Understanding Radio & Music Genres

boninwf back stage nite 1 2012

I had to LOL the other day, literally.  One of the things I do almost daily anymore is create one sheets for bands to send to radio, tv, print, and buyers.  In each case, I have to take care to describe the music (as yet unheard) in ways that make sense to the person receiving the one sheet.

So, I got like three cds in a row where the band identified themselves as “indie” when in fact they were rock bands, with music based in early 90s alternative rock ala Nirvana/STP/Soundgarden, etc.  Most folks would wonder what I was laughing about – indie is after all an accepted term that means … exactly what to radio people like me?

Radio understands things differently than a person looking to put on a local city sponsored event who may not go out more than a couple of times a year, and whose only exposure to music is via traditional FM radio formats. These buyers tend to be over 40, and represents a fairly narrow target demographic audience that typically listens to radio that reinforces their nostalgic yearnings.

Try defining “indie,” “alternative,” or Americana to these folks.  How are they different from rock, blues, country, or funk?  How is tradtional Rhythm & Blues different from R&B in the modern urban contemporary context?  Hmmmm.  That’s a debate I actually had recently, with some professional music industry types here in Colorado.

Radio is programmed to attract specific audiences, measured demographically, and in some cases psycho-graphically (lifestyle analysis).

Here are the TOP music based stations in the Denver metro, with applicable format and audience targets

KQKS-FM aka Mix 107.5
Format: Urban Contemporary, Hip Hop/R&B
Primary target: Teens & Adult ages 20 to 24
Popular artists: Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, John Legend, Robin Thicke
NOTE: this station has been known to air some CO artist cuts by established acts.

KTCL-FM aka 93-3 The Adventure
Format: Alternative/Modern Rock
Primary target: Men, 18-34
Popular artists: Chevelle, 311, Blink 182
NOTE: this station does air and break some CO artist cuts / has local music show

Format: Modern Country
Primary target: adults/hvy female 25+
Popular artists: Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift
NOTE: this station has not shown evidence of playing any CO artist cuts

KBCO-FM aka 97.3 World Class Rock
Format: AAA (Adult Album Alternative)
Primary target: M/F 25-44
Popular artists: Dave Matthews, Ray Lamnotagne, Beck, Cold Play
NOTE: this station airs a wkly Sun nite local music program and supports CO bands that break out nationally.

Format: AC/Adult Contemporary
Primary target: Women / 25-54
Popular artists: Barry Manilow, Celine Dion, Katy Perry
NOTE: this station occasionally brings in local talent to showcase on the air, esp during the holidays

KALC-FM – aka “Alice”
Format: Hot AC/ Hot Adult Contemporary Hits
A more up-tempo, contemporary hits format, with no hard rock and no rap
Target: Adults/HVY FEM, ages 25 to 34
Popular artists: OneRepublic, the Fray, One Direction
NOTE: this station has occasionally supported local artists who have broken out nationally.

Format: AR/Album Rock/active rock
Mainstream rock & roll, which can include guitar-oriented “heavy metal”
Primary Target: Men ages 25 to 44
Popular artists: SevenDust, Metallica
NOTE: this station has a history of supporting local music in genre/format.

Block programming refers to “…programming content that appeals to various demographics in time blocks, usually corresponding to the top or bottom of the hour or the quarter-hour periods. For example, various musical genres might be featured; a country music hour; a three-hour afternoon block of jazz or a four-hour Saturday night ’70s disco show.” (wikiepedia)

This type of programming is representative of most community/public radio stations in the state, only two of which use uniform programming methodologies. KUNC (Greeley) uses a AAA format wrapped inside of mostly news and information programming, and KCFR in Denver, a news/information format.

