Columns appear in print in the U Entertainment Section of the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News

Friday, December 30, 2005

Radio Column December 23, 2005

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December 23, 2005

By Sandy Wells

Oldies K-Earth 101 names new program director

K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) has appointed former KOST-FM/KBIG-FM programmer Jahni Kaye to take over as program director for the oldies giant starting Jan. 3.

“K-Earth 101 is legendary not only in Los Angeles, but throughout the world as one of the finest music radio stations, said Kaye. “K-Earth 101’s uptempo, foreground presentation is very exciting and I’m really looking forward to taking the station to the next level.”

Kaye’s track record in the business is almost unrivaled. At KOST-FM (“The Coast”), he was the longest running program director of a music station in Los Angeles. Under his direction, KOST picked up two Marconi Awards, four Billboard Awards and three Gavin Awards for “Station of The Year.” Kaye also received four Billboard Awards and two Gavin Awards for “Program Director of the Year.” His resume includes stints at LA stations KUTE, KKDJ, KGBS, KROQ, and KBIG. His latest position was Director of AC Programming for Clear Channel/LA.

The naming of Kaye marks a major change in direction for the oldies giant. Since the early 90s, K-Earth has patterned itself after the glory days of legendary top 40 KHJ-AM 930. With program director Mike Phillips at the helm, and later, under his music director and protégé Jay Coffey, the station continued to echo the sound of “Boss Radio.” With The Real Don Steele in afternoon drive and Robert W. Morgan in mornings – timeslots they occupied on KHJ – K-Earth 101 enjoyed its greatest popularity during the mid 1990s.

After the deaths of Steele and Morgan and the exit of Phillips, Coffey tweaked the format with new jingles, adding some more hits from the 70s and hiring some new talent.
His pick for morning drive, Gary Bryan, was moved to afternoons and replaced by former KIIS-FM DJ Hollywood Hamilton this year, by which time, Coffey appeared to be on his way out as programmer.

I can only guess what Kaye will do with K-Earth. He inherits a talent roster that embraces a curiously inconsistent mix of DJ styles and attitudes. It will be interesting to see how he sorts all that out.

Even before his arrival, the station has added more 70s hits and is clearly advancing the oldies timeline to catch a newer wave of nostalgia consumers. The station is now referring to itself in the latest press releases as the “premiere adult hit station” playing “The greatest hits on earth.”

With some pressure from Jack FM (KCBS-FM 93.1) and satellite radio and to expand the playlist of songs, K-Earth will probably continue to broaden its mix of hits.

K-Earth 101 claims to be among the few U.S. radio stations that attract more than million-plus listeners weekly. Jack Silver, Operations Manager said of Kaye’s appointment, “We are handing over a lot of responsibility to Jhani Kaye and he is among the elite few who have the experience to grow the coveted adult audience of K-Earth 101.”

In my interviews with Phillips and Coffey, both defended the extremely tight list of oldies (3-500 songs by most estimates) as the only way to guarantee high ratings. Phillips said it just never made sense to play anything but the songs that test highest in the research. Coffey said every time the playlist was expanded in the past, the ratings would go down.

But with Jack FM’s apparent no holds barred approach to song selection, the rules have changed. It remains to be seen how Kaye, who made his reputation arranging impeccably smooth 40 minute sets of easy listening pop hits, rises to the challenge of reinventing K-Earth 101.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Radio Column December 9, 2005

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By Sandy Wells

December 9, 2005

Terrestrial broadcasters tout “free radio” as Stern heads to satellite

The inimitable Howard Stern is crossing over to the “other side” next month, launching his much anticipated reincarnation on Sirius satellite radio Jan. 9. The outrageous “shock jock” who issued a CD “Crucified by the FCC” in 1991 will have a “second coming” in January. For people weary of his depraved, lewd and juvenile antics, that day can’t come too soon. For his admirers, the groundbreaking comedic genius of FM radio will finally be free of the straightjacket of conventional radio practice, FCC fines, censorious Senators and jittery corporate legal departments.

Next Friday will be his last show on KLSX-FM 97.1 and all the other stations coast to coast that carry his morning program.

Adam Corolla of KROQ-FM 106.7 “Loveline” fame starts on Jan. 3 as the replacement for Stern on KLSX “Free FM.” Corolla will also be on at in least four other markets in the Western U.S. Late night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel will serve as creative consultant for the radio show. He will assist in the development of new talent and show ideas for the Company, and make guest appearances on the program.

In New York, flagship Stern station WXRK-FM will carry former Van Halen front man, David Lee Roth as the morning show host. Roth is scheduled to launch on seven stations in the eastern U.S. Air personalities “Rover,” ‘The Junkies,” “Star and Buc” and “Drew and Mel” will fill Stern’s shoes in other markets.

Three stations that carried Stern are “Jack FM” music stations and will air music instead of Stern-style comedy/talk.

In an obvious response to the challenge posed by satellite radio (Sirius and XM) Infinity Broadcasting rolled out its Free FM moniker for several stations, leaving “FM Talk” behind. This coincides with the National Association of Broadcaster’s stepped up campaign to convince people that radio should be free. The NAB has created spots that end with the tag line, “Radio, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

“The new spots remind listeners of the 24-7 news coverage, compelling personalities, weather and traffic bulletins, local regional and national talk, local sports, and other programming, all of which is available for free on local radio,” said NAB Radio Board Chairman and President and CEO of Entercom Communications David Field.

Sirius, the service that will carry the Howard Stern show, currently charges $12.95 per month, $142.45 annually or $499 for a lifetime subscription.

Stern will offer two channels: “Howard 100 News” (already available) a very slick news and interview service that promotes the stars of the Howard Stern “universe,” and the “Howard II” channel, set to launch Jan. 9.

