On The Radio Columns: January 2006 Archives

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 1, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

After several years of relative stability on the Detroit radio, 2005 saw enough changes to require a look into the crystal ball for 2006 to see if even more change is on the horizon.


Country music enjoyed a resurgence in listeners across the country last year — but was it enough to bring a second full-market country station to our area? There’s word that country radio might be making a comeback in Toronto. If that happens with any measure of success, I predict that a Windsor station will try on a 10-gallon hat and boots and give WYCD-FM (99.5) something to be concerned about.


It’s tough to write off a morning show before it even starts, but I don’t see Rover’s Morning Glory standing much of a chance as a replacement for Howard Stern on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1). The WRIF-FM (101.1) morning duo of Drew and Mike are just too strong, coupled with having the advantage of being able to talk about the Pistons, Red Wings, and anything else local whenever they want.


By the end of 2006, listeners will have grown tired of ’80s rock and either WDRQ-FM (93.1) or WDTW-FM (106.7) will make a major change. I believe the ratings for both adult urban stations — WMXD-FM (92.3) and WDMK-FM (105.9) — will remain strong, led by morning show stars Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner, respectively.


I also can foresee big things from contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5); it’ll become the most-listened to station in Detroit this summer, knocking off news-talk WJR-AM (760). When that happens, there will be a lot of speculation about another station changing its format to compete, but that won’t happen until after Jan. 1, 2007.


Dick Purtan and Purtan’s People will set another record with next month’s Radiothon for the Salvation Bed & Bread Club, comfortably topping last year’s $1.7 million intake. And Purtan’s home, WOMC-FM (104.3), will continue to be one of America’s best-performing oldies stations anywhere.


I’m predicting a big year for High Definition radio after an agreement is reached with several automakers to include the new receivers as optional equipment on new cars. The price for after-market receivers will drop, getting more receivers into the hands of consumers. Every Michigan-based FM station will offer several different format choices locally on their HD stations, giving listeners more options than ever before. HD on AM won’t catch on as quickly though.


Satellite radio will still be talked about a lot, but with strong competition from HD radio, subscriber numbers won’t increase as dramatically as they have in previous years.


The crystal ball gets rather fuzzy when looking at the AM band. Two of the area’s most successful stations, WJR and all-news WWJ-AM (950), have no reason to shake things up, and many of the area’s other AM’s have found their niche and will likely stay the course in 2006. Salem Broadcasting, already owner of talk WDTK-AM (1400), is in the process of closing on the purchase of Christian WLQV-AM (1500) and might do something — possibly a swapping of formats between the two — once it takes control of ’LQV.


If there are shake ups in sports play-by-play, I’d suggest that either WXYT-AM (1270) or WDFN-AM (1130) might consider a different direction, but they’re just as likely to stick with their all-sports focus too. Radio Disney WFDF-AM (910) will get the rights to at least one of the area’s big sports teams as a way to generate interest for the station. Sports play-by-play will make other headlines as the Red Wings and Tigers deal with WXYT expires and the University of Michigan looks for a home for its football and basketball broadcasts.


All in all though, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of big changes from your radio this year. While it’s fun to speculate sometimes, the truth is, most of what you hear coming from your radio these days is heavily studied and isn’t changed all that easily. Radio is big business, and changes only happen once the folks in charge are pretty certain that making a move will result in higher revenue and ratings. Here’s to a fun 2006 anyhow.


 * * * * 


The Doo Wop Show hits the Detroit Opera House on Saturday, with legendary jock and TV host Rockin’ Robin Seymour coming to town from California to host the event. The performers include Adam Wade, the Willows, the Falcons, the Impalas, Jimmy Charles, Mel Carter, Fred Johnson’s Marcels, Harvey Fuqua and the Moonglows. Tickets range from $23 to $58 and are available through Ticketmaster, (248) 645-6666 or www.ticketmaster.com.


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: A perfect way to celebrate the New Year is with an evening of big band dance music from Lester Lanin. Tune in to “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 8, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

Some big changes coming this week for the “great voice of the Great Lakes.” Starting Monday, news/talk WJR-AM (760) will begin an altered afternoon line-up, trimming Mitch Albom Inc. to a 5-7 p.m. weekday slot. While ’JR boss Mike Fezzey says the change is a move that “allows Mitch the time to address other demands of his career,” it’s also known that ABC Radio has been pushing to get syndicated conservative yakmeister Sean Hannity on live in Detroit afternoons.

