Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #125


Airwaves: April 29, 2016

Friends, former colleagues, and fans of gathered at Le Petit Chateau restaurant in North Hollywood last Saturday to pay tribute to radio legend Ron Jacobs, who passed away last month in his native Hawaii.

Organized by Kevin Gershan, who grew up with the Boss Radio format originated by Jacobs and others at KHJ (930 AM) in 1965 -- and who eventually produced the (post- KHJ) Robert W. Morgan Show -- the gathering was a way for those living on the West Coast to get together and remember the man known as one of the architects of modern music radio broadcasting.
And did they talk. About the manic phone calls that might last hours at a time, including incoherent yelling. About the many times he threatened to sue someone ... or everyone in the room. And about the genius that he was when it came to radio and marketing, along with the care he took of people he respected and considered friends.

Best known for his work at KHJ, launching the format that took the station to the top of the ratings with a fast-paced bigger-than-life music format, Jacobs was also behind the creation in 1972 of album-oriented KGB (now KLSD, 1360 AM) complete with the Homegrown series of albums featuring music from local artists as well as the hugely popular KGB Chicken. 

He was the man behind the 1969 48-hour radio documentary “History of Rock and Roll” that aired on KHJ just prior to his leaving the station. He then went on to co-found Watermark and launch American Top-40, the long-running countdown show starring Casey Kasem. Jacobs also produced the Elvis Presley Story narrated by Wink Martindale ... the first American radio production to be purchased by the BBC for airing in England.

You can get a taste of his crazy-genius and energy level by reading KHJ Inside Boss Radio, available as a Kindle book at Amazon for $9.30. When I read the book I found it fascinating ... and tiring: the energy that pours out of the memos written by Jacobs is simply astounding.

The celebration of life was just that -- upbeat, happy, positive. As “crazy” as Jacobs could be at times, he touched so many people in so many positive ways, and he did indeed help change radio forever. 


Michael Stark -- who runs the LA Radio Studio in San Pedro -- and I interviewed Jacobs almost a year before his death, back in March of 2015. We spent three hours on the telephone discussing radio in general, letting him tell stories about his early radio life, the top-40 wars of Fresno and San Bernardino, KHJ and more. Unfortunately, it ended up being only part one of what was supposed to be at least two -- and probably more -- volumes.

The project was put on the backburner due to in part to Jacobs being involved in other projects as well as some of his health issues. Regardless, We are currently editing the interview and eventually we will have this ready for release and available as an audio recording or podcast.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #124

Airwaves: April 22, 2016

It may not be Christmas now, but KOST (103.5 FM) -- the perennial holiday season winner -- is still the top station in town. And in the March ratings just released last week, the light-rock station actually increased its win over second-place KIIS-FM (102.7) to almost a full point, with a 5.9 share of the audience for KOSt compared with 5.1 for KIIS.

KBIG (104.3 FM) was just behind in third at 4.8, meaning that iHeartMedia owns the top-three stations in Los Angeles -- at least until the company goes bankrupt as many industry observers predict. I suppose that could be the definition of irony, though I am not quite sure.

The next three on the list are owned by CBS, rumored to be selling its stations or spinning them off into a separate company as the radio holdings keep the company stock from reaching its potential. more irony? Regardless, KRTH (101.1 FM), KTWV (94.7 FM) and Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1) were 4th through 6th at 4.5, 4.4 and 3.7, respectively.

With its continuing evolution into less political and more entertainment, KFI (640 AM) still dominates the talk format, coming in tied with KLVE (107.5 FM) at 7th place with a 3.6 rating share. In comparison, the next highest commercial talk station was KRLA (870 AM) way down the list at 1.0, KABC (790 AM) was a little lower at 0.7, and KEIB (1150 AM) below that at 0.6.

KNX (1070 AM) has been doing quite well with news lately, with a 9th place 3.3 share. KLOS (95.5 FM) and The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) are tied for the second month in a row at 2.6, Real 92.3 (KRRL) is still beating Power 106 (KPWR) but only by 0.2 (Real’s 3.0 to Power’s 2.8), and the top-rated public station in town is KCRW (89.9 FM), which earns a solid 2.0 share of the Los Angeles metro audience.

For the Los Angeles metro area, iHeart Media earned a total of 26.6 percent of the listening audience among all if its stations, according to Nielsen, followed by CBS with a total of 21.8 percent. That’s almost 50 percent just among two companies. I’ll leave the implications of that statistic to you.

Each rating is an estimate of the percentage of listeners aged six and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight, as determined by Nielsen.

