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July 31, 2007

What's In Your Breaknotes?

I've always been a fan of CIDC (Z103.5), Toronto's unusual Top 40 station that combines the rhythmic (but not entirely so) lean of my American major-market CHRs with a healthy dose of new dance music. At this moment, for instance, Z103.5 is playing a Canadian techno dance version of the theme from "The Godfather."

And I know it's Canadian because Z103.5's "now playing" page helpfully tells me not only if a song is Canadian, but how exactly it qualifies under the convoluted "Can-Con" system to measure local contents. All four possible aspects of Danny D's "La Cosa Nostra (The Underworld)" qualify as Canadian--music, artist, production and lyrics (although in the case of this song, there are none, really). Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer," on the other hand, was apparently not produced in Canada and is only three parts "Can-Con."

I don't know if Z103.5's Webmaster was intending to post "MAPL" information for every song they play. My guess is that it's yet another example of the "break notes" from a station's log showing on the station's Website or audio player because that's where the "now playing" information is linked from. And even if that's not Z103.5's issue, it remains an glitch for many stations that stream.

Since the early '00s, I've seen stations that helpfully share a lot of their behind-the-scenes information with anybody with a Web player. The most common one is the names of the sweepers that run in between records (e.g., "linker No. 4"). But occasionally, I've seen more detailed information on where to frontsell records or how to execute contests. And one day, I fully expect to see something that listeners really aren't meant to see--instructions to a jock to make sure there's a female contest winner, for example.

Whenever I've reached out to a PD buddy to let them know that I can see their breaknotes on line, the answer is usually, "Yeah, I know, I've asked them to do something about that." And I actually enjoy knowing MAPL info for Canadian hits, so I hope Z103.5 doesn't change. But for anybody else who doesn't want to share all their log information with every listener and perhaps the competition, this might be a good time to revisit this issue with your IT person or music software vendor.

July 30, 2007

30 Under 30 Honored at the 2007 Conclave Learning Conference

Edison Media Research presented the awards for the 30 most promising young talents in Radio at the Conclave 007: Radio Under Construction.
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The luncheon held to honor these radio professionals took place on Saturday June 30th in Minneapolis. Bob Eubanks addressed the audience with entertaining clips from his hit show, "The Newlywed Game." Edison President and Co-Founder, Larry Rosin, spoke about how important these young talents are to the radio industry. He encouraged them to continue on in their achievements and contributions to radio.

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Larry also announced that this was going to be the first of an annual 30 Under 30 Talent Search. A new search for Edison's next 30 Under 30 will take place at the end of this year and will be celebrated at the 2008 Learning Conference in Minneapolis during the weekend of June 26-28th at the Marriott City Center, Minneapolis.

Congratulations again to Daniel Anstandig, Michael Bryan, Buck Head, Chase, Tommy Chuck, Matt DuBiel, Jon Daniels, Spero Dedes, Fisher, Rob Garcia, Scott Herrold, Jeremiah 'J.' Hicks, Matt Johnson, Kane, J Kruz, James Kurdziel, Bo Matthews, Dustin Matthews, Maynard, Jared Mims, Drew Murrell, Chris Oliviero, Chris Pickett, Jana Rogers, Romeo, Nadine Santos, Brad Savage, Patrick 'Nick' Thomas, Adam Uytman and Ryan Zimmerman.

A Station You'd Want To Have A Beer With

We suggested a few months ago that WCRR (Country 107.3) Rochester, N.Y.--the commercial-free market rimshotter that Clear Channel recently launched to flank format leader WBEE--would probably end up doing some sort of sponsorship deal along the lines of sister KZPS (Lone Star 92.5) Dallas.

Last week, that idea came to fruition as the station rebranded itself as Labatt Blue Country 107.3. Seems like you could have a lot of fun with that idea, but so far the Labatt mentions are minimal, both on the station's Website and on-the-air. As heard Friday and today, Labatt is getting a mention in roughly every other produced drop on the station (and in keeping with the formatics heard on many Clear Channel stations) that works out to roughly every fourth song. In most cases, the mentions are as simple as "Labatt Blue Country 107.3."

Also interesting to note that the station--at least as heard on line this morning--is not commercial free anymore. At 12:26, a spot for a local lawyer's office was heard.

It's early days, so far. But the station recalls the early days of the now-defunct WWZZ (Z104) Washington, D.C.'s McDonald's Morning Show, another concept that was never taken quite as far as it could have been--perhaps because of the negative publicity that accompanied it in the industry. One wouldn't want every station to be an advertorial, but this one is a natural--so why not do more with it?

July 27, 2007

A Station That COULD Sell HD Receivers?

From the beginning, I've believed that it probably makes as much sense to use HD radio multicast channels to create or reinforce national brands. Having KROQ Los Angeles on HD-2 in Phoenix made sense to me. Putting resources into having a handful of real radio stations that could sound good in any market made sense to me--and how can you complain about giving up localism on the jockless, minimally produced stations that are so much of the multicast universe anyway?

And it also makes sense to put successful Internet radio brands on an HD multicast channel. So this report that WOXY.com, the Internet outpost of the one-time WOXY-FM Cincinnati, is now going to be heard as a side channel for public radio's WXVU Cincinnati, is a terrific idea. As an Internet-only station, WOXY has had its ups-and-downs, but we know that there are at least some people who would pay to hear it--something that can't be said about a lot of HD-2 channels.

July 26, 2007

A Great Productivity Tool

Here at Edison, we have been early and heavy users of 37 Signals products for over two years now--we use Basecamp to manage internal projects (and as our secure client portal) and I use Highrise for contacts and conversation tracking. I have always personally used a third product, Backpack, as a kind of mobile temporary scratch pad--I will send my week's travel info/confirmation numbers to it and I can easily access it on my phone whenever I need it. I hadn't used some of Backpack's other wiki-like features, though, since moving things around and reorganizing information was such a pain. Pain no more! Backpack's recent update is so good, and makes this great online organization/collection tool so much more usable, that I pass it along here for all of our friends and colleagues. The calendar is great, mobile phone access is near-perfect, and it is the best way I know to keep all of the detritus I might need to look at on the road--todo lists, meeting notes, old emails--handy and accessible from my laptop or iPhone no matter where I am. Now that I can move snippets of data from page to page easily, it just became my traveling office full-time. I know there are some consultants and other heavy road warriors reading this--check it out and thank me later!

HD Radio Overview from CNET

Steve Tobak posts a great overview of the hitches with HD Radio adoption, primarily from Ibiquity's side of things, over on CNET. Amongst the highlights:

To add to the company's woes, last year the broadcasting industry ponied up $200 million in advertising funds to promote the new service, but nobody seemed to notice. Maybe that's because the advertising was on broadcasters' airwaves, which strikes me as a relatively narrow media plan.

July 23, 2007

The Bedroom Project

I am pleased to see the radio industry starting to take a bit more interest in qualitative research, a subject I am particularly passionate about. That's why I am pleased that Arbitron has funded The Bedroom Project, an honest-to-gosh piece of ethnographic research from our friends at Jacobs Media. Fred wrote about it today, and I am normally not a 'rip-and-read' kind of blogger, but anytime I see radio delving into qualitative research to gain insight, I have to give some props.

Ethnographic research is nothing new--in fact, this sort of in situ consumer observation has long been de rigueur in the consumer products industry. I went to a Marketing Research Association conference a couple of years back that spotlighted some of the ethnographic work done by Tide and other household brands designed to see how people use the product, not just hear them describe it, and the amount of insight they gained into things like no-drip bottles was astounding. I love conducting focus groups (I've done 13 in the past 3 weeks alone!) but ethnographic research is a perfect tool to gain insight into products or services that people tend to take for granted, or use as a utility--products like toilet paper, detergent and--for many--radio. By observing interactions with the product we place less stress on the respondent to articulate product distinctions and to essentially do our work for us by attempting to be specific about behaviors and attitudes ofwhich they may only be partially aware. There is, of course, always a kind of Heisenberg Principle at work in ethnography, but you really can't shake that in any kind of research.

I'd love to see radio do more of this kind of work--especially now with the advent of PPM and the importance of radio in public spaces. Observing a garage, or an office, for instance, would tell us more about how and why radio gets selected and consumed in the workplace than a hundred strategic studies. Edison keeps up on the state of the art for ethnography and other qualitative techniques through our membership and participation in the Advertising Research Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about current theory and past practices of this technique, their Journal for Advertising Research is a great place to start.

