my concern that students are not involved. Turns out my concern is without basis: Students are involved (more students work at KCSN than paid employees), KSBR is still primarily students, and Daniels hopes to relaunch a radio broadcasting program at CSUN that was shuttered before he arrived in 2011.

But the best part is that Daniels considers 88.5 as a supporter of the arts, specifically supporting local performing musicians and bands. “We are working with artists, agents, record companies, and venues to raise the profile of artists in the market,” Daniels told me. “We are supporting contemporary performing art with the hope that we can assist these artists in earning a living so that they can continue to create new music.”

With the combined signals, “we have a chance to really do it,” Daniels exclaims. His “it” is proving that the AAA format is a viable alternative to what I consider stale radio. Along the way, he wants to help bands move from small venues to the Troubadour, to the Forum ... and even higher.

Call me crazy, but I love that. And Daniels has the passion and energy to make it happen. which brings me full circle: perhaps Sound listeners may find something they like at 88.5. I certainly do. The Sound even started as a AAA station itself before evolving into classic rock; Daniels had a weekend shift when they first launched. Like The Sound, 88.5 respects music and the audience. If you can pick it up, listen for a while and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #190

Radio: September 29, 2017

Helen Borgers started her tenure at KKJZ (88.1 FM) long before it WAS KKJZ. Before it was even owned by the Cal State Long Beach Foundation. The station was KLON and it was owned by Long Beach City College when Borgers joined in 1979. Such an expert on jazz and blues, Borgers earned the reputation among many as a jazz educator.

She managed to stay on board for almost 40 years until she was let go from the jazz station last June. Cost cutting, I believe, but that is not the point. 

In being let go, she lost her medical insurance coverage and her replacement policy apparently is not as good as the old. Soon after her layoff, she became ill; while she awaits lifesaving surgery which cannot be performed until her health stabilizes, her medical bills and -- due to not being able to work, living expenses -- have piled up. She’s already gone through her savings and is looking at huge bills in the future.

The jazz community that she supported for so long has stepped up to support her, and has put together a benefit concert to be held this Sunday, October 1st at the Orange County Musicians Union Local 7, 2050 South Main Street in Santa Ana. Proceeds will go to help pay for Borgers mounting bills.

Still subject to change as more musicians are added to the list of performers, here are some of the artists scheduled to perform:

• The Tom Kubis Big Band
• Ernie Andrews
• Barbara Morrison
• Christian Jacob
• Richard Simon
• Dewey Erney
• Mongorama (led by Jose Rizo ... perhaps with Pancho Sanchez)
• Sal Cracchiolo with Melanie Jackson
• Dewey Erney
• Gordon Goodwin’s Little Phat Band

So many artists have joined the fundraiser concert that the time has been extended. Originally scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m., the concert at press time was already pushing past 7 p.m.
 
A freewill donation will be taken at the door, and you can donate using cash, checks or credit cards. For details you can write to Ken Poston, General Manager of jazz-formatted KSDS/San Diego, who is organizing the event. Reach him at info@lajazzinstitute.org.

World Record

Don Barrett reported at his LARadio.Com that Art Laboe has -- as of last weekend -- broken a Guinness World Records for “longest career as a radio presenter/dj (male).”

The legendary DJ launched his 75th year on the air, which began on September 23, 1943 at KSAN/San Francisco. The young 92 year old is credited with saving the original KRLA (1110 AM) back in the mid 1970s by creating a hybrid current-oldies format that attracted listeners from East Los Angeles to Palos Verdes and all parts in between. He also launched the Oldies But Goodies album series and ... well, suffice to say his accomplishments would fill this entire column.

Laboe is one of the few DJs who can connect with multiple generations at once. Now heard on 11 stations in three states, he can be found locally on KDAY (93.5 FM) Sunday nights from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #189

Radio: September 22, 2017

Radio transmitter towers can be quite high. The top of KFI’s (640 AM) tower was at one time 760 feet off the ground, before a small plane hit it, causing it to collapse. It is now “just” 654 feet tall.

Radio stations have it easy. Some television towers can be as tall as 1500 feet ... or more. yet all towers must be equipped with a lighting system so that they are not -- or are at least less of -- a hazard to aircraft that may be in the area. The lights must be visible 24 hours per day as a safety measure.

It is quite impressive that these towers are built in the first place. But have you ever wondered what it is like to change one of those bulbs you see on a broadcast tower? Two videos give a glimpse into the work of a tower maintenance worker.

At http://tinyurl.com/RWTVTower1, you can see someone climb to the top of a 1500 foot tower to change a bulb and -- as is necessary now -- take a selfie from the top. A drone is used to catch the footage.

Then at http://tinyurl.com/RWTower2, a GoPro style camera is used to catch the climb of a 1768-foot high broadcast tower ... again, to change a light bulb.