The NAB says that broadcasters are rallying to air the spots this month, effectively donating at least $40 million worth of airtime to dissuade listeners from defecting to satellite radio. They might as well build another Berlin Wall.

Stern quipped on the air last week that if those broadcasters had handed him the “50 million” they’re spending to fight him, he would have “walked away” from his satellite venture.

So what is the future of free terrestrial radio once Stern exits? Does FM talk have a big future? I believe the answer is yes, but a big shake out is coming. Stern’s departure will be like a shopping mall after the big “anchor” department store moves out. In radio’s case, there aren’t likely to be the same size crowds coming in the morning to carry the whole day anymore. Obviously, a lot depends on how well Corolla, Roth and others can hang on to Stern’s audience.

Regardless of how well FM talk adapts, the door is wide open now for music radio formats to enjoy a kind of renaissance that may end up helping the ailing record industry. For the past 20 years, morning shows have been dominated, starting with the rise of “Morning Zoos” in the early 80s, by talk and comedy and very little or no music. With Stern out of the picture, contemporary music-focused, local personality shows may have a chance to take back a huge slice of the morning mass appeal audience pie.

A word about Stern: He was an unremarkable DJ when he started out. His “genius” was to take the goofy, irreverent side of the generic DJ, add elements of his personal life and basically flip the perspective for the audience. So, instead of getting the conventional polished presentation, listeners heard an exaggerated version of what might normally be the off-air, “behind the scenes” banter with station personnel and listener phone calls. To accentuate the “shock” value of this 180 degree change, Stern routinely belched on the air, insulted celebrity guests, cued tapes live instead of getting them ready beforehand and appeared to talk off the top of his head with no preparation. (His wannabe imitators learned the hard way how far from the truth that is.)

Before Stern, none of that would ever have happened on the radio. Call it “reality radio.” Call him the Godfather of reality TV.

Another key to the success of the Stern format was getting rid of the music. Stern was determined to live or die on his own personality and not allow himself be defined by music he didn’t choose and would needlessly alienate listeners otherwise attracted to his program.

On satellite, Stern will finally be free to speak as he pleases without censorship or the threat of FCC indecency fines. However, if he doesn’t ultimately attract enough subscribers to make the show self-sustaining, expect advertising to quickly become part of the mix.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Radio Column November 25, 2005

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By Sandy Wells

November 25, 2005

Fabulous 690 gets ready for final close up

The Fabulous 690 (XETRA-AM 690) is getting ready for its final close up. The exact date is yet to be announced and there seems to be some uncertainty among station personnel as to when the switch will be pulled on the standards served up by Brad Chambers, Jim Duncan, Daisy Torme, Gary Owens, Lou Simon, et al. On the station web site, listeners are invited to vote for the format’s final song.

One thing is sure. It has to happen. All the kicking and screaming by those who love the great songs performed by Frank Sinatra Sr. and Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett and so many others, will be of no avail, since the change has been mandated by our own government.

In a recent decision, the Federal Communications Commission determined that stations operated by an American owner south of the border count as one owned inside the U.S. if it reaches a U.S. radio market. In this case, it means that XETRA-AM, booming across the border with 77,000 watts from south of San Diego, counts not only as a San Diego station, but also a Los Angeles one.

As a result, Clear Channel is over the eight-station limit by one in Los Angeles and must sell off its stake in XETRA. In San Diego, it must let go of several stations.

Since its launch on Frank Sinatra’s birthday (Dec. 12) in 2002, the Fabulous 570 - later the Fabulous 690 following 570s flip to sports/guy talk – has attempted to redefine the standards format in terms of presentation and target audience. Not satisfied to be just a nostalgia format for folks old enough to remember when the classic popular songs first landed on the hit parade or were show stoppers on Broadway, Program Director Brad Chambers and Clear Channel Regional Vice President and Station Manager Greg Ashlock strived to attract not only baby boomers burned out on rock ’n roll, but younger people as well.

“We had to find a way to attract a young, hip audience while maintaining the dignity and class of the music,” said Chambers. “There’s a whole generation of baby boomers are rediscovering the music as something that fits their changing lifestyle. These are people who might go see a Rolling Stones concert once a year, but would rather not hassle with the huge crowds. The rest of the year they might be going out to a place like the Catalina Bar and Grill and hearing some jazz or standards. We believe firmly that this not about an age group, but about a lifestyle. A whole generation will continue to party, but at a different beat.”

Chambers says the decision to go with the standards was considered risky back in 2002. As a format designer for Clear Channel, he’d been commissioned to create a 70s format for KLAC-AM 570.

“The 'Seventies at 570' sounded like an old top 40 station. It was good, but it didn’t have an emotional hook. Greg Ashlock said, ‘Why don’t we do the standards again?’ ”

Chambers says the decision was cinched after former Clear Channel executive Roy Laughlin showed up a meeting and mentioned that his friend Rod Stewart had just released an album of standards. The timing seemed perfect. More and more pop recording artists, Hollywood trendsetters and hip literati had been professing their appreciation for the great songs and tunes that happened to coincide with Hollywood’s Golden Age. And Rod Stewart agreed to perform at the launch party of the station.

From its inception, The Fabulous 570 had a hip edge to it. While at times seeming a little self-conscious, almost ironic in its presentation, with Steve Tyrell’s gravelly, Vegas Rat Pack-style voice imaging, the station neverthless earned its place in the competitive LA radio scene.

“We have had good numbers and attracted a broad audience. At station events, we see people of all ages come out to enjoy this music.”

And Chambers maintains that The Fabulous 690 continues to be a successful business proposition, generating enough revenue to satisfy Clear Channel’s corporate needs.

