Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More Of Your Radio Comments

re:  Bringing The Oldies Back to WLS-FM:  
To All:
I'm a long time member of the "Forgotten Hits" newsletter and website. You may have gotten a few emails similar to this one recently. I will make my point brief. 
I no longer listen to Chicago radio AT ALL. Since I got satellite radio in my car (and internet radio at my desk), I'm no longer being held hostage to songs like "Brown Eyed Girl" 800 times a day. And I will not resume listening to local Chicago radio until you start playing songs people actually want to hear. 
The current playlist makes me want to punch a wall, I'm so sick and tired of it!!
Kristy White    

>>>Variety and personality have NOT gone out of style ... we're just stuck with a generation of "leaders" who don't understand it or know how to use it ... and that's a shame ... because THAT is what will spell the death of radio once and for all.  (kk)  
LOL!  Kent ... as always I appreciate your web page.  To comment on your radio airplay hits, I tend to agree.  I think the reason why the songs from the 20's, 30's and on didn't survive is because they were never marketed.  No one had the money to continue playing them and giving them the publicity and air play that they deserved.  A lot of the songs were from the "Depression Era".  Luckily my Mom was good about passing those songs along to me and helped to nurture in me a huge appreciation for music.  Perhaps you remember "Bye Bye Black Bird." or "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," or "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles," "Has Anybody Seen My Gal," etc.   Like the oldies, those songs still live. They have a way of taking on a life of their own. I don't think radio will ever die as long as there are audiences who still like the oldies and people that appreciate good music. That is music that makes them happy.  You might be interested to know that when I visit the nursing homes, I still see the folks enjoying the songs that were from 80 and 90 years ago. Amazing! Good music has a way of becoming part of one's dna. You're right when you say the "leaders" don't understand the music or how to use it. But I see that it is "seeping" into advertisements and movies so perhaps there is hope.  
Like I've said, at this point we'll take it any way we can get it!  It was certainly not the intent of these artists when these songs were written for their songs to be used in commercials to sell candy bars and insurance ... but right now it's keeping the music alive, introducing it to a new audience and hopefully along the way generating a few royalty checks and licensing deals for the original songwriters and artists.  (Witness Paul Evans' email from a couple of weeks ago ... he's THRILLED that his music is being used in television commercials right now!)  Honestly, ANYTHING to keep it out there is a plus ... but the most LOGICAL venue to make this happen continues to ignore its potential and magnitude ... and that's just a shame.  (kk)   