July 20, 2007

What Hasn't Come Back (So Far) To CBS-FM

Don't know if I've burned anybody out yet on the return of WCBS-FM New York, but here's one interesting sidenote:

An on-line posting of what songs have and have not made the cut since CBS-FM came back, the latter based on the station's former playlist as an Oldies station pre-2005:

One caveat here: I've actually heard a few of the songs in the latter group on the air already. There are also a number of songs on the not-playing list that are reliably hits for most Oldies and Classic Hits stations that might have been left off for lack of tempo during the sign-on, but will probably find their way on to the station before too long. Others might have been on the station during its last year, but had disappeared from CBS-FM (and many other Oldies stations) by the time Jack came along in summer 2005.

July 16, 2007

Heard This Week On The Infinite Dial

You'd be forgiven for thinking that I didn't listen to much except WCBS-FM this week, but here are a few other interesting things that rate a mention (and perhaps a listen):

* CKJN (Jayne FM) Haldimand County, Ontario, -- The first affiliate of the Jones Radio Networks-distributed "variety hits for women" format "Jayne FM" can't be called typical. The hours I heard were 65% Canadian, and older than the American mix will likely be. But you can now hear VO veteran/creator Robin Marshall's imaging in action--which will give you an idea of what the format is supposed to sound like presentationally. You can also hear the format demo and more of the female-lifestyle imaging here.

* WRCR Rockland County, N.Y. -- You don't hear a lot of full-service AMs that play music these days. I came across this one while driving on the fringes of their listening area this weekend, but they stream as well. Full-service AC with a surprisingly Jack-like feel musically (e.g., everything from War and INXS to Len/"Steal My Sunshine" and Shakira). Also managed to tune them in when their afternoon jock announced that she had gotten married this weekend and played "White Wedding."

* WCBS-HD-2 (Jack-FM)--Okay, this probably doesn't count as much of a departure from WCBS-FM as a topic, but the Jack-FM that moved to the Internet/HD-2 multicast feed still sounds, at this writing, a lot like the one that left the HD-1 frequency last Thursday. WCBS-FM's first hour has been well-documented, but theirs was:

Beatles, "Revolution"
A3, "Woke Up This Morning" (in keeping with the Sopranos theme of the station's sign-off)
Tom Petty & Heartbreakers, "The Waiting"
Elton John, "Crocodile Rock"
Talking Heads, "And She Was"
Third Eye Blind, "Jumper"
Queen, "Another One Bites The Dust"
Styx, "Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)"
Depeche Mode, "Strangelove"
Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
Billy Squier, "Everybody Wants You"
Loverboy, "Working For The Weekend"
Bangles, "Walk Like An Egyptian"

* KFRC San Francisco -- I turned them in to hear Dave Sholin back in action in mornings, but was also intrigued by this drop at the end of a stopset "Thanks for being patient. Your reward is more Classic Hits on 106.9 KFRC." You might read that as positioning commercials as something to be endured. But knowing that most listeners still regard commercials as a fair trade-off for music, saying "thank you" is a nice (and surprisingly novel) idea.

July 14, 2007

HD's (second) Biggest Obstacle

It has been over a year since I wrote The Next Ten Years: Radio's Biggest Challenge, an article that generated lots of constructive feedback, criticism and most importantly, dialogue. In that article, I articulated the Human Resources challenge radio must confront if it intends to remain a competitive venture (a challenge that was one of our primary motivations for starting 30 Under 30). I know my colleagues in business school generally hated the "soft skills" classes, gravitating instead towards Operations or Equity Analysis, but no matter how brilliant your operational strategy, it gets executed by people. Attracting, retaining, managing and compensating people is where the rubber meets the road as far as the radio industry is concerned.

I think that issue is at the heart of a point made recently by the BBC's James Cridland. Cridland points out the lack of cross promotion on US (and UK) commercial radio, and notes that program directors are incentivized on their own station's results, not the performance of their group or cluster. I have even heard myself of programmers being advised to make their HD2 channels "unlistenable" to partisans of the main terrestrial signal, which may be the only fiscally responsible position at the station level, but is hardly good for the strategic positioning of HD.

