Twist and Shout: More on Mystery Station [July 2012]
In case you had trouble tuning in to BART-FM (refer to our previous Mystery Station Note) on AOL’s SHOUTcast (shoutcast.com), try this link to one of its audio streams.
Kudos to SHOUTcast’s incredible staff for all the help. We’ll have to explore SHOUTcast’s roster of radio stations a little more.
As we said earlier, BART-FM broadcasts a mix show from 9 pm to 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays (it’s in the Pacific time zone). During the daytime, it is more or less a mainstream top 40 station with an eclectic selection of recurrents—definitely not from the same book of recurrents that every other radio station follows. For example, we heard Andrew Gold’s “Lonely Boy” (1977), Cock Robin’s “When Your Heart Is Weak” (1985), and Taxi Doll’s “Waiting” (2006). Even dance radio doesn’t play Taxi Doll anymore, much less top 40 radio.
How did we discover BART-FM’s simulcast on the Net in the first place? Not from the station itself. We were searching the Internet for all references to BART-FM and ran across some sort of SHOUTcast station performance report. Of course, this station could have made things a lot easier for listeners if it had a Web site.
Editor’s Note: The site is decanne.com/BART-FM.
The Ed Show?
According to SHOUTcast, the one URL for BART-FM is oddsock.org. Is this the man behind the station?
Mystery Station [July 2012]
We’re always intrigued when we find a radio station that doesn’t play the same oldies like everybody else. There’s a new—we think it’s new—Bay Area station that tries to do something different. Although it claims to be on the air 24x7, we seem to only pick up its signal every Saturday, which is just fine because it broadcasts a mix show from 9 pm to 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
So how do you tune in to this station? If you live in Silicon Valley, set your radio to 104.1 and cross your fingers. There was a pirate station that operated at the same frequency from San Jose’s Willow Glen area years ago. We haven’t been able to find this mystery station in the FCC database (we’ve checked both full- and low-power FM). The station ID says nothing about call letters; it calls itself “BART-FM” though.
Yes, all signs point to this being a pirate station. It does broadcast NPR news summery at the top of the hour, but you can probably get the stream off NPR’s site. The station also mentions a bank as its lone sponsor. Well, we just heard someone tell Bill Moyers that banks are the new mafia, so they will do business with pirate stations. Oh, this station does share one thing in common with legal stations: It doesn’t answer e-mail.
If you want to listen to this station over the Net, go to SHOUTcast (shoutcast.com) and search for BART-FM.
25 Years of 'Dekadance' [May 2009]
Tune in to "Dekadance" (myspace.com/dekadude) on Friday, May 22 at 9 PM PDT and celebrate the little college program that's been on the air for a quarter century. "The Drum" (myspace.com/kevvy_kev) is also turning 25 this year. What were you doing in 1984?
Back to the Future in the Bay Area [April 2009]
Two venerable mix shows are back on the air (since March 2009): "House Nation" (housenationsf.com) and "Subsonic" (live105.com). Yay!
Airplay Trend [March 2009]
In the past, some top 40/hip-hop radio stations played the most popular songs up to 70 times a week. Since 2008, that number has jumped to about 120 in some extreme cases. So this is radio's solution to retaining listeners: be more repetitive. Unbelievable.
Bay Area Radio Awards
Snakes on a Plane award (not much to show for all that hype): the “Jack/Bob/Max” format on 96.7 KNOB (since 2004) and 95.7 KMAX (since 2005) failing to catch fire in the Bay Area
Worst station Web site: 92.7 KNGY (energy927fm.com)
(We’d stated before we couldn’t pick just one bad Web site—until we visited KNGY’s resource hog. How bad is it? It looks like something from 1995.)
