Monday, July 14, 2008
Radio: EmmiS.O.S. - a review
Last week, radio stocks took their tumble and Emmis became the lightning rod for all things wrong with radio.
It’s not fair to single out Emmis except that when you have underperforming (putting it kindly) properties in the top three radio markets you become a case study - plus picking on Clear Channel is so yesterday.
Let’s pay a quick visit to those cities and Emmis' problematical stations.
In New York, Emmis has WRXP - a rock format designed by committee. Don’t get me wrong. I’m the last to recommend or support specific format definitions – but, now, after umpteen weeks I have to ask, “What are you?” Don’t say evolving. Every format is supposed to do that.
When RXP signed on, its web site carried an exhaustive rationalization for the first two songs it played (R.E.M.’s new “Supernatural Superserious” and the Velvet Underground’s thirty-eight year old chesnut, “Rock & Roll.”) to define its format. That page has now disappeared from view.
Remember that Lovin’ Spoonful song, “It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll?” Exactly. If you have to explain….
RXP was too hip for the room. It pitched the hipster. Mistake number one. Hipsters don’t like anything popular. A successful format needs its superstars and established artists. Don't want to go that route? There's always college radio. That's what it's there for.
The original alternative rock format of the eighties and early nineties was, with few exceptions, a one-share format because most dropped artists from airplay once they gained mass acceptance. That meant the playlists of alt-rockers were top-heavy on acts that could draw fifty people on a good night.
Gray hairs will recall a time when the album rock format would delete artists from its library when they had a crossover hit. Artists like Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young "sold out." A top 40 hit translated to a kiss of death for the band from the hipsters. These album rockers weren’t even cracking a one-share back then – and for good reason.
In all fairness, RXP just got a new PD – a creative, innovative PD; they’re still hiring an airstaff, and fine-tuning their music. But I ask…why? Those elements should have already been in place when RXP signed on. It was rushed-on the air for all the wrong reasons.
In the age when radio was still cool you could build a station while it was on the air. Z100 in 1983 is a perfect example.
But in these modern times, when attention spans are minimized, you’d better be right the first time. You may not get a second chance to win over potential listeners.
In Los Angeles Emmis has Movin’. Two words: Jammin’ Oldies. Three more: Just as successful. When someone digs themselves in a hole, you don’t pick up the shovel and dig another one right next to them.
Let’s visit Chicago and Emmis’ two shattered stations – victims of paralysis by analysis. In the latest Arbitron both stations are tied for 19th place.
Remember when these stations were to be “reinvented”?
I deliberately sent in an application for that job – just to see if it had anything to do with straightening out their two troubled stations’ programming. It didn’t. The Coot had that part “under control.” In other words, it wasn't his fault they had no listeners. It was the marketing. Uh-huh?
The Loop? A station that’s lost in music, lost in time. Its talent trapped in a dated, image-less station stuck in an unholy relationship with prophet of doom. There’s no excuse for the Loop’s lock at the bottom of the Arbitron though the Coot always seems to find a dozen of them up his sleazy sleeve.
Then there’s Q101. The Coot doesn’t know his alternative from active rock. Music on shuffle? That’s so Jake! Did he even read his own “bedroom” “study” (quotations on purpose)? If he appraised his own “research” he’d learn that the alternative rock audience doesn’t want to hear some radio station’s shuffle – especially a commercial station they used to listen to until it got too Edged out – and doesn’t have a remote idea what alternative is or what music is popular today to its listeners.
Here’s a free clue. Not every male listening to rock music is a member of Knucklehead Nation. In fact, most aren’t. Capish?
I think the Coot needs a new slogan for his “research” and unctuous cheerleading: Fake – but accurate.
For Emmis, I agree that obits have been precipitately posted and its requiems are being prematurely sung.
There’s a difference between committees and teams.
A camel is a horse designed by a committee.
I know of no successful radio station built by a committee but I can easily recognize the most successful stations as the end result of teamwork.
I’d try explaining teamwork to the Coot but, once gain; it would be like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll.