30 Under 30 Honorees Pick The Next Hot Format

Over the last few years, the rhythmic music of the late ’80s and early ’90s has gone from being the music that had completely disappeared from the radio to the music that programmers on the pop and Urban side have tried valiantly to make work on the radio. So far, the stations that have gotten any degree of traction, such as KQM V (Movin’ 92.5) Seattle, have been the exceptions.
But if the responses of Edison Media Research’s 2008 30 Under 30 Honorees are any indication, there is still plenty of support for a ’90s-based format, whether it’s a younger Urban AC or a newer generation of Bob- and Jack-FM. And as has been the case with previous gold-based formats, what it may take for the ’90s to finally gain traction is for the programmers who grew up with that music to move into decision-maker positions at the same time that their peers are moving into the Hot AC and Urban AC demos.
We’re posting our “30 Under 30″ honorees’ self-penned biographies and their thoughts on the state of the industry every day at Edison’s www.infinitedial.com blog. But taken together, their answers to the question, “What is the one format that you can’t believe nobody has done?” have a distinct theme.
Not all our honorees saw an obvious “next format” on the horizon–particularly when so many potential niches are already available on satellite radio, the Internet, or HD-2 multicast channels. Several voiced their support of other next-big-things that have support, but few working models yet, throughout the industry, such as stations that make their money from sponsorships, not spots, or a Hip-Hop/Rock hybrid.
But the concept of a new-generation Urban AC was easily the one most cited by our honorees. As Rickey Smiley Morning Show executive producer Tazz “Daddy” Anderson asked, “When you have people who are 25-44 who grew up on Hip-Hop, why wouldn’t you devote a format to them? I would throw in some Run-D.M.C., Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, some SWV and TLC and keep it banging! The Movin’ format does Hip-Hop lite for soccer moms, but I’m talking about an anti-Soulja Boy format here without the pop princesses.”
Charlamagne of the Wendy Williams Experience also believes that a mix of old-school Hip-Hop and late ’80s New Jack Swing “would kill the game right now. It would also give a lot of older Hip-Hop artists new life because their respective catalogues would start to sell more and they could possibly be out still doing shows. Another plus is a lot of jocks who grow out of the 18-34 demo targeted by most Hip-Hop stations wouldn’t have to still be on [younger targeted stations and] still trying to sound young.”
Also filing briefs for an Adult Hip-Hop outlet: WPGC Washington, D.C., MD Talya Johnson who calls for an alternative to the core Urban AC artists who she characterizes as “the Old Jays,” and James “Doubledown” Howard, PD of Clear Channel Active Rocker WXTB Tampa, who says, “I realize that Hip-Hop Brands do features, but we are getting close to having a library that can facilitate a lifegroup.”
There were also calls for a ’90s based format from the pop side. PD Scott Herrold of the SOS Radio Network acknowledges that, “I’m not sure that many companies have found the ideal Mainstream CHR/old school mix … We’ve lost the nostalgia on our CHR stations.” Similarly, KKOB/KMGA Albuquerque, N.M., PD Justin Riley says, “One that I’m looking forward to is a 90’s format. I don’t think we’re too far away from somebody busting out the Ace of Base!”
Jake Kaplan, who does imaging and creative services for KROQ and L.A.’s Jack-FM (KCBS), sees the need for “a younger version of Jack-FM [where the] core of the station is 90s based: Rap like 2pac, Dr. Dre, and L.L., to [Alternative like] Green Day, Nirvana, and Weezer. [It would have] many of the same principles of Jack, but targeted to people in their 20s to early 30s.”
Not all the calls were for a ’90s-based format. WABC/WPLJ New York director of engineering Alex Roman envisions “an eclectic rock/new music format. We need to accept that there is a group of people that has tastes that are not accounted for in mainstream programming and they’re not listening to your competition, they’re just not listening to the radio. They find new music on MySpace or go to indie rock shows and just listen to their iPod. This is happening with a younger generation now and we need to bring them back into the fold somehow. We need to find programmers who understand how to go out on a limb musically without sounding forced or being too cool for the room and create a channel that makes people go ‘hmm, what’s that?’ every now and then.”
KWTV Los Angeles APD/MD Blake Florence would like to see “a request-based format via the internet [and/or] text [messaging]. I’ve seen programs that are doing some cool Web page requests for maybe a specific daypart or hour, and I’ve seen stations that have done it for a day or a weekend. We have so many options to choose from now — and we can buy/listen to what we want, when we want. I believe to have a listener controlled station with the right technology in place could be a huge success.
WKKT Charlotte, N.C., APD/MD Ryan Dokke seconds that with his call for “24/7 Requests and Dedications. I would love to see a station that had a 10,000 song library and was live 24/7.” There would be “no real playlists: jocks wouldn’t really know more than 3 or 4 songs ahead of time, what they’d be playing. The music wouldn’t have to be genre specific either. It could be a request for the Bee Gees into a dedication of some slow Usher song.” He does allow that this might be “strictly a cume station.” Then again, they said that about Bob- and Jack-FM once.
Clear Channel/Chicago online PD David Snoble believes “a true dance format hasn’t been fully explored or given enough time to succeed and I also believe a chill format could perform well on terrestrial radio. I believe in 10 years or so, chill will be the new smooth jazz.” He might want to trade notes with KIIS Los Angeles middayer Sisanie Reategui, who thinks recent hits by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West have set the stage for a format based in house, electro, and techno-dance. Or perhaps WLZX Springfield, Mass., PD Courtney Quinn who calls for a format of “all-Thievery Corporation, all the time.” We think she’s joking about giving a whole station to chilllout’s core artist, but if she’s not, Edison VP Tom Webster has his new favorite station.
KYW Philadelphia reporter/anchor Ian Bush files a brief in favor of the “all-sponsorship/no spots” model: “What about a whole station based on changing up the traditional spot model with one advertiser sponsoring blocks, even a day of tunes in exchange for short, unobtrusive messages that don’t interrupt the music long enough for you to change the dial. The name repetition would be sticky, it would give people a reason to stay tuned — music keeps going and going and going, and the station itself likely would get some press and recognition itself out of the deal (‘Oh yeah – that’s the one with those short little commercials’).”
Rich McLaughlin, who just joined WFUV New York as content director from Sirius Satellite Radio, votes for the Active Rock/Hip-Hop fusion of Sirius’ Faction. “I’m not holding my breath for that format to show up on the FM dial, but it certainly speaks to a lifestyle and young audience.” So far, the problem hasn’t been the format showing up on FM – most recently on KMBY (X103.9) Monterey, Calif. — it’s been a matter of it staying there.
This one has also, by its advocate’s acknowledgement, made it to HD-2 channels, but WLVQ Columbus, Ohio, PD Chris Thomas suggests a station “airing back to back live concerts … in a day when you can immediately buy a recording of a concert as you leave the venue, a station airing back to back live concerts would take it a step further. A daily/weekly concert line-up can be sent to the e-mail database and listeners may vote online for their favorite concerts.”
Some other suggestions:
From Clear Channel/Raleigh, N.C. director of marketing and promotions Carley Laskey: “Girl FM.”
From WMMR Philadelphia morning show associate producer Marisa Magnatta: “All cover songs all the time.”
Emmis/Austin, Texas, OM Thomas “Chase” Rupe says the quest shouldn’t be for a format, rather, “If you’re asking me what “content” I can’t believe nobody has done, that answer is … user-generated media. I think the great minds of our industry get this and are working on it. I aspire to be part of the solution that truly puts interactivity and pull-content into the hands of the audience, despite the delivery platform.”
Finally, from WBOQ/WTYD Williamsburg, Va., PD Amy Miller: “I’ve always been interested in finding a way to combine the programming mentality of public radio with the business mentality of commercial radio and making it truly successful. I think once someone cracks the code, it will change radio forever.”
You can ask our “30 Under 30″ honorees about their other format ideas on June 28 at Conclave in Minneapolis. And check www.InfiniteDial.com every day for new profiles.

18 replies
  1. forest
    forest says:

    Did somebody say CHILLOUT? We’ve been doing it for a long, long time and if you want to hear what a fulltime format of it sounds like (when done right :wink:) right now, go to radioio.com and click on the AMBIENT station or go to our site at starstreams.com and listen to the The Starstreams Channel. Two hours a week, each night, or fulltime – when you’re ready.

  2. Lou P.
    Lou P. says:

    While some stations (including classic rockers) have begun to put some 90s rock gold into their playlists, it’s my belief that a station similar to Sirius’ Lithium 24 that plays 90s alternative as its core could do well in M25-54 in certain markets where that genre of music is underserved. Particularly if a cluster is facing a competing strong-performing “modern rock” station that uses the circa 1993 Seattle sound as its primary gold, a 90s alternative station would push the modern rocker either to more currents (dicey for the 18-49 and 25-54 numbers) or toward a harder sound that might hurt the P18-49 and P25-54 numbers.
    As for the late 80s/early 90s hip hop, I’d like to hear a finished product of that. While I might like to pop in “My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me” by the Geto Boys, I’ve always thought that there wasn’t enough initial commercial traction by many of the songs in that genre for it to work well as a stand-alone format — but perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps that’s an experiment that needs to happen on an HD2 station or two.

  3. carol archer
    carol archer says:

    Congratulations to all and thanks for providing impressive grist for the mill. Radio needn’t fret about its future with this batch of ’30 Under 30′ programmers in the wings; only have the humility to step aside and let them take the reins, quick.

  4. Marc Kaye
    Marc Kaye says:

    Loved seeing the article…appreciate it …what you failed to point out regarding KQMV is that last year you named Maynard as one of your top 30 P.D.s under 30….he is no longer under 30, but you nailed it last year when you put him on your list and now you are highlighting the station he programs.
    Marc Kaye
    VP/General Manager
    Sandusky Seattle/KQMV

  5. The Infinite Dial
    The Infinite Dial says:

    30 Under 30 Honorees Pick The Next Hot Format

    In this week’s Ross On Radio, we asked Edison’s 2008 30 Under 30 honorees what format was missing from the radio. See their answers here….

  6. Big Bink
    Big Bink says:

    the cume on this format would be phenomenal!!!!!!
    this would be primarliy for listeners in late 20s to approx. 45 years of age … just think of the revenue based off old school hip hop /new jack swing concerts or maybe the remake of the type of clothes and brands that were out at the time these songs were done (just to name a few ideas … you might only hear a few of the main hip hop joints in programmers gold category, but much of the original hip hop songs are gone on radio…but xm channel 65 does a good job of bringing some of them back.
    good info sean…..
    big bink
    md/kbfb – dallas

  7. A Davis
    A Davis says:

    I think a hip hop classics format would be great for adults 28-45. For those who just can’t get with todays type of hip hop or crap music, it would bring back those memories of being in high school and college in the mid 80’s to mid 90’s.

  8. Brian Allen
    Brian Allen says:

    I’m glad somebody mentioned the idea of adding 90’s tracks to the CHR mix. There were a lot quality music from that decade (not just Ace of Base), but house music, alternative, R&B tracks that would likely test well with the current music. Hey, why not roll the dice and let the listeners decide! By the way, here is another bonus suggestion. Quit overplaying songs. Hitting a record 120 times a week is just overkill.

  9. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Sean, you mentioned a chill format? Well, the only one doing it right now is KBLU “Blue” in Santa Fae.
    Also, I like the idea of a dance format — a true dance format. But here’s an idea: How ’bout creating a format that plays the current dance hits, combined with the dance hits of the 80’s and 90’s. And, we should call it, dance AC, anyone?
    Lastly, someone suggested something called “Girl FM.” What would that mean? That name in itself is interesting. If it means playing music from female artests all the time, then, which I’m almost sure that’s what it is, well, I’m just surprised that there’s no internet radio station that does that. Girl Radio is a fasinating concept.
    (AKA The Radio Kid)
    An avid radio Fan
    My email: JHANLON001@twcny.rr.com

  10. Kasey
    Kasey says:

    I have been beating this drum for 3 years now and no one wants to listen, well no suits want to listen. My idea has been a mainly 80’s 90’s format with some currents splashed in twice an hour to garner the 25-54 fems. No one hears me screaming. No one thinks it is a viable format, but EVERY female I talk to in that demo and all who hear a sample of the music LOVE IT. ANY PROGRAMMERS READING THIS? HELLO? Jump on this now and do it right. NO Phil collins, No Micheal Bolton…throw on the dance tunes, Depeche Mode, Thompson Twins is what the “girls” were dancing to back. The new format for the 25-54 IS this idea. Resurrect radio in the mind of the women who grew up listening to radio and loved it AND were listening to all this euro-dance stuff. Pop on the BBD and Samantha Fox, they love it.
    feel free to contact me for more on the idea and PROPER execution of this format,
    check it at yesfm.info

  11. Alan
    Alan says:

    A 90s-based station is what radio needs right now, like the “90s on 9″ on XM. Most 90s music, with some exceptions, is gone from the dial. Where’s SWV, BBD, Johnny Gill, and the rest of the “New Jack Swing” crowd at on FM? Mix that in with some of the Alternative and Pop of the 90s and you have a winner. If not an all-90s format, what about a station that plays an even 50% of 90s and 50% of currents? Yes, believe it or not there are people out there that are sick and tired of the 80s music they’ve been hearing for years and are begging for something different and something new, and those “Oh, wow!” songs they heard in their High School/College days. You could either do a CHR-based 90s format(More 2Pac and Salt N Pepa) or a Hot-AC based 90s format(More TLC and Green Day).

  12. asdf
    asdf says:

    what Kasey has said. A Hot AC format with an expanded 80s/90s gold library of songs that women grew up jamming to back in those days that are rarely on the radio anymore. Depeche Mode, Spice Girls, maybe some New Jack Swing and hip hop to spice it up, Backstreet Boys, NKOTB, Was (Not Was), Captain Hollywood Project, Hanson, Human League, New Radicals, Toad the Wet Sprocket, etc.
    Classic Hits KMJO Mojo 104 Fargo, ND (streams at http://www.mojo104.com/ ) comes close, but sticks to 70s/80s with some disco.
    Hot AC 100.7 KBZI Pittsbrg, KS doesn’t stream, but it has the big 80s/90s library with a good mix of currents.

  13. DJ Mo
    DJ Mo says:

    Every show I did this year on a College radio station in Orlando, I get tons of calls just complimenting my format & style. They’re NOT requests! There are also plenty of songs people call about that are lost 90’s classics. And people wonder why I don’t have my own radio show.
    I’ve been doing radio (voluntarily) & DJing for over 3 years. I think I’ve found the next big format. I grew up on music from late-80’s & early-90’s Rhythmic, which includes both Hiphop, House, Dance, & Freestyle.
    I’ve been trying to get a paid job in the Programming department in commercial radio, but still no luck after over 3 years. I’m still trying, though. I think my time is finally coming after reading this.
    Feel free to check out my website at http://www.djmoradio.com for airchecks & playlists. If you wanna bite my style, hire me already. d=)
    Enjoy the music!
    – DJ Mo

  14. Jim Fraas
    Jim Fraas says:

    Progressive Top 40
    Today’s hits in lighter rotation plus 6 decades of classics.
    Djs would have the ability to select tunes to be played but would have to play some currents like the top 30 every 5-6 hours or so.

  15. Richieboy
    Richieboy says:

    To Thomas “Chase” Rupe – surely radio is already doing user generated content? In fact it has for years and years. Listener requests, remotes at local events/businesses and more recently email and text messages. We’ve been using the content our listeners give us for years. I find it odd that people think we need to address this ‘issue’. There isn’t an issue – radio is the ultimate ‘user generated content’ medium and people should realise that this is and has been one of radio’s biggest strength for decades.
    Anyway, I’m for all 90’s formats. I’m 34 and that would rock my world!!

  16. Jacent Jackson
    Jacent Jackson says:

    I was thinking the same thing about Classic Hip-Hop, so I designed and launched a Classic Hip-Hop station on AOLRADIO.COM
    Just go to AOLRADIO.COM and click on “Classic Hip-Hop” in the Hip Hop section. It’s a format dedicated to Hip-Hop from the beginning of Public Enemy to the end of 2 Pac.
    Yes, I still have my day job as an Alt PD, too.
    Curious to hear what you think.

  17. Ralph McGarry
    Ralph McGarry says:

    We are trying out the 90s music format live on the radio here in Dublin, Ireland. The 90s Network broadcasts to Ireland’s capital on 99.5fm with streaming on our website http://www.the90snetwork.com Our tag line is, “a decade in rewind” and the mainstay format is a rather loose pop/chart music from the 90s with hourly news at the bottom of the hour. The news is actually news from that day in 199x year. No current news is broadcast. It’s a real head spinner! And has caught our listeners imagination. Specialist shows, such as 90s Dance or 90s Love are aired in the evenings. We went to air on 4th October, 2008 and reaction so far has exceeded expectations.
    Luckily we have the freedom to try out this format through local licencing rules, and it will be interesting to see how it develops.


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