KFI-AM 3.5
KNX-AM 3.3

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #123

Radio: April; 15 
At Least it’s Not Here
KLIF/Dallas-Fort Worth temporarily changed its name last weekend to Bieber 93.3 in celebration of Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour arriving for a concert at Dallas’ American Airlines Center on April 10th. The branding was both on-air and on the station’s website all weekend long.
“We’re huge Beliebers!" KLIF programmer Dustin Kross told industry website AllAccess.Com. "Changing to BIEBER93.3 is the perfect way to connect to our audience and other Beliebers while Justin Bieber is in town.”
Music and Food
KCRW (89.9 FM) will be heading to downtown Long Beach in September for a special music and food event called, appropriately enough, Music Tastes Good.
The three-day event will be held September 23rd through the 25th; each day will feature its own theme and the focus will be on local vendors, craft beers and local musicians. Tickets will go on sale in May, while a special free concert highlighting the bands scheduled to perform at the event will take place May 7th at Long Beach’s Packard Building.
Cloudy Future?
A story on Slate.Com regarding the future of National Public Radio is a fascinating read (http://tinyurl.com/SlateNPR). The basic idea being presented: can NPR survive online entertainment alternatives if current listeners are getting older and potential youngsters are more interested in podcasts?
The evidence presented is fairly strong and to the point. Younger people are not tuning into NPR, which itself was once a bastion of young “left-wingers and hippies.” and was formed out of a desire to see what could be done by experimenting with radio and recording equipment.
The problem now, according to the premise of the story, is that the fun, freewheeling attitude of early NPR that attracted today’s listeners is not attracting those listener’s kids. The kids instead like podcasts, which are usually more fun and outlandish than the material broadcast by NPR affiliates such as KCRW and KPCC (89.3 FM).
Now, keeping in mind my bias against NPR -- primarily due to so many NPR affiliates taking over radio stations on college campuses which in my opinion should be run by students, not by NPR professionals -- I think the entire article misses the point. 
Also keep in mind that I love podcasts ... I do one weekly myself with Michael Stark at the LA Radio Studios in San Pedro. But podcasts are an inefficient way to reach people; broadcasting is still king when it comes to market reach. 
NPR would be shooting itself in the foot if it focused on podcasts, even if it primarily ran podcasts of its popular programs such as All Things Considered. The reason is simple economics: podcasts -- with rare exceptions -- don’t make money. And the more NPR relies on podcasts for listening, the fewer listen live to the radio. And the few listeners to live radio, the fewer donations to member stations, along with decreased program underwriting.
But like so many of today’s commercial stations essentially forcing listeners to online, iPod or satellite entertainment, the solution is to attack the real problem: launch programs that take the spirit of the popular podcasts and put them on NPR. Bring back the freewheeling days of early NPR (which I don’t remember but will take on face value from the Slate story). In other words, give people a reason to tune in. If you build it, they will come.
And I can’t believe I actually wrote a story supporting NPR...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #122

Radio: April 8, 2016

My wife would never believe me, but I actually get tired of hearing old songs. The reason for her doubt is the amount of time listening to old songs, either on radio (via The Sound, 100.3 FM) or “aircheck” recordings of classic top-40 radio stations such as what can be found at www.reelradio.com.

So I suppose I’m not helping the situation by listening -- a lot lately -- to KRTH Classics on KRTH 101.1 HD2, a station that can be picked up using a special HD radio tuner. I happen to have one in my truck.

Here’s where you hear songs from 1955 through the 1960s similar to what KRTH used to play on its main channel. The Everly Brothers. Early Elvis. The Box Tops. All with very few commercials: the only commercials that run -- very occasionally -- are for HD radios. I am frankly surprised that owner CBS doesn’t push to monetize this HD channel. or even promote it.

Perfect? Hardly. There’s a repetition of some songs, most definitely. Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel “ seems to pop up at least once a day. But then there are the songs you have not heard in years ... or decades. The Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” played today. Overall, it’s a treat to hear some of these songs, which made me realize: it’s not the actual oldies I tire of. It’s hearing the same oldies I’ve heard for the last 20 years to which I grow weary.

To be honest, I lean toward the stye of radio championed by such programmers as Ron Jacobs and Chuck Martin, who happen to have been the first and last programmers of top-40 KHJ (930 AM). Focus on current music but play oldies -- now called classic rock or classic hits -- two or three times an hour as audio seasoning. But until I am hired as a programmer locally, that type of radio will be missing. And the special seasoning will have to come from this hidden digital extra stream that comes from KRTH and is also available on line and through smartphone apps.

What would make it better? I’d bring in DJs. KRTH’s own Shotgun Tom Kelly could be on the KRTH Classics stream. As could any number of talented DJs that are not heard enough if at all. What a treat it would be to hear Bobby Ocean playing the hits again. Basically, make it a real, viable station. Get more advertising -- but limit the number of commercials in total so you won’t push people away -- as a way to keep the station going.

KRTH is of course not the only good HD station stream around. Fans of the Smooth Jazz version of The Wave (KTWV, 94.7 FM) can still hear the music they love via KTWV HD2. LA’s only commercial classical station can be found as a secondary channel to Go Country, KKGO 105.1 FM HD2. Love the Big Bands and old standards? They’re playing right now on KKGO HD3. And of course the songs that made KROQ (106.7 FM) “world famous” are on Roq of the 80s, KROQ HD2.

Wango Tango

KIIS-FM (102.7) has announced the lineup for Wango Tango 2016 to be held at the StubHub Center in Carson on May 14th. Tickets went on sale April 1st to station VIP members, and everyone else April 2nd. Cost runs $35 to $265 per ticket plus fees.

Remember when stations held free concerts? I digress.

Power Circle

Rumor on the street has Power 106 -- still stinging from the competition of Real 92.3 FM -- making a move back toward the rhythmic dance music the station played when it made its debut in 1986.

This is something I’ve considered for a quite some time. There is currently no competition in the format and some of the original architects of the station are still with owner Emmis. I’d personally rather have the return of top-40 K-WEST (or even AOR K-WEST),  but that would once again require me  -- or Chuck Martin -- to take over programming directly. Again I digress.

Actually, while I am not familiar with what is being played in any of the Hollywood and surrounding dance clubs -- or if dance clubs even still exist -- I do believe a fun, uncluttered, upbeat current music station would bring some fun back into the Los Angeles radio scene. And the first few few years of Power 106 were hugely successful. Perhaps it’s time to take the station full-circle.