Red Sox TV and Radio ratings tanking

Gary's Ice Cream
Tue Jul 27 17:48:33 EDT 2010

I did a very unusual show overnights on WCAP for 5 years....I called it
"Music & Memories Overnight".  It would start at midnite each night with
Kate Smith's 1945 rendition of "God Bless America"...then for the next 5 or
6 hours (depending on the day) we would play music of the 40's, 50's, 60's,
and even some 70's.  It was a music library with over 5,000 active titles in
rotation.  It was voice-tracked...but a lot of people thought that it was
live (it was at times since it came from my home studio via an 8k telco
line).  I used to get at least a half dozen e-mails or snail mail letters a
week from people telling me how much they enjoyed it...and the age span
surprised me (18 - 80).  Lots of folks who worked overnight shifts seemed to
find the show and it became a regular listen for them.   I also found that
the geographic area was wide....all the way from Lowell to Arlington to Cape
Cod (we were on night pattern).  I contend that I had the largest rotation
on the radio in America at the time.  I have always felt that this format
would do well on a Boston area FM signal....but no one that has one has
agreed with me.  When the new owners bought WCAP they went with the "Beatles
and Before" format which has gotten some good responses but I myself enjoyed
the width and breadth of Music & Memories.  
Of course the ratings people and the consultants all felt that anyone over
50 years old was of no interest to stations today - BUT - there is an
interesting thread on the New York Radio Message Board that says that the
Nielsen folks are now changing their mind and telling programmers that the
50+ market is becoming very viable.  After all, haven't all the teens and
twenty-somethings gone all mp3 players?

Gary Francis

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:50 PM
Subject: Re: Red Sox TV and Radio ratings tanking

I think the station would have to pick up some listeners on either side 
of the target generation for the idea to "fly" on a higher-power (hence 
more expensive to run) station.

When 1510 was WMRE (The Memory Station), 1430 was Music-of-Your-Life, 
and 1400 Lowell also featured the pre-rock era, I gave those stations 
some of my listening even though the WW-2 era of Benny Goodman, Glenn 
Miller, the Dorseys, Bing Crosby, etc. was well before "my time".  
Despite pre-dating me, the high standards of that era's musicianship 
and often intellectually-clever lyrics still had value on their own 
merits as art, rather than merely being a "nostalgia wallow" for those 
in a specific age group.  Subjects such as war, love, work, travel, and 
money (and lack thereof) are largely timeless and songs can speak 
across generations including to young ones discovering the "ancient" 
tunes of dad and grand-dad for the first time.

Bob Bittner can probably offer accounts of e-mails and letters from 
listeners much younger than most of what he's playing.  Entertainers 
such as Tony Bennett have found unexpected popularity on college 
campuses.  Swing dancing has periodic resurgences despite a vanishingly 
small amount of "original swingers" still being on the upper side of 
the lawn.

The broadcast product has to be a good one, however, or even listeners 
of the ideal age group will soon lose interest.  If it's not going to 
sound like satellite-format-in-a-box, some "oh wow!" non-super-hits 
have to be thrown in from time to time, knowledge of metro Boston (then 
and now) should be more than what can be gleaned in 10 minutes of web 
surfing, and DJ pacing and delivery should be on par with the best '60s 
jocks - B. Marlowe, A. Ginsberg, B. Bradley, D. Summer, etc.

If done right - meaning with a sense of fun coupled with knowledge and 
slick sophistication - rock oldies, big-band / standards, or even 
something totally "niche" (like polka or klezmer or Irish) can reach 
out to a wider demographic than some professional programmers may have 
envisioned.  Will kids give up hip-hop for oldies or standards?  
Certainly not "en masse" but not too long ago I was in a card shop that 
primarily had girls under 30 working there ... and WJIB was the 
background music.  Didn't expect that one at all and it was nice 
hearing the original Al Hibbler "Unchained Melody" as I went about my 
shopping.  Reminded me of being about 5 or 6 and hearing it for the 
first time at a similar store in Belmont Center when the song was high 
on the charts.  Nostalgia wallow, yes, but a song good enough to have 
been redone by countless others and used in more than one movie too.

One thing that throws a wet rag over any music format making it are the 
increases in music licensing fees, even for small stations and 
webcasters, something that WJIB has been fighting.

For music, most of us are going to have to rely on a handful of 
low-power stations when we can get them and our own MP3, CD, tape, and 
record collections the rest of the time.

What an iPod won't necessarily replace for us is the personality and 
local-feel radio we used to enjoy.  It has largely departed even the 
most successful music format FM stations unfortunately and that facet 
of radio (the entertainment beyond the tunes) doesn't seem to be coming 
back too soon.

To Garrett's comment, I'm surprised that what is on 1510 now is making 
enough to keep it on the air.  But I'd imagine that the "talent" 
doesn't get paid much compared to inflation-adjusted WMEX of the '60s.

Mark Connelly
Billerica, MA + South Yarmouth, MA

  On 7/27/2010 11:39 AM, wrote:

> I wonder if Entercom's failed experiment with WWKB in Buffalo, which 
> liked --- an oldies format with a late '60s sound (jingles and all)
> --- would work in Boston on WRKO?  People here have a lot of 
> for the "good old days" of WRKO, WMEX and WBZ as Top 40 rock
> stations.  What do you think?   -Doug

The only people who have a lot of nostalgia for those particular "good
old days" are those of us who are old enough to remember them and were
in the Boston area at the time.  And we're not the demographic most
stations and advertisers are going for.  Even if we were, would we be
enough to sustain a station?

A. Joseph Ross, J.D.             617.367.0468
92 State Street, Suite 700       Fax: 617.507.7856
Boston, MA 02109-2004

-----Original Message-----
From: Garrett Wollman <>
Sent: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 4:16 pm
Subject: Red Sox TV and Radio ratings tanking

<<On Tue, 27 Jul 2010 13:57:31 -0400, said:

> To me it almost makes more sense to test this oldies experiment on
> 1510, a station that would seem to need any "Hail Mary pass" that 
> be thrown.  The dial position has the WMEX heritage behind it.  20 or
> so years back Little Walter did an oldies stint there.  [...]
> Yes, live personalities with a sense of humor and knowledge of music
> history and the LOCAL area audience have to be part of the plan.

Not a chance.  What you're talking about would be *incredibly*
expensive.  As I said before, it wouldn't pay the rent -- a format
that might earn maybe a 1 share in the 55+ demo is not even going to
make enough money to keep the transmitter running, never mind paying
talent.  (And the relevant talent are all industry veterans who would
know that it was a sucker's bet and stay away.)


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