The concept of “contemporary standards” translates into growing acceptance on the part of youth-obsessed advertisers. A steady stream of new renderings of the standards by new artists as well as pop/rock superstars has kept the sound fresh and up-to-date. Unlike rock n’ roll; it’s not so much about the recording as it is about the song.

“The songs of the 30s and 40s were written to get others to sing or perform. It’s not odd for a Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow or Bette Midler or Alanis Morissette to record them.”

Chambers says two farewell parties for the station have already sold out. As to the future of the standards in Los Angeles, aside from their presence on KKGO-AM 1260/540, Chambers says he’s in talks with a number of LA station owners.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Radio Column November 11, 2005

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By Sandy Wells

November 11, 2005

Bilingual “Latino 96.3” KXOL-FM soars in latest ratings

Latino 96.3 FM’s midday entertainer Donaji and morning man Nico Jones (KXOL photos)

The latest ratings from Arbitron proved that LA radio was ready for something mucho grande! Pues, the new bilingual “Latino 96.3” KXOL-FM 96.3 exploded on the radio scene this summer, zooming from a tie at No. 18 to a tie at No. 2 in a matter of weeks.

I guess this success story helps prove that the idea of the “melting pot” is still valid in America and especially here in Southern California. On Latino 96.3, both English and Spanish are woven into a seamless sound texture that reflects the linguistic reality in many Southland communities.

The practice is not new to radio. There have been numerous instances of bilingual patter by personalities before - the long running Chicano-oriented “Sancho Show” on KPFK-FM 90.7 is one example - but as a fulltime commercial radio venture, it is new to Southern California.

“We’re absolutely thrilled!” said KXOL Vice President and General Manager David Haymore about what may well be counted as the fastest ratings ascent of a new format in LA radio history. “It hit a vibe, a nerve. We knew right a way from the calls we received. The listeners responded, adopting it passionately.”

Latino 96.3 prominently features Reggaeton, a genre of Caribbean music that originated almost twenty years ago in Panama and Puerto Rico.

“This station incorporates a mix of Hip Hop in English and Spanish with Reggaeton,” says Haymore. “We saw Reggaeton concerts that immediately sold out, so we saw there was this demand for the music.”

“We launched this station back in May with the strong belief that LA was ready for a bilingual station with emphasis on the youth. The dominant ethnicity of LA youth is Hispanic – 59 percent of 12 to 24 year old males and 56 percent of females 12 to 24 are Hispanic who are (nevertheless) predominantly functioning in the English language world.”

There were none of the common marketing gimmicks often involved with the launch of this new station, such as playing no commercials for the first month.

“Its popularity was driven by word of mouth, with text messaging, email, phone calls, all with an excitement we’ve never seen before,” said Haymore.

As with the launch of “Jack FM” (KCBS-FM 93.1) this year, this move showed some guts on the part of corporate radio station owners. Their examples could lead to more exciting new formats for us in the next year.

In other ratings news, the top stations among listeners 12+ were No. 1 KIIS-FM 102.7, KXOL tied at No. 2 with Spanish adult contemporary “K-Love” KLVE-FM 107.5. News/talk KFI-AM 640 tied with hip hop KPWR-FM 105.9 “Power 106” at No. 4, followed by alternative/modern rock KROQ-FM 106.7 at No. 6. Regional Mexican stations KLAX-FM 97.9 and KSCA-FM 101.9 scored at No. 7 and 8 respectively with “Jack FM” KCBS-FM 93.1 at No. 9 and soft rock KOST-FM 103.5 rounding out the top 10.

In morning drive, Renan "El Cucuy" Almendarez Coello on KLAX moved up to No, 1, swapping rank with Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo on KSCA, then talk radio kingpin Bill Handel on KFI again in third place. KROQ’s Kevin and Bean moved from No. 6 to No. 4 and KIIS’ Ryan Seacrest slipped from fourth to fifth place.

In the morning talk radio sweepstakes, KABC-AM 790’s Doug McIntyre gained eight tenths of a point to move into 10th place from 16th with a very respectable 3.0 share of listeners. KRLA-AM 870s Laura Ingraham moved up from 29th place to a tie for 25th and liberal talker Stephanie Miller gained some traction by moving from 47th to 29th place with a gain of eight tenths of a point on KTLK-AM 1150. KLSX’s Howard Stern, still a potent force on the eve of his departure to satellite radio, is in at 7th place while KLOS-FM 95.5 funnymen Mark and Brian inched up to No. 11.

Meanwhile, Jamie White on KYSR-FM 98.7 fared poorly without Danny Bonaduce, dropping half a point from a tie at No. 16 to a tie at No. 23.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Radio Column October 21, 2005

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By Sandy Wells

October 21, 2005

Ex Channel 5 airborne reporter Jennifer York joins KFSH-FM

Former TV reporter Jennifer York has joined morning personality Billy Burke to co-host on the “family friendly” KFSH-FM 95.9 “The Fish.”

York adds a vivacious female voice to the morning hours of the Christian contemporary music station. She is a familiar face to millions of Southern Californians after 13 years as a KTLA-TV Channel 5 airborne traffic reporter. Her accurate and clear reporting from “Skycam 5” on earthquakes, floods, fires and other breaking news stories earned her numerous Emmys and Golden Mike Awards. York first gained recognition as a radio traffic reporter for news station KFWB-AM 980. She is credited with being the first woman traffic reporter to fly in a helicopter.

“We’re very pleased to have such a well-known personality join the 95.9 The Fish family,” said Terry Fahy, Salem Los Angeles vice president and general manager. “Jennifer’s passionate persona and sense of humor will play well with Billy Burke’s energetic, easy-going style. We look forward to seeing the morning show’s popularity expand even further.”

Jumping from huge exposure on the number morning TV news program to a niche format on an Anaheim FM station doesn’t appear to be a step down for the multi-talented York. The synergy should work well considering she is also a professional electric and acoustic bassist who has recorded two CDs with the Christian rock band “Rachel, Rachel.” She has also recorded two jazz albums with her own “York Quartet.” The group has been together for 11 years, performing at jazz clubs and festivals throughout Southern California. They have opened for John Tesh, and most recently at the Anaheim Pond for Boney James, Macy Grey and Seal.

Tracey Miller Dies

Radio news anchor and talk show host Tracey Miller died two weeks ago after a three-year battle with cancer. She was 51. Miller co-hosted a morning news talk program with Terry Rae Elmer, “TNT in the Morning,” on KFI-AM 640 in 1990 after six years as a reporter for the station.

In 1994, she moved to KABC-AM 790 and co-hosted with Peter Tilden in afternoon drive and then mornings on “The Zone” KTZN-AM 710. For me, her best work was with Tilden on KABC, where her husky voice and wry humor was perfectly balanced with Tilden’s rapid-fire wisecracking.

This remarkable broadcaster is widely acknowledged to be a pioneer in news/talk. As a talk show host Tracey seamlessly shifted from serious news to humorous banter and was both a credible news anchor and entertaining personality.

Clear Channel radio heads roll in payola fallout

The investigations by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into “pay for play” practices and payola involving the Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Clear Channel radio programmers have reportedly resulted in two employees losing their jobs for misconduct and others are being disciplined.

Clear Channel, the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, is not naming the individuals or the stations involved.

Eric Boehlert reported on the problems at Clear Channel in a series of articles for the web magazine back in 2001. Most industry observers say payola – the practice of record companies or their agents bribing station programmers to play songs regardless of artistic merit or popularity - has been a chronic issue with pop music stations of all genres.

K-Earth 101 looking for a new program director

K-Earth 101 KRTH-FM 101.1 Program Director Jay Coffey has departed and the search is on for his replacement. Coffey is looking for a fulltime on air job along with voice over work after 18-years with the oldies station. Coffey also did stints as evening host and was music director under KRTH’s previous program director, Mike Philips. The San Francisco native was a bass player in a Bay Area rock band before getting the radio bug. After stints in smaller California cities, he landed a gig on legendary top 40 programmer Bill Drake’s KIQQ-FM in Los Angeles in 1977. Coffey joined K-Earth 101 in 1985 as a weekend host. He was most recently heard doing the overnight shift from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Radio Column October 7, 2005

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By Sandy Wells

October 7, 2005

PHOTO: Frank Pastore (left) and Terry Fahey
KKLA celebrates 20 years of Christian radio

Christian radio has come a long way since KKLA-FM 99.5 “The Spirit of Los Angeles” first took to the airwaves broadcasting from a tiny North Hollywood studio on Oct. 15, 1985. The station is celebrating its 20th anniversary next week.

Salem Communications, founded in 1974 by Edward Atsinger III in Camarillo, Calif., has grown to operate 105 stations nationwide. It has diversified from airing Christian teaching programs into pop music radio – Christian Contemporary and secular, conservative talk. Since going public in 1999, Salem’s healthy profit margins have won the respect of Wall Street analysts.

Salem has come to represent a significant counterweight to the generally secular, often anti-religious tilt of the so-called “mainstream media.” This has come in part by adopting mainstream media aesthetics to make the programming more appealing to general radio audiences. On KKLA, programs are introduced by presenters Jim Governale, Ted Ziegenbusch and Steve Geiger, who provide friendly chat and promote the rest of the station’s lineup.

This practice of making religious radio sound like “normal” radio was carried to a new level when KKLA launched an afternoon talk show, “Live From L.A.” in 1986. Ex-rock radio DJ and “Mighty Met” KMET-FM program director Warren Duffy was chosen as host.

“It was a big leap,” says Terry Fahey, Salem LA Vice President/General Manager who runs Salem’s LA “cluster” –KKLA-FM 99.5, KFSH-FM 95.9, KRLA-AM 870, KTIE-AM 590 and KXMX-AM 1190. “Basically we took three hours – that meant giving up a lot of time we had to sell [as block programs]. But it was a good compliment to what we were doing and the advertisers supported us.”

Duffy was succeeded by former Cincinnati Red pitcher Frank Pastore in early 2004. He is not what most people expect to hear on a Christian-themed talk show.

“We do everything from a Christian world-view,” says Pastore. “We do the news of the day, politics, pop culture, the silly stories as well as the serious.”

Broadcasting from “intersection of faith and reason,” Pastore brings a hard-charging, unpretentious yet passionate flair for religious and political debate to the table. He strives to dispel any preconceived ideas of Christians as wimpy “doormats,” who’d rather turn-the-other cheek than defend their beliefs in public.

“What motivates me is that Christianity is true,” says Pastore, who holds advanced degrees in political science and theology. “What was lacking before was the ability of Christians to articulate a political philosophy. Politics is theology applied. I’m getting back to our roots as to what it means to be a Christian patriot.”

KKLA’s block programs have been carefully chosen and nurtured over the years. Even though the programmers pay KKLA to air their shows, the station has always been very selective, according to Fahey.

“We have had really good programming; we have syndicated bible and teaching shows – the best out there,” says Fahey, who has counted “Focus on the Family” with Dr. James Dobson as client since “day one.” Other programs airing on KKLA from the beginning include “Focus on the Family,” “Insight For Living,” “Thru the Bible,” “In Touch,” “Grace to You” and “Haven Today.”