Just letting you know I hear your plea!  I have been thinking about my place in this situation and have decided to write a letter to the address you provided and also fax same.  I am a fairly decent writer, and this way I have provided something they can hold in their hand.  (yeah ... and tear it up, too)  I can also send follow-ups, questioning them on how they perceive their situation.  Of course the question of children, education, their reactions ... maybe some quotes from their journals just might pop up in the print.  It is always worth a try.  If we don't look ahead and expect better, then we are reduced to looking behind and feeling incomplete.
You keep saying that this music is timeless and that future generations will enjoy it as much as we did, if only given the chance.  Well Kent, my son just sent me a video of my 13 month old granddaughter using his phone to find, play, and listen to The Beatles.  Apparently she does this on a regular basis.  Take THAT Cumulus Broadcasting!  Not just MY children, but my children's children. 
Shelley J Sweet-Tufano
About five years ago we were driving our daughter and three of her friends to some after school function and, naturally, I had the oldies station on in the car (because we HAD one back then!!!)  Pretty soon I heard the girls singing along ... with nearly every song that came on the radio.  And then, just faint enough to hear, one of them whispered "I hate to admit it ... but I really do love the oldies" to which another replied "So do I."  I couldn't help but smile.  No, they would NEVER tell their folks ... or risk becoming social outcasts by admitting this to their friends ... but in the safe, secure, privacy of my back seat they let their guard down a little bit and confided in each other.
We hear it performed at their school concerts ... again, back in the day when we HAD oldies radio in Chicago it was not at all uncommon to find Paige calling the radio station on a Saturday Night and requesting the great Motown classic "It Takes Two" or "Love Will Keep Us Together" by The Captain and Tennille or "Yo Yo" by The Osmonds.  As recently as a year and a half ago (when she was sixteen) Paige asked me one morning, "Why is EVERY Beatles song so good?  What did THEY have that the other groups didn't have? ... Every song you play by them ... and every song I hear by them ... is just SO much better than the rest.  No WONDER they were so popular!"  (Two MAJOR enlightening factors in this epiphany were the facts that she had just watched ... and fallen in love with ... the Beatles movie musical "Across The Universe" ... and had just discovered Side Two of "Abbey Road", which she then played incessantly for about the next three weeks!!!)
Sunday afternoon while flipping thru the television channels I found a PBS station that was running a back-to-back marathon of programs filmed at The White House ... concerts by many of today's contemporary stars ... and the one thing that ALL of these had in common was they were salutes to the music of our generation, some 40 to 50 years later ... "The Motown Sound" ... the "Songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach" ... the "Songs of Carole King" ... the "Songs of Paul McCartney" ... many Gershwin Honorees by the President and Mrs. Obama ... but ALL saluting and performing the music that we keep maintaining will never die.  That's because this music is TIMELESS ... for ALL generations to enjoy.
Look at the PBS T.J. Lubinsky Concerts that air constantly ... check out many of the concert programs on Palladia ... ALL featuring the music of our generation that radio for SOME crazy reason thinks is no longer relevant or marketable.
It's the blind leading the blind, hiding behind consultant research that doesn't in any way, shape or form reflect reality.  (See my analysis below in my comments back to former Y103.9 deejay Jim Shea ... and then FIND me that person that these consults continue to insist exists!!!)
It's just RIDICULOUS!!!  (kk)

I, too, like Scott Shannon's True Oldies format ... that's why I listen via his web app since that's the only way we have in Chicago now to hear that format.   But I do agree with you that Cumulus should think about placing it on one of their HD channels here in Chicago.
Rich R.
There's just something about being able to push the button and hearing it on the car radio.  It just isn't the same when it's computer background music and you have to be sitting at your desk in order to hear it!  (kk)

