Friday, September 9, 2016


On Tuesday we reported about WMOT, Nashville’s switch from NPR News, Classical and Jazz programming to 24/7 Americana Roots Radio 89.5 FM [link]. When we said that WMOT might be the flagship station for Americana and a potentially powerful new player in Nashville, people listened. Our post attracted several hundred readers and was reposted on several Americana music blogs.

I wondered aloud how many other broadcast stations have made similar commitments to Americana music and asked readers to send me their suggestions.  Several folks did, thank you.

What constitutes Americana is in the ear of the beholder. Americana certainly includes traditional country, newish alternative country, bluegrass, rockabilly and folk. Some stations broaden the category with blues, progressive rock or various types of ethnic music.  Some stations (like WMOT) embrace Nashville and others avoid Music City in every way possible.

When I track stations, I look for shops that have made a significant commitment to a particularly format. Typically this means they are “in format” at least 12 hours a day. This the best way to make apples-to-apples comparisons between stations and get a sense of the national impact of the format.

From the reader suggestions and my own research I found six noncommercial Americana stations that I consider “cousins” of WMOT. There are also Triple A stations that dip into Americana and a few commercial stations of note.  Let me introduce you to these noncom stations:

1. Sun Radio KDRP, Austin [link]

The first station mentioned by every reader who responded was Sun Radio, KDRP in Austin. Sun Radio is an amalgamation of six (soon to be seven) FM stations that together serve Austin and Hill Country communities. Think of Sun Radio as an alternative to Nashville and WMOT but with the same passion for the music.

Sun Radio calls itself Roots Rock n Roll and that is an apt description. Most hours of the week are live DJ shifts. Specialty programs, many produced in Austin, air during early evenings and one weekends. One of the syndicated shows heard on KDRP is Music City Roots from the same folks who are programming WMOT.

KDRP occasionally subscribes to Nielsen Audio’s PPM ratings. In Fall 2015, Sun Radio had an estimated 44,500 weekly cumulative listeners. What impresses me most about KDRP is their intense involvement in Austin’s music scene.  Almost every night of the week, Sun Radio hosts events in clubs and concert halls. Some events – such as Texas Radio Live – are broadcast to the faithful.

2. FM 89.9 WEVL, Memphis [link]

WEVL is celebrating 40 years of broadcasting with The Ultimate Mix Tape Party Saturday, October 8th at Loflin Yard, a popular music club. At least five bands will be appearing including The Wevls, a local super-group based on music heard on WEVL.

The call letters W-E-V-L capture the essence of the station: "WE VoLunteer." The station operates with three paid staffers and several dozen volunteers. There are approximately 60 different programs each week on WEVL offering a full menu of Americana genres. Overall, WEVL emphasizes blues shows.

3. FM 89.9 WDVX, Knoxville [link]

WDVX first became nationally known in the late 1990s when it was broadcasting from a 14-foot camping trailer, parked at a campground off I-75.  Since then they moved to solid ground and now serve counties in the Cumberland Mountains and the Great Valley of East Tennessee.

According to the station’s webite, WDVX was started by a grassroots effort of passionate, like-minded people who wanted a radio station that represented the culture of the mountains and celebrated its music. WDVX was inspired by the songs that came from generations of people swapping tunes and picking on the porch.

WDVX’s air sound is mainly acoustic music but the station’s most popular program – The Blue Plate Special – heard at Noon on weekdays, is rocking boogie blues from then and now.

4. FM 88.7 WOBO, Cincinnati [link]

Each day WOBO lives up to its motto: The Station That Has Something For Everyone. The only thing consistent about WOBO is the diversity of programming ranging from bluegrass to jazz to ethnic music.

WOBO’s success story started in 1986 when it rescued WCNE, a high school station on the verge of oblivion.   WCNE’s license was obtained by a new 501c3 organization and became WOBO. The new owners moved transmissions to a 442’tower on land donated by a fan of bluegrass.