Generally speaking, block programming does not work for commercial broadcast formats, where “…listeners expect a certain type of music when they tune into a radio station, and breaking from that format will turn those listeners away from the station; likewise, a station that airs its programming in hodgepodge blocks will have difficulty building listener loyalty, as listeners’ music will only be on for a few hours of the day.” (wikipedia)

Each of the following Colorado stations employ block programming
KGNU (Boulder)
KAFM (Grand Junction)
KCSU (Fort Collins)
KBUT (Crested Butte)
KDUR (Durango)
KVNF (Paonia)
KDNK (Carbondale)
KOTO (Telluride)



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 News Director — Job Description

Reports to:     Executive Director

Summary:      The news director is primarily responsible for producing KOTO’s weekday newscast and local affairs programming. Other duties include strategic web planning, web content management, and co-production of KOTO’s live festival coverage.


  • Produce a daily newscast, determining local and regional content.
  • Hire, train, supervise, and schedule staff reporters/producers and volunteers.
    • Assign and edit reporters’ produced pieces to ensure they meet ethical and journalistic standards, as summarized by the following guidelines:
    • Seek the truth and report it;
    • Minimize harm;
    • Act independently;
    • Be accountable;
  • Prevent the broadcast of slanderous and/or libelous material.
    • Achieve a comprehensive and inclusive newscast that reports on the breadth of local community issues and subjects, including those underreported in the mainstream press, representing as many viewpoints as are available.
    • Produce public affairs programming and special coverage, including elections and emergencies.
  • Ensure web content is updated and accurate.
  • Advise executive director on website content and functionality
  • Assist in the broadcasting of Telluride town council meetings.
    • Assist, plan, and produce local public affairs programs, live broadcasts, and special event coverage.
    • Represent the News Department at San Miguel Educational Fund board of directors meeting as required.
  • Maintain equipment and make recommendations for replacement.
  • Cover on-air slots, Monday through Friday, from 5:58 until 6:30.
    • Act as news staff advocate, offering opinions and recommendations on KOTO news and public affairs programming.
    • Collect feedback and input from the community to make recommendations to the SMEF and CAB about news and public affairs programming.
  • Assist with station functions and events as requested by the executive director.

E-mail resumes to: Dina@koto.org

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.

The Colorado Sound – Vol. 3, EP 38 2011

News & Notes: (music bed, “Progabilly,” courtesy of Adam Stern off of his latest, High Country Gentleman)

The Soul Thieves “Starting Tonight” from Microphone In the Sugarbowl (2000)
Cassie Taylor “Keys” from Blue (2011)
(D) The Aunteaters “If the Tele Took Teardrops” from Marionette (2011)
(D) The Bimarinal “Move Me” from The Bimarinal (2011)
(D) Constitution “Broken Down” from Wrestling with the Daylight (2011)
Bop Skizzum “Beauty Queen” from Beauty Queen (2011)
Fierce Bad Rabbit “Everything’s Alright” from Spools of Thread (2010)
Post Paradise “The Ghost in the Airwaves” from New Normal (2011)
(D) Juno What?! “Late Night” from Late Night Live (2011)
(D) Big Jim Adam & John Stilwagen “When It Started to Rain” from Tippy’s Barn (2011)
Julie Hoest “Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight” from Where I’m Standing (1996)
Andy Ard “That’s What She Did to Me” from What She Did (2009)
Carmen Sandim Sextet “Feliz” from Brand New (2011)
Mercury Project “Refuge” from Soapbox Jive (2004)
Beats Noir! “Bad Beats” from 13 Tracks From the Dark Side of The Beat (2011)
(NT) SHEL  “Ruby Slippers” from The Dragon Came Down (2011)
(NT) Spring Creek “Evening Turns to Ashes” from Hold On Me (2011)
(NT) Great American Taxi “Poor House” from Paradise Lost (2011)
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club “My Last Black Scarf” from Unentitled (2011)
(NT) Andy Palmer “I Died Today” from Sometime Around (2011)
(D) INCA “Eye of the Storm” [single] (2011)
(D) Andy Monley “Anything” from Pull (2011)
Jim McTurnan & the Kids That Killed the Man “Don’t Count Me Out” from Joie De Vivre (2011)
Angie Stevens & the Beautiful Wreck “Queen of this Mess” from Queen of This Mess (2009)
Zach Heckendorf “All the Right Places” from The Cool Down (2011)
Jim Stranahan “Hip Street” from Free For All (2011)

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