KKLA, now comfortably situated in modern facilities in Glendale, attracts about 250,000 listeners a week, according to Fahey. The new KKLA Speaker Series is drawing as many as 1,500 to the events. KKLA has subscribed to Arbitron, the company that measures radio audiences for advertisers since acquiring news/talk KRLA in 1999. While KKLA does not enjoy “big ratings” – its afternoon show audience has nearly doubled since Pastore signed on as host in early 2004 – half of KKLA’s revenue is still derived from selling the longer-form religious programs.

This hybrid business model – selling both long form programming “blocks” along with 30 and 60 second spots – has helped keep KKLA’s revenues consistent and growing for two decades – avoiding the industry’s cyclical ups and downs that affect the bigger commercial stations.

Despite its close identification with the film industry, LA has the largest number of evangelicals in any major U.S. city - nearly a million, according to a new study by the Ventura-based research firm, The Barna Group. The study estimates there are also 3.6 million born again Christian in the greater LA area, leaving KKLA with plenty of potential listeners within reach of its 10.5 thousand watts of effective radiated power.

“This is exactly where I should be, where the battle is most intense,” says Pastore of his radio mission in the midst of Hollywood, the “Belly of the Beast.” “That’s where Paul went - to Athens and to Rome.”

Radio Column September 26, 2005

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By Sandy Wells

September 23, 2005

K-Earth 101 and KLSX host concert to aid Katrina victims

Oldies station K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) and FM talk station KLSX-FM 97.1 are pulling together and hosting an oldies concert at the Greek Theatre Sunday to help out victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Frankie Valli

The lineup looks like a blast. So far, the stations have recruited The Beach Boys, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, guitar legend Dick Dale with his 13-Year old “guitar prodigy” son Jimmy Dale, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, the Surfaris, actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, Dean Torrance (of Jan and Dean), Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night) and comedian Paul Rodriguez are slated to appear at the charity event. Come to think of it, now would be the perfect time for the 80s pop band Katrina and the Waves (remember their 1985 hit “Walking on Sunshine”?) to make an appearance.

“Our audiences are so diverse,” said KLSX/KRTH Operations Manager Jack Silver. “It’s good that we are able to promote this event on both stations. The synergy is getting better,” he added, noting that sister AM news stations KFWB-AM and KNX-AM are also helping to inform the public about the event.

The money raised by the two Infinity radio stations from the concert will benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

“We are truly grateful that we are able to help the people impacted by this terrible disaster,” said Frankie Valli, whose falsetto vocal work with the Four Seasons was a staple on AM top 40 radio in the 60s (“Walk Like A Man,” “Rag Doll,” Sherry,” etc.) and later as a solo artist (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and the 70s disco smash, “Swearin’ to God”).

The American Red Cross is collecting funds in greater Los Angeles and elsewhere, to support the disaster relief operation and has also been training local volunteers and sending them to the affected areas.

“So many times the Red Cross has been of invaluable assistance, helping those in desperate need as tragedies occur. It adds another level to what we are able to do as entertainers when we are able to participate in an event whose purpose is to raise money for such an outstanding organization,” said Beach Boy icon Mike Love.

More than a thousand families that have come to Los Angeles on their own from the hurricane area are being helped by the Red Cross. Over $750,000 in direct financial assistance has been offered to these families to help with their urgent needs for food, clothing and emergency medical items. The Red Cross has also placed especially desperate families in Southern California hotels to insure they have a safe place to stay.

“The Red Cross is responding to the largest domestic disaster in our 125 year history,” said Roger Dickson, CEO American Red Cross Los Angeles Chapter. “We are providing assistance to over 100,000 families. This is an enormous job. We are very grateful to Infinity Broadcasting radio stations, K-Earth 101 FM and KLSX 97.1 FM talk and all these artists for contributing their time and talent to help those that need it the most.”

Tickets are $40 and Ticketmaster is waiving all additional service charges for this event. For those with a little more cash to spare, a very limited number of VIP packages are being sold for $100. VIP ticket holders will have a chance to meet the artists.

“Music is the great unifier that brings people together in love, spirituality, sadness and joy. K-Earth 101 is so thankful that these musical performers are donating their talents to help our southern neighbors, especially since their songs have been such an important part of the soundtrack of Southern California,” said Maureen Lesourd, K-Earth 101 Vice President and General Manager.

Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets including Tower Records, Wherehouse Music, Robinsons-May and Ritmo Latino. To charge by phone, call (213) 480-3232 or (714) 740-2000. Tickets can also be purchased online at or at The Greek Theatre Box Office.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Radio Column September 16, 2005

PHOTO: Star 98.7 afternoon DJ Bradley (left) with pop superstar Gavin DeGraw
Listening In

By Sandy Wells

September 16, 2005

Star 98.7 puts Bradley in afternoon drive

Afternoon entertainers Jason Pullman and Lisa Foxx found themselves out of work the day after Labor Day at adult contemporary Star 98.7 (KYSR-FM). They were replaced by evening talent Bradley Wright. The station, now under the direction of new Program Director Mike Marino, is “tightening up” the sound of the station, cutting back on the chatter in the afternoon and putting more focus on the music, plus adding more “gold” from the 80s and 90s to the playlist.

Yes, Star 98.7 is feeling pressure from the LA’s break out station, “Jack FM” (KCBS-FM 93.1) which made an impressive debut this spring by focusing heavily on an eclectic cross-genre blend that included many of the same oldies that have enhanced Star’s performance for the past decade. Star 98.7 has relied heavily on personalities such as former afternoon driver Ryan Seacrest, and many of same past hits from the 80s and 90s now heard in a more concentrated form on Jack to spice up its presentation of current music.

While Jack was not well-received in its New York version where it replaced the legendary oldies station WCBS-FM, here it’s had the benefit of guidance from Kevin Weatherly. The KROQ-FM 106.7 programmer has very skillfully managed to draw the multitudes that remember, and maybe pine for, the glory days of the old KROQ of the 80s and early 90s.