5. Radio Bristol WBCM, Bristol, VA [link]

WBCM is a LPFM station  that is part of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in historic downtown Bristol. It concentrates on American roots music, history and live performances such as The Radio Bristol Sessions and Farm and Fun Time.

6. 1063radiolafayette WIEE, Lafayette, LA [link]

1063radiolafayette is like to gumbo served at eateries around the bayou: spicy, hot and often surprising. The music mix ranges from zydeco to blues to the latest Triple A hit tracks. WIEE is comfortable playing Maria McBride next to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The vibe is a college party.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Public media folks will gather in Phoenix Tuesday (9/20) through Thursday (9/22) for the annual Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD) Content Conference [link]. The conference technically begins on Monday (9/19) with an opening reception. 

I have attended 21 previous “PRPD’s” but I will not be attending this one. Since I’ve become a blogger I am living on a paltry journalist’s budget. I’m not complaining but this is my reality. I asked Jody Evans for a press pass and she told me PRPD does not provide them.  Then I looked at the cost: $999.00 even as a longtime PRPD member. Yikes! The PRPD Content Conference is an important learning event but it might be becoming too expensive for folks without corporate employment.

If you are attending, there is some cool stuff happening! Have fun. You can have my share of the food and drink!


• 8:30am – 11:00am – ITS NUMBERS-PALOOZA!

PRPD puts the good stuff right up front. The conference starts with a triple-header of research.

First, Warren Kurtzman, President of Coleman Insights, presents the results of exclusive research commissioned by PRPD about awareness and perceptions of public radio. PRPD asked Coleman to find answers to questions like Do non-users have negative perceptions of public radio or is there merely an awareness gap?

Then Dave Sullivan, the Manager of PPM Client Services for Radio Research Consortium (RRC) talks about the State of the Public Radio Audience. Sullivan will go far beyond top-line data to show trends in listener usage of public radio programming.

Fred Jacobs

Finally, Fred Jacobs from Jacobs Media Strategies presents Public Radio Tech Survey 8 (PRTS-8).  We gave a preview of PRTS-8 on August 22 [link]. 

Jacobs examines usage patterns of various media platforms and devices by listeners annually. He flags early trends and discusses strategies to make the most of the changing media landscape. 

• 11:15am – 12:15pm - Growing, Growing, Keep Going – The Practice of Audience Building

Izzi Smith

Izzi Smith and Alan Feldenkris, both from NPR, talk about the recent growth in listening to NPR News stations. They will discuss what was learned during the Spark project (no relationship to this blog), best practices for promotion on-air and across platforms and creating a new culture of optimism.

• 3:30pm – 4:30pm - Team #pubmedia Millennial

Tayla Burney

Tayla Burney, a producer for WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show actually is a millennial! She and other similar folks discuss how they and their peers consume news and implications for noncommercial public media.

• 5:30pm – 7:30pm – Live performance of A Prairie 
 Home Companion

Expect something really, really excellent. This is Chris Thile’s first major industry appearance as the new host of A Prairie Home Companion (APHC). American Public Media (APM) has a lot riding on APHC’s new host, cast and crew. Conference attendees are invited to stop by the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix for hors d'oeuvres and drinks with the hosts of The Dinner Party Download. Stick around for an exclusive preview of the new APHC.


• 10:45am – 11:45am - Growing the Next Generation of Editors

Andi McDaniel
In many ways we are all becoming editors and curators of our own media. The panel will discuss the role the editor plays in the future of public media. Key questions include How can we find, cultivate and retain editors who can shape not only daily coverage but public radio’s future sound(s)?

The panel includes Alison MacAdam, Senior Editorial Specialist on the NPR Training Team; Andi McDaniel, Senior Director of Content & News at WAMU; Ben Calhoun, VP of Content and Programming at WBEZ; and Phyllis Fletcher, Managing Editor for Northwest News Network in Seattle.

• 10:45am – 11:45am - Classical Radio Marketing & Branding

Wende Persons

 Several folks working with SRG’s Classical Music Rising initiative discuss campaigns that are building audiences and boosting ratings. The session will provide examples of what’s working and the power of clear branding and positioning.

