Constructing The Next Decades of Classic Hits

There was genuine excitement last week when I reported that Classic Hits KOLA Riverside, Calif., was filtering in titles from the early 2000s. KOLA had been aggressive, and successful, by forging into the ‘90s ahead of most stations. When I reported that they were on the move again, some readers thanked me for telling them about the station. Cumulus VP of programming Brian Thomas called my attention to an earlier trade publication article where he was among several PDs predicting a move to the 2000s, partially because so many of us perceive the ‘90s to be a dead zone for mass-appeal hit music. Everything that follows comes with multiple caveats about doing things for the right reason. KOLA gets to be both Classic Hits and gold-based AC station for its market. Other Classic Hits stations ha...[Read More]

Bring Back for What?

For a long time, I regarded the act of holding on to a current title after its chart run as an act of independence on a par with going “off the menu” and adding a new song not being promoted by a label. Keeping a proven hit in power might not have displayed the same enterprise as finding a new hit. But both decisions represented a willingness to curate a distinctive station and put the audience first. In recent weeks, with Mainstream CHR in the depths of a current product crisis, programmers have been resorting to a lot of songs past their chart peak to fill their current rotations. Look at a major-market CHR now and you’re likely to see any or all of the following: Megahits that will not go away in power: Stations still powering Dua Lipa, “New Rules”; or NF, “Let You Down”; or G-Eazy &...[Read More]

Fresh Listen: KOLA Riverside In The New Millennium

It wasn’t that long ago that 99.9 KOLA-FM Riverside, Calif., was provocative among Classic Hits stations for its forays into the ‘90s. Other stations were planted in the mid-‘70s through late ‘80s, occasionally crossing the date line for an early ‘90s song with a throwback feel—Spin Doctors, Black Crowes, Michael Jackson, “Black or White.” KOLA pushed further, both in terms of era and texture, into the Modern AC ‘90s that most pop stations weren’t sure what to do with: Sheryl Crow, Green Day, Matchbox 20, even Sublime.  Many of those songs are approaching 2,000 spins now, Last week, I got an e-mail from a friend within earshot. KOLA had cut its ‘70s down to less than one an hour, now playing only megahits of the “Stayin’ Alive,” “Hold The Line,” “I Will Survive” caliber. Filtered in over t...[Read More]

Handicapping The Summer Song of 2018

  For Top 40 radio, there’s a lot riding on the Summer Song of 2018 candidates. The mother/daughter coalition is beyond frayed. Tempo is negligible (I heard a major-market CHR segue this week from Post Malone, “Rockstar,” to Max, “Lights Down Low”). April PPM ratings were dismaying even for some stations that had withstood the format downturn. The format needs its moment in the sun. So make it count, radio. As has been the case for the nearly 15 years that we’ve been writing about the summer song, this isn’t a listing of every likely summer hit. It’s songs with some degree of tempo or tropicality. Drake’s “Nice for What” is a hit, but it’s not his “One Dance”/”Passionfruit”-type entry. There are also at least 2-3 major titles likely to drop over the next 14 days. And at his current ra...[Read More]

First Listen: The Brand

Before there was “Hot Country” or “New Country,” there was the Country battle in Houston. Through the ‘80s and early ‘90s, KILT-FM (FM100) under consultant Ed Shane and rival KIKK-FM were mainstream musically (at least as I now remember them), but had an extra level of presentational gloss and energy that made them the brightest sounding stations of their era, until rival KKBQ (93Q Country) and some of the Citadel stations went further in the mid-‘90s. Josh “Rowdy Yates” Holstead was at both KILT and KIKK. Now he’s teamed with another Houston radio veteran, Pat Fant and veteran PD Cruze’s Suitenet for a new syndicated 24/7 format, The Brand. Since that Houston battle, Country has been through three up/down cycles. Each time hot country becomes not-as-hot, there’s always a question of wheth...[Read More]

Fybush: Prometheus’ Assault On Translators Hurts The Little Guys More Than The Big

In the last two translator windows, I handled applications for more than a dozen clients, and it seemed like I heard from all of them (and most of their lawyers) on Thursday after the news broke about the Prometheus informal objection that was filed against roughly a thousand pending translator applications nationwide. Whether or not it was done on purpose, the objection’s timing couldn’t have been worse. The two-week waiting period for petitions to deny against the first of the Auction 100 applicants just ran out last week, which means the Audio Division had just started to issue construction permits to station owners who had been waiting months (or even years) to start building out their new FM signals. My clients, for the most part, aren’t the “big guys.” T...[Read More]

Twenty (Or So) (Mostly) Great Songs That Were a Hit on One Station

A few nights ago, “Bania U Cygana” by Zero came up in my workout playlist. “Bania U Cygana” was a Polish-language dance record that became a signature record for WKIE (Energy 92.7) Chicago during its brief tenure as a dance station in the early ‘00s. It never spread to crosstown WBBM-FM (B96), whose version of Rhythmic Top 40 was more Hip-Hop and R&B in those days. There were a handful of other dance stations around the country, but if they were aware of it, I’m sure they figured Zero for a Chicago-only phenomenon.  But hot is hot, and “Bania U Cygana” sounded great on the treadmill. That got me thinking about other great songs that I associate with airplay on only one radio station, at least in North America. They are the most local of local hits — songs that were “1/0” in the parlanc...[Read More]

Did Mike Joseph Die And Take Hot Hits With Him?

I didn’t like Mike Joseph’s “Hot Hits” WCAU-FM Philadelphia when I first heard it. I liked WIFI, the presciently named “Wi-Fi 92.” WIFI was pretty hot by 1981 CHR standards and threw in interesting gold. It was foreground enough compared to the rest of the sterile format, and when WCAU-FM came along, WIFI had just cracked a four-share after segueing back from Rock 40. How much more saving did the format need? For that matter, I hadn’t liked Joseph’s WPJB-FM (JB105) Providence, R.I., either. I’d heard a few hours of them on a trip to Cape Cod in spring ’77. I’m pretty sure we never intended to listen; they were just wafting in through open windows because somebody or everybody else was listening. At age 14, I hadn’t really picked up on what “high-energy” Top 40 was. By that time, stations w...[Read More]

Review: “New Wave: Dare to Be Different”

  The first impressive thing is the artists who step forward to testify. Brand names including Deborah Harry, Billy Idol, U2 (represented by manager Paul McGuinness), and Joan Jett. But also, Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls, Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, Book of Love leader Ted Ottavio, Vince Clarke of Erasure. And in the story of WLIR Long Island, N.Y., those acts were as much a part of the story as the superstars — on WLIR, they were superstars. Then there are the music clearances — dozens and dozens of them. The documentary on the “Wrecking Crew” of L.A. studio musicians languished in limited release for years because of clearance issues. But WLIR, the New York area’s legendary Alternative outlet of the mid-‘80s, was clearly a station that artists wanted to pay back. New Wa...[Read More]

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]