Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #134

Airwaves: July 1, 2016
The announcement last week that KSPN (710 AM) and The Sound (100.3 FM) would serve as dual carriers of the Rams when they return to Los Angeles next season brought in a few responses, most agreeing with my position that the deal isn’t necessarily good for either station.
But I plan not to dwell on the issue; if I am wrong I’ll admit it and if I am right the situation will be fixed soon enough. But one reader brought something new to the table: it turns out that this is not necessarily the first time the NFL has been heard on FM. And in some ways the move is almost cosmic, if I can use an old hippy cliche.
“When the Rams came to LA from Cleveland, 710 KMPC became the radio home - which continued until December 1994,” writes David Grudt of Long Beach.
“Here's the historical radio factoid - the original KMPC-FM was at 100.3 in the late 1940s. Before Gene Autry bought KMPC in the '50s, the FM license was turned back to the FCC (It eventually became KMLA, then KFOX before becoming KIQQ, KSWD, etc).  Back in the '40s the FM broadcast day only ran a few hours. I have found an example from the Long Beach Press  Telegram. 
“On Sunday, October 30,1949 the KMPC-FM broadcast day was 3 PM to 9 PM. I am reasonably sure that the station was simulcasting KMPC-AM.  The Rams game that day started at 2:15 PM - so, I believe the game was picked up by the FM at 3 PM.  Likely there were many home games that ended up on the FM during about a 3 year period.  
“So things have come full circle with KSPN 710 and KSWD 100.3 simulcasting the games this Fall. I happen to believe it will help both stations attract an audience.”
Grudt’s scan is interesting from a historical perspective in addition to the KMPC-100.3 FM connection. Looking through the page I saw that television Channel 9 was then KFI-TV rather than the well-known KHJ-TV; Channel 13 was KLAC-TV rather than KCOP; there was a KFI-FM at 105.9 FM -- today’s Power 106; and the paper lists KNX-FM also at 105.9, which is a typo unless there was some strange time-share agreement. To my knowledge, KNX-FM was always at 93.1 FM until it became KODJ, KCBS-FM (as it is now with the Jack name), etc.
Weekend Programming
Speaking, at least slight, of The Sound, the station has a special weekend on tap starting July 1st at noon... four song sets from classic rock’s greatest artists. “It’s the 4s of July,” says programmer Dave Beasing.
What a Guy
One of my all-time favorite DJs -- I’ve mentioned this before -- is Bobby “What a Guy” Ocean, heard locally on KHJ (930 AM), K-WEST (now Power 106) in San Diego on KGB and KCBQ, and in San Francisco on the legendary KFRC.
Airchexx.Com has a new exhibit in their collection ... Ocean on KCBQ from May of 1971. Hear it at

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #133

It’s official. Both KSPN (710 AM) and The Sound (100.3 FM) will be the local affiliates carrying every one of the Rams games as the team mark its return to Los Angeles. And I cannot imagine a worse deal for either station.

The basics:

• The agreement with the stations is for five years, and covers pre-season, regular-season and post-season games. 

• Each game day will feature a full eight hours of programming, simulcast on KSPN and The Sound. This includes three-hour pre- and two-hour post-game programs along with play-by-play.

• KSPN will have a one-hour game preview show every Thursday night at 7 during the regular season, a one-hour weekly Coach’s shoe with head coach Jeff Fisher Monday nights at 7, weekly segments with Fisher and various Rams players and daily Rams Reports.

• The Sound will create its own programming including regular segments on the Mark in the Morning show. Host Mark Thompson, by the way, broadcasts his part of the show from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For his part, Sound general manager Peter Burton thinks its a good idea. “We are excited to be welcoming the Los Angeles Rams to their official new FM home at 100.3 The Sound,” he said in a press release distributed by KSPN. “Along with our terrific partners at ESPN, we look forward to delivering excellent game-day coverage to Rams fans throughout Southern California.”

Cue cheers. “Yea.”

Here’s the problem: those cheers are most likely coming from KLOS (95.5 FM) and Jack-FM (93.1 ) which in my opinion stand to gain a lot of new listeners due to the deal. Frankly, I cannot see how this deal benefits either The Sound or KSPN. 

Consider that the last time play-by-play boosted ratings for a station -- any station -- was probably the last time the Rams played in Los Angeles. Certainly not during the time I have written this column (since 1987). Also consider that when sports teams are carried by local music stations, the overall effect has been negative. That’s why it is so rarely done in Los Angeles. The reason is easy to understand: in the days when radio play-by-play was a ratings boost, it was because games were not carried (or were blacked out) on television. With cable television so common now, it’s easy to see teams on television ... and who wants to listen on radio when you can watch on television?

