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]

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]