Thursday, July 18, 2013

How To Program Your Own Radio Station

Owed to TAD

It's funny in this day and age that we have to sit through about 20 radio stations on the dial and they all sound the same with their formats and play list that to the point that one gives up.  Radio provided a service to the mainstream listeners but back in the heyday of the 1950s and 60s AM radio served up a melting pot of various styles of rock, pop, country and easy listening.  Even into the late 70s the long forgotten KCRG would play Barry Manilow along the likes of the Bee Gees and Led Zeppelin and Chic and even Kenny Rogers in the mix.  WMT on the other hand would incorporate more of a big band theme and pop stars of the big band era and pre rock and roll years, Frank, Dean, Sammy Davis Jr and Glenn Miller would be heard along the likes of The Platters, The Everly Brothers and of course Elvis. 96.5 WMT FM was the Muzak station, KTOF was the gospel channel and top forty was Q103, and the harder rocking stations was KRNA, and KFMW (formerly KLWW the Old Gold Station).

Still even in the mid 70s, AM Radio was still preferred over FM since most car radios prior to 1975 was AM only and FM remained the brave new ground of EZ Muzak, hot air gospel and out of the way rock and roll that long cuts got played from time to time.  Some adventurous stations would play the both sides of Thick As A Brick.  I myself discovered FM radio by accident in 1972 while being bored with what KLWW and KCRG was playing I snapped on the FM button on our old Sears portable radio and ended up coming across 107.9  KRNA would not arrive here till 1974 and G100 aka KKRQ aka The FOX soon afterward.

A lot has happened over the years, AM radio became obsolete and more centered on Talk radio and Sports. Sometime in the 1980s, KCRG and KLWW became things of the past, with KCRG becoming part of ESPN and KLWW became KMRY, a station that specializes in oldies and classic rock but like The Fox and KOOL 105.7 their playlist is skimpy and not impressive most of the time.  The bill that killed off radio The Telecom act of 1996 gave Cumulus and Clear Channel the option to buy up most of the mom and pop radio stations and they did, and in the process stuck to a outdated playlist that was thought up by Lee Abrams in the mid 80s about what people wanted to hear.  And in the process kept the tried and true but left most of the one hit wonders and cult bands off to the side.  And for myself there's more to Blue Oyster Cult than Burning For You or Don't Fear The Reaper or Foghat, more than just Slow Ride.

Radio today is a GD joke, all it serves if the same 200 songs every day and commercial breaks 20 minutes after the hour and 10 before.  I originally set out to learn broadcasting journalism in junior college but cursed with a stuttering and a voice lacking in character and blandness (I still have my resume tape in the box somewhere, I couldn't get hired as a toilet cleaner), they even told me that to make it in broadcasting would be a luck of the draw and better if I knew somebody.  So ended my radio career but as a music buyer that continues to buy jawdropping amounts of different music styles  I could probably kick major butt as a programming manager, I would kill to work at KCDX in Florence Arizona if I could.   Let's face it, there's much better startup radio stations on the net rather on the dial.  KFMH, the infamous 99 plus has now been reborn for the ipod or cell phone and of course Radio Buzz'd which focuses more on the up and coming acts and of course the established acts.  But here's the thing, we have way so much music out there that we could hardly ever, ever play everything that I have at home.  Think the world would be ready for a format of you'll never hear the same song for the rest of the year?  Or how bout a Month?  Week?

Reading Tad's attempt of building a radio station, I took notes and went back to a history lesson of what worked and what doesn't.  But in an attempt of can you top this, I have to assessed what would work and at what time.  So this is what I came up with and it's not perfect, nor never be.  But here goes.

The morning commute:  People wake up and they don't want a blaring metal song in their face right off the bat. This is where the Oldies format comes into play.  Since farmers start up around 5 AM to 6, this would be the classic country period.  Some Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Waylon, Dave Dudley and Loretta Lynn to boot, if you want to add some new country (not too much, no Boom Boom Speakers or Hick Pop mind you) throw the new Kacey Musgraves or Pistol Annies or Elizabeth Cook   At 6 we turn it over to pop rock of the 60s and 70s., Elvis I sure gets airplay or The Monkees, Paul Revere And The Raiders. Some soul music from Otis, Motown, The Drifters, Jerry Butler would fit in handy too.  Three hours of that type of music taking up to the 9 oclock hour.  And then the next three hours play some sort of album tracks or classic rock that people would enjoy.   Then the Noon hour, request time.

Afternoon: Radio Crabb would return two hours of deep cuts again. At 2 oclock thrown in a classic album of the day in its entity before the rush hour comes on and at 3 to 6 it's back with classic rock of the 70s through the 90's and beyond but again when people go home in traffic they want to hear their favorite songs. Throw them a curve and play the edited version of Free Bird but stats show that people don't want epic numbers while fighting traffic.  And then from 6 to 11, back to album cuts and a more progressive style of rock leading to the 11 oclock and overnight.