KSPN seems to be the big loser here, at least directly. If the games are simulcast, the two or three fans not watching on television will most certainly tune to FM instead of AM. So the contract would seem to have absolutely no benefit for for the Rams’ AM flagship. The Sound, though, loses indirectly, as Sound music fans tune in, hear that it’s a game, and then tune over to KLOS, Jack or numerous other stations. Sure some Rams fans will tune to The Sound and a portion may even stay the next day as new listeners, but I honestly cannot see the net benefit overall.

Burton Responds

I asked Sound manager Burton to comment; his position is obviously opposed to mine, and his argument is compelling. 

“We still are very much about the music especially when comparing our commercial loads to those of other stations (leaving much more room for music),” Burton explained. “We have evaluated how stations have done with the NFL around the country as it relates to ratings growth and the outcome is quite outstanding. As you know the NFL is different than the MLB, NBA and NHL. There is only one game a week and its popularity has grown dramatically since 1994 when the Rams were last here. NFL games are major pop culture events that on average bring a 25% bump to total week audiences of FM stations who carry the franchise in their given markets. 

“While we love music and it will always make up the majority of what we do, NFL programming is unmatched,” he continued. “It’s amazing how popular the sport has been in LA over the last 20 years even without a franchise. This year’s draft day party was a madhouse, Hard Knox on HBO is exclusively covering the Rams and ticket sales are through the roof. We like our chances.”

What about my point that you can already see the games on television, so radio isn’t important? “When you consider that 2.7 million people are on the roads on Sundays there is plenty of room for the NFL on the radio,” Burton said. “It’s why iHeart, CBS and Cumulus went after this business as hard as we did. Plenty of people watch football on TV but radio is huge especially in a market like LA with a returning team.”

So there you have it. I may indeed be totally underestimating the fan base of the Rams; if I am wrong I will be the first to admit it. I don’t think I am, but Burton and station programmer Dave Beasing have a solid track record running The Sound ... Do you have any thoughts on the matter? I’d love to hear them.


Ron Shapiro, Paul Freeman, Jeffrey Leonard, Mike Wagner Shotgun Tom Kelly, Mike Sakellarides,  Shadoe Stevens, Don Elliott, Wally Clark, Bryan Simmons and many more were part of the radio reunion held at Fuddruckers in Burbank last Saturday. All of them legends in radio either in front of the microphone or behind.

The event was organized by Leonard to bring radio friends together; the group tends to take over the entire back room of the Fuddruckers when they happen once or twice a year. Many of them are of course now retired or in different careers.

Classical Carmel

Saul Levine -- owner of Go Country (105.1 FM) and KMZT (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2) is selling one station and donating another in the Central Coast area of California to the same group that runs KUSC (91.5 FM), preserving classical music in Momterey, Carmel and Big Sur.

Levine isn’t totally leaving the area, so the move gives listeners a choice, once he transfer is approved by the FCC, of a commercial and a public classical music format.

