Radio: June 9, 2017
If you play it, they will come ... for those who doubt the viability of AM radio, I have received more mail on the new LA Oldies format of K-SURF (1260 AM) than almost any other topic over the past few years...
... from a station that is licensed to Beverly Hills, has a signal that doesn’t even cover the entire metro Los Angeles area, and is in a part of the band that is crowded, to say the least. THIS is true AM revitalization ... play what people want. And right now they want oldies.
The question at hand is what oldies? Purists believe that oldies are from the 1950s and ‘60s. Yet when KHJ (930 AM) was playing oldies as “goldens” in the Boss Radio days of the 1960s, those songs were ten years old or so ... even newer than the ‘80s and ‘90s hits that KRTH (101.1 FM) plays today.
But there certainly is a market for them, at least judging by the responses to my survey question: what era should K-SURF play? You want what is missing from the dial: songs from the 1950s and ‘60s.
By an overwhelming majority. of all the responses, 91 percent said stay with the 50s and ‘60s. Only nine percent said they liked the ‘70s, though there were a decent number who said they would accept songs from the ‘70s if there were not too many of them and they stopped by the era of Disco.
For those who gave a cutoff year - only a handful actually gave a year - the majority went with 1964, a few with 1969 an one said 1975. As long as it stopped before Disco ...
Here are a few of the comments:
“As far as reaching for songs in the 1970s, all I can ask is ‘why?’ There are so many songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s that can fill the programming.” -- John Wong
“Most of the ‘70s music sounds out of place. (Instead) they should play lower charting songs (from the 1950s and ‘60s): Johnny Cash, Four Aces, Moonglows, and hundreds of other artists.” -- Steve Thompson -- Glendale
“The creeping in of ‘70s era music is annoying. Just leave the ‘50s and ‘60s format” -- Debbie and Robert Ryan
“I would defnitely prefer to have only songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s.” -- Jim McDonald, Van Nuys
“I can get ‘70s music on other stations. Why do they want to mess with a good thing?” -- LonnyS9970
“Please keep it ‘50s and ‘60s oldies. Please! I have more than 100 family and friends tuned in to 1260 because of the oldies.” -- Merappok1
“The music from the ‘60s had an iconic sound; leave well-enough alone. Let the ‘70s stand on its own.” -- Jeff
“Just to follow up on K-SURF: Yes, the songs should only be from the ‘50s and ‘60s.” -- Ken
“I love the format and most of the choices. I never really cared for Carole King or Steely Dan, among others, but I turn the sound down rather than changing stations. But the 1970s have some songs that are carryover from the ‘60s and should not be ignored.” -- Cheri Pratt
If they start playing music from the 1970s, I’ll stop listening” -- Margie Schuler, Glandale
“Cruising oldies from the ‘50s and ‘60s please ... we old folks need our music ‘fix’ too!” -- Cathy Pallitto
Don’t mind a song from the ‘70s once in a while ... but not too many” -- Marie Mull, Glendale
That’s just a sample. What struck me most in the full original letters and emails is the passion people have for the format and the willingness to find and listen to the station in spite of its limited signal. A few letters mentioned buying an HD Radio in order to hear the station in stereo via the HD simulcast on 105.1 HD2. Those living in San Fernando can tune in the station via HD AM once work is done on the transmitter, according to station owner Saul Levine.
So here you have a weak AM station generating more buzz than most of the other stations in town ... AM or FM. Lesson? Just play what people want. Amazing what happens when you do that.