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

Anniversary

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?