The panel moderator is Wende Persons, Managing Director of Classical Music Rising. Panels include Frank Dominguez from WDAv in Charlotte; Bill Lueth, manager of KDFC in San Francisco; Jack Allen from All Classical Portland; Daniel Gilliam from WUOL in Louisville; and Scott Williams from KBAQ IN Phoenix.

• Noon – 1:30pm - Lunch With APM

APM often has the best lunch at the PRPD conference.  Plus, it is free for conference attendees.

• 2:00pm – 3:45pm - KEYNOTE: IRA GLASS

• 4:00pm – 5:30pm - FORMAT GROUP MEETINGS

Todd Mundt

It is good to see Todd Mundt step in for Jeff Hansen who retired this past year from KUOW in Seattle. Mundt is a terrific host and moderator who had an exceptional nationally syndicated talk show on NPR a couple of decades ago.


• 10:00am – 11:15am - Podcasting by the Numbers

Larry Rosin from Edison Research brings the latest info about podcasting and the affinity between podcasts and public radio programming from the listener’s point of view.

Don’t you hate it when two conference sessions worth attending happen at the same time? If I was attending, I’d get the podcasting handouts and attend this simultaneous session:

• 10:00am – 11:15am - KPLU: Lessons Learned From An Existential Crisis

Matt Martinez
This could be the breakout session of the conference. We’ve all seen the headlines about KPLU’s struggle for independent existence after it was scheduled to be purchased by KUOW in Seattle. KPLU’s staff, listeners and supporters had another scenario in mind. 

They rose up and demanded a chance to raise the money to buy the station and create a new community licensee. It worked! They raised $8.5 million in four and half months. KPLU is now independent KNKX. Matt Martinez and other folks from KNKX tell the inside story of how it happened.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Scott Hanley
After four years as General Manager, Scott Hanley is leaving WBHM, Birmingham [link], to return to Pennsylvania and continue his consulting work.  Hanley is rhe third senior manager to leave WBHM since 2013.

Hanley came to WBHM in 2012 after managing WDUQ, Pittsburgh, for over two decades. Hanley’s job at WDUQ vanished in 2011 when Dusquene University sold the station to a new organization founded by Public Radio Capital (now “Public Media Company”) and WYEP also in Pittsburgh.

As we reported in July [link], WBHM’s News Director Rachel Osier Lindley left the station to become Statewide Coordinating Editor for the Texas Station Collaborative. Previous News Director Tanya Ott left WBHM in 2013 when she became the Vice President of Radio at Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Though Hanley’s role as GM at WHBM was praised locally and nationally, the station has been operating at a deficit in recent years. In fiscal year 2014 – the most recent year data is available – WBHM’s operating loss was over $423,000. According to financial information made public by WBHM’s licensee, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the university had planned for a deficit of around $260,000.  Indications are that UAB wants to move away from subsidizing WBHM because of ongoing budget cutbacks in higher education funding by the State of Alabama.

In a blog post [link], Hanley said the major reason for the move was logistical:

"Over time, the 700-mile commute between Birmingham and my wife and family in Pennsylvania was not sustainable. We’ve done some important and often fun work, winning awards, smiles, and most importantly, helping make Birmingham and Alabama better.”

KEN’S NOTE: Scott Hanley is a public media innovator and implementer with deep experience in management, technology, journalism, education, entertainment, business, public policy, music, and civic life. At his heart, Hanley is a jazz fan. He was a co-founder, manager and host of JazzWorks [link], a satellite-delivered programming service. We wish him the best in his business ventures.


Nielsen Audio recently released PPM ratings data for August and there was good news for NPR News station KERA.  According to Nielsen’s estimates, the number of KERA’s weekly listeners was up by almost 70,000 (16%) comparing August with June 2016.

Meanwhile, Classical music stations in all three markets we are reporting today went down. KDFC, San Francisco saw the biggest decline in the number of weekly listeners, an estimated 70,000 (17%) in two months.