Best daily mix show: Vivamix and La Hora Trafico on 105.7 KVVF
Best weekly mix show: Subsonic on 105.3 KITS, House Nation on 94.9 KYLD
Best top 40 station: 105.7 KEMR (KVVF since 2004)
Best educational station, San Francisco: 100.7 KSFS
Best educational station, Silicon Valley: 103.3 KSCU
Best educational station, Wine Country: 91.5 KSUN
Best educational station Web site (schedule and playlists): 90.1 KZSU (kzsu.stanford.edu), 89.7 KFJC (kfjc.org)
(A word to the wise: A grid or graphical schedule may look good, but it takes too many clicks to read each program’s description. A text-based schedule in chronological order is a must for any radio station with a variety format. And please make the show descriptions meaningful and brief—this is not the place to be enigmatic or cute. We don’t mind if DJs get a little creative—as long as they do it on their individual Web pages.)
Most disappointing station: 92.7 KPTI
Worst commercial station Web site: Too many to mention
(With so much useless clutter, you can’t even tell you’re looking at a radio station Web site. Most listeners just want to look at three things: playlists, schedule, and artist information. A lot of radio stations bury their playlists several levels deep within their sites or fail to update them at least once a week. Yes, we can read about artists on other sites, but it makes sense for radio stations to provide this information. Instead, we get such fillers as movie listings and dating service links. Before giving us more imitation Web portals, they should get the music part down first. And why do so many radio station pages take forever to load?)
Best new station: 92.7 KPTI
Visit the Local Radio Cemetery
Dead Radio Dial: Last Words on Recently Silenced Stations and Programs
92.7 KNGY (“Energy,” dance)
That’s right. We’ve reserved a “plot” for this radio station. In the meantime, you can read our current review of KNGY.
95.7 KMAX (“Max,” oldies)
May 2005-March 2007
Are we prescient or what? This is what we said back in 2005: “Any radio programmer who thinks [the ‘Jack/Bob/Max’ and Latin rhythm] formats will bring soaring ratings as reported by other stations that have made the same switch in other markets could be in for a reality check.” In the almost two years after KMAX made the switch, its ratings actually went down.
94.9 KYLD-HD2 (“Wild Espanol,” dance/Latin rhythm)
The Bay Area’s fourth dance radio outlet in history made its debut in January 2006. But you probably didn’t hear about KYLD-HD2 because it was one of the early HD2 channels. It sounded like a dance station with a Latin minor, essentially a combination of 92.7 KNGY and 105.7 KVVF. This digital channel inspired KNGY to change its slogan to “Pure Dance.”
104.9 KCNL (“Channel,” modern rock)
199x-December 2005 [Resurrected in February 2007]
Clear Channel Communications got serious about the Hispanic market when it decided to turn this modern rocker into its second Latin radio station in 14 months. Modern rock radio’s contraction gathered momentum across the country in 2005 as numerous stations switched to a different format. Considering that modern rock has lost its mission a long time ago, we don’t feel sorry to see KCNL go (see The Death of Modern Rock).
“Subsonic” on 105.3 KITS
This one hurts. KITS’ “Subsonic,” a weekly dance/electronic show that’s the closest thing to what modern rock radio should be to some extent, was canceled because it didn’t fit the rest of programming (well, duh!). The implication is that when KITS starts multicasting in 2006, you probably won’t hear anything like “Subsonic” (click on Home for more information on digital HD radio). The only similar show left on commercial modern rock radio is “Afterhours” on KROQ Los Angeles. While it’s not clear this radio station provides streaming audio, you can at least look at the “Afterhours” playlist (kroq.com).
92.1 KABL (pop standards)
Blame Clear Channel Communications. This radio giant first switched San Jose’s longtime rocker (KSJO) to Latin music in 2004. Then KABL, one of the Bay Area’s oldest radio stations, was unceremoniously dumped in 2005. A perennial top 10 station when it was an AM institution, it was moved by Clear Channel to a leased FM frequency in the East Bay to make way for more talk radio a year earlier. KABL quickly disappeared from radar (didn’t even register among the Bay Area’s 40 top-rated stations) and was off the air when that station was sold. One suspects we have not heard the last of these memorable call letters.
