Back to Wag-Net Main Page

Radio AM to FM: May 21, 2004

The Station in My Mind

I've mentioned many times in the past that I think KIIS-FM is a shell of its former self, when the top-40 station literally dominated the local airwaves. Last week I alluded to the fact that conditions now are very much the same as in 1982, the year KIIS-FM began its meteoric rise to the top of the Los Angeles ratings, and that the time may be ripe for a new challenger to shake things up.

But what should that KIIS-killer sound like? Here is my version.

Production and presentation: uncluttered. As opposed to far too many stations today, which have numerous production elements at every break and generic music beds playing whenever the personality speaks, my station would be clean and simple. No music beds under anything, my personalities will be allowed to actually talk one on one with the listener. The effect is a far more intimate relationship with the audience, building greater audience loyalty.

Music: Primarily current hits, ranging from urban to alternative to crossover country. I'd set the mix at approximately 50% current with the top hits airing about every 90 to 120 minutes. Sounds too repetitive? Not when you realize people only listen to the radio for short periods at a time and they want to hear their favorite hits whenever they tune in. I'd work hard to be the first to air new music, using the slogan "tomorrow's hits today."

To add a bit of flavor, I'd carry about 30% recurrents, or songs in recent memory that may not be on the current charts. Hits in the past 5 years from Blink 182 or Third Eye Blind would fit in here. About 10% would be hits from the 1980s (Prince, Michael Jackson), 5% would be from the 1960s - 70s (those that aren't burnt from being overplayed on Arrow 93), and 5% would be reserved for listener requests.

Personalities would work 3-hour shifts to stay fresh, and there would be no voice tracking. Assuming I couldn't convince Ron Engelman and John London to reunite, Bobby Ocean would be my morning man paired with a real newscaster such as Lee Marshall, Liz Fulton, Sharon Dale, or Rick Jager.

9-noon would be Pat Garrett, noon to 3 would be Paul Freeman, 3-6: Big Ron O'Brien, 6-9: Sue Hall, Shana, or Maggie McKay, and 9-midnight Mike O'Neil. Overnights would feature China Smith, whose voice is perfect for that shift or later evenings. If any of those people were not available, I'd go after Nancy Plum, Sie Holliday, Laurie Allen, Brother Bill, or J. J. Johnson, or people of similar high caliber.

News: five minute casts twice an hour in the morning, once every hour (or so) through 7 PM. My listeners are intelligent, and I don't want them tuning away to another station such as KFI to get their news.

Jingles: an absolute necessity. A good jingle package makes your station sound exciting and vibrant, and helps jog your listeners' memories when they start filling in the ratings diaries. Most legendary stations such as KHJ, KFRC, WLS, WCFL KCBQ or even KIIS-FM are remembered by their jingles. Depending on the call-letters, I'd try to get a variation of the WLS or KCBQ jingles.

Commercials: two to a set. Since so many stations stack up to 15 minutes of commercials at a time, advertisements get lost in the shuffle and in the tune-out. I'd be back to music faster than anyone else, and ads on my station would get prime exposure ... allowing me to charge more per spot which in turn lets me lower the number of commercials airing per hour. People would stay "switched on" to my station rather than tuning to something else as soon as s break starts.

Promotions: Fun, without necessarily being expensive. The air staff would go out into the public for live broadcasts or special promotions, go to the high schools, and even cover the local high school sports. I want to have the station that every teenager or college student tunes in after the big game or event. Remember, at night, its the kids and young adults who actually listen to radio while everyone else watches TV.
Programmer: Chuck Martin or Craig Carpenter. Both know how to program a great station.

Call Letters: I generally like call-letters better than "names." I can't get KHJ, KEZY, or KCBQ; maybe KRJB would be good. I need to convince my father-in-law to help finance the purchase of my station anyway, and his initials make for good calls. And I don't care if I get AM or FM ... my format would work on either.

Seriously, if these ideas sound somewhat familiar, they probably are: almost every successful top-40 station in the history of radio used most of them. For whatever reason, stations today are afraid to use many proven successful elements, which makes their programming sound bland ... and just like every other station in town.

I've assembled them here for use by whoever wishes to make a dent in the ratings ... and/or offer me a consulting job.


Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

To subscribe to The Daily Breeze, call (310) 540-5511