First Listen: Clear Channel’s New Lone Star 92.5/Dallas

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When Clear Channel’s Classic Rock KZPS Dallas became Lone Star 92.5 on April 23, it became the latest station in the industry’s longtime quest to try and:
A) Finally make a Classic Rock/Country hybrid work;
B) Switch from a spot-driven model to a marketing driven model, in this case selling hour-long sponsorships to national advertisers who will get embedded content in lieu of traditional spots–think Coca-Cola on the judges’ desks on “American Idol” or Burger King and Crest woven into the weekly tasks on “The Apprentice.”

There wasn’t much that would make the station unpalatable for its previous Classic Rock cume.

The Classic Rock/Country hybrid has been a pet project for a lot of broadcasters since the late ’80s. Stations that tried it usually ended up forced to choose between one genre and the other. Recently, however, it’s gotten a little more traction. The Classic Rock/Country format has also become a favorite for Satellite Radio and HD-2 multicast channels–KZPS’ new format sprung from its former HD-2 channel and Clear Channel has done at least one other version of the format through its Format Lab called “Mother Trucker.”

The notion of marketing in place of spots also goes back to the late ’80s with veteran programmer Jack McCoy as one of its earlier pioneers. It got some well-publicized tryouts in Long Island in 2005 and again last year as part of the WFNX Boston Snapple experiment. And now it is also in keeping with the heavily publicized de-cluttering taking place at Clear Channel’s stations in recent years.
PRESENTATION: FREE TO MOVE AROUND THE COUNTRY …
Heard on its first day, when the station was rolling jockless at the tail end of morning drive, one only got a taste of how Lone Star 92.5 was hoping to integrate its sponsors into live mentions, although the New York Times reports that a demo aircheck of the station had a jock talking about the South By Southwest festival and how the best way to travel there was on Southwest Airlines.
In the absence of live jocks, other elements of the marketing plugs were already in place, such as top of the hour sponsorship billboards and 10-15 second announcements that sounded a lot like the “Blinks” being sold elsewhere by Clear Channel. In one for Southwest, the copy reads, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. You’re now free to enjoy non-stop Lone Star music, thanks to Southwest Airlines and Lone Star 92.5,” a play on the “You’re free to move around the country” tagline from Southwest’s spots.
Among other mini-ads: one for hourly sponsor AT&T, but another YMCA day camp. The AT&T announcement was followed by, “Now, back to more great Lone Star music, courtesy of AT&T.” The top of the hour announcement, which actually played at :55 and again a few minutes later at :00 when we monitored the station was, “The next hour of music is brought to you by The New AT&T: your world, your Lone Star music, delivered.”
The other element heard on the first day was station spokesman Willie Nelson, deployed in both shorter liners (“It ain’t about the address, it’s about the attitude”) and some longer form image promos on more general topics–e.g., meeting fans on the road. Nelson’s longer drops were reminiscent of the “Code Of The Wolf” promos, voiced by actor Barry Corbin, that were an early, and very effective part of rival KPLX when it was relaunched as “99.5 the Wolf.”
MUSIC:… BUT MOSTLY GROUNDED IN CLASSIC ROCK
Indeed, one of the interesting aspects of KZPS walking away from its longtime Classic Rock franchise is that even though Classic Rock had become essentially a three-way race in Dallas, Country/Rock isn’t exactly a wide-open space either. The rock-flavored “Texas Country” of artists like Jack Ingram and Pat Green was the early calling card for The Wolf and spread through the market’s Country stations, even before it spread nationally. And under new PD John Sebastian, KPLX has added some of the Classic Hits titles that became a signature for him at WSM-FM Nashville and in other markets.
In addition, the market already has an Alternative Country station in KFWR (the Ranch) and one of the youngest-leaning Hot Country formats, KTYS (the Twister), although that station doesn’t have a Classic Rock component.
Perhaps for that reason, in its first few days, Lone Star 92.5 was more of a Classic Rock station with the greatest hits of Americana and Texas Country than a true hybrid–which is to say that it sounded like a lot like the HD-2 extension of a Classic Rock station that it had been a week ago. (What’s on the HD-2 channel for now is the old Classic Rock format.) There wasn’t much that would make the station unpalatable for its previous Classic Rock cume. In the hour heard here, it would be hard to imagine even an edgier mainstream Country current like Brad Paisley’s “Ticks” fitting in. So far, it’s Country mostly in the way that Americana standard-bearer KPIG Monterey, Calif., is Country.
In that regard, Lone Star is unlike most of the previous Country/Classic Rock hybrids, which have approached the format from the Country angle and were then subject to the availability of compatible current Country product. Ultimately, those stations always hit a patch where Country music ran out of tempo, forcing them to choose between maintaining their energy level and playing the hits. Relying more on that extra Allman Brothers cut usually means digging beyond the songs that can be counted on to research well, but at least, in the spirit of the Bob- and Jack-FMs, you’re doing so with library material.
Sebastian’s stations, by contrast, have always been Country stations that just happened to play the Eagles and Charlie Daniels Band cuts that much of the format once played (and maybe an occasional “Sister Golden Hair” that most did not play, even in 1987). After listening to Lone Star, we punched over to KPLX and heard only two Classic Rock songs in 75 minutes: Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter” and the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” (and the latter is certainly an honorary Country title by any measurement).
Here’s an hour of Lone Star 92.5 at 8:15 a.m. on April 23, 2007:
ZZ Top, “La Grange”
Allman Brothers, “Melissa”
Whiskeytown, “Bar Lights”
George Thorogood, “If You Don’t Start Drinking (I’m Gonna Leave)”
Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”
Pat Green, “Dixie Lullaby”
Black Crowes, “Remedy”
Blackfoot, “Highway Song”
David Allan Coe, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”
Outlaws, “There Goes Another Love Song”
Bruce Springsteen, “Badlands”
Drive By Truckers, “Let There Be Rock”
TWO CHANGES AT THE SAME TIME
One of the ironies about the various attempts to change the spot-sales paradigm is that they often involve a format change. When Top 40 WWZZ (Z104) Washington, D.C., cut its spotload and added the “McDonalds’ Morning Show,” it also changed to Hot AC. The Morey Organization experiment in Eastern Long Island also involved short-lived format changes on two of its three stations in the region. It often feels as if station owners don’t think they can alter the paradigm without smashing it completely.
Which is too bad, because it would have been nice to know if Z104’s lower spotload could have helped it win its format battle with WIHT (Hot 99.5). Likewise, it would have been interesting to see if the sponsorship approach could have made KZPS–which had divvied up the Classic Rock pie with the harder KDBN (the Bone) and poppier KJKK (Jack-FM)–viable again. Sponsorship plugs doubtless exist on cable TV’s reality shows as well, but it’s “The Apprentice” and “American Idol” that has given them their best showcase. And however well Lone Star works, it will likely be the combination of a cume-driven format and the TSL enhancement of no traditional spots that helps the sponsorship concept kick in once and for all.
Meanwhile, it’s still encouraging to see brand name practitioners for both the Country/Classic Rock format and the sponsorship model. For many people, each makes too much sense not to ultimately get traction somewhere, and unlike Eastern Long Island, the Clear Channel/Dallas cluster will have the advantage of not having to live off sponsorships alone until the concept takes root with advertisers.
Related stories:
http://www.edisonresearch.com/home/archives/2006/08/the_formats_tha.php
http://www.edisonresearch.com/home/archives/2005/09/three_stations.php
http://www.edisonresearch.com/home/archives/2006/05/first_listen_wf.php

32 replies
  1. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Personally, I think it s***s. I HATE country music in all it’s forms. I happy to love Bo and Jim….. I used to listen to Jaggar and Julie on 102.1…the higher ups ruined that. Can’t stand the morning on 93.3….they are horrible. So, guess it is CD’s only for me from now on. And to get traffic, which is WHY I listened in the first place, I will resort to 1080 am. I am not going to pay for Satellite when I own all the CD’s I like anyway.

  2. mary villarreal
    mary villarreal says:

    Your rock/country combo is horrible. Where did Bo & Jim go to so that I can listen to them?

  3. Lucille
    Lucille says:

    I love the new Radio Station: 92.5 Lonestar out of Dallas and Fort Worth, TX. I would have heard rumors as to who owns it. Is that information made available. I don’t really care I love the station.