105.7 KVVF (“Viva,” Latin top 40)
Even after KVVF increased its audience reach in 2004 (simulcasting on a frequency just north of San Francisco), this Silicon Valley station’s ratings actually went down, especially in the San Jose market. Two new regional Mexican stations didn’t seem to have much of an effect on a third regional Mexican station and a Latin adult contemporary station. Yet KVVF was the one that was hurt inexplicably. Latin top 40 provides an alternative to English-language mainstream top 40—for anyone with an open mind. It harks back to a time when top 40 radio meant inclusiveness and presented the best in popular music—before playlists became tightly regimented. Is the Bay Area big enough to support three regional Mexican stations? Is this reggaeton thing just a fad? We’re hopeful Latin top 40 will return in the future (see our Latin pop crib sheet).
100.7 KSFB (“The Bridge,” Christian top 40)
The hippest of all the Christian music stations lost out after a station swap between Salem Communications and Univision. KSFB used to play a little bit of gospel (Trin-i-tee 5:7 and Kirk Franklin, for example), and you could listen to a weekly dance mix show, too.
92.3 KSJO (mainstream rock)
As we stated above, the Bay Area seems to tire of anything mainstream—from mainstream top 40 to, now, mainstream rock. If memory serves, this longtime rocker flipped to modern rock for a while during the 1990s. With modern rock sounding so much like mainstream rock these days, young Bay Area listeners still have two major modern rock outlets to choose from.
92.7 KBTB (“Power,” rhythmic top 40)
April 2004-September 2004
While we never understood why the Bay Area needed a fifth hip-hop radio station, it was still surprising to find KBTB giving up after less than six months. Some listeners swore KBTB’s foray into hip-hop forced at least one competing station to adjust its playlist, a claim disputed by others. We thought it sounded about the same as the competition.
92.7 KPTI ("Party," dance)
May 2002-April 2004
As we predicted, KPTI didn't do much better than KSFX (103.7), the Bay Area’s first dance radio station. A conservative and stale playlist, coupled with a weak signal, basically sealed its fate. You can’t sustain a radio station with such a limited record database. Once the novelty wore off, the station’s ranking had dropped from the top 30 in the summer of 2002 to the top 40 by late 2003 when it was put up for sale.
93.3 KKWV (“The Wave,” rhythmic AC)
January 2002-September 2003
An eclectic blend of reggae, adult R&B, adult top 40, and 1970s/80s oldies that was kind of doomed from the beginning. We give them credit for trying something different. So much for the theory that radio consolidation would lead to more diversity on the air: Viacom/Infinity Broadcasting pulled the plug on KKWV and replaced it with (yawn) another bland AC radio station.
“Nice” on 103.3 KSCU
By the time we found out about this Japanese rock program, it was already off the air. While we haven’t paid much attention to this genre—the last time a Japanese artist received airplay on U.S. commercial radio was Pizzicato Five during the early 1990s—Alfredo Casero’s 2002 remake of “Shimauta” (Island Song) has piqued our curiosity again. As far as we can tell, this KSCU show lasted only about six months. If college radio stations want to be taken seriously, maybe they should make their DJs sign a one-year contract—especially the ones who are not students. The former host’s Web page is still accessible (geocities.com/boboso5000/).
Theremin [July 2010]
If you love electronic music, you’re probably familiar with the Moog synthesizer. But you may not have heard of the theremin, the first electronic musical instrument. Invented by Leon Theremin in 1920 and mass-produced by RCA later, this instrument was featured in such 1945 Hollywood classics as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” and Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” as well as many sci-fi movies in the 1950s and ’60s. It was heard again in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (1994).
The Beach Boys famously used a similar-sounding instrument during the recording of 1966’s “Good Vibrations.” Without Theremin, Robert Moog might never have invented his synthesizer. And without the synthesizer, dance music would have lost a key instrument. The synthesizer is to dance music what the electric guitar is to rock music.
A recent episode of “History Detectives” on PBS (pbs.org/opb/historydetectives) featured a segment on Theremin. For a list of electronic music pioneers, go to our Music Camp page.
Google Music [June 2010]
When Google quietly rolled out Google Discover Music (music.google.com) last fall, it piqued our interest because any potential competition for Apple is a good thing. Perhaps sensing a disturbance in the Force—to use a “Star Wars” analogy—Apple and MySpace promptly acquired two of Google’s partners in this endeavor.