At the top of any tower you get a view like no other. A view I will never see personally as I am deathly afraid of heights. As one comment said, “there’s a job I will never do.” But from the safety of your own home, you can see it now. Take a look at the videos and tell me what you think. And if you’ve ever climbed one yourself - please write to tell me of your experience!

Woody Phone

It seems like outside of talk radio, no station takes calls any more. Few have call-in contests -- whether that is because people don’t use a phone to talk any more or the stations are just cheap I don’t know.

So it was quite fun last week on Alt 98.7’s morning Woody Show, when much of one segment was taken up taking calls. In fact, it was more than one segment, as they stomped right over the commercial break to keep it going. Though it was not a contest, it was a great topic: “That Guy.” 

Listeners called in with descriptions of “that guy” (or girl) that annoys them. That guy who always has to be right. That girl who always works in something about her trip to Europe into the conversation. That guy who always dominates the conversation. On paper it may seem bland, but the bit was funny! Even my son glued to his phone was listening and laughing.

Misplaced Appeal

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, South Florida’s Sun Sentinel has joined the chorus of those asking smart phone companies such as Apple and Samsung to “turn on the FM switch” and allow people to receive FM signals on their phones.

“Smartphones contain an inner switch that lets them receive over-the-air analog signals from local radio stations,” said an editorial. They blame it on profit motives. But with that smartphone FM radio, people could have easily stayed informed.

But there is a problem. Problems, actually. Technical and practical. Technically, yes, an FM receiver is included as part of some wifi chips sets. But - and this is important - there is no supporting hardware to make it actually work. No antenna, no tuner circuit ... no way to make it work with a “flip” of a switch or a software update.

Secondly, even those phones that did have an FM radio in the past worked poorly. Reception was made through the headphone cable, and the result was that only the strongest stations could be heard. That’s why the supporting FM circuitry was removed.

As well, Apple and others have been moving to wireless headphones, so reception has more recently been made virtually impossible in the newest models.

Want an emergency radio that only lasts a day ... if that? That’s what you’re looking at. Power was off in many areas hit by a hurricane. Can’t charge your phone - lose your FM.

Finally, what good would FM be? Most FM stations today don’t even have a DJ many hours of the day, let alone a news department. In an emergency, who would give the news anyway? Oh, yeah the powerful AM station (locally it would be KFI or KNX) that can broadcast hundreds of miles and give real updates. An FM decoder on your phone won’t receive those AM broadcasts, as the phone’s internal chips create interference that wreaks havoc with AM reception.

So the editorial is misplaced at best. To be truly ready for an emergency, you need to have a real radio with a supply of fresh batteries. That will give you not just hours but weeks of radio play time. For the entire family, not just that guy with headphones.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #188

Radio: September 15, 2017

I should be excited.

What many consider one of the best radio stations in Southern California increased its coverage from a potential audience of 3 million to a whopping 11.5 million, through what is being called a merger of KCSN, which broadcasts from the campus of Cal State Northridge in the valley, and KSBR, from the campus of Saddleback College down South, both using the 88.5 FM frequency.

Considering how good KCSN is, I really should be excited. But I am not ... instead I am conflicted.

Don’t get me wrong. I give props to programmer/manager Sky Daniels for putting together one of the best AAA (Adult Album Alternative) stations -- OK the only one but you get the idea -- in Southern California. Musically, it is vastly more interesting than many other stations in town.

But the merger does nothing but remind me of my pet peeve of these supposed college radio stations: they have nothing to do with the colleges they serve.

These educational licenses are supposed to be for the benefit of students. Either in programming that expands student learning opportunities, or as student broadcasting laboratories where students do the work, on the air and off. There is nothing in an educational license that allows them do what they are doing: commercial broadcasts using professional staffs. In other words, if the FCC actually held them to their licenses, they would lose them.
 
I suppose one could argue that in this case it doesn’t matter much. Neither station used students pre-merger, the KSBR smooth jazz format will still be available on-line and via HD Radio. And KCSN really is great.
 
But former KCSN general manager Douglas Brown, who later went on to a long career in radio and production in part due to his experience at the station, explains it this way, in a letter printed at LARadio.Com:

“I find it really sad to see both KCSN and KSBR are no longer primarily student operated providing young people with a starting place in broadcasting.

“In fact, I don't get why the colleges are even holding these non-commercial licenses which are now run primarily by former commercial music radio people.

“In the late '60s and early '70s, the staff of KEDC/KCSN was well more than 100 students performing virtually every function: writing, performing, production, engineering, continuity, music programming, news, public affairs, publicity, etc. It was a great place to start for many of us.

“And BTW, the KCSN call sign was my idea (in January '73) to coincide with the university name change from San Fernando Valley State College to CSUN.”