What you measure, you get--until programmers are paid based upon the performance of a given cluster or station's entire suite of offerings (and not just the 25-54 rank of their terrestrial station) they will continue to drive those ratings at the expense of HD or Internet initiatives, and with the current HR strategy of most broadcasters, they are not wrong to do so.

Will tomorrow be a "real" day of silence for webcasters?

Business week reported yesterday the decision that really isn't a decision--SoundExchange will not (yet) collect all those royalty fees tomorrow. This doesn't mean they aren't due, of course, but it does signal at least a willingness to engage webcasters on a more constructive level.

As I mentioned in the BusinessWeek article, there are plenty of webcasters (notably Live365, which may have the most to lose) that were going to keep broadcasting no matter what. After the events of yesterday, others may choose to hang in there as well (which is why I was saddened to read in Jaye Albright's blog that TwangTownUSA has decided to go dark--hang in there, Twangers!)

Still, despite SoundExchange's "commitment" (i.e., not an "agreement" or "legally binding decision") to allow webcasters to keep streaming during this process, significant uncertainty still remains (Kurt Hanson puts the SaveNetRadio.org 'countdown clock' at "2 days and holding.") For my part, as someone who has been involved with streaming audio since the late 90's, I would almost like to see this go to court--not the circuit courts or panels of copyright judges where this issue has primarily been contended, but a good ole' civil suit (potentially with a jury full of music lovers). That might be the most riveting trial on Court TV since O.J.

July 12, 2007

Online Radio - Back in Business?

This would do more to promote illegal file sharing than anything the record industry has ever done, but maybe cooler heads have prevailed.

First Listen: The Return Of WCBS-FM

It's the most heavily covered format change of the year so far--tons of stories not only in the local press but as far afield as the Los Angeles Times. But for anybody who wasn't near a radio or the Internet at 1:01 this afternoon when WCBS-FM returned to Oldies after two years as "Jack-FM," or anybody who listened to the format change, then moved on before the station went into its regular format, here are some notes from the 2 p.m. hour and throughout the afternoon and early evening to give you a quick sense of what the new/old station sounds like so far.

1) If you're not happy with how Oldies has evolved over the years, you will indeed have some issues with this station. Even before the sign-on, it was announced that the new CBS-FM would play some music from the '80s, and would bring back station veterans Bob Shannon and Dan Taylor, but not Cousin Brucie or any of the WABC/WMCA icons who had become the public face of the station. And there was at least one moment this afternoon where WCBS-FM was playing "Jack And Diane" while WLTW was playing Diana Ross' version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," a song that was 12 years older.

2) That said, it DOES sound like WCBS-FM, even when it's playing "Glory Days" or "Let's Hear It For The Boy." Some of that is the power of the jingles and presentation. Some of that is that Joe McCoy's WCBS-FM would, for much of its existence, have played "Let's Hear It For The Boy" anyway. And I've already heard from a few people this afternoon who didn't much like the station that left in 2005 who are just fine with this one, even with Huey Lewis & the News in the mix. Just shows what two years away will do to make a station more appreciated.

3) There's not a strict 1964 (or 1966) cutoff of the sort that some Oldies stations have imposed over the years--there's still "Do You Love Me" by the Contours (unless you count that song as 1987) and even "Summertime Blues" in the mix. (There's also a summer songs stager that has given the station license to play "Summer Rain," "Under The Boardwalk" and even the Cowsills' "Indian Lake" as well.) That, along with the '70s and '80s titles does keep the station from feeling as claustrophobic as some of the Oldies stations that superserve 1968-1972 and a very thin sliver of everything else. There's also a decent representation of songs that used to be part of the overplayed Top 300 of all time, but had gotten harder to find in recent years--"Wooly Bully," "Incense and Peppermints," etc.

4) If you were a Jack partisan, this will be listenable for you, but it won't be entirely satisfying. The true Pat Benatar/John Mellencamp/Prince/Boston person will listen to the new WCBS-FM, but the hole still remains for WPLJ or somebody else to reclaim the '80s. (Or for Jack's new HD-2 incarnation to become the most successful HD-2 station ever.) That said, I did hear "Little Red Corvette" into "Magic Man" tonight, which would have been a very good Jack segue.