Which is what happened, as Hannity will now fill the 3-5 p.m. slot; previously, he’d been tape-delayed evenings on ’JR. The “Sports Albom” show will still air 7-8 p.m. Mondays, but in that slot Tuesdays through Fridays will be “The Big Story,” a local news and interviews show hosted by ’JR’s Lloyd Jackson. Meanwhile, the dulcet tones of Dr. Laura will fill the 8-11 p.m. block, and a new conservative host, Mark Levin, will scorch the Earth of liberals in the 11 p.m.-1 a.m. slot.


 * * * * 


Freak out: The New Year got off to a rough start for evening jock Tic Tak and co-hosts Stick and Limpy, when they were released by contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5) earlier this week. The “Freak Show” on Channel 9-5-5 had been Mr. Tak’s second go-round as a night jock in town; prior to joining ’KQI, his show was on Top 40 WDRQ-FM (93.1) with an in-between stint in Pittsburgh. Betcha part-time show contributor “Mr. Positive” isn’t feeling so upbeat, as ’KQI program director Dom Theodore searches for a new show that will match the amount of energy presented daily by Tic Tak and posse.


 * * * * 


Fans of former public radio WDET-FM (101.9) afternoon host Martin Bandyke can show their support for him — and get to hear some great music, too, on Friday at Clutch Cargo’s iLounge in Pontiac. Beginning at 9 p.m., Bandyke will spin an eclectic batch of music, from stuff he played on ’DET in the 1980s to new music from ex-Kinks lead singer Ray Davies and English singer-songwriter Beth Orton. Admission is $10 and all door proceeds benefit the now-unemployed Bandyke thanks to Clutch Cargo’s owner Amir Daiza. The iLounge is next to the Clutch Cargo’s entrance at 65 E. Huron St. in downtown Pontiac. Call (248) 333-2525.


 * * * * 


It’s never too early to think spring. With that in mind, classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7) is setting up a new motorcycle club called the WCSX Classic Rock Riders. A $9.47 membership fee gets you access to bike nights, cruises, parties, and chances to win prizes. To join, visit the WCSX booth at the annual motorcycle show today at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi or visit www.wcsx.com. Proceeds benefit the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.


 * * * * 


With the NFL playoffs under way, you’ll be hearing more and more about all kinds of activities linked to next month’s Super Bowl XL in Detroit. The first big radio tie-in has been announced with adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) helping sponsor the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration featuring huge names such as Patti LaBelle, the Winans, Mary Mary, the Clark Sisters and Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir. It takes place Feb. 3 at the Masonic Temple; tickets are $45-$75 and available through Ticketmaster.

In its seventh year, the gospel celebration evolved from Christian NFL players wanting an inspirational, family-oriented event during the big weekend. Now part of the NFL Concert Series, it’s drawn thousands and proven to be one of most-attended events of the annual Roman numeraled weekend.


 * * * * 


Syndicated WMXD morning host Steve Harvey visits town with a live broadcast 6-10 a.m. Friday at the Breakfast House on Woodward in downtown Detroit, following by “The World’s Largest Old-School Skating Party” on Saturday night at Skate World in Troy. Tickets for the skating party are $9.23 at Ticketmaster and the Skate World box office.


 * * * * 


Coming soon: Radio columnist Art Vuolo returns here next Sunday with a look at the huge Consumer’s Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a report on the spread of satellite radio, and highlights of some of the new broadcast gadgets coming our way. Personally, I’m still waiting for a gadget that’ll give me enough money to afford all these new gadgets!


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: Hosts Heather Novak and Tom Wilson dish up the Big Band sounds of Russ Morgan at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5). You also can catch their “Somewhere in Time” show at www.wmuz.com, and Wilson says he’s already heard from listeners in New York thanks to the Internet presence ... “The Insane World of Mike Sain” has returned to Oldies WPON-AM (1460) from 9-10 a.m. Wednesdays with trivia contests, jokes, and stories on the oldies theme.


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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 15, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

His Sunday morning classical show was a longtime fave on public radio WDET-FM (101.9), and at 10 a.m. today, host Chris Felcyn unveils “The Listening Room” on his new home, public WRCJ-FM (90.9). Word is he’s also considering bringing back his tongue-incheek “Symphony Bowl,” which spoofs some big football game.


