RadioWaves: June 25, 2021

What’s wrong with KROQ?

By now you probably know that KROQ (106.7 FM) is in trouble. The once trend-setting station that helped put New Wave on the map and helped create the eventual “alternative” format in radio has seen better days, to say the least. Most recently, while ratings edged up slightly in May to 2.2 from April’s 2.0, the fact is that since the beginning of the year KROQ has been beaten in the ratings every month by Alt 98.7 … in two months by a full point.

There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is that the station is owned by Audacy, a company so desperately trying to stay afloat under massive debt that it no longer has local personalities or local programming for numerous formats they run nationwide … including alternative, which means KROQ is hobbled by upper management.

Oh, sure, you could make the station perhaps slightly more successful than it is now if you get the music mix just right, have the right promotions, and maybe do something to knock Alt off the air. But the fact remains that KROQ was KROQ precisely because it was Los Angeles. You can’t do KROQ unless you make it its own.

Students of local radio history have seen this exact thing before. No one outside of former programmer Sam Bellamy, former General Manager David Moorhead, and a handful of others understood what made KMET tick in the late 1970s when they dominated their format. When Bellamy was let go and management got lazy, it was KROQ itself that did the Mighty Met in. And they did it by beating KMET at its own game – playing the right music for Los Angeles, finding the right attitude in the personalities, and being a part of a new wave (no pun intended) of music and listeners … made for Southern California.

KROQ today? Meh.

The music is programmed nationally. Most of the personalities are broadcasting from here, but are syndicated as well. The remaining come from other cities. This is just a national version of an alternative format, sounding exactly like you would hear in Portland. Or New York. Or wherever. 

Definitely not Los Angeles. Nor Southern California. And no one cares any more, including listeners who at one time were among radio’s most passionate.

So excuse my lack of enthusiasm for the search currently in progress for the “solid, strong anchor for the morning show on this legendary radio station” as was posted on consultant Steve Reynolds’ Facebook page. Reynolds is helping with the search from his home base in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Know how to build a great culture and do spectacular radio?” He continued. “You super talented, have a great attitude, and ready to do the work that’ll make you an even bigger superstar in the industry?  DM me any names (yours or others, even if they’re working).  This is freakin’ KROQ, folks.”

Except that it isn’t. For all intents and purposes, KROQ is dead, and will remain so as long as it is part of Audacy. It isn’t the morning show that is the problem — the station had great talent there with Ted Stryker … at least until they removed him from mornings. But a replacement won’t make a bit of difference until KROQ is freed from the restraints given by overpaid, useless upper managers and a CEO who don’t “get” radio. KROQ cannot be KROQ when it has to play everywhere. It just sounds canned. Predictable.

When was the last time you listened to KROQ? See my point?

New Talker

After months of anticipation, KBLA (1580 AM) has launched its new talk format with an all-new lineup of hosts.

Weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m., it’s First Things First with Dominique Diprima, described as news and commentary from a uniquely different perspective. Following DiPrima at 9:00 is station owner Tavis Smiley with “insightful conversations with thought leaders, opinion makers, celebrities, authors and artists.”

At 12 noon Middays with Danny Morrison presents a community-centered program from “a politically astute, socially conscious, unapologetically opinionated, call to action warrior.” D.L. Hughley lightens afternoons somewhat from 2-4 with a “no hold barred ride of reality and humor.” At 4:00 every weekday afternoon, Alonzo Boded asks “Who’s Paying Attention?” As he attempts to root out the truth in an entertaining fashion.

At 7 p.m., Dr. Jeshana Johnson gets to the heart of relationships on Let’s Get Intimate … something particularly important as we re-enter life after the pandemic. Finally at 9:00, Don Amiche Vs. Everybody + Crysta and Kiara bringing “the other side of news, politics, pop culture, and life.” Repeats and best-of segments will air on the station between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

Using the branding of “unapologetically progressive,” the station launched on Saturday June 19th — Juneteenth — with a sort of sneak preview; the official format began this past Monday June 21st. Give it a listen and tell me what you think.