Friday, September 16, 2016


“This is really a labor of love and it’s not a surprise that there’s not another organization lined up for this - it’s a big challenge.”
        Randy Barrett, DC Bluegrass Union [link]

According to a report earlier thus week on the Washington, DC news site DCist [link] a new non-profit – Bluegrass Country Foundation – has been formed by bluegrass fans to save WAMU’s Bluegrass Country channel.

Bluegrass Country now resides on WAMU’s HD2 channel and is repeated on a translator at 105.5 FM, where most people hear it.  After a decade of loosing money on the channel, WAMU is trying to find Bluegrass Country [link] a new owner who will pledge to continue the format. 

In July WAMU issued an RFP that provides the terms of the sale. As we reported on July 20th [link] from a business perspective this is a tough sale.

So far, Bluegrass Country Foundation, is the only potential new owner who has stepped forward. WAMU said if they can't find a new owner by December 31, Bluegrass Country will vanish from the dial.

Bluegrass Country Foundation is now raising funds and creating a proposal to take over Bluegrass Country 105.5 FM. The foundation has until October 17th  to raise $200,000 and submit a proposal to WAMU. So far, they have raised $35,000 toward the goal. The foundation has established a website to promote their cause [link]. 

Randy Barrett

Randy Barrett, one of the prime movers of Bluegrass Country Foundation, told the DCist that the new group is not in it for the money:

“This is really a labor of love and it’s not a surprise that there’s not another organization lined up for this - it’s a big challenge.”

That is certainly an understatement.


Despite the historical and cultural significance of Bluegrass Country, from a business perspective there isn’t much of an upside.

After switching to all news, WAMU decided to save face by creating a full-time Bluegrass Country service on its then-new HD2 channel. There was great hope for HD Radio at that time but before too long everyone figured out that HD was an over-hyped boondoggle that few people ever use. 

WAMU then crafted an arrangement for Bluegrass Country on HD2 to be repeated on 105.5 FM via a translator owned by a private third party.  105.5 has pretty decent coverage of the District and first-ring suburbs. However, according to WAMU’s RFP, the 105.5 FM translator is not part of the deal. 

In reality, the only aspects of Bluegrass Country that are included are:

• Intellectual property rights to the name “Bluegrass Country” and any related branding and trademark rights

• The Bluegrass Country music library

There are no physical assets included such as a FCC license to broadcast, equipment or other “tangibles.”  WAMU is keeping thelicense for the HD channel. They are offering to lease the channel to the new owner for no charge through the end of 2017. Then the new owner is expected to pay the rent.

WAMU promises to introduce the new owner to the translator’s owner. The cost of leasing the translator is not known but it is likely in five figures annually.  Plus, the new owner will have to pay for studios and offices, staff, the cost of delivering the programming stream to WAMU and last, but not least, Sound Exchange fees. Yikes!

I know WAMU and others associated with Bluegrass Country are proceeding in good faith.  Their intentions are good but It is hard to imagine anyone, other than a well-healed bluegrass fan, making this work financially. There is no “there” there.

I wish the folks at Bluegrass Country Foundation and WAMU well but I am cautioned by the old phrase BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR because someone will have dig deep into someone’s pockets to make it sustainable.


The new KNKX (formerly KPLU) is wasting no time setting up its new Seattle station. I love their slogan: Your Connection to Jazz, Blues and NPR News. Check out their new website [link].  

The weekday schedule hasn’t changed much from KPLU days.  KNKX just announced a new Saturday schedule:

• 5am to 10am: Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon

• 10am to 11am: Sound Effect an original KNKX show

• 11am to Noon: Snap Judgment

• Noon to 1pm: This American Life

• 1pm to 2pm: Radiolab

• 2pm to 3pm: Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!

• 3pm to 5p: The New Cool with Abe Beeson

The promo blurb for the new show says The New Cool will feature:  

…artists pushing jazz to cool new places, artists such as Kamasi Washington, Snarky Puppy, and Northwest favorite Industrial Revelation. The show will feature players who have come of age in the 21st century understanding hip hop, punk rock, modern soul and electronic, and have incorporated those styles into their music. It’s new ways of hearing old instruments; it’s contemporary; it’s rhythmically eclectic — it’s The New Cool!  I can dig it.