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I was an avid listener of this station until the change. It seemed every time I tuned in there was an old country song on and I tuned in to this station for the classic rock, not the country. If I wanted country I would tune into a country station. I also enjoyed the morning show which was quite better than my local station’s (102.5 the bear).

  5. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    WTH is the OLD and yet, better 92.5 ? The new line up isn’t up to par. We miss Bo & Jim. Where did they go, so we can listen to them again ?

  6. Chris S
    Chris S says:

    Many, many years ago, CKLW-FM mixed Eric Clapton, Kansas and a few other rockers with there County. It didn’t last long. Radio (and almost everything else) has become so narrow that anything else is criminal.
    The only way at this point is to educate the next generation of listeners to a wider range of sounds…….but they are too engaged with Radio Disney.

  7. Jay
    Jay says:

    Sean…While sorry to see an alma mater change formats, I think they’ll do well. It’s a brilliant angle on the attempt to fashion a country hybrid. Texans love all things Texas – the state of mind of living in that state is as powerful a brand as anything!
    As for the alternative country scene in the market, I have a couple of points. KFWR (The Ranch) does not have a full market signal in DFW; they barely have a city grade over Fort Worth, and not much more to the east. You also left out KHYI (The Range), an interesting station which bills itself as “hard country” and is based north of Dallas, but again has little in the way of a full market signal outside the northern part of the Metroplex, although they have managed to score a .5 share for the last couple of years. Even if one owner had both stations, they wouldn’t even combine to do much more than 50% coverage. There is also a classic country station (KTFW) licensed to Glen Rose, Tx. which is southwest of the market. It too has managed a .5 in recent books. KZPS will likely poach from them all!
    Thanks Sean, keep up the great work!

  8. Victor
    Victor says:

    I would agree the same old format was getting tiresum and needed a little revamping, but this is a bit extreme, country on a rock station? we needed more deep cuts or more lost classics played more often but country? I’ll give it a try…but if i dont like it well… there’s always the other classic rock station in town.

  9. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    I want it to go back to the way it was! Why mess with perfection! 93.3 is the closest thing to the old 92.5 but I want Bo and Jim (mornings) and Classic Rock ALL DAY. If I wanted to listed to country then I’d listen to a country station. I want ALL classic rock back!

  10. Lee
    Lee says:

    Sorry, you lost a listner in me. I cannot stand the new format. One of the main reasons I tuned in was to listen to Bo and Jim in the mornings and the rest of the crew throughout the day. I just can’t anymore with this new change.

  11. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    This new format is the best thing to happen to FM radio in DFW since the old KZEW days, and it’s been a long time coming. Really glad it KZPS that’s doing it. I’ve been hoping for a station like this for over 20 years. Not familiar with every artist, but enjoy the music of most and the attitude of all. I’m a fifth generation Texan by the grace of God, and when you call somebody a Texan, measure your words and don’t sully the title. Long live Willie !!

  12. John
    John says:

    Sounds good so far; it’s a good blend of alternative / outlaw country with “southern rock”

  13. Kris
    Kris says:

    This is excellent! I had no idea, had been out of town, and I turned to 92.5 and oh yea Jack Ingram. Those of you that dont like “country” have never really listened to some of these songs. As a child of the 60’s and 70’s – I have also listed to Bo and Jim my whole life. Give it a chance. If you are from Texas then you will love this station. All these “country” songs have an such a big influence that is DIRECTLY from the songs you love. This aint your mainstream Nashville shit. This is TEXAS!! I love you Willie!

  14. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    I like the mixed format but specifically the late 60’s early 70’s rock; graduated ’69. The country is mostly progressive. I have to say I don’t care for Bo of Bo and Jim. He likes to hear himself talk too much and there’s not enough music on their show. Based on what I’ve read about Lone Star the talk should decrease, I hope. The Bo and Jim show isn’t really funny at all but very silly. You have a lot of listeners my age looking for a place to listen to music.

