Behind The Launch: Jeffro Radio
Jeffrey T. Mason is the definition of a “radio lifer.” From programming “Mix 99.3” WIMX Harrisburg, PA in his teens to his major market debut on “Q102” WIOQ Philadelphia at age 20; launching “The 80s Channel” 103.1 WXXY Chicago to rebuilding Classic Hits “94.5 KOOL-FM” Phoenix back to #1; numerous on-air and programming positions in CHR, Country and Dance to his current position at CBS Classic Hits “104.3 K-Hits” WJMK Chicago; Mason has been around the radio world and back over the past 25 years. Now he is relaunching his webcaster “Jeffro Radio” with “Hits of the 80s, 90s, 2K + Today.”
You’ve run online stations for over a decade starting with 80sNow.com in 2003. What made you decide now to put extra emphasis behind and relaunch Jeffro Radio? Who do you consider your target listener to be?
It’s funny. I never had any dreams or aspirations of doing internet radio, but I simply couldn’t find any stations willing to try what we did at WXXY with “The 80s Channel.” The format needed to live somewhere and for that reason alone, I found real estate online. I had NO clue what I was getting into other than programming something fun. 80’s Now turned out to be a fantastic introduction, education, and adventure into the medium.
Jeffro Radio is very similar to WXXY and 80s Now in that it’s broad-spectrum. There is NO format lean. You’ll hear pop, rock and rhythm…all together. I never understood why if it works for CHR it can’t work for other genres and eras as well. When doing 80s, nearly everyone programmed a rock or new wave based format. There was FAR too much mass appeal product in that decade to limit it! Now, with FOUR decades on Jeffro Radio (OK, three-and-a-half), the pool is that much deeper.
As for a target listener, I’m not going to dig into demographics. I’ll just say “music lovers!” Anyone who has looked at Nielsen Audio numbers knows that young people listen to Classic Hits, regardless of age. Sometimes, the 18-34 ratings outshine the 25-54 in the format! The same goes for older people with CHR. It’s for the love of MUSIC, plain and simple.
What makes Jeffro Radio stick out from every other station and webcaster? What will listeners get from Jeffro Radio that they won’t get anywhere else?
It’s the fun factor! 93% of every hour is uptempo. We’ve limited ballads to once an hour for what I call a “snuggle track.”
The Beatles have influenced pretty much every musician through the years, so we play a “Beatles Breakthrough” song EVERY hour. Sometimes it’s from the group, others are solo work from each of the Fab Four.
There’s also a LOT of “oh wow” to Jeffro Radio. With a deeper playlist than most, we’re playing many songs that haven’t gotten airplay in a while. That’s not to say these are unfamiliar titles. Jeffro Radio is still a HIT driven station. However, some songs may not be top of mind. As I often tell people, you will be able to sing along with EVERY song. It just may take you a verse or so to pick back up on it. There certainly is no burn factor here!
Here’s a sample hour (3/16/15 – 4pm):
Kim Wilde – Keep Me Hangin’ On
Cake – Short Skirt Long Jacket
Joe Public – Live And Learn
Rolling Stones – Harlem Shuffle
Beatles – Getting Better
Prince – Letitgo
Katy Perry – Teenage Dream
Talking Heads – Burning Down The House
KLF – 3AM Eternal
Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good
Toni Braxton – Another Sad Love Song
Ataris – The Boys Of Summer
No Mercy – Where Do You Go
Dan Fogelberg – Longer
Extreme – Hole Hearted
Blu Cantrell – Hit ‘Em Up Style
Oh, and last, but not least…Jeffro Radio is COMMERCIAL-FREE and SUBSCRIPTION-FREE!
As someone who is a self-described jingle geek, how does your use of JAM Creative Productions & TM Studios jingles and 80’s style processing make your station stick out.
Being a “radio lifer,” as you mentioned earlier, I grew up on great sounding radio stations. I’ve tried to incorporate that kind of vibe into Jeffro Radio. We’ve got a sound VERY much like the classic Orban Optimod 8100. Those jingles from JAM and TM have SO much energy and truly convey the message better than anything else. Not only will the songs take you back, but the entire packaging will sound eerily familiar as well. Familiar, yet NOT predictable. Maybe “comfortable” would be a better word.
Do you foresee a time when Jeffro Radio or any standalone webcaster can be on an equal footing with any AM/FM signal?
Someone asked me this question twelve years ago when I launched 80s Now. At the time, I thought it would happen a lot sooner. People have been syncing their phones up via Bluetooth or plugging them into the AUX jack to hear something other than AM and FM for a few years now. When WiFi hot spots become standard in new cars, the playing field levels. So, my answer remains “yes.”
Does your involvement in so many formats during your career influence Jeffro Radio in any way? Are there things you can pull from your Top 40 days or Country to influence your modern implementation of Classic Hits?
The Classic Hits presentation in 2015 is very similar to CHR and Country. All three formats entertain in short bursts while keeping the music flowing. That’s Jeffro Radio to a T!
Formats aside, I think the fact that I’ve lived and worked in a multitude of markets plays a major role. I’m not only playing songs that were hits in Chicago, but Philly…Miami…even Charlotte. While Jeffro Radio is based in Chicago, it’s designed for everyone, no matter where you live.
You were very influential in the development of the All-80s format and briefly worked in Dance at Energy 92.7/5. How can you and other online broadcasters push commercial radio to be more experimental with new formats or to evolve existing ones?
I was lucky enough to do 80s three times and dance twice. Niche formats are always a great way to get noticed quickly and harvest passion. I’ve had the most fun doing those. Although, commercial radio is forever beholden to the shareholders and advertisers. There are fewer risks taken, which is SUCH a shame. I wish more programmers/owners would use testing and research as a tool, not the rule. Go with gut! Have some fun!
What new format do you think is next to break through and become successful on FM?
There have been a bunch of 80s/90s/00s based stations. However, they tend to lean AC. I’d love to hear a CHR version. Hey, that sounds a lot like Jeffro Radio! Hmm…
How difficult have you found marketing Jeffro Radio in this new marketplace? Are there ways for you to market your station to listeners on levels that normally only existed for traditional broadcasters?
That’s something I am yet to master, frankly. While I had 80s Now in the black, Jeffro Radio is not yet a profitable venture. It’s still my passion project. It’s a labor of love. There are exponentially more options out there now than there were in 2003. Internet radio operators must constantly change up their game. I do my best to get the word out via social networking (Facebook, Twitter, message boards, etc…). Jeffro Radio is available through the free TuneIn app, which has brought the most traffic thus far. We’ve also just been added to iTunes internet radio and various other portals. I’m always looking for new ways to promote and be spotted. Just gotta get the dish to someone’s table. One taste and you’ll be hooked!