 * * * * 


The biggest radio thing at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas? The omnipresence of XM Satellite Radio, which seemed to be everywhere. On the flipside, competitor Sirius opted not to have even one display booth at the huge show, a distinct change from last year when the subscription radio service had two lavish sets with live broadcasts and new products galore. This year, the New York based sat-caster was holed up in a suite at the Bellagio Hotel, plus seen in a small display buried in an auto stereo booth in the back of the North Hall. That left many attendees to joke that Sirius had invested so much money to hire Howard Stern that there was nothing left for the trade show.

With Sirius at 3.3 million subscribers, the XM camp had big banners proclaiming they’d topped the 6 million customer mark. And the XM logo was all over the show, on bags, signs, kiosks, even a banner in the sky behind an airplane — while their booth was packed with people watching live broadcasts and big name entertainers. At the XM booth, people were checking out a new, tiny, iPod-style XM radio due out soon by both Pioneer and Samsung. The thing holds 50 hours of music — theirs or yours — can broadcast on any FM frequency and dazzled the crowd. It all underlined the fact that satellite radio is not going away anytime soon.

Adjacent to the XM display were booths for HD Radio and Troy-based Delphi, the world’s largest manufacturer of satellite radios, which announced a deal to bring satellite radio to Europe within three years.

Inside the full-color handout at the HD Radio booth was a photo of and a strong endorsement by Tom Bender, the VP/GM of Detroit’s Greater Media Radio, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. As for HD, the stations broadcasting in super-clear high definition have increased from 200 to more than 625 in the past year.

Another trend seen at the show is that iPods and various forms of MP3 players continue to be a thorn in the side of AM and FM radio stations, but the best such music system wasn’t even on the show floor. In a suite at the Hilton Hotel, exhibitors were showing the SongBook by Tivoli Audio. At $160, it features a durable design in many colors, is made for travel and has incredible sound and super selectivity. Learn more at www.tivoliaudio.com.


 * * * * 


Stern Redux: When the self-proclaimed “king of all media” premiered on Sirius last week, he said there would be no swearing on the first show. He must have been kidding since according to Family Media Guide, Stern used the “F-word” more than 75 times on his first show — along with a litany of other words that would make the FCC blush.

And how will he do for the sat-caster? Well, New York Post radio writer John Mainelli has penned a piece in a talk radio trade magazine headlined: “How the 500 million dollar man will single-handedly sink Sirius.” While it’s too early to tell, Mainelli says, “Stern, like Don Imus and a few other incredibly wealthy, spoiled and one-time (radio) greats, has been phoning it in in recent years, knowing that he can count on a fiercely loyal core who will keep listening at least three months after he’s dead.” Ouch.


 * * * * 


Local Quick Hits: Friday saw another live and local visit from syndicated morning host Steve Harvey at pop-urban WMXD-FM (92.3); he’s catching on locally and offering major competition to urban WDMK-FM (105.9) host Tom Joyner ... soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) has welcomed new program director Don Gosselin up from a short stint in New Orleans. He previously was running soft rock WRVF-FM (101.5) and legendary rocker WIOT-FM (104.7) in Toledo ... one-time Big 8 and “The Groove” jock “Brother” Bill Gable is now doing afternoons at standards CHWO-AM (740) a 50,000-watter in Toronto, which better radios can pick up here ... the furor over WDET’s dumping of daytime music continues as former fans have created the Web site SaveDetroitRadio.com and promise more protests ...


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: Pretend mild weather is here — with the Hawaiian music of Don Ho at 6 p.m. tonight on “Somewhere In Time” on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... Martin Luther King Jr.’s 30-minute “I Have A Dream” speech, first given in Detroit in June 1963, airs at 8:30 a.m. Monday on WDET ... and don’t forget to check out your favorite radio hosts at the auto show.


 * * * * 


Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.

 

New Mix goes to the max in fall ratings

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Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 22, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

The fall quarter ratings book, released earlier this month, demonstrates some interesting changes in our radio listening habits. The first eye-opener was the tie at the top in all-day listening between news-talk WJR-AM (760) and adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) among listeners ages 12 and older. WMXD’s success was fueled by Steve Harvey, who scored big numbers over The Mix 92.3’s former morning man Tom Joyner, now heard on adult urban WDMK-FM (105.9). So far, it looks like listeners are pleased with the new Mix and are showing their loyalty.