For the most part most of America is sleeping to get ready for the morning commute so only people up are 2nd shifters getting home or folks working graveyard.  This is where what we call the Beeker Street effect, meaning playing obscure and the bizarre.  Around the midnight hour this is where I be more prone to play In The Court Of The Crimson King or 21st Century Schizoid Man  or Ummagumma.  For my station I would play another classic album at 11 and surprise the world, play Dream Theater or Porcupine Tree for prog rock.  Or take it to the limit and play some jazz in the overnight, Brubeck, Coltrane, Bud Powell and incorporate the lesser known and forgotten into the overnight.

For weekends the best time to use the Syndicated shows. Casey Kasem  American Top 40 in the Sunday Morning 10 through noon.  Little Steven's Underground Garage either on a 9 to 11 Saturday Night or earlier Sunday Night Broadcast.  The King Biscuit Flower Hour of Live music would be on my Saturday Night from 10 to Midnight.  Or have a Saturday Night Concert Series to which you play a live album and see where it goes.  Early Sunday Morning, I'd go with a bluegrass or early country style leading up to Casey Kasem  Top 40. Sunday Night used to be Beaker Street but since Clyde Clifford more or less retired, I'd would go with a more centralized show or have my good friend Miss Mouse do her Mouse Tracks up to 11 to which Sunday Night at 11 would be the R Smith Show to which yours' truly would provide 2 hours of hard to find album tracks.  Then the overnight you could add Backtracks with Bob Dorr, for two hours and then two hours of Rodney on the ROQ before the five oclock hour and we do it all over again with the getting ready to go to work day.

I'm not a big fan of morning shows, Bob and Tom and most of the time any morning crew basically is too much hot air, bad jokes and no substance but I guess they're a necessity if you want to get reports of delays on The Black Canyon Freeway or 380. In the evening, Nikki Sixx actually does a nice radio show but he deals mostly with the new rock or the overplayed and it's a shame Dr. Demento is no longer on radio but podcasts only if he's still doing them.  Metal Shop, on KFMW same thing, too much noise rock for me to give a shit about.  But basically the weeknight show would be fun and noteworthy to stick some reggae  or blues in certain spots and at certain times or hard rock, but I wouldn't throw them back to back to back like Toots And The Maytals, then Blind Gary Davis and then Saliva or Motorhead, you have to work it up to a theme of sorts.  And if you make a hour of commercial free music, make it like that, and not stick a radio spot halfway through that. That will make me switch channels right then and there.  And why not, add a new music track from time to time. (New Andrew Stockdale coming up after this classic from The Clash (Train In Vain or if you really want to throw a curve, play I Fought The Law).

The problem with a free form radio station is too much music is out there and simply not enough hours to get every request coming in.  It's impossible but it doesn't have to be of hearing We're An American Band or Go Your Own Way every damn day.  It probably won't work, it'll probably fail BUT the fun part is that at least you made an honest effort to show there's a bit more out there than the same old same old.  I'm going to leave you at what would be the 10 oclock hour of Radio Crabb.  Let's see if you'll like this playlist.

10:00 Standing On Higher Ground-Alan Parsons Project
10:05 Maggie's Farm-Bob Dylan
10:09 Lovely To See You-Moody Blues
10:12 The Dead Heart-Midnight Oil

10:15 Take It As It Comes-The Doors

Station Break: Weather Report: Commercial

10:20  World's Looking Lonely-Volebeats
10:24  Lawyers, Guns & Money-Warren Zevon
10:27  Guts-John Cale

Station ID

10:31  Go-Asia
10:35  North Cedar-House Of Large Sizes
10:40  Blood On Our Hands-Sidewinders
10:45  Boys Like Us-Blake Shelton

Station Break: Community Services Annoucements (If Needed)
Music break of news: Amanda Palmer bares all in concert, tells a UK tabloid Up Yours:
Promo for upcoming events (Coming at 11 new album from Primal Scream-More Light)

10:50  Silent Sun-Genesis
10:52  Looking For A Love-J Geils Band

To the top of the hour
Away-The Feelies

And then Station ID


TAD said...

Crabby: I LIKE IT! You should be awarded your own radio station IMMEDIATELY! I'd listen....
Like your new format too....
Never knew you trained to be a broadcaster....

R S Crabb said...

Thanks Tad.

It's a bit over everything and as a programmer I try to add songs that flow well into the next one. Long time I did try to get into broadcasting with no results. Got passed over the midnight to six shift at KCCK a few times before the money ran out and had to go find a paying career job. ;)