Radio Waves: April 23, 2021

Woody Staying Put

I’ve been a big fan of The Woody Show on Alt 98.7 since soon after it made its debut in April of 2014. Led by Jeff “Woody” Fife, the show is what you get when you put the cynical Woody in charge of a cast of intelligent and fun friends who see life in much the same was I do.

Not sure if that’s good, but I like it.

Unfortunately it’s syndicated now, but still a damn good show. Last week, we found out that the show will be around for at least a few more years, as Fife and friends signed a new contract to take the show through April of 2028. Obviously the station and syndicator like the show as well.  Considering that it consistently ranks among the highest-rated programs among its target demographics, and you can understand why. Woody airs on Alt from 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays, with “best of” segments airing Saturday mornings from 4 to 10.

Amp is now Now!

There was a time when Amp Radio (KAMP, 97.1 FM) was in striking distance of top-40 leader KIIS-FM (102.7). In the past year or so, however, while KIIS-FM itself has underperformed compared with itself in a historical sense — February had the station tied for 9th with a 3.3 share … a far cry from the dominant position it had for so many years — Amp has just about become irrelevant.

There was a time when even AM music stations totally abandoned music formats when ratings dropped below 2.0. Amp hasn’t been as high as, or even close to a 2.0 share in at least six months, and February had it at 1.2. This is the lowest rating I can recall — correct me if I am wrong — for the station in about five formats and four decades … talk, classic rock, adult contemporary, adult top-40, and even country.

Frankly that rating surprises me, but perhaps it should not. Top-40 radio isn’t being done right, as shown by even KIIS-FM’s problems, and the lifeblood of the format — young people — are simply not as interested in radio as are you or I. I personally think it can be fixed easily, and have stated how right here in the past.

The main problem with Amp is that it doesn’t set itself apart from KIIS-FM. Musically? Similar. Personalities? Nothing special. Morning show? Syndicated from out of town and generally lackluster (which pains me to say as they truly seem to be a nice group). 

So how do you fix the station? Pump up the music mix. Find out what kids and young adults want to hear. Either replace the Morning Mess or work with them to connect with the local audience. Get a vibe going with promotions that the target audience wants, and don’t rely on national contests because your owners is too broke or cheap to do something local.

What does the management of Amp do? Change the station name.

Same music. Same personalties. Same dull programming and promotions. But now it’s called 97.1 Now!

Yeah that’ll fix it. Bad on-air IDs always fix bad programming. This has to be a joke.

Launch date for the new name was April 15th, and 97.1 Now! Is “LA’s Party Station.” In a press release, Audacy Regional President Jeff Federman explained, “As more and more Americans receive their COVID-19 vaccine, now is the time for us to safely get back on our feet and get moving with the daily habits we love and miss.

“This rebrand not only embodies the spirit of our return to normalcy, but also the dynamic state of today’s music industry and we’re excited to usher in this new era with our consumers. As LA’s party station, our programming will spotlight the biggest stars in music and deliver a fresh listening experience to our audience no matter the time of day.”

I like the sentiment, but seriously … “Now!” ????? That’s the best they could do?

One on One

I have no clue where I obtained the recording, but on a recent late-night walk, what came up in my iPhone playlist was a recording from August of 1986, featuring the final hours of KFRC/San Francisco as a top-40 station.

For the uninitiated, KFRC was the Bay Area’s version of KHJ (930 AM). Some feel it may have been even better than co-owned KHJ, and it did last about five years longer as a top-40 station than did KHJ.

But the main programming in the early Monday morning featured in the recording was not much music. Instead it was station Music Director Jack Silver taking calls from listeners regarding the station’s impending switch from top-40 to adult standards.

Two things struck me listening to the air check. First – it was recorded from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., and Silver was live … as was the norm back then. Today, no station runs local live programming overnight.

Secondly, the passion of listeners calling in to talk about the death of their favorite station was uplifting in way. Listeners. Passionate. About a radio station. That is unheard of today. Why?  Should that not be the norm?

“Don’t let your radio stations be stagnant” Silver begins as his parting shot a bit before 6 a.m.  “More music, less talk is bull; fifteen in a row commercial-free is bull,” he continues just prior to playing the last two songs. “You’ve got to make sure that they talk to you … one on one.”

The last song played? “Lights” by Journey … a song about San Francisco that was used in a television commercial for the legendary station. Somehow it just worked.

Speaking of KHJ

Next Tuesday at 3 p.m. marks the 56th anniversary of the birth of the Boss … the Sneak Preview that launched with the Real Don Steele that afternoon that marked the beginning of what would prove to be one of the most successful and influential radio stations in the history of radio. 

In recognition of that event, as well as the fact that the station is now celebrating 99 years on the air, I want to put you in charge of the next column… what are your memories of KHJ as a top-40 station, or even of its earlier incarnations prior to the big change? What personalties did you like the most? What attracted you to the Boss sound … or what drove you away? 

Your responses next week