Ross On RadioInsight

When Not to Like Music; When to Like It Again

I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to like “You Light Up My Life.” When I first encountered Debby Boone’s soon-to-be hit in the late summer of 1977, it was just sort of moody and interesting. It was of a piece with the similarly earnest “Just Remember I Love You” by Firefall or “Sometimes When We Touch” by Dan Hill, and any of the other unavoidable MOR/pop of that era. There was also some excitement in seeing it break quickly — No. 1 in Houston in about three weeks’ time, then exploding everywhere else. Also, “You Light Up My Life,” the movie that accompanied it, was a nice little sleeper with some moments of genuine insight into the advertising business. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to like Barry Manilow. “Mandy” was also just another pop ballad, and one of the jocks in my seventh-grade c...Read More

Fresh Listen: Happy Birthday, Bob FM

When CFWM (99.9 Bob FM) Winnipeg debuted just over 15 years ago, (on March 4, 2002): Classic Rock was still focused on its first generation of artists, and considered the Boston-to-Bon-Jovi era to be a secondary trifle, at best. Pushing into the ‘90s wasn’t even a consideration; those songs were still recent gold for Alternative and Active Rock radio. Oldies radio had not renamed itself Classic Hits and was still grappling with how to push further into the ‘70s. The ‘80s were just another era for Mainstream AC radio, which still went back to the ‘60s and ‘70s without issues. The ‘80s had just been discredited as a separate format by the fast-burning all-‘80s stations, but they were still a center lane for “’80s, ‘90s, and Now” Hot ACs. The Adult Hits boom that Bob FM fostered—within a year...Read More

Number Two For New Music . . . And What To Do About It

It was a trend that had been years in the offing, but it was still shocking when the numbers hit the screen as part of the 2017 edition of Edison Research’s “The Infinite Dial.” Among those respondents who said it was “very important” or “somewhat important” to keep up-to-date with music, broadcast radio had fallen out of its first-place tie as a source used for doing so. “Friends and Family” was now alone at No. 1 (flat at 68%), followed by YouTube (64%). “AM/FM Radio” was now third, down 68%-63%. Spotify was sixth, but up 25-33%. Among 12-to-24-year-olds, where AM/FM had already lost its hegemony, YouTube was first (80%), followed by Friends/Family (77%), Spotify (59%), Pandora (53%), and AM/FM (50%). Last year, among all respondents, broadcast radio was first outright when listeners wer...Read More

First Listen: WXAJ (99.7 The Mix) Springfield IL

It was a familiar headline from CHR doldrums past. The market’s second Mainstream CHR segues to Adult CHR, promising “the best variety of music from the ‘90s, 2K and today.” Often the next step is that the only remaining Top 40 eventually switches formats, too. But on WXAJ (99.7 the Mix) Springfield, Ill., the ‘90s part of the equation isn’t Matchbox Twenty and the Goo Goo Dolls. It’s actually a lot of the songs that scared stations out of the CHR format at the time. Even in 1992, one would hear Kris Kross, “Jump,” and wonder if it would be playing on Hot AC in 25 years. Your station might have crossed that threshold for a lunchtime feature or special weekend. I heard the Mix playing it at the top of the 10 a.m. hour yesterday (March 14). Not all the “oh wow” songs on the Mix are lost ‘90s...Read More

Fresh Listen: Alexa’s Favorite “Light FM”

It began with a discussion between Edison Research colleague Larry Rosin and his Amazon Echo. He asked Alexa to play “Lite FM.” She said, “Playing ‘Lite FM’ on TuneIn.” And this is the station she gave him. Light FM Beirut began, I now know from the station site, as a hobbyist station in 1989. “Throughout the years, more and more listeners started tuning in to forget their everyday stress.” This in a market where everyday stress had meant more than just traffic jams. I reached out to managing partner Karim Mansour to ask if he’d noticed more listening from the U.S. recently. He said, “We’ve been getting increased streaming traffic from all over the world.” As a student of radio everywhere, I’m happy when audio tourism finds me an enjoyable AC option from far away. For most broadcasters, ho...Read More