Asked what made Levine decide to donate a station to the same group against which he has fiercely competed in Los Angeles, he responded “I must have mellowed.” But his main purpose is to insure that classical music stays in as many areas as possible ... even though Go Country gets all the press (and ratings), it is classical music that is his real passion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #132
Radio: June 17, 2016
Claiming that radio stations are getting a “free ride,” Democrat Representative from New York Jerry Nadler has proposed legislation that would force stations to pay fees for performance rights to record companies which would then compensate artists for the songs they play.
His argument: webcasters like Pandora pay such royalties; making broadcast radio do the same is only fair. Besides, he says, “the shortlist of countries that don’t (pay royalties) includes Iran, North Korea and the United States ... it is a disgrace that needs to be remedied and it is well past time that we align ourselves with the rest of the free world,” he wrote in a letter in support of his legislation.
Interestingly, the reason radio has traditionally been exempt from such performance royalty payments centers centers on the exposure given to new music on the radio, which in turn introduces new music to the public and thus helps increase sales of records.
Indeed, the National Association of Broadcasters told record industry magazine Billboard “Local radio airplay has launched and sustained the careers of countless artists, while scores of artists have sued record labels for non-payment of royalties. It’s disappointing that Rep. Nadler wants to punish the number one promotional vehicle for the music industry -- free and local radio.”
Which would be right ... if this was 1965. Or even 1986. Radio in general stopped playing new music long ago, and ironically it is the internet and Pandoras of the world that expose many of the new songs. With rare exceptions, primarily stations playing country music, radio hasn’t launched a career or helped sell records in 20 years. So I find it somewhat ironic that it is webcasters paying the royalties when radio does not. Such an oddity. 
Regardless, the fee structure would be tiered ... smaller stations would pay as little as $500 per year; public and community stations only $100; religious broadcasters: nothing.
The State of Radio
Talk podcaster Tom Leykis ( sent out a link last weekend referencing a story in regarding radio listening habits in the United States, focussing on Millennials.
“In its latest ‘Share of Ear’ study, Edison Research discovered that one-third of today's millennials don't even own an old-school radio,” staff writer Jonathan Takiff explains. “And across the board, 21 percent of the U.S. population now gets by without one. That's up from 4 percent in 2008.”
Unlike when Boomers were young and radio was the go-to entertainment medium, today’s young men and women tune in online stations, on-demand streaming services, or even satellite radio.
I personally love radio and the potential it has is unlimited. Thus, I find it hard to believe that radio is doomed. But turing things around with today’s ownership model in which the dollar is king will be exceedingly difficult. In fact, it probably won’t happen until today’s major group owners -- Cumulus Media, iHeartRadio and CBS -- are forced to sell the vast majority of stations and align to a forced limit of stations (my recommendation: no more than 20 nationwide). Those companies and their massive size created cookie-cutter stations and are THE reason listeners can basically do without radio.
The solution?
Give listeners what they want to hear. Make radio compelling. Play new music. Break new artists. Bring personality and entertainment back to radio. Limit the number of commercials so listeners don’t tune out. Actually compete against your competition instead of accepting mediocre ratings. Super-serve your local audience rather than programming as if your station was an iPod or worse, a nationwide affiliate network. Do what the alternatives cannot do: become a mass-appeal locally-based medium that unites listeners with creative content for which radio was once known.
It’s really not that hard. Programmers such as Ron Jacobs, John Rook and more showed everyone how to do it, and recordings are still available to hear exactly how it was done. Let’s turn the tide and, as the Nike slogan says, just do it.
Radio can be great again. Tomorrow, if good programmers were allowed free reign to do their jobs and personalities were allowed to do show their true talents. Or radio executives can just keep their heads in the sand and watch their stations wither and die.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #131
Airwaves: June 10, 2016
School is out for most kids in the area ... that means it’s Summer. And that means it’s time for KCRW’s (89.9 FM) series of free family-oriented concerts called, appropriately enough, Summer Nights.
This week to kick off the series for 2016, Saturday, June 11, features two locations. At the Anaheim Packing District, 440 S. Anaheim Boulevard in Anaheim, you can hang out with DJs Jeremy Sole and Karene Daniel as you enjoy an evening of music, food, and fun for the whole family. This is KCRW’s first Summer Nights event behind the Orange Curtain, and it should be a great one.
Located in the heart of Anaheim, the area features refurbished historic structures along with the Packing House, which is home to more than 20 artisan eateries and is located right next to Farmers Park where the actual musical entertainment will take place from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m.
The second location is well-known to Summer Nights fans: 
One Colorado, 41 Hugus Alley in Pasadena. Here is where you can hear Los Angeles duo The Palms -- described as bridging the gap between Laurel Canyon folk and West Coast beats in order to give you the modern day LA sound (whatever that means) -- along with DJ Gary Calamar who opens and closes the night.
Like the OC area, One Colorado is a historic area, featuring 17 buildings that are home to a mix of retailers, designers, local merchants, restaurants, and even a cinema. This one runs 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
If you want to plan ahead, June 18 will feature DJs Raul Campos and Anthony Valadez in Chinatown’s Central and West Plazas, while July 7th will be a tri-location night on the Santa Monica Pier, the Hammer Museum and the Sanra Barbara Museum of Contemporary Art.
For more information on any of the events, head over to KCRW.Com.
Popular Neighborhood
It’s been over a year since Big Boy -- aka Kurt Alexander -- packed up and moved down the dial from Power 106 (105.9 FM) to Real 92.3 FM. So how is he faring?
When he left Power, the station was in 12 place for all listeners aged 6 and over in the morning, but he was 2nd among listeners 18 to 24 and number 1 in men 18-34. As of the April ratings -- the most recent I have -- Power sans Big Boy was 19th, 11th and 12th in those same demographics.
Over at Real, he’s 12th, 7th and 9th. So not as big as at Power, but still big. Or perhaps Big. But ... when he first moved to Real in March, the ratings for those same demos were 16th, 3rd and 1st. Which means the competition between the stations is far higher than anyone predicted. Long term, this should be an interesting one to watch.
Short Takes
This one sounds fun: KCRW is hosting it’s first ever scavenger hunt next weekend, June 18th and 19th. Get a squad together and explore the city (I assume in and around Santa Monica) with clues provided by the iPhone and Android app Eventzee. The team with the most points wins a $5000 gift certificate to Tender Greens; the entry fee is $5 per team. See KCRW.Com. Again.
Christian James Hand is the guy who dissects songs and gives insight to the artistry of music. Formerly a guest on the Mark in the Morning show he’s now a co-host on Andy in the Afternoon. So what was he doing on the air last Sunday Night? Does he ever take a day off?
And what about the fact that Sound programmer Dave Beasing told me that I could never be on the Sound because I never worked at KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM)? Hand never did either. I wonder if Beasing just said that because he was busy ... maybe I should send him my aircheck again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #130