Well, that’s not enough to derail Google’s plans for world domination. Rumor has it that the company will launch a full-blown music store by the end of the year.
JC Remixed [August 2012]
If Barack Obama could “sing” “Call Me Maybe,” any public figure is fair game for a music video. The latest is a remix of JC—not Jay-Z but Julia Child. To celebrate her 100th birthday, PBS has released Child’s first official music video.
[►] Julia Child Remixed
Foodies should be able to identify all the chefs and episodes featured in this video. Give yourself extra credit if you recognize the black-and-white footage as well. PBS has hired the same man, melodysheep (perfect name for what he does), to create similar videos before.
[►] Mister Rogers Remixed
[►] Bob Ross Remixed
The first of these artificial songs to crack the Billboard Hot 100 was Antoine Dodson’s “Bed Intruder Song” created by the Gregory Brothers in 2010. PBS should consider selling Child’s “Keep on Cooking” song on the Internet.
Chicken a la Dictator [December 2011]
Check out the “Last Dictator Standing” TV commercial from Nando’s, a fast-food restaurant chain based in South Africa. The company has reportedly pulled the satiric ad from the airwaves after complaints from said dictator.
The song is a remake of Mary Hopkin’s 1968 classic “Those Were the Days.” Foodies will recall “Primal Grill” host Steven Raichlen preparing chicken wings inspired by Nando’s signature Peri-Peri chicken.
Two Docs [September 2011]
If you love music as much as we do, check out these two documentaries from 2008. Until filmmakers like the Burns brothers decide to tackle the subject, “Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio” (travisty.tv/airplay.html) will have to do for now. This all-too-brief documentary covers the history of radio since the 1950s. It includes such legendary names as Alan Freed, Murray the K, Wolfman Jack, Casey Kasem, and Tom Donahue. You’ll meet some other DJs that you may not be familiar with: Dick Biondi, Jerry Blavat, Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie Morrow, and Jim Ladd. Find out how program directors came to be in charge after a certain scandal, the same investigation that brought down Freed.
The second documentary follows a chorus during a seven-week rehearsal for a new show in Northampton, Mass. This 25-plus-member singing group has toured all over the world (the U.K. filmmaker attended a show in London). Two things set this chorus apart from many others: the average age is 82 and its repertoire includes mostly rock songs between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, a selection that probably reflects the sensibility of the group’s 53-year-old director. The name of the chorus and the name of the documentary is “Young@Heart” (youngatheartchorus.com).
You’ll appreciate how these senior singers learn and master the Clash (“Should I Stay or Should I Go”), Sonic Youth (“Schizophrenia”), James Brown (“I Got You [I Feel Good]”), and the Pointer Sisters (“Yes We Can Can”), among others. Do the math and you’ll realize most of them were in their early 40s when Brown’s “I Got You” came on the radio, so it’s not totally inconceivable that some of them might be familiar with the godfather of soul. But the Ramones and the Talking Heads? Not likely. Songs like Colplay’s “Fix You” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” take on new meanings. The chorus director tries to bring back two former members, who had to quit for health reasons, for the new show in front of a hometown audience. Will they—and all the other members—make it to the show? We won’t spoil it for you.
PBS stations air these documentaries from time to time. You can always ask your local library to order a copy.
The Grannies [February 2010]
In the old days, the only way to catch a glimpse of some artists was on award shows like the Grammys. After MTV and now the Internet, there’s really no reason to watch these award shows. The trouble with the Grammys is that its members pretended the rock ‘n’ roll thing never happened. So for years Elvis Presley and the Beatles never won anything (Presley did win for his gospel recordings). As late as the 1990s, Tony Bennett would win in the pop category; they eventually fixed this anomaly by introducing the traditional pop category (should’ve done it in the 1960s).
To drag the Grammys into the 21st century, they appointed a blue-ribbon panel a few years ago to handpick the nominations in the major categories. While this is an improvement, the end results look a little too neat and regimented (for example, different genres are equally represented every year, a sort of musical quota system).
