Two Very Different (From Each Other) CHRs

I took a “Fresh Listen” to two very different CHR stations this week. One was Rhythmic Top 40, one was Mainstream. One came to my attention for the amount of Latin crossover it was playing. One I just happened across. I’ve said in recent years that spending time with many CHRs is sometimes more professional duty than pleasure. In many cases, it’s the lack of differences. After PPM, the range of what could be considered “best practice” narrowed for many people, even given differences in their market situations. But I enjoyed one station because it was different, and the other because it was different enough. KVVF (Hot 105.7) San Jose CA The Bay Area’s Hot 105.7/100.7 got a lot of social media attention when it signed on four years ago. Its seemingly hoary stunt—Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” on rep...Read More

Fresh Listen: Son of The Original Kool

With this week’s flip of WQTL Tallahassee, Fla., it’s worth noting that Adams Radio Group now has three stations branded as “Kool Oldies.” The new station, playing a more ‘60s-driven version of the format than that usually found on major format FMs, joins sister stations in Ocean City, Md., and last year’s launch on KWML Las Cruces, N.M. These are the sort of medium-to-small-market changes that aren’t on everybody’s radar, but they’re good stations for listeners who want to hear the Oldies format as it existed in the days before it dropped pre-Beatles, then secondary ‘60s, then the ‘60s altogether. It’s a deliberate throwback to when oldies were oldies. I was also excited to listen because it was an earlier version of Adams Radio Group that owned KOOL Phoenix, the original “Kool-FM.” That ...Read More

The First 10 (Or So) Songs I Loved

If you were going to have a special attachment to the music of any one year, 1967 would be a good one to choose. I like to think that you didn’t have to be there to recognize 1967 as a special moment. It doesn’t take much more than a litany of song titles to make the case. But I was there, and 1967 was the year that I became aware of what was on the radio. The first current song I remember my father bringing home for me is “Bang Bang” by Cher. That song was a hit in spring 1966, when I would have been 3-1/2. In the fall of that year, I started to be vaguely cognizant of what was on the charts. The Washington Star published a compilation of local top 10 lists, so I knew the titles, but I didn’t always have actual songs to match them with. Sometime in late December/early January 1967, that c...Read More

Catching Up With Friends Of Ross On Radio

There are two things happening with friends of the column this week that might be of interest to Ross On Radio Readers. Both involve people whose knowledge of music and charts perhaps exceeds my own. Josh Hosler: More than a decade ago, he left the then-Jones Radio Network to pursue seminary and the Episcopal priesthood, but Hosler’s interest in music and charts never flagged. Here’s Hosler’s new project in his own words: “ is a web portal to a comprehensive set of Spotify playlists covering the entire history of recorded popular music in the U.S.A., from 1891 to the present day. Each playlist covers one season of one year and includes (1) every top 40 hit available on Spotify, and (2) any other relevant classics from that precise moment in time. Playlists are generall...Read More

Mary Berner’s Merlin Magic Trick

Cumulus Media CEO Mary Berner called all of Randy Michaels’ bluffs and still came away with most of what they wanted. Cumulus began operating 97.9 WLUP-FM and 101.1 WKQX via LMA in January 2014 that included a put and call agreement where either side had the right to trigger the deal to be converted into a purchase within ninety days of the fourth anniversary of the LMA. That came when Merlin exercised its end of the agreement for Cumulus to pay he greater of $70 million minus the aggregate amount of LMA fees or $50 million for the two stations last October. Had it not been for Cumulus’ bankruptcy filing in November that would have been the end of the story. Whether or not Cumulus liked the deal they would have been contractually obligated to close the deal. Under the cover of ...Read More

America’s All-Current CHR Superstation Is …

It’s always an intriguing question for programmers. Could you successfully program an all-current CHR along the lines of WCAU-FM Philadelphia? WCAU, now WOGL, famously revitalized the format with a total inventory of 50 titles in fall ‘81/spring ’82. And it did so beginning at a time when CHR music was at its then-nadir. That was a long time ago, and all-current is not where CHR lives right now. Over the last decade, CHR has adapted the lessons of Country and Hot AC — formats where recurrents are often the most important records on the station. These days, CHR is usually on permanent staycation in “stay current” — the category where songs go on their way from power rotation to recurrent. Nationally, CHR has effectively become a format of less than 20 currents receiving meaningful rotation....Read More

