Radio Waves: 3/13/20

An alternative radio

I own one myself so I have no idea why I missed this idea. Luckily, reader Michael Doss caught the recent segment of this column in which April Ingle was searching for a Beautiful Music station that her mother could listen to.

“Your March 3 column discussed a person looking for ‘Beautiful Music” for their aging mother. You suggested a computer or smartphone, but I think you missed out on a great option (that hopefully you could forward to this person): An Amazon Echo Dot or Google Voice device. “They’ll automatically play local stations from TuneIn, internet radio stations, and music from services like Spotify and Apple Music. They’re totally self-contained (just needing an internet connection), work by voice, and have access to thousands of stations, including many with zero or minimal talking. I think either one would be perfect for your reader. “

Absolutely. They are quite impressive in how they work, and some feature magnificent sound quality. I bought my wife an Apple HomePod for Christmas, and the sound is stunning. 

In some ways, I wonder if these “smart speakers” and mobile apps will someday replace radio, or at least radio as we know it. Besides playing whatever music service you subscribe to, the speakers will indeed play stations from around the world — including local stations — using various apps including TuneIn. 

It’s actually pretty cool … in my case with the HomePod, all I have to say is “Hey, Siri, play KOST 103.5” or “K-Earth 101,” “K-Mozart,” “Go Country 105,” “KNX-FM 93” and many more. For Beautiful Music, “Beautiful Music 101,” is one of a number of such stations that can be tuned in.

What makes this so intriguing, is that it could be the future of radio. I don’t have the technical expertise to know if it actually can be done, but if all stations were online and could shut off their transmitters, a lot of money could be saved on electricity. And all stations, AM or FM, would have the potential of sound quality parity.

The technical hurdle: I don’t know how many listeners a station can stream to at once … an over the air transmitter can reach millions.

In the meantime, such speakers are probably the best solution for finding formats you cannot hear locally, and are a perfect for Mrs. ingle’s mother.

Readers Write

“While watching a World Series game on TV, I vaguely remember an announcer saying something like, “Why does it take three of us to explain what you’re seeing when Vin Sculley can do it by himself on radio?” — John Billings – Long Beach

Scully was one of the reasons to listen to the Dodgers on the radio … even as you watched the game on television … because he was so damn good. Having him do more television play by play, along with simply having more games on television or cable, is a major reason the Dodgers radio ratings declined over the years. 

Short Takes

AllAccess.Com reports that Kevin Weatherly’s (KROQ, Amp Radio)  new position at Spotify is Head of North American Programming. Makes you winder what Spotify has planned … I still don’t know the exact plans, but I am expecting a big splash when K-Mozart regroups and relaunches. I am told that some major classical music personalities may return   

Word on the street is that the problems facing the major radio groups iHeart, Entercom and Cumulus may soon hurt ratings company Nielsen. The reason? Drastic cost-cutting may force stations to abandon subscribing to the service. If just iHeart backs out, as Inside Music Media’s Jerry Del Colliano is predicting, Nielsen would lose over 800 stations from their subscriber base…

Del Colliano is also predicting more major cuts from all three major companies, to the point where people needed to grow revenue are being cut as well. Can these major groups survive all the cutting? Personally I hope not. Radio needs more owners and fewer stations owned by the same company. Consolidation has been nothing but a failed experiment …

While the industry suffers, there are still some gems to be found. Yes, they have gotten a little predictable at times, but it’s hard to beat the morning Woody Show on Alt 98.7 FM. When they get too weird into the Freak of the Week, I just tune over to KROQ (106.7 FM)  to hear the Kevin without Bean Show …

Speaking of KROQ, the afternoon Stryker and Klein is still fresh and fun … what’s with some weird national show playing Sunday nights on K-Earth as I write this? Can’t they do better? … Go Country 105 is still one of stations that keeps me off of SiriusXM. But when I do tune into SiriusXM, it’s hard to beat The Pulse on Channel 15, unless I want a laugh and tune in to one of the comedy channels (especially 93 and 95). If I’m lucky I’ll hear John Mulaney …