Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Yesterday we reported that KUSP-FM, Santa Cruz is switching formats to 24/7 Triple A/Progressive Rock in November. Critics of the new Triple A format argue that there is plenty of similar music already on radio in the market.  Our analysis finds that this is not true.

First the basics of the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz market:

Nielsen Audio Market Rank: #84
12+ Population: 592,300
Hispanic Share of Population: 44%
Median Home Cost: $645,000 (US average: $167,000)
Percentage of Persons With a College Degree: 31% (US average: 27%)


KPIG-FM [link

Format: Americana and Classic Rock
Type of Station: Commercial
Most Recent Nielsen Audio Ratings: Not Available

KPIG is a one-of-kind commercial station that combines alternative country, old hippie tunes and Americana into a musical stew that no doubt has many long-time listeners.  They have a distinct brand – all things pig – that they celebrate every day.

Discussion on KPIG’s social media pages indicates that the station is relying on more and more voice tracking.  Listeners are complaining about this development.

Playlist Sample:

How much of a competitive factor for KUSP?

Some. KPIG will provide a bit of competition for the new KUSP. But it is known factor. Without seeing KPIG’s ratings it is hard to tell much about their listeners. Chances are they serve lots of older hippies who have listened to them for years.  I expect they will share some listening with KUSP.

KRML AM/FM [link

Format: Classic Rock
Type of Station: Commercial
Most Recent Nielsen Audio Ratings: Not Available

KRML’s greatest claim to fame is that it was the location for Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut Play Misty For Me, in 1971. [This film still creeps me out…]

In 2012 KRML dropped its jazz format and began playing a home brew of older AOR hits and occasional lounge acts who are appearing at local bars (seriously)!  KRML bills itself as “the station for locals.”

Playlist Sample:

The Stray Cats - Stray Cat Strut
CALEXICO – Two Silver Trees
Dawes - Things Happen
Wall of Voodoo - Mexican Radio
Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

How much of a competitive factor for KUSP?

Not much.  KRML has no ratings footprint but it is hard to imagine that a substantial number of people tune it in. This is hand-to-mouth commercial radio where the station staff likely eats meals made possible by advertising trade outs. KRML-FM only covers about half of the market.

KZSC-FM [link]

Format: Student Favorites
Type of Station: Noncommercial
Most Recent Nielsen Audio Ratings: Not Available

Here is how KZSC describes itself:

The station’s responsibility to the UC Regents is to serve as a training ground for UC Santa Cruz students wishing to pursue a professional career or a vocational activity in the broadcast industry. The station is also obligated by the FCC to operate as a public service to Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey county audiences, offering programming in “the public interest.”

How much of a competitive factor for KUSP?


KKUP-FM [link]

 Format: Eclectic Music & Advocacy Talk Shows
Type of Station: Noncommercial
Most Recent Nielsen Audio Ratings: Not Available

Here is how KKUP describes itself:

KKUP FM is a non-commercial radio station broadcasting at 91.5 MHz. Staffed completely by volunteers and supported 100% by our listeners, we have provided an alternate source for music and information not readily available on other stations for nearly 40 years.

How much of a competitive factor for KUSP?

None. KKUP is literally a different radio station every hour.


  1. I've heard it said that Clint Eastwood himself used to be involved in the ownership of KRML but hasn't been for years; Eastwood is known for being a jazz fan so I doubt he's involved today. I don't know if he's even still got a house in Carmel anymore. The guy who bought it in 2011 and changed the format in 2012 (Scot McKay) sadly passed away in 2013. I wonder how well they're really doing these days?

  2. BTW, Ken, and you may have already accounted for this in your analysis, but the Central Coast of California is a rather different world when it comes to radio listening. Especially amongst the wealthier demo that KUSP both wants and needs to attract...a demo that doesn't always really "show up" in a ratings-based analysis, either.

    I'm not sure this necessarily applies to KUSP and the Santa Cruz/Monterey area. I've been through there once or twice, and I know a handful of radio people in the area. I know the San Luis Obispo market better, as well as south of SLO down to Santa Barbara. I'm told the dynamic is comparable enough to be relevant here.

    Some of these folks just really dig the bizarre "block format" approach to programming that stations like KZSC and KKUP (does KKUP really get into the Monterey area? Those mountains are murderous to FM coverage)...never mind more "normal" stations like KRML and KPIG.

    That said, I think KUSP has the ability to blow them all away. I'm just saying that I think there's more competition for the listeners KUSP needs than one might ordinarily think.