• 5pm to 6pm: Jazz Caliente with Robin Lloyd

• 6pm to midnight: All Blues with John Kessler

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Classical Music folks will gather next week the PRPD Content Conference happens in Phoenix. We have reported several times recently about the state of Classical radio listening and the work of Classical Music Rising [link]. For the convenience of attendees we are republishing the most recent Nielsen Audio weekly cumulative listeners for PPM and Diary markets. (Keep in mind that not all stations subscribe to the Nielsen ratings and are not included in published results.)

If you are attending the PRPD, there are several sessions of interest to Classical music folks:

• Creating a Digital Dashboard – Measuring Success for Music Stations
Tuesday (9/20) 11:15am – 12:15pm

Matt Abramovitz
Matt Abramovitz, PD of WQXR, New York moderates a panel focusing on how music stations are defining success in the world of sites, streams, podcasts and video. Samples and best practices will be featured during the discussion.

• It’s Not as Easy as It Sounds
Wednesday (9/21) 3:30pm – 4:30pm

This session features two programmers – Julie Amacher, PD of Classical 24 and Jim McQuinn, PD of 89.3 The Current – discuss finding, coaching and evaluating on-air talent. Both PDs have extensive experience dealing with talent including the development of unique personalities and tips to keep listeners in mind. I bet the topic of heritage hosts comes up during the this session.

• Classical Radio Marketing & Branding
Wednesday (9/21) 10:45am – 11:45am  

Several folks working with SRG’s Classical Music Rising initiative [link] discuss campaigns that are building audiences and boosting ratings. The session will provide examples 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.

• Classical Format Group Meeting
Wednesday (9/21) 4:00pm – 5:30pm

Matt Abramovitz from WQXR and Bill Lueth from KDFC moderate discussions about the Classical music on the radio and companion digital platforms.


Comparing June 2015 & June 2016:

• Full-time music in PPM markets: 63% increased weekly listeners; 37% declined

• Dual format in PPM markets: 50% increased weekly listeners; 50% declined

Comparing Spring 2015 & Spring 2016:

• Full-time music in DIARY markets: 72% increased weekly listeners; 28% declined

• Dual format in DIARY markets: 67% increased weekly listeners; 33% declined

First lets look at full-time Classical music stations in PPM markets and compare their estimated number of weekly listeners in June 2015 and June 2016. Of the 24 in-tab full-time music stations we are tracking, 15 stations (63%) had an increased number of weekly listeners; 9 stations (37%) saw declines.

Next lets look at 6 dual format stations airing Classical music and NPR News. Half (50%) increased their number of estimated weekly listeners and the other half had a declining number of weekly listeners.

We also track two commercial Classical stations operated by non-profit organizations.

Now the Nielsen Audio Diary markets where we have divided stations into two groups: Full-time Classical music and Dual Format Classical and NPR News. We are comparing estimates from Spring 2015 and Spring 2015. Of the 25 full-time music stations we are tracking, 18 stations (72%) increased weekly listeners and 7 stations saw (28%) declines during the past year. 

Last here are ratings for 18 dual format stations airing Classical music and NPR News. Twelve in-tab dual format stations (67%) increased the number of weekly listeners and 6 (33%) stations had fewer weekly listeners than they did in Spring 2015.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Next week the PRPD Content Conference happens in Phoenix and I am already prepping even though I won’t be attending. I thought it might be helpful to provide the most recent Nielsen Audio ratings information for all subscribing Triple A stations. In a few words, the State of Triple A is pretty damn good!

Jim McGuinn from 89.3 The Current is convening the Triple A Format Group meeting from 4:00pm – 5:30pm on Wednesday 9/21/16.

First lets look at stations in PPM markets comparing estimates from June 2015 and June 2016. Of the 18 stations for which data was available for both years, 12 stations (67%) gained weekly listeners. The biggest percentage gainer was KRCL, Salt Lake City (up 34%).  The biggest numerical gainer was KCRW, LA (up 197,000 weekly listeners.  Keep in mind that KCRW also airs NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things considered.

