PHOTO: Star 98.7 afternoon DJ Bradley (left) with pop superstar Gavin DeGrawListening 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.