It just seems wrong that students are not involved, since that is the sole reason the educational broadcast license exists. I’m calling on Daniels -- and operators of all other pseudo college stations -- to correct this error. Maybe if only like KKJZ (88.1 FM), which offers student-run K-Beach on one of its digital HD streams. That’s not much to ask.

Excellent

Mo’ Kelly had a very fitting program last Sunday on KFI (640 AM). His guest was Josephine Bias Robinson, former White House Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff under President George W. Bush. Robinson was in the White House as the 9/11 attacks began, and she gave her personal stories and memories of the day as it began, and the actions of her colleagues as the event unfolded. Included were recordings of news reports from the day.

Overall, typical Mo Kelly. Insightful, entertaining, and unfortunately too short. Hear it for yourself on the podcast page of KFIAM640.com; hear Mo’ Kelly every Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #187

Radio: September 8, 2017

The Sound (KSWD) currently occupies the broadcast space at 100.3 FM. But more than a few call-letters and formats ago it was known as KIQQ.

Actually, the station launched as a background music station called KMLA back in 1957. It later became KFOX-FM, country-formatted sister station to the original “Country King,” KFOX (now KFRN, 1280 AM) in Long Beach.

In 1972, a group that includes author and owner of LARadio.Com, Don Barrett, bought KFOX-FM and rebranded it as KIQQ, the letters resembling K-100 which it was called on the air to tie in its frequency. Originally the format was softer rock (early “Adult Contemporary,” but just months later Bill Drake and Gene Chenault were given programming control and changed to top-40, competing against KHJ (930 AM) which they previously consulted.

It was not to be. AM still reigned the king of the airwaves, and the FM top-40 audience ended up being split by the arrival of KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7). Neither one would do well until years later.

Once FM gained a foothold in the early 1980s, KIQQ evolved into an innovative top-40 hybrid, playing traditional top-40 hits with a twist: it played them far earlier than almost any other station. The station was the first to play songs form bands representing the British music invasion of the ‘80s; it was among the first to play anything new from Michael Jackson, and Rick Springfield’s entire album was already on the way out before Jessie’s Girl would be found on competing stations.

It didn’t last long. As KIIS-FM climbed in the ratings, others fell by the wayside. By 1985 KIQQ would be changing again, this time full-circle to light rock. But for a roughly three-year span, KIQQ was like magic to its fans. Managed by George Wilson and programmed by his wife Paula, DJs included Bruce Chandler and Tony St. James, “GW” McCoy (the GW was George Wilson, Jr.), Jay Coffee, Ernie Sanchez, and a few more. 

Due to its short history with this format, not many recordings of the era were made. To the rescue: Airchexx.Com, which just added an aircheck of G.W. McCoy from July of 1984. Most of the music is edited out, making the commercial sets sound even longer, but it’s a good representative of the sound of KIQQ during that time. Just go to Airchexx.Com, search for KIQQ, and it should be the first result to show up.

Make no mistake, though ... the heydays of 100.3 didn’t happen back then, as much as I enjoyed the music. They didn’t happen under numerous other formats that followed. No, the highest, most consistent ratings the station has enjoyed since it began broadcasting in 1957 are happening right now. Perhaps we need to be recording The Sound right now ... in 20 years we may be talking about how great IT was.

Inspiring

KOST (103.5 FM) morning host Ellen K and Alt 98.7 morning co-host Renae Ravey made the list of Inspirer Magazine’s “The Wonderful Women of Radio ... the women we love to listen to.

“Her unique voice, and fun and famous friends like Lisa Rinna and Kris Jenner, allow for an entertaining 5 hour morning block,” writer Haley DePass said of Ellen K, while Ravey “is refreshing and hilarious. Her laugh is absolutely contagious, and she wows with an impressive array of knowledge on sports, celebrities, and nerd topics. Ravey is a long time radio host, and is taking over airwaves alongside her hilarious co-hosts.”

SiriusXM’s longtime sidekick to Howard Stern also made the list, as did a few from BBC Radio. “These women are only a few of some of the amazing ladies in radio,” wrote DePass. “They utilize their platforms to shut down shamers, build up women, and create fun, relatable content. They are definitely providing some serious ear candy.”

Short Takes

Anyone catch Disco Saturday Night on K-SURF (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2)? Or how about the DJs in mornings and afternoons? ...

Why did SiriusXM place some of its best Summer programming on channels only available via radios that can receive the newest satellite feeds (known as SiriusXM as opposed to Sirius or XM)? I count at least 20 channels I can get in my truck that my wife can’t hear in her car. And what happened to George Carlin’s Corner? ...

Rumor has it that Jay Thomas, former morning host of Power 106 who recently passed away, was let go from the station back in 1993 because his acting was taking so much of his time he wanted to pre-record his radio show. Supposedly that didn’t sit well with Power management ...

I mentioned Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com earlier. Didn’t he retire? For the last time? Yes, indeed. But he can’t stay away and his site is still updated. You should check it out ...