Next we have two charts showing Triple A station weekly listeners in Nielsen Audio diary markets. Eight of the 11 full-time music stations (73%) gained new weekly listeners from Spring 2015 to Spring 2016. At dual-format stations, half of the stations gained weekly listeners.


Talia Schlanger
Talia Schlanger, a multimedia Canadian personality, is joining WXPN’s World Café as a contributing host and producer. Schlanger is widely known in Canada for her work as a host/interviewer/writer for CBC radio and television. Most recently she was host, writer and producer of CBC Radio 2’s Weekend Morning, and interim host of a Canadian national music show Canada Live.

Schlanger has received a number of awards for her work including the 2014 Canadian Screen Award for producing CBC Music’s The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions. Beetle Roadtrip was a TV, radio and online tour across Canada meeting local musicians and other personalities.


Schlanger’s background reminds me a little bit of another Canadian woman who went on to worldwide fame: Alanis Morissette. Like Morissette, Schlanger started in the biz as an actress, singer, and TV personality. She toured the US and Canada in the theatrical version of Green Day’s American Idiot, was part of the Toronto production of Mamma Mia and Queen’s We Will Rock You.

For Schlanger what she has loves the most in music. In 2014 she told a Toronto weekly newspaper [link]:

“I’m a huge music nerd – whether listening to it, reading Rolling Stone or NME, talking about it on the radio, or performing it myself. I still pick up the guitar or sit down at the piano whenever I can [but] most importantly [I am] a professional head-banger.”

Schlanger will start her new gig on October 3. She will join World Café host David Dye with interviews and reviews. She will contribute segments to the podcast World Cafe Words and Music.

World Café, which is nationally distributed by  NPR, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in the coming year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Any one who doubts public radio’s domination of podcast listening should look at the monthly Podcast Industry Audience Rankings from Podtrac [link]. 

Podtrac is a for-profit company that has been providing podcast measurement and advertising services since 2005. 

Before we go any further, I need to point out that I am not an expert on podcast methodology.  Nor am I personally connected with Podtrac. So I am presenting these metrics “as is” and will let you draw your own conclusions.

Podtrac began publishing a chart showing the top 10 podcast publishers earlier this year. SPARK! created a chart (on the right) to compare results for July and August.

During the one month period examined, all of the podcasts in the top ten added new Monthly Unique Listeners.  The biggest gains were by The Moth, up 14% from July to August.

Six of the top ten Publishers on the chart are public media organizations.  Noncom organizations claim around 78% of the Monthly Unique Listeners for Publishers in the top ten.


Recently the FCC approved renewal of WGBH’s license to broadcast despite a challenge by Classical music fans protesting the station’s 2009 decision to dump Classical and switch to all news. 

After hearing the protests, the FCC reasserted its policy of letting market forces decided programming disputes. 

The Commission adopted this policy in the 1970s because of a dispute between the owners of WNCN, New York, and the WNCN Listeners Guild.   

In 1974 WNCN ended many years of broadcasting Classical music and flipped to an Album Rock format. We recently reported on the WNCN case [link].

The WGBH/WCRB situation is similar to the WNCN protest. In Boston, the Committee for Community Access (CCA), a group of former WGBH listeners, filed a petition to deny the renewal of WGBH and WCRB’s licenses. CCA’s petition was in response to WGBH’s change to all news and the perceived demotion of Classical music to less-powerful WCRB in 2009.

According to CCA’s Petition to Deny, WGBH’s programming decisions meant the “near-total expungement of music from the airwaves…therefore limited format diversity in the Boston area.

CCA asked the FCC to “hold public radio licensees to a higher standard than commercial licensees” when it comes to adequately serving the listening public with diverse format options. The CCA also asked that the FCC reconsider precedents stabled in the WNCN case.

The FCC didn’t buy CCA’s objections. The FCC repeated that they do not get involved with the regulation of programming.


Every once in a while I see a job opening that under different circumstances I would apply for. Such is the case with the GM gig at KZYX [link] in in Northern California. 