The 2009 record/album/song of the year nominations are surprisingly devoid of quotas—with one exception. Good thing Dave Matthews Band failed to win album of the year last Sunday. Now that “Use Somebody” was named record of the year, maybe top 40 radio will give “Sex on Fire” a second chance. This is the first single off the same Kings of Leon album and is better than “Somebody.”
The Birth of Hip-Hop [March 2009]
If you haven't been watching "History Detectives" on PBS (pbs.org/opb/historydetectives), you should. A 2008 segment tried to answer this question: was hip-hop born in the Bronx on August 11, 1973? Any show that uses an Elvis Costello song as the theme is worthy of your attention.
Scott McKenzie (1939-2012)
There’s no shame in being a one-hit wonder if that one song is a classic. And that is the case with Scott McKenzie’s top 5 hit “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” Though his follow-up single actually made the top 25, he’ll only be remembered for “San Francisco.” The lyrics became dated soon after the 1960s were over—nobody sings about love-in anymore—but there’s a timeless and wistful quality to the musical arrangement and his delivery.
[►] Scott McKenzie (1967)
[►] Sir Ivan (2003)
[►] Global Deejays (2005)
Among songs that refer to a specific city, this is one of the most iconic. Lest you think we are biased because our company is based in Northern California, ponder this: How many people all over the world are equally familiar with, say, Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston,” a No. 5 hit that came out seven years after McKenzie’s signature song?
Alex Chilton (1950–2010) and Malcolm McLaren (1946–2010)
Baby-boomers may remember Chilton as the lead singer of the Box Tops, the Memphis area band who scored seven top 40 hits between 1967 and ’69, including the No. 1 smash “The Letter” and the million-selling “Cry Like a Baby.” His solo career never scaled the same heights, but check out the provocative “No Sex,” one of the more interesting songs from the 1980s. The Replacements recorded a song titled “Alex Chilton.”
The man who gave us the Sex Pistols and other colorful U.K. acts is underrated for his own musical contribution. McLaren’s “Paris” album was one of the highlights of the 1990s. Read our review at Music Camp and check out his 1980s dance recordings (“Buffalo Gals,” “Double Dutch,” “Madame Butterfly [Un Bel di Vedremo],” “Deep in Vogue [Banjie Realness]”).
Falling on Deaf Ears: The Music Industry Does Protest Too Much [200x]
We can’t help but cringe every time a reporter repeats the industry mantra about “piracy” without challenge. Since Napster software popularized peer-to-peer networking that enabled Internet users to share files in 2000, the music industry has blamed the downloading of songs for the decline in record sales. This assertion—and it is probably a genuine belief on the part of the industry—reminds one of another long-held belief that is equally suspect: the sales of singles cannibalize album sales.
Compressed audio files are still very large files. You wouldn’t want to download too many songs at current dial-up modem speed (it takes at least 15 minutes to download one song). We agree that college students who have unlimited access to (free) broadband Internet service on campus are most inclined to do any kind of serious downloading. Obviously, not all college students have the time, inclination, opportunity, or know-how to do this.
So if you subscribe to the theory that a small subset of college students could be responsible for the decline of a multibillion-dollar industry, we’ve got a bridge or two for you to consider. (Now we hear the recording industry is worried about corporate employees. Any company that cares about productivity is already running monitoring software to ensure employees are not wasting time on the Internet.) No, whatever is hurting record sales must be affecting major segments of the customer base, not just some college students.
We believe two trends—both predate Napster by at least five years—may be more harmful to the music industry in the long run. Not surprisingly, the industry only has itself to blame in both cases.
Beginning in the early 1990s, record companies made the decision to phase out the retail single. By the mid-’90s, they have more or less stopped making commercially available singles in the U.S. (The only exception is the CD maxi-single, which is roughly the equivalent of the old vinyl 12” single. Even it is becoming an endangered product.) The industry wanted to kill the single because record labels were more interested to maximize album sales. After all, albums generate much higher profit margins than singles.
