First Listen: Mod 102.3 New Haven

So let me be clear, I like Connoisseur’s “Mod 102.3” W272DO/WPLR-HD2 New Haven, Conn.,  which launched last month with a pop-leaning Alternative format that it positions on the air only as “The New Sound of New Haven.” I had tweeted my intended approval of the station’s segue from R&B artist Khalid to “The Man” by the Killers, adding “because once you decide that the Chainsmokers are alternative, keep going.” A few hours later, Keith Dakins, PD of Mod and its Connoisseur/Connecticut rock brethren, tweeted back, “Wait are you making fun?! We never use word alternative on air and remember KROQ in the 80s played Prince, Bob Marley and more.” I tweeted, “No I’m with you. I fought that battle for years. I’m glad you’re doing this.” You can blame any misundersta...Read More

Two Song Mysteries Down, One To Go

Of the three outstanding song mysteries featured in last week’s Ross On Radio column,  I had thought that two of them might remain unanswered forever. Instead, the first song was figured out within minutes; the next one within a day. (A fourth mystery in the column was presented to you already solved.) That leaves just one, from a Ross On Radio reader, that I hope we’ll figure out this week. If you scroll down to the comments in last week’s column, you can see the two correct guesses. But here’s a summation of the two songs we’ve figured out, and the one we’re still waiting on. Mystery No. 1: The Illusion, “Together” This was the one I didn’t expect to get. I was open to the possibility that it might not have been an actual song. Instead, this mystery was solved almost immediately. These w...Read More

What Do Award Winners Sound Like?

  I ought to treat our national radio awards as a “to do” list, a reminder of exemplary stations that I haven’t listened to lately. But there are just enough winners of the NAB’s Radio Awards–twenty of them this year—for the list to be daunting. Besides, they’re handed out when I’m busy at a convention, covering the NAB/RAB Radio Show itself. But this year, I made a point of taking a “Fresh Listen” to as many of the Station of the Year winners as possible. I was listening to hear what made great stations great. I was also listening in hopes of hearing community and sense-of-place—always one of my hallmarks of a truly local radio station. Different broadcast owners participate in industry organizations like NAB with varying amounts of brio. If a station makes it to the Marconi no...Read More

EMF: Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

Some have likened them to Star Trek’s Borg, others to Star Wars’ Galactic Empire. As Educational Media Foundation assimilates radio stations into its collective leaving nothing but a transmitter in its wake many have begun to wonder how they got to this point and how to stop them. To look at how EMF has gotten to this point you have to first look back to where they came from. What would become the national “K-Love” brand started out in Middletown/Santa Rosa CA in 1982 as “FM 92 KCLB“. The K-Love brand and new KLVR call letters would come in 1988 as would translators expanding the station’s coverage to other markets surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area such as Monterey and San Jose. Expansion to other markets would begin in the middle of the 1990s...Read More

Four More Mystery Songs To Uncover

I suspected my column on the mystery songs that I’d accumulated over my life as a music lover and record collector would be only of interest to a certain strata of music geek. So for every likely “hoo, boy!” likely generated by the topic, it was gratifying to see how many readers it did resonate with. Of course, other readers sent me the stories of the songs they needed years to untangle, or never figured out. Then, upon further reflection, I realized I still had a few more songs I was trying to hunt down as well. So here are four more, only one of which has actually been solved. The One I’m Solving for “A Friend” In the very early ‘70s, there were still some places that would sell you a bag of ten mystery singles for a dollar. This one, which I’m pretty sure I got on a visit to New York, ...Read More

First Listen: WPNA-FM (103.1 FM) Chicago 

When WKIE Chicago was dance-formatted Energy 92.7 in the early 2000s, my favorite record that then-PD Chris Shebel played was Zero’s “Bania U Cygana,” a pounding, high-energy Polish-language dance hit. Because, of course, that was what you should play in Chicago. In my ongoing quest for local hits and oddities, I kept hoping that Chicago’s major Polish community would make “Bania U Cygana” so popular that bigger rival WBBM-FM (B96) would have to acknowledge it, but that never happened to my knowledge. By the early ‘00s, every language had a record that sounded like “Bania U Cygana,” but I knew there was a special connection between Eastern Europeans—there and here—and dance-pop. The danceable new wave of the late ‘80s, still largely underground here, was mass-appeal music and still shows u...Read More

