Radio Waves: July 21, 2023

Pop Karma

Billboard Magazine announced last week that — with her song “Karma” making it to #1 on the Pop Airplay chart — Taylor Swift has tied the record for the most number one songs by an artist in the history of the chart.

“Karma” is her 11th #1 hit, and that record puts her in good company, tying with Maroon 5, Katy Perry, and Rihanna who all also had 11 Number 1s. Right below them is Justin Bieber with ten Number 1s. No other artists are in the double digits.

Now, you may be asking how can that be? What about The Beatles? The Bee Gees? Michael Jackson? Elvis? Well, it’s not really a technicality, but it has to do with what the list actually measures and how old the list goes back. In this case it is a measure not of sales, but how many times the song has been played by major stations across the country … and it only goes back as far as October, 1992.

If you investigate the actual number of times an artist hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, the leader in indeed The Beatles, with 20 Number 1 hits; Mariah Carey is second on that list with 19. Where’s Elvis? Third, with 18.

Small Town Radio

Brian Winnekins is the owner of WRDN/Durand Wisconsin, one of the handful of AM AM stations across the country still utilizing the Motorola C-Quam stereo system, which means that most current radios can’t decode the stereo signal, but many from the 1980s and ‘90s still can. With the improvements and investments in equipment he (and those in similar situations) have made, his stations sounds remarkable on any decent radio — stereo or not.

Durand is a small farming town, with a population of only about 1900 residents in the 2020 Census. But unlike some small town stations, Winnekins doesn’t take the easy way out by just putting on syndicated programming or political talk. Instead he takes his community service roll seriously, and presents extensive agricultural news and information, local high school athletic games, local news, local events, and local weather. Oh, and country music.

Note the word local. Back to that soon.

Recently, Winnekins posted information on Facebook regarding the station’s Summer programming special: “Doing the community service thing from our first fair of season,” he wrote. “Yes we do live video streams of livestock shows. Don’t laugh, we have 17 sponsors.”

Seventeen sponsors, in a town of fewer than 2000 residents, not counting the cattle. On a station that is on the band that some say is dead. How can that be?

Back to the word “local.” It is so key to connecting with your audience — and advertisers. That focus on the local audience is what makes the difference. An active audience that can then be reached by local advertisers who have no other easy way to reach their target customers.

But certainly you could not do that in Southern California. Really? Why not? There used to be local stations … in fact all the stations used to be local in some sense. But the move to become “bigger” can hurt when you can’t compete against the big boys with, for example, a limited signal. Or even just a limited budget. The solution? Program local.

The original setup of many stations was designed to be locally-focussed. As some stations grew, they became dominant, of course. But there was still room for stations serving a local audience. KGIL (now KMZT, 1260 AM) was designed and originally programmed for the San Fernando Valley. KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM) was for Anaheim. KFOX (now KDAY, 93.5 FM) was for Redondo Beach. How about a station actually programming to the local community, whatever that community may be? San Pedro … Wilmington … Huntington Park … Hermosa Beach… Fountain Valley… You get the idea.

If I was a local business owner, I could probably never afford to buy advertising time on KIIS-FM (102.7), and it would probably not be worth it even if I could. But if I could advertise on a station targeting my local community, it might be the best marketing investment I could make.

So as we continue the talk of helping improve radio, programmers must remember that local trumps all, even for the larger stations. KHJ (930 AM) wasn’t the most influential station of its time when it played top-40 because it syndicated its programming or used out of town DJs… it was so because it was Los Angeles… there were stations similar, but there was only on KHJ.  Only one KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM). Only one KROQ (106.7 FM). 

Be the best you can be, program locally, and there is no stopping you.

Wheel of Reaction

Not everyone was happy with the news that KIIS morning man Ryan Seacrest was chosen as the replacement host for “Wheel of Fortune” when Pat Sajak retires. Posts on social media were not all positive, and letters from you were not necessarily supportive either …

“Seacrest sucks! He’s going to drive that show off a cliff faster than Dick Clark in a van getting away from Michael Moore in ‘Bowling for Columbine.’” says reader Eric Peterson.

In case you don’t know the reference, as explained on, in the movie “the former American Bandstand host is ambushed outside his production office and made to look insensitive because he shuts a minivan door in the filmmaker’s face.”

I’m still reserving judgement. You never know who will make a good host … I thought Snoop Dogg was going to be awful on the relaunch of television game show “Joker’s Wild.” Instead he proved to be quite good at it. Who knew?