Hell Must Have Frozen Over I Think

chris at ob hmls sunday june 16 2013Most radio stations don’t play “local” music – and if and when they do it’s largely a highly popular act and the total volume of local music played is well under 1% of the total catalog.

The average number of songs per hour on a typical commercial station will come out to about 10 … maybe 11 if there’s a light commercial load …maybe 12 at nights/over nights.  Non-commercial stations such as KRFC (Fort Collins) or KUNC (Greeley) will typically play 12-13 songs per hour for most shows.  Most non-comm stations air less than 1 “local” cut per hour .. with KRFC (Fort Collins) and Open Air 1340 (Denver) being the exceptions regionally.

All that said, if a commercial station decided to air just one cut per hour that would equal 8-10% of their mix — an astronomical value given the history of commercial radio in airing local music at all to begin with… to expect 2 per hour or 20% of the mix .. well that borders on complete and utter insanity, right?  Hmmm.

A couple of years ago (almost 3 now really) I drove from Hartford south along I95 to Virginia and then west along some back roads to  I40 … to New Mexico and then up the inside route of Colorado up to Denver.  It was an 8 day road trip and being a “radio guy” I listened to a great deal of what this country offers in the way of programming.

Of course I also took 12 hours of CO music with me as well, along with some fav Americana/alt-country stuff.  It was September.  It was football season – and there’s a lot of sports talk radio … but in reality, there’s mostly religious radio.  There isn’t too much in the way of “cool” music out there… fo’sho’

We are spoiled here in Colorado.  I’ve spent my entire radio career in NoCO, with a brief six month first-gig stint in Roswell NM in ’78.  At one time every label of any size had a promo office in Denver or Boulder.  This was where the AAA radio format grew wings, and the New or Alternative Rock format took shape … KBCO for AAA, KTCL for ALT.

There were also some pretty heady experiments such as KDEN, which had originally been KYOU (Greeley) – today it’s called Willie or the Wolfe or something like that.  KDEN was a very early Americana/Folk station… very acoustic, very laid back … very short lived.  That was about ’90-’91.

KSQI (96.1 K-SKY, Greeley/Fort Collins), the station I was at (88-91), was also known for “taking chances” with the content.  All in all there’s been a lot of great radio done in this region over the decades — more than in some other fairly progressive areas in fact.

So, I’m driving home tonight from emceeing the Thursday Night Downtown Concert Series in Fort Collins, and I decide to listen to the radio instead of an internet station (The Colorado Sound of course … silly).  I flip on this new station, Radio949.  It’s not a strong signal, though clean, it only hits mile marker 252 going south before it crashes out.  Radio949 is a Clear Channel station … booooooooooooo right?  Hmmm.

Yeah, not so much boooo… a good friend said to me tonight she listened to 949 today but didn’t know very much of what they played.  I knew almost nothing of what they were playing – but then I haven’t listened to anything remotely pop and non-CO in over a decade now.  So it all sounds new and alien to me anyway <shrug>.

After 949 crashed out I dialed up KUNC at 91.5.  I didn’t know most of what they played – although I recognized Otis Taylor in there … and I think I heard a new (?) Steve Earle cut.  The differences between the two stations is in texture … 949 has a more rock edge… more popular in tone and texture.  More Matchbox Twenty, less Steve Earle.  KUNC is more Steve Earle and no Matchbox Twenty.  While driving down 25, both were very enjoyable experiences…

Let me not forget the incredible efforts of KRFC (Fort Collins) and KCSU (Fort Collins)… both of which offer compelling non-pop/non-commercial programming, typically to highly niche audiences .. KCSU out on the edges of rock/pop, hip-hop/rap, metal, punk, EDM, etc … and KRFC out along the edges of Americana/AAA and Colorado music… KRFC plays more Colorado music than any other station in the state by 10x as much as the statewide average.

I said I think hell has frozen over … where else in the country has the kind of radio that exists in Northern Colorado right now?  Where else in the country are there four stations that feature “local” music in their daily mix?  Where else in the country is a Clear Channel owned station willing to take a chance by committing somewhere between 10 & 20% of their hourly air time to “local” music?

Go ahead, queue up the stations … KUNC, KRFC, KCSU, and Radio949 … do it between 9AM and 2PM, and again between 9PM and midnight .. that’s when all the stations are airing music at the same time.  How long before you bump into something local?  Bet it ain’t long.  That’s why hell must have frozen over.

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