To the College Broadcaster I Heard Tonight

Like a lot of the radio that interests me, I came upon the college Alternative station I heard tonight by accident. Its name was similar to a better-known commercial station. That station wasn’t available online, so I decided to listen. “Sober Up” by AJR was ending. The student on the air ID’d it as the band “Air.” Then he back-sold M83’s “Midnight City” as by “M-B-3.” A few breaks later, AWOLnation became “Owl-Nation.” The student on the air didn’t get all the band names wrong. He didn’t do anything particularly risible. He made it through a PSA perfunctorily — clearly reading, but not stumbling. He plowed through a dense weather forecast a little too quickly. Mostly the breaks were backsells, and most of them were “that was/this is.” But even if the broadcast had been more spectacularly ...Read More

Listening To Every New Song In Every Format

It’s been a weekly ritual for as long as I’ve had access to monitored airplay. On Sunday nights, just before the new chart week begins, I begin with the Mainstream Top 40 chart and listen to any new songs I haven’t heard yet — usually those cracking the 100-spin mark for the first time. I work my way through most of the current-driven formats. It’s not a perfect listening exercise. In Country, there’s always a point around No. 20 in a song’s ascent where that initial spin is too distant to remember, but I’m not yet encountering songs on the radio, and have to re-listen. In Active Rock, I may never hear most songs on the radio later, unless I seek out those stations that still have a significant current footprint. But each week’s listening still leaves me with thoughts on individual s...Read More

First Listen: Boomtown Richmond

“Out and About” wasn’t the first song that caught my attention on WUWN/WBTL (Boomtown Radio) Richmond, Va. It was just the one that made me start writing songs down. Boyce & Hart’s “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight” is of those top 10 records that might as well have never existed — except in my firmament — based on its acknowledgment (or lack thereof) by Oldies radio. That was the case even when Oldies radio was Oldies radio, and even when Oldies radio was firmly centered in 1967. “Out and About” was the Boyce & Hart single before “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.” It peaked at No. 39. Although it does have some ongoing pop-culture footprint for being featured in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, you don’t hear it on the radio now either. So I did a First Listen to “Boomtown Ric...Read More

First Listen: Fonz-FM Milwaukee

There are two things to know about Fonz FM, the AM/FM-translator combo that recently rebranded from the True Oldies Channel. The name is brilliant, prompting the sort of excited reader reaction that I last experienced during the November volley of CBS/Entercom format change. Like Tuscaloosa, Ala.’s Nick 97.5, it was the rare format change that generated TV coverage. I wish I’d come up with the name myself, but I’ve never had to launch an oldies station in the city where “Happy Days” took place. Then, despite the name, the music is largely ‘70s with some ‘60s, which is where True Oldies Channel had evolved to as well. Fonz FM isn’t specializing in the pre-Beatles music that would have been playing at the Arnold’s Drive-In of the TV show. I’ve heard “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” but even tha...Read More

We’ve Finally Reached Rock Bottom – What The iHeartMedia Bankruptcy Really Means

Cumulus Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring in November, iHeartMedia joined them last night. The two biggest albatrosses hanging upon the radio industry for nearly a decade now were the billions of dollars in debt payments owed by two of the biggest operators. Once Cumulus and iHeartMedia come out of the process, their financial status will be much improved and without the debt payments to hold them down they will be in a much more viable position to invest it their businesses. As Bob Pittman emphasized in a memo to iHeartMedia employees today, their company generated more than $6 billion in revenue and $1.6 billion of OIBDAN over the past 12 months. Nearly all of that revenue went back into debt payment as opposed to operations and growth. During the bankruptcy no interest...Read More

America’s Fastest Growing Music Service Is…

There’s good news for Amazon Music in “The Infinite Dial 2018,” just released by Edison Research. Monthly usage of the subscription service, flat a year ago, was up 6% to 9% in 2018. Those saying they used the service in the previous week were also up, 4% to 6%. Amazon Music’s usage is a fraction of the listening to either Pandora (31% last month) or Spotify (20%), but it’s the biggest gain of any of the music services. Among 25-54-year-olds, Amazon Music is up 10%-13%. The news is most dramatic among owners of smart speakers. Among all users, Amazon Music is the fifth audio brand used most often (8%), but among smart speaker owners, jumps to third place (15%) behind Pandora (34%) and Spotify (23%). So what does Alexa’s in-house music service sound like? Here’s a recent listen to five of t...Read More