Radio Waves: 10/6/17

Where will Sound listeners go?

The news last week that Entercom will sell The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) to a company that will play satellite-delivered Christian pop music caught people by surprise. Even more surprising is that the buyer – EMF – got the station for a song. The Sound, two other full-power stations and two FM translators made for a total of $57 million; in comparison, The Sound alone sold for over $100 million in 2008.

Not proof, but certainly a worthy allegation, that Entercom CEO David Field wanted to make sure no broadcaster would compete in any way with his remaining stations once the merger with CBS is completed. Shareholders most certainly lost out on full value in this transaction, which should trigger an SEC investigation, even if it is not against any FCC rules. But I digress.

Where will Sound listeners go? Field may think they will move on to his future holdings KRTH (101.1 FM), or Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1). Others may think they will head over to KLOS (95.5 FM). Wishful thinking, in my opinion. Sound listeners listened just because The Sound was not Jack, KRTH or KLOS.

There was a special attitude from the relatively young upstart station with legendary personalities like Joe Benson, Rita Wilde, Cynthia Fox, Mimi Chen and Mary Price. Aside from being our on-air friends, there is a certain respect for both the music and listeners that is sorely missing from most other stations, particularly Jack and KRTH. My hunch? Most Sound listeners will simply abandon radio altogether.

On the Other Side

When I mentioned my theory above to Sky Daniels, he responded quickly with “I certainly hope not.” And that wasn’t just a lament. This man is passionate about music and what radio can be.

Daniels, who in a past life could be found on stations such as KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) is the programmer of KCSN (88.5 FM) which recently merged signals with KSBR, also at 88.5, in order to create a mega station with a potential audience in excess of 11 million (though not, it turns out, including the South Bay where I live).

Both signals – KCSN originating from the Northridge and KSBR from Orange County – now simulcast KCSN’s Adult Album Alternative format under the name “The New 88.5.” KSBR’s jazz format can be found on the HD digital stream that can be heard if you happen to own an HD radio.

Daniels and I were talking about the merger and my concern that students are not involved. Turns out my concern is without basis: Students are involved (more students work at KCSN than paid employees), KSBR is still primarily students, and Daniels hopes to relaunch a radio broadcasting program at CSUN that was shuttered before he arrived in 2011.

But the best part is that Daniels considers 88.5 as a supporter of the arts, specifically supporting local performing musicians and bands. “We are working with artists, agents, record companies, and venues to raise the profile of artists in the market,” Daniels told me. “We are supporting contemporary performing art with the hope that we can assist these artists in earning a living so that they can continue to create new music.”

With the combined signals, “we have a chance to really do it,” Daniels exclaims. His “it” is proving that the AAA format is a viable alternative to what I consider stale radio. Along the way, he wants to help bands move from small venues to the Troubadour, to the Forum … and even higher.

Call me crazy, but I love that. And Daniels has the passion and energy to make it happen. which brings me full circle: perhaps Sound listeners may find something they like at 88.5. I certainly do. The Sound even started as a AAA station itself before evolving into classic rock; Daniels had a weekend shift when they first launched. Like The Sound, 88.5 respects music and the audience. If you can pick it up, listen for a while and tell me what you think.