Is it time for Star might to consider a switch to “FM talk” and go head to head against KLSX-FM 97.1 which will lose the irreplaceable Howard Stern later this year? They’ve already got a good start in the talk game with Jamie, Jack and Stench.

KPFK host Samm Brown on the pop music industry’s doldrums

We’re always hearing about the decline of the once mighty recording industry and how it was creatively hollowed out by corporate consolidation, and continues to be financially hammered by Internet file sharing – or stealing as many in the industry see it.

KPFK-FM 90.7’s Samm Brown has a lot to say about the music business. He’s hosted a program about the recording industry, “For the Record,” on the public station for ten years. The show allows him to combined his love of journalism – he once worked as a TV reporter for WLS-TV in Chicago – with his love of the music business – he’s worked as a music producer, composer and talent manager since producing pop icon Michael Jackson’s early solo work in the 1970s. He now helps develop new artists and composes for TV and film.

I sat down with Brown last week and listened as he analyzed the state of the record business and pop music radio.

“There wasn’t much technology change from 1955 to 1965,” explained Brown. “In those ten years there weren’t quantum leaps in the technology. But I guarantee you don’t even recognize the technology from 1995 to 2005. Nobody in 1995 saw iPods coming; nobody saw the downloading, Kazaa and Napster. That’s only ten years ago!”

Consolidation and technology have combined to radically alter the way new pop music hits are created and the kind of music that is ultimately heard on the radio.

“In 1955 you had all these mom and pop stations. You could break a record and get one or two mom and pop stations – especially in Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. LA was never a break out market in the early days because as a record promo guy explained it to me, half the signals on the West Coast go to the fish.”

But the Midwest radio stations all overlapped each other, broadcasting in all directions, so that a few smaller stations taking a chance on a record would often cause a ripple effect that could ultimately reach the big city stations.

“So you could get on a couple of mom and pop stations back in the late 50s and 60s - when rock n’ roll was really happening - and all of a sudden kids are tuning into those stations and then they’re calling the big stations saying. ‘Why aren’t you playing such and such record?’ including all these ‘race records,’ like Little Richard. And they made the big stations that were playing Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and all the big band stuff, start to change.”

After Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowing unprecedented consolidation of the nation’s radio stations into the fold of giant corporations such as Clear Channel, record companies lost the relatively unimpeded path to getting airplay.

“No longer could a record company make a record on Friday and have it on the air by Monday. That kind of turnaround can’t happen anymore.”

One of biggest detriments to creativity in the music business is the take over of the major record companies by the corporate “bean counters.”

“Quarterlies drive the record companies today. It’s all about the dollars. They don’t deal with developing artists. They don’t deal with taking the time to allow an artist to find its audience. Today, you’ve got to have your own audience going in. You don’t have the time to let the audience find out what you’re doing and build word of mouth getting into something new that you’re doing.”

That’s why, says Brown, new music often lacks distinction, often having that ‘been there, done that sound.’

“You hear people saying, ‘Oh the business is over. Kids are buying Xbox and so forth. Well, the time it takes for kids to discover something new musically doesn’t exist like it did thirty years ago. Kids are forced to choose their music based on what the labels think the kids are going to like. And [the labels] assume that they’re going to like what they liked yesterday, which is why the record industry has such a high failure rate.”

Hand in hand with that problem says Brown, is the lack of focus on creating memorable, well-crafted songs.

Samm Brown’s program “For the Record” airs every Sunday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Old radio drama on KKGO-AM 1260

If you still miss the KNX Drama Hour then you’ll be glad to know that KKGO-AM 1260 has brought back “When Radio Was” weeknights at 9 p.m. The hour-long program features classic radio comedy, drama and news programs from radio’s “Golden Age” such as “The Shadow,” “Our Miss Brooks,” “The Red Skelton Show,” and “The Whistler.” The program repeats at 2 a.m.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Radio Column September 2, 2005

Listening In

By Sandy Wells

September 2, 2005

Senate fails to raise broadcasting indecency fines

(Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson perform at the Super Bowl - PHOTO by AP)

The U.S. Senate is fiddling while the ears of Americans burn with indecent, profane and obscene radio broadcasts.

With the worst outbreak of broadcast indecency complaints behind them, the Senate now appears hesitant to pass legislation that would raise the FCC fines from $32,500 to the whopping $500,000 per incident penalty approved by the House of Representatives last year in the wake of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl mini-strip tease.

The issue remains a bit of a conundrum for the Republican-controlled Federal government, which on the one hand seems eager to appease socially conservative activist groups such as Concerned Women for America and at the same time feels obliged to hew to the long-standing Republican practice championed by industry groups such as the National Association of Broadcasting which is to keep hands off business as much as possible.

As it stands, fines are down this year compared to 2004’s obscenity penalty-palooza in which the FCC issued $7.9 million in the heaviest bout of wrist slapping for public naughtiness to date.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D) West Virginia introduced legislation in March that would not only bring the Senate up to the House’s level of half a million per incident, but also extend indecency fines into the heretofore untamed realms of satellite and cable radio (and TV) programming.

Indecency complaints filed at the FCC have surged in recent years according to FCC statistics, from a piddling 111 in 2000 to 2,240,350 in 2003. A Media Week story found that Parents Television Council greatly amplified the volume of complaints by using automated complaint letters.

The FCC has three levels of offensive material that it will respond to: 1) obscenity (never allowed) 2) indecent (allowable only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) and 3) profane (also only allowed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.).

The FCC also regards context as key to evaluating a complaint from the public. For instance, Larry Elder (KABC-AM 790, weekdays 3-6 p.m.) used the “n” word when he quoted from an article in order to explain a political issue. Anyone listening with a modicum of attentiveness could tell he was not using it as a racial epithet to stir up resentment or outrage, or just to be a provocateur.