We Will Rebuild; If You Can Find Us

Hurricane Irma decimated many broadcast facilities as it moved up Florida and into Georgia. The FCC stated on Tuesday that at least 51 stations or translators were off the air (a few others are not even listed here) due to flooding or other damage caused by the storm. While some of these stations have since returned, what has quickly struck out is that not a single one of these stations has acknowledged being off (or in one case where they moved temporarily) on their websites. Some of them have posted notices on Facebook directing listeners to stream the stations if possible. You can still listen to Cat Country 1071 now on the iHear Radio App!!! We are working hard to restore our on air single from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma LISTEN NOW Posted by Cat Country 107....Read More

Why Don’t You Tell Me ‘Bout the Mystery Song?

Even as a lifelong record collector, it’s been a long time since I had a formal “want list.” The last one was exhausted close to 15 years ago, just as both used record stores and my willingness to deal with them were both starting to wind down. The obscure oldies that catch my interest now can almost always be bought, or at least streamed, somewhere online. Soundhound and Shazam help me identify the bulk of them, even those in languages other than English. But it was not always thus. There were a handful of songs that couldn’t go on my want list, much less be crossed off, because I didn’t know what they were. They were fragments of songs I’d heard on airchecks. Or heard on a distant AM signal. Often the issue was that they were in a language other than English. Usually there was just enoug...Read More

Your Summer Song And My Summer Song

It’s interesting that I’m still getting e-mails, tweets, and other communications from readers asking me when I’m going to name my Song of the Summer. Maybe, in their busy lives, they missed that moment where I knowingly went entirely off the grid and gave it to “Praying” by Kesha. Maybe it’s their way of saying “for real, though.” I’ve been ready for the last month to write the column acknowledging that “Despacito” is, at the very least, the Record of Summer 2017. If it were just the song that I’d heard the most for the last two-thirds of summer, it would be Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” But “Despacito,” by claiming the summer crown for a song (largely) in another language, was clearly more of an event and cultural signifier. “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” was a big ...Read More

Modern AC’s Greatest Hits

First Listen: Sirius XM PopRocks It’s pretty inevitable now that the hits of the ‘90s will continue to resurface on the radio in different ways. The R&B and Hip-Hop crossovers are already there, thanks to the throwbacks boom of the last few years. The teen pop that came and went over a 15 year stretch—from New Kids to Backstreet—is starting to surface for any AC radio station that will test it. And much of the Alternative music of the era, including Modern AC, never left. With the imprimatur of being “rock,” there was never the same programmer eagerness to turf it out as there was for, say, “Wannabe.” If anything, the question was where the greatest hits of Modern AC would end up. Ever since the first incarnation of WNEW (Fresh 102.7) New York, now more than a decade ago, it seemed ine...Read More

Sixties MOR That Rocks

The narrative that the birth of rock ‘n’ roll essentially eliminated the ‘50s MOR that preceded it with one big blast in 1956 has been pretty well discredited now. It took a while for the obvious vestiges of pre-rock to be eliminated. Even in the late ‘50s, you could find holdover hits like the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra’s “So Rare” (1957) or Doris Day’s “Everybody Loves a Lover” (1958) that were absolutely of a piece with what preceded rock ‘n’ roll. But I’ve been thinking of just how blurred the lines between pop, rock, and MOR remained throughout the ‘60s. Just as anything worked first to the Alternative format seemed to qualify as Alternative for a while, even if it was Hootie & the Blowfish or Haim, almost any artist who broke after 1956 started with a clean slate, and a number of oth...Read More

As TuneIn Continues Subscription Push; Where Does AM/FM Go?

TuneIn, the one time aggregator that built its brand on the backs off making it easy to find streams for broadcast radio before putting its growth behind premium subscription content, has raised $50 million to continue its investment in building a subscription based competitor to SiriusXM. Bloomberg reports that “TuneIn will use the money to pay for rights to live sporting events and original programming like podcasts and music shows, which will help the company sign up more customers for a two-year-old subscription service.” Among the content currently included in the $9.99 per month TuneIn Radio Pro are Sports play-by-play and exclusive talk shows for MLB, NFL, NHL, Premiere League and Bundesliga, Audiobooks, language learning, and commercial-free music streams. The TuneIn ap...Read More