Post-Katrina, America’s Quirkiest Ratings Success

This article originally appeared on Edison Research’s InfiniteDial.com on August 7, 2006.

Of all the stories emerging from the recently released spring Arbitron ratings, the most interesting is probably that of KBON, the eclectic “Louisiana Music” station. Last October, the New York Times reported on the number of New Orleans musicians, displaced by Hurricane Katrina, who had relocated to Lafayette, La., already the cradle of Cajun and zydeco music. When the Lafayette book came out late last month, KBON was suddenly No. 3 12-plus in the market, up 5.0 – 6.2 – 7.5 since spring ’05 (and up from a 3.1 in fall ’04).

KBON’s rise gave roots music fans another standard bearer, since the equally eclectic KPIG Monterey, Calif., was off 5.6 – 3.7 (and beset by some recent bad publicity about going jockless in overnights). According to market sources, the station managed an amazing average TSL of 13 hours a week and 14 hours in 25-54.

New Orleans and Lafayette are, of course, very different markets. The music that made the pre-Katrina New Orleans one of the few markets in America with a sustained body of enduring local hits was as just likely to be Hip-Hop or ’80s “Euro” (from artists like Depeche Mode and New Order) or ’80s corporate rockers Zebra or the ’70s R&B; anthem “Groove City” by Chocolate Milk as it was the music that folklorists associate with the region. And one broadcaster familiar with the market believes KBON’s numbers could as easily reflect post-Hurricane Rita population shifts as post-Katrina relocations.

But whatever drove it, it’s always great to see a local music scene power a radio station, whether it’s “Texas Music” at KPLX (the Wolf) Dallas in the late ’90s or “snap music” at WHTA (Hot 97.5) Atlanta. KBON’s success with features like “All-Louisiana Friday” is a nice little coda to a year that was particularly unlikely to offer one.

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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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