WBGO was the star performer in the two-month trends. Their estimated number of weekly listeners increased by 63,000, up 15% from June to August. Pillar of Fire’s WAWZ continued to make impressive gains with CCM hits. WNYC-AM is probably at a high point for the year.  Because of their small nighttime coverage, they have literally been “making hay while the sun shines.”

KERA’s sister station Triple A KKXT saw the number of estimated weekly listeners drop by almost 90,000 (17%) comparing August with June 2016. 

As you might imagine there are lots of Evangelical Christians in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. Salem Media’s Safe for the Whole Family KLTY, a commercial station, had over 800,000 estimated weekly listeners in August. The three CCM noncoms picked up smaller numbers of weekly listeners but locally owned KCBI was up 11%.

Classical KDFC lost 17% of its estimated weekly listeners from June to August 2016.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Last Friday (9/2/16) WMOT, Murfreesboro, segued from NPR News, Classical and Jazz programming and became Roots Radio 89.5 FM, a potentially powerful new player in Nashville.   

With the switch, WMOT became an important voice for Americana, bluegrass and roots music in the Music City market.

WMOT [link] gave up years of being “second fiddle” (pun intended) to Nashville Public Radio’s NPR News WPLN and Classical WFCL. With the enthusiastic support of licensee Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Roots Radio 89.5 FM debuted with a ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater in downtown Nashville.

WMOT’s 100,000-watt signal has been blanketing the entire Nashville metro (see coverage map on the right) for many years but few people noticed them. Things are different now and WMOT has the opportunity to be a national leader of the Americana format.

There are a few other Americana stations of note: KDRP in Austin, WEVL in Memphis, WAMU’s Bluegrass Country and WIEE in Lafayette, Louisiana, come to mind. I am in the process of learning more about Americana stations.  If you know of other stations who air Americana, bluegrass and roots music at least half of their broadcast schedule, please let me know at


Roots Radio 89.5 FM is a partnership with Music City Roots [link], a Nashville-based firm that provides programming for both radio and television. Music City founders John Walker and Todd Mayo are Nashville music insiders. Music City has been praised for respecting the integrity of the music and nurturing new artists. Music City Roots Program Director Jessie Scott is now programming WMOT.

John Walker
Walker and Mayo also are behind Music City Roots, a weekly variety show that airs nationally on PBS TV stations. The series will begin its fourth season of national syndication on October 28th. Walker is hosting morning drive on WMOT. Grand Ole Opry veteran Keith Bilbrey is the midday host and Whit “Witness” Hubner is on WMOT in the afternoon.

Nashville musician Rodney Crowell, recipient of the Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting, praised Roots Radio 89.5 FM:

“Imagine, in our neck of the woods, a radio station with real people playing music they actually care about, even love. WMOT is bringing Middle Tennessee real music when we need it most. Miracles happen.”

WMOT Broadcasting live at Ford Theater

At the opening ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater Americana artists Jim Lauderdale, Will Hoge, Suzy Bogguss and Mike Farris jammed onstage and celebrated the emotional moment for the music they love.


Roots Radio 89.5 FM’s licensee Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is home to serious scholarship, preservation and curation of popular music. MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment is the home of the Center for Popular Music [link]. The Center organizes conferences, classes, guest lectures, concerts, Spring Fed records, social media engagement and digitization services via grants and entrepreneurial projects. 

Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, told local media that the WMOT partnership will be equally beneficial to the university community:

“Our goals were to serve a wide audience, give our students more professional opportunities, reflect what we teach within the four walls of our College of Media and Entertainment and to tap the talents of our music-savvy faculty.”

Greg Reish, director of the Center, will host a weekly program Lost Sounds, drawing material from one of the nation’s deepest archives of recordings, sheet music, books and ephemera.


Jody Evans, head of the Public Radio Program Director’s Association (PRPD), has released the annual Content Conference’s agenda.  

The Content Conference will be held in a couple of weeks (September 19 – 22) in Phoenix. The agenda and complete information are available at [link].