Dropping Standards

My radio hero, Saul Levine, has disappointed me with his decision to switch Los Angeles’ KKGO-AM from the “standards” format to country.  Apparently, the median age of people who listen to Sinatra & co. is too old.

“I began to get dozens if not hundreds of telephone calls from country fans saying, ‘You’re the last one who can save it,’ ” says Saul Levine, president and general manager of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, which owns XSUR and KKGO. “This kept going on and I thought, ‘These were really nice people.’ ”

These also were more desirable people — at least to advertisers — than KKGO was attracting with the “standards” format the station had for the last two years.

“I love the standards format,” Levine says. “But it was difficult to sell. The median age of listeners is 65-plus, and when an ad agency hears that, there’s no buy there. The outer fringes of what they’re looking for is 54.”

The median age of the 650,000 people who made up the steady KZLA audience, however, per Arbitron research, was in the early 40s.

“As much as I love the standards format, I’m not in position to continue after two years of losing money,” Levine says. “And here are people begging me to put a format on that isn’t currently in the market.”

I’m a little surprised at the demographics driving Levine’s problem with advertisers.  Isn’t “the great American songbook” going through a bit of a revival?  Meanwhile — contemporary country music seems completely disposable, but that’s just me.  I’ll always have time for Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Ray Price, but acts like Shania Twain, Brooks and Dunn, Tim McGraw and the rest would put me right to sleep if they weren’t so annoying.

Oh well.  I still love Saul for K-Mozart and for saving KLON, the non-commercial jazz station at Cal State Long Beach.  If a bunch of oafs in cowboy hats can spruce up his cash flow to keep those other stations going strong — yee-hah!


One thought on “Dropping Standards

  1. I was ready to scream when I read about KKGO dropping standards and going country. I am well under 65 and have lots of disposable income for advertisers to appeal to me.

    And, I had just gone out and ordered one of those AM antenna boosters from CCrane to get better reception!

    I guess in the economics of this era of broadcast radio, you need to have HUGE numbers to make a format pencil out. I often thought that there might be enough cultural intellectuals and gay men out there to support a station that played show tunes and 20th Century American standards, but it may just be a niche audience.

    I guess it’s time to sign up for subscription or satellite radio, get my fix on-line or rely on CD’s (ironically, one of the functions of radio is that it introduces fans to new albums they can go out and buy—on-line or downloaded nowadays, of course).

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