The rest of the Top 5 stations overall were smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7), contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5) and the all-Christmas sounds of WNIC-FM (100.3). It was a strong book for WNIC, but not nearly as big as a year ago, when it surged to the top spot even amid direct competition from fellow soft rocker WMGC-FM (105.1). Magic 105.1, which opted for a more traditional and later approach to Christmas music this season, finished in 12th place. The ratings for both WNIC and WMGC were down from last year but up from the summer ratings period.

What’s surprising is the absence of news WWJ-AM (950) from the Top 5, since the all-newser routinely competes for the market’s top spot but fell to ninth place overall this fall. Just don’t blame WWJ’s soft ratings on its morning team — in the morning numbers, Joe Donovan, Roberta Jasina and Larry Henry placed second behind Drew & Mike on rock WRIF-FM (101.1) and ahead of ’MXD’s Harvey and Dick Purtan and Purtan’s People on oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), which tied for third place.

The Mojo in the Morning crew at WKQI also had reason to be happy with their performance. For the first time, they notched a Top 5 finish in every demographic they target, including being tops in women listeners ages 18-34 and 25-34.

Meanwhile, the sports radio battle took a twist with WXYT-AM (1270) moving well ahead of WDFN-AM (1130) for the first time that I can remember, as WXYT’s emphasis on being all local all day certainly seems to be having a positive impact. To my ears, WDFN has lost its way as a sports-focused station, with hosts talking about just about anything but sports for longer and longer periods of time — when there aren’t commercials airing for what seems like minutes on end.


 * * * * 


Speaking of sports, I was really annoyed with our local sports radio stations last Sunday when I tried to tune in the football playoff game between the Colts and Steelers. Neither WXYT nor WDFN had the game, but luckily, I found it on CHOK-AM (1070), which broadcasts from Sarnia, Ontario. How sad is it that I had to listen to American football on a Canadian radio station in one of the United States’ largest radio markets?!?


 * * * * 


Major kudos to WJR morning man Paul W. Smith for guest-hosting the Rush Limbaugh afternoon politico gabfest Wednesday and Thursday. The timing couldn’t have been better for a Detroit spotlight during auto show week and just as all the Super Bowl hoopla gets going in earnest. It’s great to hear good things about our area on national media for change.


 * * * * 


Still, I’m sad that the days of “radio row” during the auto show are long gone due to the space constraints at Cobo Center. One of the highlights for radio fans like me was being able to check out the freebies from nearly every radio station on the dial in one quick walk. I wish I had kept some of those classic bumper stickers from stations like the old WABX, WLLZ and CKLW... These days, if you can even find any of the few radio booths in the exhibit hall, you’re lucky to score even a key ring. I’d vote for a bigger Cobo Center just to get Radio Row back!


 * * * * 


For something completely different, classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9) is offering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Party Packs to celebrate the composer’s 250th birthday on Friday. Available by sending an e-mail to wolfgang@dptv.org, the packs include info on Mozart, a quiz, recipes and more. The station also will dish up broadcasts from Salzburg, Austria, as part of the celebration Wednesday and Thursday and all day Friday. So party down with Wolfie!


 * * * * 


Legendary ABC TV newsman Ted Koppel will join National Public Radio in June, offering commentaries and analysis during news events. Noted Koppel, “I have been an unabashed fan of NPR for many years and have stolen untold excellent ideas from its programming. It’s time to give something back.” His deal is for one year.


 * * * * 


Mark your calendar and save your pennies: Dick Purtan’s annual radiothon to benefit the Salvation Army Bed and Bread Club will be Feb. 24 at Oakland Mall in Troy. The goal is to break last year’s amazing tally of more than $1.7 million.