To complain to the FCC

You can write to:
Enforcement Bureau, Investigations and Hearings Division445 12th Street, SWWashington, D.C. 20554

Call: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)

Or send an email:

Radio host Michael Graham, fired for making ‘cracker’ comments, is hired by KFI

A talk show host on Washington, D.C.’s WMAL-AM 630 who was recently fired after he refused demands to apologize for repeatedly saying on the air that Islam is a terrorist religion was hired by talk station KFI-AM 640 for a fill-in shift last Friday night.

“If there's one thing KFI stands for, it's free speech,” said KFI Program Director Robin Bertolucci in explaining why she was hiring Michael Graham to fill-in for 7-10 p.m. host John Ziegler. “I heard the context of his comments. He said most Muslims are good and decent people but they have an obligation to disassociate themselves from the bad elements. He sounds like a smart guy.”

Graham was suspended by The Walt Disney Company’s WMAL for his remarks made after the terrorist attacks in London. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) demanded that Graham apologize for his statements. Graham refused to back off what he maintains is the “truth” about Islam. The station issued a statement saying that the conservative host had “crossed the line.”

CAIR hailed the decision to fire Graham as a victory against anti-Islamic hate speech. Others have come to his support on web sites, printing pro-Graham T-shirts and demanding that he be rehired. Graham claims that WMAL received 15,000 emails and phone calls protesting his removal from the airwaves.

Graham is the author of “Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War.”

Hear podcasts on your cell phone

There are fresh developments on the way to making your cell phone the equivalent of the ubiquitous little palm-sized transistor radio of the ’60s and ’70s.

A small Seattle company is releasing new software this month that should make it relatively easy to download podcasts into an Internet-ready phone.

Melodeo, Inc. says that it is the first company to make podcasts available to cell phone users through its free Mobilcast software.

The company points out that to access the nearly 400,000 Podcasts available today, you need to connect your PC to the Internet, and then hook up your portable device to your PC. Its Mobilcast software offers users a way to shortcut the process of finding and listening to Podcasts by allowing you to directly download Podcasts to your cell phone, over the air.

Find out more at

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Radio Column August 21, 2005

Listening In

By Sandy Wells

August 21, 2005

KNX departs from historic Hollywood studios

(PHOTO: KNX news studio in 1960s)

Last weekend, KNX-AM 1070 moved from 'Sunset and analog' to 'Wilshire and digital,' trading its historic but antiquated Hollywood studios for new ones on LA's “Miracle Mile.” Now, it is physically united, on two floors, with fellow Infinity-owned stations KTWV-FM, KRTH-FM, KLSX-FM and KFWB-AM.

Built at a cost of $2 million in 1938, the year the famous “panic broadcast” of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” with Orson Welles testified to the awesome power of the medium, the structure at Columbia Square has since stood as an impressive physical reminder of radio’s Golden Age. It was the costliest radio facility to date. CBS chief William Paley, then just 36, spared no expense to guarantee his new broadcasting palace would win the respect of Hollywood’s sheiks.

And it did. The stars came, and following them were the crowds, who lined up at all hours to watch the exciting live broadcasts. Entertainment critic and historian Leonard Maltin says Columbia Square quickly became “the heartbeat of West Coast radio.”

“The Jack Benny Show,” “Blondie,” The Adventures of Sam Spade Detective,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” ‘The Whistler,” “Burns and Allen” and “The Red Skelton Show” were among the hit radio shows broadcast from Columbia Square.

In the 1950s, as TV became dominant, KNX became the home of many noted radio personalities like Steve Allen, Bill Balance (“Balance of the Night”), Jim Hawthorne, famed morning man Bob Crane (who went on to star in the hit TVs series “Hogan’s Heroes”). KNX was the first LA station for talk radio star Michael Jackson. In 1968, KNX adopted its current role as a news station.

It’s unlikely the current owner of the building will save the historic spot for future generations. VP and Market Manager for Infinity News Radio stations in LA Pat Duffy says after the TV stations move out in late 2006, the building will probably be torn down to make way for new commercial development as part of Hollywood’s ongoing revitalization.

Is radio going into hiding? In Burbank, Clear Channel’s most popular stations are also tucked away, invisibly wedged inconspicuously in a large office tower.

Duffy says that wasn’t the intent and that were it not for the rush to move KFWB out of its old facility on Yucca, both news stations might have enjoyed a very high profile location in downtown LA. There was a plan, he says, to house the stations opposite the Staples Center in the AEG Building with street level picture windows that would have allowed passers by to view the broadcast operations.

While acknowledging the nostalgia for the old facility will be strongly felt among many long-time employees, Duffy said the move makes it possible for KNX to upgrade all the technical facilities, junk obsolete cart machines and reel to reel tape decks, and adopt all new digital equipment, bringing both KNX and KFWB into the world of HD radio, web cams and podcasting.

And all those hundreds of Golden Mikes trophies garnered by both KNX and KFWB over the years? Well, as pleasantly spacious as the new facilities are on Wilshire Boulevard, there’s no space for those. Duffy says the stations are offering them to those whose names are inscribed on the trophies and giving the rest away.

The Museum of TV and Radio in Beverly Hills should seriously consider adopting the studios on Sunset Boulevard. It would be a great location for attracting big crowds, being so close to the heart of Hollywood’s tourist district.

XTRA Sports 570 builds team…

Two ex-FM morning show sports reporters have moved over to "XTRA Sports Radio AM" KLAC-AM 570. Last week Joe Grande joined the team after five years of morning radio at KPWR-FM 105.9 “Power 106.”

“The last five years at Power 106 have been amazing for me,” said Grande. “I am going to miss ‘Big Boy’s Neighborhood’ and the entire Power 106 family. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to hitting it out of the park with XTRA Sports AM 570.”