  15. William
    William says:

    I have enjoyed KZPS for many years, I was born a Texan in Ft. Worth Texas and grew up with country music. If I wanted to listen to country music I would have been listening to another radio station already. I will sorely miss Bo and Jim, and Cindy Skull for my lunch time treat. I will be tuning in to another radio station from now on. Thank goodness, I cashed in my work force points back when I had 3,000,000 plus. I hope others were not unfairly burned with their points with this unexpected programing change. I am so sad to see KZPS go into history along with other greats before them like “The ZOO” and Q102. Rock and Roll forever!! Moment of Silence…Tear down the wall….fairwell….92.5 KZPS….farewell…

  16. Angie
    Angie says:

    Can’t stand country – so I’m gone too. Like Andrew I almost cried when I learned that 97.1 was dead. There’s no such thing as a good rock station in the DFW area. We haven’t had one in years! Anyone remember ZROCK? Now, that’s what we need again.

  17. Michael Seay
    Michael Seay says:

    The format change took me totally by suprise. As it is now, you can’t swing a dead cat through the selection of music stations on the radio without hitting a country music station. Granted the “Classic Rock” format of KZPS was not truly classic rock. It was more like a “Top Twenty” format with the same songs being played over and over and over. Most people beleive that Stepenwolf only had two songs “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” when in fact they did have other songs worthy of air time. Hell, you were hard pressed to hear the Beatles played on KZPS. I guess it could be worse, the new format could have included Rap and Hispanic music.

  18. RADIOGM
    RADIOGM says:

    There’s an old saying…
    If you don’t know your history you’re bound to repeat it.
    This format has been done over and over again with the same results:
    CRAPPY

  19. Chuck Geiger
    Chuck Geiger says:

    Here comes KHIP, KPIG and KFAT – cept’ slick corporate version for 2007. Hey look XM amd I-Pods pissed us off. This is a great idea. Look for more HD-2’s to employ this format. I know I will. God love ZZ Top and Waylon on the same station.

  20. Jason
    Jason says:

    This station kicks ass. Good ol’ texas music. Great country and rock songs all day. No gay ass Tim McGraw or Toby Keith. No Nirvana or crap like that. I love it and i think 97.1 sucked anyways. All that crying in todays music. Shut up and play. Go 92.5 The Lonestar

  21. GRAYWOLF
    GRAYWOLF says:

    This has tremendous potential, but the same thing that killed KZPS ratings before will kill this…they need to open up the play list. Hearing the same song several times a day, every day, will turn listeners away.
    Personally, I would like to see them do away with the Trashville country and stick with the red dirt/Texas/Americana.

  22. zoltar
    zoltar says:

    Bo & Jim will be back on Monday, although in a limited form. Redbeard returns on Monday as well and I think that will be facisnating to see how he fits in.

  23. Travis
    Travis says:

    To much country, not enough rock. Need to go with 95% rock and 5% country if they must do this. Have you noticed there have been no songs by women! How about some early Linda Ronstadt or Bonnie Raitt?

  24. Glyn
    Glyn says:

    Can’t stop listening to the new 92.5. Do they play stuff I don’t really like? Sure, now and then. But, compare the amount of actual music you can listen to in one hour on 92.5 against other stations; commercials, endless chatter and more commercials is basically a whip. So, overall, this is a winner.

  25. Ronnie
    Ronnie says:

    I do love some of the new stuff I’m hearing, although some songs are getting played numerous time throughout the day. I think it will take off especially if you continue to add to the playlist, my tastes are very diversified as are alot of Texans. I was listening to the bone awhile back then switching back and forth, but they totally lost me when they started that horrible morning “show”. I’ll keep listening for now. I love the fact of more music less talk…

  26. Laura B.
    Laura B. says:

    Bravo!! This is the best thing I’ve ever seen happen to Texas radio…keep it up. Very happy to hear Redbeard, too. Thanks y’all.

  27. Becky Carr
    Becky Carr says:

    This new Renegade Country, Outlaw Country/Rock really is the BEST station I’ve heard in a long time! This is something I’ve been wanting for YEARS in Texas. You could only hear some of this stuff from KNON, Austin City Limits, IN Austin, on Edge of Country on TV, from your own personal CDs, in dancehalls, or in a few clubs. The FANS of this know it’s out there, but it’s been darn hard to find all these years! Southern Rock meets Texas Country or whatever you want to call it, IT’S the BEST!!! There’s plenty of great guitar (Stevie Ray Vaughan) and plenty of roadhouse and plenty of outlaw country to please anyone. These are some of the greatest bands EVER and now we can hear them in a MIX that BEATS ANYTHING on the air!!!! Thanks!!!

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