No way does Cumulus allow oldies to return to WLS-FM. The format of oldies ... music through the mid-70s ... is not advertiser friendly.
There is also the fact the station would have many, many, over 60-year-old listeners.
I need to explain some realities which are unpopular:
1. Whatever oldies format works in another city or town, doesn't mean it will work in Chicago.
2. Oldies would attract listeners under 60 ... however, not enough to satisfy the advertising agencies. Their flawed thinking is younger people are more impulsive and willing to buy new technology. Whether it be cars, smart-phones, HD TV sets, etc. I am not saying older people do not have disposable income. That's not it. It's the notion of getting the older people to respond to the advertising the way the younger people do. It's not fair, but many things in life are not. WLS-FM, needs younger listeners. Oldies will not deliver enough of them.
3. Bottom line:  Pretty much what you hear on WLS-FM, will continue to be heard. It seems like this station is making a deliberate attempt to shake off much of its past.
4. For the those who may not be aware, radio is strictly a business. One function is to entertain. However, advertising revenue is the deciding factor in what formats are heard in major cities. Personally, I love Jazz music. Will I hear it on an over-the-air FM signal in Chicago? Not likely. For those who like Dance music or say, Active Rock? Forget it. Not a chance it will be playing in Chicago on a major FM signal. This is the reality. What it boils down to are niche formats as I have described and again I will say ... what plays well in Peoria or Rockford, will not necessarily work in Chicago.
Dave DuBrow
A couple of flaws in this line of thinking, the most OBVIOUS one being exactly what we've been alluding to on the website ... the powers that be at WLS-FM are IDIOTS if, in fact, "the station is making a deliberate attempt to shake off much of its past."  That alone would stand as one of the biggest bone-head decisions of all time if true.  WLS is one of the very few stations left that can rightfully bill themselves as one of the "greatest radio stations of all time" ... other spots on the dial would KILL to have their legacy.  (The reason I think it's NOT true is the simple fact that the station has gone out of its way to bring back the legendary jocks who were on the station back in their hey-day ... that's why you've still got guys like Brant Miller, John Records Landecker, Dick Biondi and ... until recently ... Fred Winston broadcasting from the WLS bandwidth.  They just brought in a HUGE Chicago name from the past by way of one-time top morning man Robert Murphy and continue to employ Greg Brown, whose name is synonymous with oldies music thanks to all his years at Magic 104.  All things being honest, I don't think they know WHAT they want ... or how to go about achieving it!
As stated before, there are at best a handful of stations nationwide that hold the historical legacy that WLS has ... failure to capitalize on this and use it to the station's best advantage only proves my point that the wrong people are in charge.
And secondly the oldies format DOES work in Chicago ... other than a few isolated months here and there, Chicago has had an oldies station with devoted listeners since the late 1970's and early '80's.  WGLD, WFYR (the great Chicago Fire), Magic 104, Real Oldies and True Oldies have ALL made their mark here ... the city has embraced each and every one of these stations.  When Magic 104 flipped over to the Jack-FM format here a few years ago, it failed miserably.  Scott Shannon brought The True Oldies Channel in and listeners flocked to WLS-FM to hear their favorite music again ... and because this format is once again missing from our airwaves, I'm betting they'll come out in even bigger droves this time around if WLS simply flips back to the music that made them legendary in the first place.  (And guess what station is currently occupying the old Magic 104.3 spot on the radio dial ... why it's K-Hits!!!  And guess what ... although they started out promoting themselves as Chicago's '60's, '70's and '80's channel ... and, thanks to their links to the VERY successful WCBS-FM in New York should have had a REAL handle on how to program here to the Chicagoland market ... they're now simply yet ANOTHER "Classic Hits" station ... just another one of many on the dial ... at least SIX in fact, playing the exact same music.)
Simply put, Chicago doesn't need six major stations programming from the exact same play list ... besides, Cumulus already has one of those now that they've purchased The Loop, on which they're reportedly deepening the play list to better help distinguish it from WLS-FM who are already playing many of the same songs and artists ... as are The Fox, The Drive and The River.  Come on ... how many times a day do we REALLY need to hear "Comfortably Numb" and something by Led Zeppelin ... not to mention the always present "Jack And Diane", Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac, The Who and Boston?  We truly have reached the point where when nearly ANY given song comes on the radio today, you can no longer tell which station it's on because they're all playing the exact same thing ... and more and more lately, at the exact same TIME!!!  You switch from one station to another, only to find that the exact same song is playing there, three words apart from what you just turned off!!!  How does a radio maintain ANY identity with THAT sort of programming?  There is no longer ANYTHING unique about any one of them to make them stand out from the rest of the pack.  (kk)   

I was going thru some surveys for upcoming posts and ran across one that was sufficient for your WLS plea to play GOOD and lost oldies!  This comes from a WDRC Hartford, Connecticut, survey from Feb 5, 1971.  It could be an ad for FH, but change the "Big D" to WLS and there you have your ad for your project!!  Where are the cool ideas for contests anymore??  Ever hear a contest on radio these days that is actually a great idea, or one that ties in with radio programming like this?? 
Clark Besch