KZYX is located in Philo, California, a remote agricultural area near (as the crow flies) Ukiah. This is a lush semi-wooded land that produces wine, vegetables and an herb that some people smoke or eat for medicinal purposes.

KZYX covers almost all of Mendocino County and surrounding areas with two full-time signals and a bunch of translators.  In a number of places, KZYX is the only radio source for NPR News. The FY 2016 revenue for KZYX was around $541,000.

Mendocino County Public Broadcasting, the licensee of KZYX, is now looking for an Executive Director/General Manager. It is a full-time position. For a detailed job description and more information, contact Diane Hering, Interim General Manager at or call 707-895-2324. The deadline to apply: October 15th, 2016.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Some stations really matter, even years after they signed off.  One legendary station – WHFS – is chronicled in a work-in-progress documentary called Feast Your Ears: The Story of WHFS. You can see more about WHFS and the documentary at [link].

WHFS mattered back in the 1970s because it was a mirror of life & times and influenced many folks who went on to careers at NPR, WAMU, WETA and other noncom shops nationwide. WHFS matters today because its DNA is a core attribute of Triple A “music discovery” stations.

WHFS 102.5 was a mission-driven commercial station, something you rarely see today. In the 1970s,102.5 blasted into the Washington, DC market from Bethesda, Maryland. It became an iconic source of music and culture in the days before FM radio turned totally corporate.  WHFS’ impact was similar to that of WBCN in Boston, WMMR in Philadelphia and KDKB in Phoenix. It was more than a radio station, it was a way of life.

Jake Einstein
WHFS was a mom-and-pop operation that began in the early 1960s playing “elevator music.”  The call letters reflect the times: W-High Fidelity Stereo. By the late 1960s co-founder and GM Jake Einstein was looking for other programming options. His son, Damian Einstein, convinced him that rock n roll was the future of FM. So WHFS began adding hours of progressive rock and fans enthusiastically responded. Soon WHFS was a full-time “underground” station.  The good times lasted until 1983 when WHFS was absorbed by big-money broadcasters.

Feast Your Ears: The Story of WHFS, brings to life the people, the music and the feel of the era.  The documentary is currently in production, and is being financed in part by a Kickstarter campaign. The goal is to complete the film in time for the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. The film’s producer is Jay Schlossberg, a former WHFS employee.

To see what it is all about , watch the excellent trailer for Feast Your Ears:

Direct link:


Today we have Nielsen Audio PPM weekly cumulative listeners estimates for August 2016 compared with June 2016. I call the five markets profiled today – Washington, DC, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver-Boulder, Boston and Seattle-Tacoma – essential because some stations in these markets are influential trend-setters and innovators.

The competition between WBUR and WGBH keeps intensifying. Both added weekly listeners between June and August. The audience growth by both stations confirms the notion that rivalries tend to increase listening to both stations. WCRB, like quite a few Classical stations nationwide, was down a bit in the two month trends.

In Washington, DC WETA followed the same declining pattern I’ve been seeing with other Classical stations. To me, the BIG story in DC is the loss of weekly listeners at CCM flagship WGTS. Is there something going on with listening to CCM stations?  I ask because we recently reported [link] that 75% of CCM stations in Diary markets lost weekly listeners between June 2015 and June 2016. Also, DC could support a 21st century version of WHFS.

In the Twin Cities, CCM KTIS-FM was also down a bit. Triple A KCMP a/k/a 89.3 The Current continues to be holding weekly listeners after the big bounce they got from their coverage of Prince’s death and fan reaction.

(Speaking of Prince, I give my highest recommendation for you to watch the YouTube video of his guitar solo during While My Guitar Gently Weeps at a tribute concert for George Harrison [link].  Gave me fucking shivers…)

The August PPM numbers were a mixed bag for Neil Best & company in Greeley.  NPR News KUNC had perhaps their largest number of weekly listeners ever in Denver metro.  Meanwhile new Triple A KJAC 105.5 The Colorado Sound dipped a bit.

In Seattle-Tacoma this may be the last “book” KPLU which is in the process of becoming the new KNKX.  KING was up nicely.