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Fresh Listen: WFSH-FM Atlanta & KLJY St. Louis

104.7 The Fish WFSH-FM Athens Atlanta Salem Media K-LoveThey’ve been doing it throughout the PPM era, but when Contemporary Christian stations post strong months, or a succession of them, they seem to take the industry by surprise anew. Even the K-Love network, America’s true FM band music superstation, seems to be off-the-radar until they come back with another major purchase, such as WRQX Washington or WPLJ New York.

Salem’s WFSH-FM (The Fish 104.7) Atlanta is nearly 20-years-old. On the first day of the June PPM ratings release, the station extended its market lead, 7.0-7.9-8.8. (The new Atlanta K-Love outlet debuted in its first partial month by going 0.9-0.5.) The next day, KLJY (99.1 Joy FM) St. Louis fell to No. 3 from No. 2, but not until after it had put together three consecutive months around a high-6/low-7-share.

Here’s a Fresh Listen to both stations. And some thoughts about the success of the format.

Christian AC, especially the Fish, has benefitted from the more aggressive sound of Mainstream AC in recent years. Some mainstream ACs have backed away from the newer, more EDM/pop-driven sound of the format, especially if they’re suddenly contending with a Soft AC competitor. In the meantime, they’ve allowed Classic Hits, Soft AC, and Contemporary Christian AC stations to become entrenched. Atlanta’s WSB-FM (B98.5) has been one of the most sonically aggressive of the format. It’s an AC station that plays one ‘80s song an hour, or less, and that ‘80s song can be “You Give Love A Bad Name.” WFSH has been the only station in the market playing Christmas music for the past two years.

99.1 Joy-FM KLJY St. LouisDespite this, Christian AC has become the true “millennial AC” in most markets. After a dry stretch for current music about a decade ago, a new series of praise and worship acts with younger appeal have become a significant part of the format. K-Love’s younger-targeted Hot AC Air 1 network got attention for reimaging around praise music, but many ACs have acknowledged it in a significant way. In the 3 p.m. hour today (July 11), WFSH went no older than 2012, with an average era of 2016. KLJY went back to 2010, also averaging 2016.

It plays a significant amount of music, even if your expectations of a significant amount of music have been reset. Joy-FM had promos and traffic reports, as well as a two-person afternoon show, but is effectively non-commercial, playing 16 songs in the 3 p.m. hour today. WFSH is not non-commercial, but still got to 14 songs with only one stopset in that particular hour; (in others, there are two stopsets). It’s worth noting that neither station was actually talking about quantitative music. KLJY has one of my favorite station positioners, “Music. Faith. Community.” The Fish doesn’t have a single positioner, but makes references to “encouraging” and “positive” in various sweepers over the course of an hour.

The spots are a different experience from what large-market stopsets have become. In the course of that one stopset an hour I heard on the Fish, I heard two credit-related ads. One was a campaign by a home loan firm on behalf of its good-works “Angel Armies.” One was for Aaron’s Rent to Own, declaring that “good people deserve good offers.” Neither were the hard-sell ads about what the IRS does to people who owe back taxes. None were for Super Beta Prostate. I did hear Wingstop, as well as ads for vitamins, orthodontists, and local TV news.

It’s hard to duplicate as a mere playlist. If you’re still inclined to seek out companionship and the produced radio experience, particularly as AC listeners have known it over the years, Christian AC often comes across as a last bastion of tight-but-impactful-personality. In the hour I heard, WFSH’s Beth Bacall talked about the station’s upcoming Atlanta Braves night, about a car that spilled money on to a local freeway (encouraging listeners to return it), and about checking in on older listeners during a heatwave. Joy 99.1 isn’t just preparing for their summer Joyfest concert; they were also broadcasting a live concert last night from We Are Messengers, something that hasn’t been common on secular radio for years.

Here’s the Fish at 3 p.m. on July 10:

  • Matt Redman, “Your Grace Finds Me”
  • Ryan Stevenson f/GabeReal, “Eye of the Storm”
  • Casting Crowns f/Matthew West, “Nobody”
  • Zach Williams, “Survivor”
  • Matt Maher, “Hold Us Together” 
  • Big Daddy Weave, “Alive”
  • Passion f/Kristian Stanfill, “In Christ Alone”
  • Mercy Me, “The Hurt & The Healer”
  • Unspoken, “Start A Fire”
  • Micah Tyler, “Even Then”
  • Chris Tomlin, “Nobody Loves Me Like You” (with taped backsell by artist)
  • TobyMac, “Love Broke Thru”
  • Crowder, “Let It Rain (Is There Anybody)”

Here’s KLJY during the same hour:

  • Matt Maher, “Your Love Defends Me”
  • Big Daddy Weave, “Alive”
  • Third Day f/Harvest, “Your Words”
  • We Are Messengers, “Maybe It’s OK”
  • Hannah Kerr, “Split The Sea”
  • Newsboys, “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion)”
  • Elevation Workshop, “O Come To The Alter”
  • I Am They, “Scars”
  • Francesca Battistelli, “He Knows My Name:
  • Passion f/Kristian Stanfill, “Glorious Day”
  • Tauren Wells, “God’s Not Done With You”
  • Matthew West, “Hello, My Name Is”
  • Carrollton, “Rebuilder”
  • Bethel Music, “Raise A Hallelujah”
  • Unspoken, “Reason”
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  1. ma gee says

    25 years ago and the know-it-all young new sales manager arrives at a large market midwest AC. GSM decides he’d buy lunch for the radio station dub grunt. Conversation turned to what potential format the dub grunt would program if he could. The response of Contemporary Christian was met with mocking laughter and the suggestion that “no one would ever listen” by the GSM.

  2. Sean Ross says

    A few years before KUBE, I had somebody tell me that R&B could never work in Seattle.

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