We’re not here to debate whether singles indeed cut into album sales; it is interesting to note that singles are still sold outside of the U.S. market. But as anyone in the fast-food industry will tell you: you’ve got to get them when they’re young. The single became a great marketing tool to young consumers (though it didn’t start out that way). The industry is now faced with the first generation of customers who grew up in the ’90s without the retail single. As consumers age, they buy fewer records. Indeed, research shows people over age 34 buy fewer records than younger consumers.
Most Active Music Buyers by Age Group
Source: Strategic Record Research
Record companies count on younger buyers to replace the older ones. The problem is they helped create consumers who were never “trained” to pay for songs. Sure, they shelled out money reluctantly for coveted albums. Napster and other similar programs have allowed consumers to essentially “shop” for singles—or any song. If record companies had never tampered with the commercial single (both new and catalog), Napster might not have had the same allure.
In addition, records are still perceived to be overpriced by people who are old enough to remember turntables. When the industry completed the switch from vinyl to the cheaper CD production years ago, everyone thought the price of CD albums would eventually match or beat the price of vinyl albums. That’s another reason why the single’s lower price points fit the overall marketing strategy.
In order to entice buyers, record companies are scrambling to add a bonus disc or extra songs and music videos to the base product. Or they aggressively discount the price of albums of developing acts. Why don’t they just lower the price across the board? Hollywood seems to be smarter about pricing. DVD movies have come down in price noticeably as sales of DVD players reach critical mass.
It doesn’t help the music industry’s cause when five major record distributors (Universal, Warner, Bertelsmann, Sony, and EMI) and three retailers (Trans World Entertainment, Tower Records, and Musicland Stores) chose to settle in 2002 an antitrust lawsuit involving price-fixing charges brought by attorneys general in 41 states. The same distributors had previously resolved a similar suit by the Federal Trade Commission in 2000.
Record companies may use future DVD records as a face-saving reason to finally lower CD list prices. But after the two competing DVD audio standards reach a compromise, the industry will have to convince consumers that DVD sound is worth a premium price. If they decide to simply phase out CD albums and charge more for DVD albums—basically repeating the same strategy during the vinyl-to-CD transition—it would be a mistake.
Radio airplay sells records. MTV and its competitors may have the same effect, but nothing beats radio’s market reach. Research shows radio is still the medium that most influences people to buy records (video is in distant second place). It’s in every home and every car. You wake up to it and listen to it in the shower—can’t do that with videos.
Unfortunately, radio playlists have become increasingly “stale” in the last 15 years. Fewer new songs are added each week, and hit songs are played forever. As airplay-monitoring systems show conclusively, some popular tracks are played not for 20 to 25 weeks but more like a whole year. That doesn’t leave much room for new songs. Consolidation in the radio industry has only exacerbated this problem; commercial stations are even more rigid and conservative than ever.
A survey of people between ages 25 and 54 by Paragon Research confirms the conventional wisdom regarding complaints about the state of radio: 1) people don’t like to listen to the same songs ad nauseam (84 percent of respondents believe stations should stop playing the same songs over and over), and 2) people are open to new music (76 percent would like stations to play more than one or two tracks from an album; 54 percent would like stations to play more unfamiliar music).
Satellite radio may help expose new music to listeners in the long run. If cable TV is any guide, it may take pay radio a while to make an impact. You would think the music industry should be supportive of Internet radio, and you would be wrong. They lobbied Congress successfully to pass laws that could end up putting small Webcasters out of business. So short of record companies owning radio stations directly, consumers are still at the mercy of the gatekeepers programming radio stations. Of course, we don’t really want radio stations to be controlled by any record company. They are supposed to be free to play whatever they want. That’s the theory anyway.
We haven’t discussed other issues such as the economy and the changing tastes of the public, which definitely contribute to the cyclical nature of the entertainment business. The music industry may have won the legal battle against Napster. But if they don’t find ways to expose new music and get consumers into stores (physical or virtual), they will certainly lose the war. Oh, it goes without saying they should take a chance on artists who don’t fit a certain sound or look.
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