And then this, too, from Clark, remembering when serious thought and creativity went into making YOUR radio station stand out from the rest, a lost art to be sure.
Dan Hughes is a big radio fan of the old days and sent me this about the charts:   
Your note on KDWB / WDGY reminds me of a couple of stories.
First, in 1963, KDWB was seen as the "hip" kids' station, and WDGY was the older "establishment" station. 
KDWB was 630 on the dial, and they called themselves something like KDWB - Radio 63 (it rhymed).  And all through the year 1963, they played a three-second promo at least once an hour:  "63.  That's easy to remember."
And I remember a great little promotion they did one winter.  Just before top-of-the-hour news, they played a guy with a deep voice saying, "In the past hour, KDWB played 19 songs.  Guess what station played just 15 songs?"  and then right into the legal ID and the news.
Finally, you'll love this:
-- Dan

I read your blog post about the possible departure of Chicago's WLS 94.7 FM as an oldies station. Does Chicago's K-Hits 104.3 FM count?
Also: I stopped listening to WLS 94.7 FM Chicago when the station dropped from Sunday mornings Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 1970's in November of 2013 after two and a half years carrying the show. Now I wish that 93.9 WLIT My FM would pick up Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 1980's!
Darryl Heine
K-Hits seems to have also picked up the same "Classic Hits" format and play list as the other stations in town.  They started out playing legitimate hits of the '60's, '70's and '80's (although always FAR more '80's than '60's ... take "Beatles Wednesday" out of the mix and you'll find very little music at all from the '60's on the station anymore, despite their slogan promising to play "The Greatest Hits of the '60's, '70's and '80's") ... but now they seem to have gone the Classic Rock / FM Rock route, too, by featuring more of the kind of music you'd expect to hear on WLS-FM, The Drive, The Loop, The River and The Fox.  That gives us SIX stations in town now feeding us the exact same music ... enough to make ANYBODY stop listening.  (How come their high-priced consultants haven't figured THAT out yet?!?!?)
Once Upon A Time I made an open-ended offer to K-Hits when they first started out to help with some programming ideas.  This was right around the time Jan Jeffries shook things up at WLS-FM and their ratings took a huge plunge and K-Hits actually overtook them in the Chicago Ratings Book.  But K-Hits is a CBS affiliate station ... and WCBS-FM out of New York is a very successful oldies station, proving again that it's not the format that doesn't work ... it's knowing what to DO with the format that makes the difference.  Sadly, they weren't interested in any "outside advice" ... and now just keep diving deeper and deeper into the album rock arena, leaving more and more listeners behind in the process.  (If THAT'S the music I want to listen to, I'm going to switch over to a station that does it a WHOLE lot better like The Drive or The Loop ... and NOT somebody who's going to sprinkle in some Top 40 Pop or Disco into the mix!!!)  Make up your mind what you want to be, K-Hits ... 'cause right now you're not winning over ANYBODY!  Your falling ratings should tell you that.  Has ANYBODY in radio EVER questioned the possibility that maybe ... just MAYBE ... the consultants are wrong ... and listeners are fed up with the same diet being fed to us day after day after day literally everywhere we turn?  (kk)   

WLS-FM needs to improve its playlist, drastically. Why, on one Sunday, when it was live and local, I had the pleasure of hearin’ ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash, AND ‘the Gambler’, by Kenny Rogers Can’t get variety like that anyplace else. I’m all for adding more music and variety to the playlist. Many forgotten top 40 hits, from the 60s thru the 80s.
Dave Wollenberg, 