General Manager Don Martin of XTRA Sports AM 570 said, “Joe brings energy, excitement and fun to every show he does and is loved in the community. I am very excited to have him in house on a fulltime basis.”

Also joining the XTRA team is Matt “Money” Smith to the Lakers Broadcast team. Money begins his "dream job" with the Lakers Radio Network as the 2005-2006 season begins.

Money was most recently the sports voice for the KROQ morning show featuring Kevin and Bean.

“I've been associated with KROQ for eleven years,” said Money. “I started when I was in college answering phones, and as sad as it is to leave a group of people I consider family, it's equally exciting to work with a franchise like the Lakers and the dominant Sports radio station in Los Angeles – XTRA Sports AM 570.”

Friday, August 05, 2005

Radio Column August 5, 2005

August 5, 2005

Listening In

By Sandy Wells

Music radio under Jack attack

The latest Arbitron audience survey spelled vindication for the Infinity radio execs who risked their careers to put “Jack FM” on at the expense of “Arrow 93.” The mighty Clear Channel’s adult oriented pop on Star 98.7 and KBIG are scrambling for cover. However, CC had one conspicuous bright spot with KIIS-FM 102.7, which raced past long-time front runner Power 106 KPWR-FM 105.9 to win the ratings sweepstakes.

The spring ratings drilled a hole in any hopes that LA’s news/talk stations would make a comeback after the post-election doldrums. Especially noticeable was KNX-AM 1070’s abrupt fall from its apparently anomalous big audience gain in the winter book. The only talk station that showed improvement was Clear Channel’s liberal-leaning KTLK-AM 1150 “K-Talk” with comedian Al Franken, Florida-based talk host Randi Rhodes and the liberal Limbaugh sound alike, Ed Schultz.

In the overall ratings for the spring, Spanish music stations KLAX-FM 97.9, KLVE-FM 107.5 and KSCA-FM 101.9 tied for third place. News/talk KFI-AM 640 slid seven tenths of a point into 6th place, followed by smooth jazz KTWV-FM 94.7 “The Wave.” Soft rock KOST-FM 103.5 and alternative rock KROQ-FM 106.7 tied for 8th, followed by urban KKBT-FM 100.3 “The Beat” in 10th place.

KCBS-FM, which was languishing in 24th place until flipping to the new “Jack” format in March, shot up to No. 11. The variety rock/pop format playing hits and notable album cuts mostly from the 80s and 90s appeared to punch a hole in traditional oldies station KRTH-FM 101.1 “K-Earth 101,” which saw its overall ratings deflate half a point and out of the top ten. It’s possible that KROQ also suffered from Jack’s presence as it also dropped half a point. Perhaps it is lucky for all three that they are all owned by Infinity.

On the news/talk front, the news was mostly dismal. KFI, the market leader in this category, dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 while KABC-AM 790 saw its audience share slip two tenths of a point. KNX-AM 1070, after showing progress in the winter book, lost heavily, falling from 16th to 26th place in the ratings, behind its less powerful sister news station KFWB-AM 980. KRLA-AM 870 was also down as was FM talker KLSX-FM 97.1.

The exception was the left-leaning, Bush-bashing, Air America affiliate, KTLK-AM 1150 “K-Talk”, which rose from a tie a No. 47 to No. 31 by more the doubling its audience share.

Among the morning wake-up shows, KSCA’s Piolín was No. 1, followed by Renán Almendárez Coello on KLAX, Bill Handel on KFI, Ryan Seacrest on KIIS, Big Boy’ Neighborhood on Power 106, Kevin and Bean with KROQ, Howard Stern on KLSX, Omar y Argelia on KLVE, John Salley on KKBT and Dave Coz on KTWV.

Were they reacting to Jack’s auspicious out of the box performance adult when contemporary outlet “K-Big” (KBIG-FM 104.3) changed to just the simple call letters, “K-B-I-G”? Or, when KYSR-FM 98.7 “Star 98.7” dropped Danny Bonaduce and renamed the show, Jamie White, Jack and Stench? Or can we entertain any doubt as to why Thousand Oaks KMLT-FM switched from “Lite 92.7” to “92.7 Jill-FM”?

New payola scandal unraveled in New York

The record and radio biz is reeling from the $10 million settlement reached between New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Sony/BMG to halt “pay for play” practices in the music industry.

“Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees,” Spitzer said. “This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry.”

The New York Post published a story this week that Spitzer was originally tipped off by a female employee who was “hit on” by a Sony record promoter at a bar in Miami. The guy apparently tried to impress by regaling his intended conquest with tales of his payola shenanigans.

Documents released show music promoters and their companies routinely offered laptop computers, cameras and other goodies to get airplay for their artists, in violation of state and federal law, which forbids the practice of “payola.”

One email released was from an Epic employee who was trying to promote the group Audioslave to a Clear Channel programmer. He asked one radio programmer:

"WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen."

The attorney general’s release also quoted Don Henley, a member of the Eagles and founding member of the Recording Artists’ Coalition: “Attorney General Eliot Spitzer should be commended for successfully addressing the pay-for-play problem. There is no question that payola hurts recording artists.”

Well, if you ever wondered how some of those truly awful songs ever do get on the air, you now know it’s less to do with programmers’ lack of taste than their expensive tastes.

Kudos to Spitzer and his staff for winning this important battle against radio broadcast “air pollution.”

AM 1260 welcomes back Nic Gerard

KKGO-AM 1260/540 welcomed back former morning man Nic Gerard. It’s nice to hear his smooth voice in the morning serving up the “unforgettable” standards with class. He is followed by Mark Morris, John Regan and Mike Johnson.