And here's one aspect of the change that has gotten little publicity: So far, the station has had no commercials--just sponsorship billboards at the top of each hour. Presumably, if this were going to be a permanent development, we'd have heard about it by now. And the jocks are stopping to talk in those usual stopset places--suggesting that there will be something there eventually. But if the station was able to maintain sponsorships only, that would be bigger news than any format change.

Here's the second hour of WCBS-FM at 2 p.m. today:

Tommy James & Shondells, "Mony Mony" (1968)
Donna Summer, "Last Dance" (1978)
Sam the Sham & Pharaohs, "Wooly Bully" (1965)
Bruce Springsteen, "Pink Cadillac" (1984)
Earth Wind & Fire, "Sing A Song" (1975)
Mungo Jerry, "In The Summertime" (1970)
Elvis Presley, "Suspicious Minds" (1969)
KC & Sunshine Band, "That's The Way (I Like It)" (1975)
Doors, "Light My Fire" (1967)
Elton John, "Philadelphia Freedom" (1975)
Blondie, "Heart Of Glass" (1979)
Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (1965)
Steve Miller Band, "Take The Money And Run" (1976)
Sam & Dave, "Soul Man" (1967)
Boz Scaggs, "Lowdown" (1976)
Temptations, "My Girl" (1965)
Steve Winwood, "Roll With It" (1988)
Spinners, "The Rubberband Man" (1976)

July 11, 2007

Jack Leaving 101.1 As He Arrived: Snarky

When KJKK Dallas, the first American "Jack-FM" launched, the sign-on began with a dialogue between the imaging voice of KRBV (V100), the frequency's previous Top 40 occupant, and "voice of Jack" Howard Cogan in which, if memory served, Cogan chided the V100 imaging guy for sounding too smarmy.

So I've been spending a lot of time with WCBS-FM New York in its last days as Jack-FM, in advance of its return to Oldies tomorrow, to see how they handle Jack's last days before the format moves to the HD-2 multicast channel/Internet feed.

Last night, I heard a fairly standard promo for the switch, emphasizing Jack's new address, which also contained brief plugs for co-owned WXRK (K-Rock) and WWFS (Fresh 102.7). (The promo can be heard by opening the Jack-FM homepage.) This afternoon, I heard a more in-character promo in which Cogan/Jack-voice is delivered flowers and a telegram reading, "Have a nice cruise. See you in HD-2, signed Bob Shannon."

Shannon is the former CBS-FM afternoon host who will return to the new station for middays and, apparently, the new public face of the revived station. (That promo would have been devastating if it had been signed Cousin Brucie, but I am personally very excited about getting to hear Bob on the radio again.)

In any event, it's worth noting that CBS is learning from some of the mistakes of the Oldies-to-Jack flip. Based on all descriptions, it will be palatable for much of the existing cume. And they're also not blindsiding that existing cume with the transition this time.

And if you haven't yet seen the Ross On Radio column about Jack's departure from New York, and the fifth anniversary of Bob-FM and the formats that followed, click here.

One Man's Humble Thought About the iPhone

iphone_galleryads_20070622.jpgI have been playing with my iPhone pretty steadily for the past few days. The interface is magic--after using it for a while, when I go back to my Macbook I want to flick the screen with my finger and make pages scroll faster. I get aggravated that I cant just "pinch" my laptop screen to make photos bigger. And I can't stop checking the weather (but that says more about me than the iPhone).

One small point about the iPhone, however, bears mentioning in this space. While there have been phones that allowed you to listen to music files in the past, it will be the iPhone that cements the idea of phone-as-music device into the minds of the average consumer, who previously imagined that listening to music over that lone crackly speaker can't be an enjoyable experience. Now, however, the thought of using your phone as your primary music player is not so jet-packy.

All this means is that instead of lamenting the fact that iPods don't have FM tuners, we should be focusing instead on creating killer Internet experiences that stand alone, and not as mere replications of our on-air programming. There is more than one way to get on the iPhone, and the fact that the device relies on web-based applications (and not on a software development kit) means that it is easier, not harder, to stake your claim on that little screen.

