Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, June 11, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
There’s been a revolution going on at classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3) recently. Instead of making noise with a shocking format change that instantly alienates listeners — similar to what happened last year at former oldies outlets in New York and Chicago — WOMC has quietly broadened their playlist and managed to create a rejuvenated sound for itself while retaining its listeners.
I’m enjoying the shift in music that now includes a blend of 1960s classics — especially Motown and the Beatles — along with up-tempo hits from ’70s and early ’80s. Even Elvis still gets his spins on ’OMC, but instead of “Hound Dog”-era tunes, you’ll now hear the “Kentucky Rain” Presley.
“We see this is an evolution of a heritage radio station and have worked very hard to make that happen smoothly,” WOMC program director Steve Allan explained. “Our listeners have remained quite loyal to the Motor City’s 104.3 and we appreciate that.”
The updates are encouraging. Many times, it seems local programmers simply plug in the flavor-of-the-month that’s pushed by corporate-based managers. Instead, ’OMC’s changes are driven by Allan with an eye on what local listeners enjoy hearing. With the oldies format losing outlets in many other markets, ’OMC’s progression keeps a favorite station viable and focused on Detroit, even if it means fewer spins of songs from the late ’50s and ’60s. A stronger 104.3 ensures fans of legendary personalities Dick Purtan and Tom Ryan that their favorite drive-time hosts won’t be replaced by a computer anytime soon.
“I think WOMC’s musical evolution has added a certain freshness to our sound,” Allan continued. “We are playing a lot of songs that have never been aired on 104.3 and the feedback we are getting from our listeners has been overwhelmingly positive. Yes, we do think this has made WOMC a stronger station. We believe — and our market research supports — that this fresh music has made WOMC more appealing to a larger audience. Combine this with personalities like Dick Purtan plus the addition of Michigan football and we feel like WOMC is a radio station that Detroit will continue to embrace for many years to come.”
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On the flipside is the change that sports WXYT-AM (1270) just made. New to mornings is syndicated shock-jock duo Opie & Anthony, who are rapidly gaining affiliates across the country in one of those situations that smacks of corporate-pushed programming. With no more sports talk during the morning drive, former co-host John Lund was let go, while fellow co-host Scott Anderson was moved to 1-3 p.m., where he’s joined by newcomer Dan Wetzel.
The move is a head-scratcher; Jamie & Brady on sports WDFN-AM (1130) now have a virtual monopoly on morning sports gab, while O&A compete for the same audience that sister-station talk WKRK-FM (97.1) targets with “Rover’s Morning Glory.” That’s also the same group of listeners that rock WRIF’s (101.1) Drew & Mike have had a stranglehold on for years.
It seems that CBS Radio is caught between giving Rover a fair shot and, at the same time, pushing O&A into as many markets as possible. O&A fans are very loyal to the show and claim it’s one the funniest programs on the radio, which contrasts from the lack of any emotion from the few that listen to Rover locally.
So why didn’t they put O&A, this month’s flavor, on 97.1 and bump Rover to 1270 if they wanted both programs on in Detroit badly enough to disrupt the format of WXYT? O&A’s show doesn’t mesh well with the station’s all-sports lineup the rest of the day, and it especially seems to clash with the family-friendly playby-play of the Detroit Tigers.
For their part, the Tigers claim to be pleased that WXYT continues to be primarily focused on sports and concedes that the station makes their own programming decisions. The Tigers hope fans continue to tune in to the games, even with the change in mornings.
Interestingly, the deal that landed the Tigers and Red Wings on AM 1270 nearly six years ago runs out with the conclusion of the current baseball season, and one of the big provisions of that deal was that WXYT change its format to focus on sports talk. All this makes me wonder if more changes will be coming to either 1270 or 97.1 — or both — sooner rather than later and whether the Tigers and Red Wings might go shopping for a new home after this summer.
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Modern rock CIMX-FM (88.7) is turning 15 years old, and the station’s longevity will be celebrated at the huge 89X Birthday Bash on June 18 at the State Theatre, the Fox Theatre and the Woodward Outdoor Stage. Gary Graff’s Oakland Press column in Friday’s Marquee will have a rundown on some of the bands scheduled to appear.
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Set your dials: Heather Novak and Tom Wilson feature a battle of the bands between Glenn Miller Orchestra and Andrej Hermlin’s Swing Dance Orchestra on “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.