Hi Kent,
Just catching up on Forgotten Hits and loved hearing "Games" by Redeye.  So much GREAT music out there that doesn't see the light of day anymore.  I remember "consultants" telling us "it's better to be playing a hit when your competition is playing a song that isn't a big hit!"  After a while you have to ask yourself, how much vanilla can you give the public before they finally scream for chocolate -- and what has more listener value in the long run, a song that is played over and over 10,000 times or a song that hasn't been played in awhile and surprises your audience and gets them to say to themselves:  "Wow, I haven't heard that one in ages and that sure brings back memories!"  When is the last time you heard songs such as "Painted Ladies" by Ian Thomas (brother of comedian Dave Thomas) -- just because it didn't make the final cut on focus group number 500 doesn't mean it isn't good music and doesn't have listener value.  Even Classic Rock stations who have purported to disdain the high-rotation lists of Oldies and Top-40 stations now find themselves doing the same rotational sins they have condemned others for.  "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Stairway To Heaven" no longer have the listener draw and magnetism they once had, not because they aren't GREAT songs but because high-rep playlists have driven the public to high levels of saturated listener-fatigue.  You mix that in with a deregulated media and about five corporations programming the masses and you have about as much variety as the ketchup aisle at Wal-Mart.  The keyword is safe -- the by-product is BORING!  And they wonder why listenership is down and people are seeking other avenues.  This country now has about as much local and regional media taste and identity as a homogenized Burger King menu.  You keep going to the corner cafe for your burger and McDonald's will get the message.  You would hope the media giants would be more concerned with taking care of their customers then they are with their share-holders but as we have seen more often than not, that's not the case.  You and your friends quit listening to vanilla radio and eventually they'll get the message, because to them a wallet's whisper is louder than a listener's scream!
Tim Kiley

Unfortunately, radio has been insulting the intelligence of their audience for decades now, hiding behind consultants and research that claims they're giving their listeners what they really want ... because they're not smart enough to want more ... they're not capable of absorbing more.
I just checked ... between 1956 and 1986, just over 4800 songs made Billboard's Top 20 Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.
A radio station that's programming 200 songs accounts for 4% of its potential source material ... 300 songs, 6%.  Heck if you just said "I'm going to throw HALF of this list out the window because it's dated" ... or "it doesn't test well" ... or any number of other half-assed reasons ... that would STILL leave you with 2400 songs to choose from.
Do something NEW with this information!!!
Here's a radio challenge for you ... programming advice free of charge, first come, first served.
For 2014, pick 2,014 songs from this very list ... Top 20 songs that DON'T get played on the radio anymore ... and PLAY THEM!!!  Promote the heck out of it!  Let your audience decide.  You can still program in the same crap you're playing all day long ... but dedicate your station each and every hour to playing at least ONE of these 2014 chosen few.  Why, it'd take you almost three months to play them all!!!  But for three months your listeners will be treated to an unexpected surprise ... something they'll want to stay tuned in for just to see what surprise you've come up with next.  My guess is they'll not only LOVE it, but will also start offering their OWN suggestions of GREAT Forgotten Hits!!!
Will SOMEBODY out there PLEASE do this so we can prove these consultants wrong once and for all?!?!?  (kk)  

Hi Kent,
True Oldies ... it should be everywhere!
The big station here (So Cal) is KRTH and it's mostly 70's and up with no 50's at all ... ouch!
Davie Allan 