July 8, 2007

Listening To Oldies On CBS-FM...Just A Little Early?

For the last three days, the press reports about WCBS-FM New York's return to Oldies have been writing about it as a virtual certainty--even if nobody at CBS has actually confirmed it yet. So I thought it would be interesting to get a head start by throwing on WCBS-HD-2, the multicast channel/Internet station that has kept the Oldies format alive for the past two years under the yeoman's efforts of station veteran-turned-Internet PD Jeff Mazzei and programming coordinator Maria Martello.

That's not a casually offered shout-out there, by the way. The strategy of keeping a defunct radio station alive on the Internet, or now on an HD-2 channel, goes back at least five years. It usually lasts about three to six months. So it's impressive that WCBS-HD-2 has hung in this long, doing a '50s-through-'80s format reminiscent of the broad mix that the station offered through most of its history. And in an era where most terrestrial stations are cutting back resources, it is remarkable that WCBS-HD-2 sported a four-person staff and some hosted shifts.

And if you're one of the people who checks this blog on Sunday night, or gets new content alerts, you can actually hear one of those hosted shifts right now. All weekend, the station has been celebrating the 35th birthday of Oldies on WCBS-FM (or its HD-2 successor) with a series of Top 20 countdowns, including this one from the day the station launched in 1972. And after hearing a countdown that includes "Sylvia's Mother," "Alone Again (Naturally)," and the Donny Osmond version of "Too Young," you can understand how 1972 must have seemed like a pretty good time to launch an Oldies station, given the relative mushiness of pop music that summer.

July 6, 2007

Choosing Urban's Top 20

R&B trade publication Radio Facts is doing a search for the top 20 programmers in Urban radio. To vote, click here.

July 5, 2007

Who Gets Next To Carrie Underwood?

Talk to anybody, particularly somebody outside our industry, about Top 40 in the '60s or '70s, and the first thing they'll mention is usually the variety. And when they're talking about that variety, they inevitably illustrate it by citing the breadth of artists you could hear. And one of those artists is usually Country--e.g., "I remember when you would hear Prince/Delirious and then hear Kenny & Dolly/Islands In the Stream on the same radio station." And the variants on that one go back at least as far as Marty Robbins and Ferlin Husky on Top 40 in the late '50s/early '60s.

Top 40 has, of course, had many golden ages of variety since then. Country crossovers became a rarity at Top 40 radio for about a decade between 1987 and 1997, but by the latter year, you could then turn around and cite LeAnn Rimes, Puff Daddy, Hanson, and Third Eye Blind on the same station if you wanted to.

Now, of course, the mainstream Top 40 success of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats"--the most truly Country crossover since "Achy Breaky Heart"--is making for some great segues at Top 40, particularly given the tendency of many Top 40 stations to alternate pop and rhythm when they schedule music.

According to Mediabase daily logs from June, when "Before He Cheats" was at its peak in many places, these are some of the records that flanked Carrie at various stations. There was a lot of Carrie next to Justin, Fergie, and Pink. Here are some of the other more unusual ones.

So the next time somebody tells you how much more variety there was in the old days, you can tell them that in 2007, it was possible to hear Carrie Underwood...

* Between Coolio/"Gangsta's Paradise" and Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" (Z100 New York);

* Into Quietdrive's remake of "Time After Time" (WBLI Long Island);

* Into E-40's "U + Dat" (WSPK Poughkeepsee, N.Y.);

* Between Fall Out Boy's new "Tnks Fr The Mmrs" and Janet Jackson's "All For You" (KQMQ Honolulu);

* Into Shop Boyz' "Party Like A Rock Star" (WZKL Canton, Ohio);

* Into Jay-Z's "I.Z.Z.O. (H.O.V.A.)" (WKSE Buffalo);

* Between Finger 11's "Paralyzer" and Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000" (on CKEY Buffalo, licensed to Canada, and therefore obligated to play a certain amount of Canadian content);

* Between Nick Lachey's "What's Left Of Me" and J-Kwon's "Tipsy" (WXLK Roanoke, Va.)

* Between Ciara's "Like A Boy" and Baby Boy's "The Way I Live" (KDWB Minneapolis).

