Radio Waves: August 26, 2022

Naming a great format … poorly

What do you do when you have critical acclaim, devoted listeners, a lousy signal and little marketing? You change your name, from a rather forgettable “Independent 88.5 FM” to the even more forgettable “88.5 FM, The SoCal Sound.”.

OK, I am teasing … a bit. But I am old school – I like call letters, or variations of call letters. KHJ? KEZY? Ten-Q? KIIS-FM? K-WEST? KMET? KFI? KRLA? KOST 103? K-Earth? KROQ? Love them all. 

The Sound? Alt 98.7? Tolerated because the formats were/are great. Very listenable. And The Sound at least tried to match the name to the calls, though KSWD would hardly make someone think of “the sound,” so maybe they could have tried just a little bit harder.

My FM? Hate it … hate it. The format just can’t make up for such a lame name, which has nothing to do with the KBIG call letters. I have a similar issue with Jack-FM. And of course now there is the new “88.5 FM, The SoCal Sound.” It just doesn’t work for me. 

What’s my problem with it? No passion. Sounds weird. Too long. And yet, they actually have great call letters, though it is complicated with a two-station simulcast that tries to increase signal coverage. Personally, I’d just use KCSN (the simulcast station from Saddleback college, KSBR, is “OK” but definitely not as strong a brand. Maybe combine the two with the K and S that appear in both ad call it KS88, The SoCal Sound.” Much better overall, at least in my opinion. Less clutter.

By now you’re asking – why do I like real call letters? Simple …  like sports franchises, they belong to the city in which they live. There’s only one Dodgers. One Lakers. One KHJ. And one KIIS-FM. On the other hand, you can have an “alt” or a “my” in every city. And there are.

But this is not meant to take away from the 88.5 format – it’s an excellent adult album alternative (AAA) format that, like much of commercial LA radio skews too much into the oldies, but is immensely satisfying and can’t be found locally anywhere else on the dial. In spite of the name, go listen, either over the air, via an app, or at the website You’ll be glad you did.

Just ignore the name. Or maybe just tolerate it.

Wake-Up Call

I did an early semester lesson at San Pedro High recently, using sone geometry and statistics classes to demonstrate how surveys work and how data can be collected. Off the cuff, I asked six classes of students, all in grades 10 through 12, to write down their favorite radio station or favorite way to hear music.

There were 112 responses. Want to know how many radio stations were chosen? Four, with a total of six votes: KIIS-FM (102.7) garnered three, with KRRL (Real 92.3 FM), KKLA (99.5 FM), and K-Jazz (88.1 FM) earning one vote each.

On the other hand, 66 choose Spotify, 29 chose Apple Music, and the remaining votes were split among other online streaming services or apps.

That’s frightening, if you are a station owner or manager. Less than four percent of those surveyed chose a radio station as their favorite way to listen to music. In years past it would have been closer to 90.

But because the question regarded their “favorite” way to listen to music, a followup question became necessary to truly determine of their is an issue. That question is: What percentage of your music listening time is spent on streaming (Spotify, Apple, YouTube, etc), what percent on SiriusXM, and what percent on AM or FM radio?  Certainly streaming may be big as a first choice, but traditional radio has to be a close second, right?

Um … no. Just slightly more than 21 percent of the students surveyed listen to radio at all, and, and of those, over half said they listen to radio only about 10% of the time. On the other hand, fewer than 2.6 percent said that of streaming services, and fully 36 percent of respondents said they listen to streaming services at least 90% of the time.

I realize this is in no way a scientific, peer-reviewed, fully vetted survey using random sampling. But it surprised me, coming from a generation that grew up with the radio as one of our closest friends. Whether it was the top-40 days listening to Robert W. Morgan, Charlie Tuna, or Bobby Ocean, or the later days of Shana, Rita Wilde, Joe Benson, Jeff Gonzer, Jim Ladd or even Dr. Demento, radio was such a huge part of my life that I cannot imagine life without it. Yet many teens do just fine without AM or FM.

The trick is: can it be reversed? I think so. But I think it’s going to come from the small-time owners. The idea is so simple even a child could figure it out: play what kids want to hear, cut the commercials down to make each spot worth more and not drive away listeners, and get into their lives through promotions, live broadcasts, sponsored events and concerts. 

Kind of like radio used to do. You know, when it as an industry was successful.