Radio Waves: 3/9/18

New Channels on SiriusXM

Apparently I am the last to notice when a new channel comes on to SiriusXM satellite radio. Admittedly I do spend too much time in the ‘70s and on The Pulse. Ironically, the music on this new channel is one of the formats I would run (will run?) if I ever get my hands on a radio station of my own … preferably AM, as I want to prove you can still program an AM music station successfully. More on that later.

Pop Rock channel 17 made its debut on SiriusXM back in January. The satellite service describes it as “fun, upbeat music that (comes from artists who) started in the world of rock then crossed over to became massive pop hits in the ’90s and ’00s.”

What artists? An extensive list that focusses on the likes of Maroon 5, Matchbox Twenty, Third Eye Blind, Lit, Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, No Doubt, Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, The Killers, Green Day and Train. Some of those I consider pop alternative; many of the artists were also those heard on The Mix (now The Fish, 95.9 FM), one of the best “top-40” stations of the era as superbly programmed by Craig Carpenter. 

Supposedly this music influenced later artists such as Twenty-One Pilots, which is fine as long as I don’t have to actually listen to Twenty-One Pilots. Pop Rock is now one of my go to channels on SiriusXM.

Flashback Top-40

Banana Joe Montione was part of some great radio stations during his career, including the last great version of KHJ (930 AM) as programmed by the last great KHJ programmer, Chuck Martin. He was heard for a time on KIIS-FM (102.7) as well.

Now he’s creating content that can be aired on stations through his Banana Joe Radio Group. The latest creation: Flashback Top-40, ready to roll to stations nationwide — though not available locally as of yet.

What is it? Hits from the ‘70s through the ‘90s with a top-40 sound … “a modern version of the great top-40 radio sound so dominant during the eras we cover,” he told industry radio news site AllAccess.Com. 

Interestingly, as I stated in a column last year, this is another format I would run on a station if I had control …

AM Improvement

I have long held that bad programming on AM stations is the primary reason that so few people tune in to the band at all. As warmed-over political talk formats, all (yawn) sports, religious broadcasts … took over from the popular music and variety formats that were the early successes of many AM stations, listeners had to leave. Indeed, the last decent ratings of many stations from KHJ to The Mighty 690 came when they played top-40 music.

I know that technical issues make it hard to compete with FM. Interference from all sorts of items from cable boxes to computers all wreak havoc with AM reception. But even without those problems, with the current formats found on AM stations in most cities, it’s still a lost cause. My position: programmers and owners pushed AM listeners to FM, in much the same way that today’s programmer and owners are pushing people toward satellite and online listening.

Yet I still believe that if you give people a reason to listen, they will. K-SURF (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2) is a case in point. A station that doesn’t even cover much of the LA Metro area and has absolutely no promotion earns a rating higher than does KABC (790 AM) … and most other full-power AMs in town.

My opinion doesn’t sit so well with some of the members of a Facebook group, ironically dedicated to fans of AM radio. There I was told that nothing I said would work, that music on AM has absolutely no chance of competing at all today.

Even formats that are not available elsewhere? No, some said. Which basically means that initiatives for AM improvement, via whatever technical means are possible, are moot.

Is that true? I still doubt it. But I am curious: if a station in town played a format you absolutely love — be it the formats already mentioned above or something else like standards, heavy metal, progressive rock, or uncluttered top-40 — and it was only found on AM, would you listen? If not, what would get you to listen to something on the AM band?

Of course purists know that AM can sound great as far as fidelity if you listen on a good analog radio (say an old tube model or a more modern wide-band AM stereo receiver) or an HD tuner. But I’m taking the worst case – what might get you to listen to AM — if there is anything — assuming you have to listen to it on a typical radio available today?

Send me your comments. Perhaps as iHeart goes bankrupt, we can make some radio magic out of the ashes …