Airwaves: June 3, 2016

    It’s funny how whenever I mention commercials I get tons of letters from people who actually don’t mind most of them, they just hate a few in particular.

    A while back I had written regarding the absolute fake-ness -- at least in sound and presentation -- of the “Helpful Honda” ads, along with my usual put down of Kars-4-Kids. Reader Anthony Chan of Monterey Park wrote in to give his perspective. Like me, he happens to like the Sit ‘n Sleep commercials ... perhaps something of a guilty pleasure waiting to see what accountant Irwin brings to the table. Anthony’s addition to the discussion:

    “Nick Alexander BMW. The ads always tell listeners ‘we are centrally located in the wholesale district’ ... pray tell me, how does one get to this ‘wholesale district?””

    Good point. I sometimes wonder if anyone reads their own copy of the commercials, or runs them past a non-ad person to see if it is clear or makes sense. I myself had issues with Ric Edelman ads on KFI (640 AM) because I didn’t realize their use of “Rice-Stelman.Com” was actually just a poorly enunciated “Rice-Delman.Com, or more accurately another way to remember (or correctly spell) RicEdelman.Com.

    Quick Takes:

    SPERDVAC, the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety And Comedy, has chosen Las Vegas for its annual Old Time Radio convention to be held in January, 2017. More details as they become available.

    J. J. Johnson, magical voice of the original late great KDAY (now) told me recently that his can’t-put-down Kindle book “Aircheck: Life in Music Radio” will soon be available in paperback. However you read it, just read it. It is great.

    KRRF/Oxnard-Ventura (106.3 FM) spent Memorial Day Weekend with a new format, ditching country for “Classic Hip Hop.” Core artists include Snoop Dogg, 2 Pac, Dr. Dre, Notorias B. I. G. and Ice Cube; the station now uses the name 106.3 Spin-FM.

    KFI’s afternoon John and Ken Show lost another news anchor with the departure of Libby Denkmann; Denkmann had been doing news since Shannon Farren moved to the mid-day shift as co-cost with Gary Hoffman. This has created a rare opening for a news anchor at KFI ... time to get my aircheck ready ...

    Listening to recordings of the format that could have been had it been supported and given more time -- top-40 on K-WEST (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) -- I can’t help but notice that Bobby Ocean really is one of top-40 radio’s greatest jocks. Quick wit, amazing pipes, absolutely perfect delivery ... damn you, (former) General Manager Timmy Sullivan, for firing programer Chuck Martin before the format could take off in the early 1980s.

    Station History

    Richard Rofman or Van Nuys asks, “At one time, KABC-TV was called KECA-TV. Did that stand for Earle C. Anthony, who at one time owned KFI?”

    Yes. And the tie-in reached KABC (790 AM) and KLOS (95.5 FM) which once were KECA and KECA-FM as well, though -- and here is where you can fill me in if I am wrong -- Anthony never actually owned the FM or the television station. My understanding is that the AM station call letters survived the transition from Anthony to NBC Blue and eventually the American Broadcasting Company, and it was ABC that launched the FM and television stations, keeping the KECA calls for all for easy identification purposes.

    KABC, KABC-FM and KABC-TV became the call letters of the three stations when the call sign combo became available in 1954. KLOS was used on the FM starting in 1971 to avoid confusion with the once-popular AM station.