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: Chris Felcyn’s “Listening Room” brings “Winter” from Haydn’s “The Seasons,” album excerpts from Nnenna Freelon and Ann Arbor composer William Bolcom, plus the timeless comedy of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, from 10 a.m.-noon today on classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9) ... hosts Tom Wilson and Heather Novak pull out the stops with dance music on a Wurlitzer organ at 6 p.m. on Christian music WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 29, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

HD (high-definition) radio is really in the news right now as the big players roll out their new HD formats on what is known as the “sidechannel.” With an HD radio, AM sounds like FM and FM sounds like a CD. You can tune to an FM station and select HD-1 or HD-2. Available only on HD sets, the second channel, in theory, doubles your choices of programs or formats. Except that it won’t. That’s because the two biggest radio companies locally, Clear Channel and CBS (formerly Infinity), have unveiled their new HD-2 offerings — and it’s not pretty. Or very innovative.

Urban WJLB-FM (97.9) will offer classic hip-hop; urban pop WMXD-FM (92.3) will do gospel; Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5) will play “new” Top 40; classic hits WDTW-FM (106.7) will deliver “live rock”; and pop WNIC-FM (100.3) will play pop ballads and love songs. The four CBS FMs aren’t much better. Country WYCD-FM (99.5) will play something called “Future Country”; smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7) will have traditional jazz; hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) will do (hot?) news; and oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) will present — ta-dah! — the “History of Rock & Roll.”

Will these “exciting” and “new” formats entice you into spending $350-plus for a new HD Radio? Where are the under-represented formats? Why not channels that offer full-time classical, pre-Beatles oldies, beautiful music, traditional country and adult standards? While the radio industry preaches that “content is king,” this type of content is not king. It’s also why people pay $13 per month for satellite radio, which does cater to just about every musical taste. It’s the same reason so many people pay up to $100 per month for premium cable and satellite TV — because they became disenchanted with the offerings of network television.

A good part of the audience is now feeling the same about radio. But the audience — that’s you — no longer has to tolerate mediocrity. You have the power to influence broadcasters. This was evidenced by the cancellation of “The Book of Daniel” by NBC after religious and family watchdog organizations deemed the show offensive and led a campaign to kill it. While HD radio does sound incredible, the initial offerings seem lame.


 * * * * 


Speaking of offensive, Howard Stern has brought so much attention to his “free speech” program on Sirius Satellite Radio that the FCC is now looking into censorship of both Sirius and XM. Can HBO and Showtime be far behind? This could really get ugly.


 * * * * 


It’s been more than 90 days since WJR-AM (760) dumped U-M sports for MSU and still no replacement stations have been named for this fall’s 12-game football season. I say let’s get the Wolverines on FM. The Lions are on WKRK-FM (97.1), and nearly a dozen NFL teams have FMs as their flagship stations. A powerful FM would be ideal with equal coverage both day and night. Expect a decision soon — along with the final word on which company might buy ABC Radio (which owns WJR and three other local stations) from Disney, in a deal worth billions.


 * * * * 


We’re one week away from Super Bowl XL Sunday, and all this week, the world will focus on Detroit, as will the jokes from Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel. Many of your favorite radio stations will be all over the big event. For instance, Mojo in the Morning on WKQI is pulling out all of the stops — even giving away free tickets to the game. Super Bowl XL will be Xtra Large for local radio.


 * * * * 


Recent times have been bittersweet for WKQI programmer Dom Theodore, who lost his dad to cancer and a few days later was promoted to VP of regional programming for Clear Channel Radio in Michigan. Theodore is both loved and respected by local staffers, and did not select the new HD formats. They were chosen by corporate brass and the HD Radio Alliance, a broadcasting group put together to popularize the new technology.


 * * * * 


Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Martin Bandyke, the popular 22-year radio personality formerly of public WDET-FM (101.9), will be the new morning host at Ann Arbor’s alternative WQKL-FM (107.1), which can be heard by much of western Oakland County ... urban talk/gospel WCHB-AM (1200) has greatly juggled its schedule. Mildred Gaddis will continue to host mornings, but the rest of the day’s programs will come from the African-American Talk Network of Radio One, which owns the 50,000-watt station.


 * * * * 


Set Your Dials: Home improvement whiz Murray Gula broadcasts live with John McCullough from the Home Show at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, from noon to 3 p.m. today on WJR ... host Tom Wilson features “Chick” Webb’s big band at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... stay up late to catch indie pop star Ashton Allen performing in-studio with host Liz Copeland, after 12:30 a.m. Thursday on WDET.


 * * * * 


Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from January 2006.

On The Radio Columns: February 2006 is the next archive.

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