KDWB, by the way, later went from the same Ciara song into Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me" into "Before He Cheats" into Bow Wow's "Outta My System," which is a pretty good TV miniseries when you string the plots of those songs together.

Radio junkies have a long history of pointing out unusual segues to each other (my favorite is still "Draw the Line" by Aerosmith into "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" on an automated Top 40 station in 1979). So I run the risk of having somebody think my intent here is derisive--which it isn't. Besides, the so-called "trainwreck" segue has become a badge-of-honor for many PDs in the post-iPod/Jack-Bob era. And while you can find some segues out of "Before He Cheats" that aren't big musical leaps (e.g., "U + Ur Hand"), there's really nothing else on pop radio that sounds like it. So PDs who didn't sit out a hit record were pretty much compelled to recapture the spirit of 1967, or 1997, by letting Carrie come up next to something entirely different.

July 3, 2007

The Original Bob At Five Years Old

Logo_chumBobFM.gif

Just as the first year of the Bob- and Jack-FM format went without much notice from the U.S. radio industry, so did the fifth anniversary of the first Bob-FM, CFWM (99.9 Bob FM) Winnipeg. But I was motivated to check them out this afternoon--almost exactly five years after I first encountered the station. (Count on a longer look at the format in an upcoming Ross On Radio.)

This was my first visit to Bob in a year or so (which, I suppose, says something in itself), and my first long stretch of the station since original programmer Howard Kroeger left. If I was coming upon the station for the first time today, I would still think it was nicely uptempo, well-focused, well-executed, and surprisingly cohesive for a station that goes from Green Day into Grand Funk, certainly more cohesive than many of the subsequent Adult Hits stations managed to be.

What's different now? For better or worse, it felt like there were fewer well-calculated surprises, even though this Bob never went as crazy with variety for its own sake as many imitators did. (Setting aside the government-mandated Cancon, I can't identify more than one song in the music monitor below that wouldn't test well for somebody.) Then again, that may just be a function of losing the shock of the new, and it's hard for anybody to keep that going for five years. It's been hard for a lot of the subsequent Bob- and Jack-FMs to keep it going for more than a year or two.

Here's Bob in middays today:

Green Day, "Holiday"
Grand Funk, "Some Kind Of Wonderful"
Nick Gilder & Sweeney Todd, "Roxy Roller" (Canadian)
Billy Joel, "You May Be Right"
Elton John, "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"
Crash Test Dummies, "Superman's Song" (Canadian)
Robert Plant, "Tall Cool One"
Bryan Adams, "When You're Gone" (Canadian)
Wings, "Live And Let Die"
Stevie Nicks & Don Henley, "Leather And Lace"
Tragically Hip, "Courage" (Canadian)
Pretenders, "Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)"

July 2, 2007

If UMG Wasn't On iTunes: Being Without "Be Without You"

Okay, maybe Universal Music Group's reported refusal to sign a new contract with the iTunes Music Store is just contractual brinkmanship. But just in case it isn't, I went through the "Purchased Music" playlist on my iTunes today, wondering how many of my current songs wouldn't be there if Universal's labels were not represented.

The answer, as it turns out, was about 20%--perhaps more allowing for a song here or there on a '60s or '70s label that might have eventually been absorbed by UMG. Without UMG's songs represented, I wouldn't own:

* "Sinner Man" by the Enemys--one of the garage bands that was led to Three Dog Night;

* "Part Of the Union" by the Strawbs--a '70s version of a pro-labor folk-song that can be called one of the strangest U.K. hits ever, even in a field that includes Crazy Frog and the Bob the Builder theme;

* "Midnight Flower", an obscure '70s R&B semi-hit by the Four Tops--more or less "Lady Marmalade" from the guy's point of view;

* "Be Without You/Stay With Me" by Mary J. Blige, her Grammy medley that added an obscure (but beloved) '60s R&B diva hit to her better-known song.

As you can tell from the rough obscurity level, most of these can easily be called discretionary purchases. Some are songs I would have lived without. Some are songs I would have eventually dubbed from my own vinyl. UMG has always had an excellent and comprehensive reissue program (hardly limited to a few for which I've written liner notes) and it would be sad for both sides if this was really a split.