… And The Best Positioning of Today

Despite the pedestrian nature of many current radio station positioners, and my fears that they’re making radio sound small at the wrong time, I’m still able to find some current ones that stand out for me. I liked KROQ Los Angeles’ “Alternative First,” a slogan which it is now playing down, in tandem with going more gold-based again. That liner simultaneously claimed the music discovery position and asserted the station heritage against KYSR (Alt 98.7). I like that stations want to be “Number One for Music Discovery.” But I often hear it next to the song that is already a sub-power on a station and has been playing for 13 weeks—because if that slogan were used on music that was truly new, stations could use it only about eight times a day. It also takes something personal and joyful like ...Read More

The Best Positioning of Yesterday…

There have been two very different moves on station positioning in the U.K. this month. One was British group broadcaster Bauer going from the broad—“Your Music, Your Life”—to the more mundane with “The Biggest Hits, All Day Long.” But a week later, the U.K.’s Heart FM dropped its “More Music Variety” slogan. While it’s still unclear the extent to which it’s being used on the air, what replaced it is “Turn Up the Feel Good.” Judging by comments from readers and Facebook friends since last week’s question “Is Radio Famous for Boring Things?” there are a number of programmers who would be comfortable if radio moved away from station slogans altogether. Some felt that the right listener comments said more than any slug line. “Perception of the brand is the positioning statement,” writes veter...Read More

Where To Hear The ‘60s Online

They were the webcasters most vulnerable to changing performance royalty rates—the boutique stations specializing in ‘60s and ‘70s gold that you didn’t regularly hear on large-market broadcast radio. A year ago, there was legitimate cause for concern about the future of the individual Webcaster. So as we wrap up our look at where to hear the ‘60s on the radio, it’s gratifying that, whatever their travails over the last year, there’s still an incredibly wide array of choices. Pop Gold Radio — Veteran New Jersey radio personality Don Tandler’s labor of love got the most mentions here, including from Joseph McCombs, Tim Marini, and Rich Appel. Pop Gold’s centerpiece is its Saturday afternoon Time Machine countdown—not just the chart from this day in history but from a different legendar...Read More

Is Radio Famous For Boring Things

Is radio becoming famous for boring things? Or trying to? It’s long been something I’ve wondered about. It was always possible to reimagine McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” if broadcasters had chosen the slogan. But the fast-food giant never became “a better variety of burgers and chicken sandwiches — now with breakfast after 10 a.m.” In recent months, I’ve been listening to a lot of radio, even compared to my usual pace, and a lot of the traditional imaging is blending together. Without notes, I wouldn’t know where I heard “today’s hits, today’s favorites” yesterday, and where it was I heard “more music, more variety.” I wonder if those stand out enough against Spotify’s “Music for Everyone” or Pandora’s external marketing line “The Next Song Matters.” Only AccuRadio’s “Better Music for Y...Read More

Where To Hear The ‘60s Part II, Readers Respond

Last week’s column on Oldies and Classic Hits stations that still play the ‘60s, usually as part of a broader mix, brought forth a lot of reader suggestions. One of the biggest FM outlets to spring up as a result of the format’s evolution is Hubbard’s KAZG (Oldies 92.7) Phoenix. With rival KOOL pushing into the ‘90s, “KAZG cumes around 170,000 people a month and has a 1.3 share 6+ in December and the Holiday 2016 [PPMs]. We play Beatles, Motown, British Invasion, and lots of ‘60s pop music, in addition to plenty of ‘70s material,” writes cluster OM David Moore. Randy Michaels checks in with hometown WDJO Cincinnati, as well as Lancaster, Calif.’s “goldmine in the desert,” KFXM-LP, and WEAK-LP Athens, Ohio. Reader Bryan Wellander also mentioned WDJO. To which I’ll add that Cincinnati is als...Read More

Where To Hear The ‘60s (And More)

It began with a reader query: “Are 1960s hits pretty much phased out of local radio now?” he asked. “I know that gradually Classic Hits stations have modernized their playlists somewhat, moving [the ‘90s] in, and deleting ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ and ‘Mrs. Robinson.’  Is the transition complete?  Are ‘60s hits going the way of Big Band era songs? “If so, that’s sad.  I think the ‘60s produced some amazing music, and although 25-54 demos are coveted, I think blowing out those songs is a huge mistake,” he added. The defections have been prominent, but not total, even among large-market Classic Hits stations. As recently noted, WMJI Cleveland, with an Adult Hits sister station next door, still includes the ‘60s in a ‘70s-centered mix. (Tommy James is headlining an upcoming station show.) W...Read More

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