June 6 is the big day.
It’s the day Kevin Weatherly returns to the KROQ program (106.7 FM). Weatherly programmed the station for many years and oversaw some of its highest ratings ever.
Now he has his work cut out if he hopes to restore the station to its former glory. But that is not the subject of this column. Indeed, I want KROQ to excel.
To do this, it helps to understand what put KROQ on the map in the first place.
Rick Carroll programmed a few stations before coming to KROQ, including KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7) and KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM). When he came to KROQ in 1978, his idea was more of an irreverent top 40 station — or maybe a top 40/AOR hybrid — than an album-rock station.
His basic plan was to go against his old stations by playing songs before they became hits – while choosing songs that would actually become hits. Listening to Carroll’s KROQ was like being part of a musical time machine, where Prince or Michael Jackson or any number of punk and new wave bands would be heard on KROQ months earlier than anywhere else. . He also gave his DJs a free hourly slot to play anything they liked, a move that would have helped bands like Depeche Mode break into the station.
Carroll’s system worked much better than expected and became the prototype for new wave music stations everywhere. Carroll himself has consulted or helped launch numerous KROQ clones in cities such as San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. Here in Los Angeles, it was KROQ more than its direct competitor KLOS (95.5 FM) that ended KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM), because KMET was once the place to find new music before KROQ only steals the thunder of new music.
There are many who believe that you can no longer play new music on the radio. That it will repel listeners. My point is that not listening to new music on the radio is the reason the average listener is getting older and older. Radio offers nothing to young people, who shun radio for Facebook, Apple Music, Pandora, Sound Cloud and more.
Certainly, KROQ’s current ratings prove that they have nothing to lose. I believe Weatherly needs to renew KROQ’s commitment to the original intent: to get local jocks who love music, let them participate in choosing this new music, give them the freedom to have fun live while keeping a fast paced and entertaining, and most importantly, expose new music.
It doesn’t mean playing new music for new music’s sake. But as online streaming services and SiriusXM’s The Pulse Hits One prove, there’s plenty of great new music out there and much of it never makes it to traditional radio airwaves.
Step into the areas where high school and college kids and young adults listen to music and find out what they like. Make it your goal in life to smash the next big act. Ask them to give concerts for the listeners. Become the go-to spot on the dial for new music. Don’t limit yourself to one style — think top 40, which includes everything. Young music fans are much more open to new styles than adults, and adults already have their own stations.
Reduce the number of advertisements and make advertisements relevant and entertaining for listeners; ads don’t have to be a disconnect. You know you have to run ads, unlike streamers, so make it good. Above all, treat listeners with respect. Earn their trust; win their loyalty. You will have them locked in 106.7 forever.
You may notice these are the same ideas I have for my future AM station. I will lend them to Weatherly for now, at least until I buy or get my own station.
That’s my plan – what’s yours? What would you do with KROQ? It seems to me that the slate is clean, or am I out of place? Tell me what you think.