Radio Waves: 7/15/16

Johnson’s excellent Aircheck now in paperback

One of the best books I have ever read on personal experiences in the radio world is J. J. Johnson’s “Aircheck: Life in Music Radio.” Formerly available only as a Kindle download, the book is now available in paperback form from Planet 3 Publishing at bookstores and Amazon.Com for about $20.

Content is essentially the same, as you would expect since it is the same book, as the Kindle edition. It is an amazing travel through time written by one of radio’s great personalities. But it’s not a “radio” book; it is the life story of Johnson and reads very much like he’s sitting right next to you telling stories of his life. Not only what stations he worked at, but the personalities and stars that he met along the way.

As you might expect, Johnson is a great story-teller.

What separates the paperback from the Kindle edition are some minor tweaks. “I smoothed out the writing,” he explained. “And there’s a list of stations and markets I worked in order to make it easier for non-radio people to follow.” And photos!

Johnson started his radio career while still in high school back when many stations would put at least one teenager on the air in order to attract young listeners. He moved from Ohio to Texas to San Francisco and more, learning from the best of the best along the way. In Los Angeles he was on the legendary R&B (late Hip-Hop) 1580/KDAY (now KBLA) from 1974 until the station changed formats in 1991. Then it was on to others including the late-great KACE (now KRCD, 103.9 FM).

But it is not really a radio book in the traditional sense. Yes, radio obviously plays a large part. Instead, Johnson focusses on life, lessons learned, people he met, and what he took from it all. Lessons including what he learned and observed staying on the air at KJLH (102.3 FM) during the 1992 Los Angeles riots … in studios that were right near the flashpoint.

If you haven’t read it yet, get it. As I said, it is one of the best radio books you’ll find.

CBS Spin-Off

As expected by many, CBS is spinning off its radio business into a separate publicly-traded company. The company filed plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week detailing the plan.

CBS owns 117 radio stations nationwide including KRTH (101.1 FM), KNX (1070 AM), KROQ (106.7 FM), KTWV (94.7 FM) and KCBS-FM (93.1) locally.

According to the plan, the company plans to first spin off the division, and then sell-off the common stock. What happens after that is unknown; while CBS is one of the stronger large radio group owners, large group owners have tended to drag radio down since consolidation began in force in the 1990s. The performance of radio in general during this era has been abysmal almost every way you look at it: stock price, ad revenue … even listenership. At the same time, independent stations are moving up.

The best thing that could happen to radio as an industry would be the re-regulation in the form of limits on station ownership to no more than 20 stations nationwide.