Hi Kent, 
Your sentiments are beautiful. Your cause is just. You are absolutely right about the format.  
However ...
And not to be discouraging here, but the guy you have to convince in Jan Jeffries. I will relate my one experience with the man and you tell me whether or not he is a psycho.
I was working part time at the AC station (Star 97 I believe they called it) in Nashville in 2000, between full time jobs. I was filling in on the midday show. I was new and perhaps did not fully understand the format. The lunchtime hour music log listed three request positions. Right off the bat I got a request for "The Reflex" by Duran Duran. I aired the call and played the song, dropping "Manic Monday" by the Bangles.  
Jan Jeffries walks into the studio about 40 seconds into the song (we have never met, he is just in visiting from Atlanta) and says he'd like to see me after the show in his office.  
I stroll in, expecting a nice "get acquainted" sit down. But instead he grills me about dropping the Bangles in favor of Duran Duran. I told him I saw the request position, etc., and he listens patiently and then proceeds to lecture me about how "Manic Monday" is one of the top testing songs with Women 25-34, and how on earth could I have not known that ... and his tone was as if he was trying to fathom this obvious death wish I had for my career, because I had obviously nuked any possibility I might have had with the company. For playing fucking DURAN DURAN, okay? That some 25-34 year old woman actually requested!!! It's not like I played "Dead or Alive", right?
Soon afterward they put me over on the jammin' oldies station which they flipped a few weeks later to alternative rock and I stopped getting hours and took a morning job in Evansville.
My point is that the whole Dickey organization is based on research ... finding what people want (meaning what is most familiar to them) and providing it, thus making it more familiar. That is the basis of their corporate creedo. That is what you are asking him to change. This is like asking Arnold Schwartenegger to do Shakespear.
Jim Shea
LOL ... LOVE it!!!  Thanks, Jim.  The ONLY up-side to your note is the fact that Jan Jeffries is no longer in the position of power at WLS-FM ... and, in fact, it was under HIS regime that the ratings TRULY sunk ... so much for research and know-how.  (I've said this a million times but these "research consultants" are clearly asking the WRONG people!!!  I defy you to find me ANYBODY on this planet who will tell you:
"Well, what I REALLY want is to hear "Jack And Diane" eight to ten times a day ... and when you're not playing that, could you please play Steve Miller and "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey instead?  OK, sure, I understand that you can't ONLY play these three songs and artists ... so go ahead and stick "More Than A Feeling" by Boston in there half a dozen times as well, ok?  And maybe six or seven things by Fleetwood Mac or Bob Seger or Billy Joel.  And don't forget "Tiny Dancer"!!!  Lord knows we can't go a day without hearing THAT one six or seven times!!!  But that's it, ok?!?!?  Because, truthfully speaking, I'm just not intelligent enough to absorb any more than that.  OK?  Got it?  Thank you ... oh, and please mark me 'Loyal Listener #1'."   
Cumulus is in the VERY enviable position to be able to make a noticeable change here ... and they already own one of the most powerful stations in the history of radio ... and I've just GOT to believe that they want to make people forget the complete disaster this station has experienced over the past 12-15 months.  Suck it up ... save face ... and give the listeners what they REALLY want.  The timing is perfect ... and the time is NOW!!!  (kk)  

Cumulus is VERY committed to Classic Hits formats ... so I doubt you will get too far, despite the total logic behind your argument. There is no logic to be found within the walls of Cumulus' corporate headquarters.   
Anonymous by Request
Yes ... but maybe we can tap into something here ... as far too often these corporate big wigs fail to see the obvious.  Cumulus now has FOUR stations on the air here in Chicago ... including a Classic Hits format, a Classic Rock format, an Indie / Alternate Music format and an All-Talk format ... and, from what I understand, the option for one more station that just as easily could have gone Country.  That pretty much gives them one of everything ... a WIDE variety of options on the dial ... and you know the old saying ... throw enough shit against the wall and sooner or later something will stick.  But since there are already four OTHER "Classic Hits" stations already playing the exact same music in town, why not diversify and give the listeners something different.  If you've just GOTTA hear "Jack And Diane" one more time today, you've got about half a dozen places to go to do so ... program something DIFFERENT and see if you can't pick up a completely DIFFERENT demographic in the process.

We need to reach these people ... they need to hear it from the listeners themselves!

Write ... Call ... Email ... Let Your Voice Be Heard!!!

And for God's sake "Don't Stop Believin'"!!!

(fade to black)

There MUST be something to that, right?!?!?  I mean I hear Steve Perry preach it at least a dozen times a day!!!

Here's that information again:
3280 Peachtree Road, NW Suite 2300
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
TEL. (404) 949-0700
FAX. (404) 949-0740
Right now Robert Feder and Scott Shannon are still ignoring us ... so we need to go to THEM ... THEY have the power to let the Chicagoland listeners know of our efforts ... there is strength in numbers ... we just need to reach the right audience.  We just need them to let the listeners of Chicago know that a movement is underway.  Please write again and let them know that Chicago wants its True Oldies Channel back!!! (kk)