First Listen: KQMV Seattle (Alan Burns’ Movin’ Format)

by Sean Ross, VP of Music and Programming

There was a time when it would have been odd to describe Seattle as a perfect test market for consultant Alan Burns’ new “Movin'” format, which debuted on KQMV, the former Hot AC KLSY, on May 1. Until the early ’90s, Seattle was definingly not a rhythmic-leaning market. It lost its best-known Urban FM in the era before FM dominance. And one local radio person once dismissed Whitney Houston during her peak ’80s stardom as “too screechy” for the market.
But by 1992, heritage Top 40 KUBE had evolved to Churban and Seattle had joined the bulk of West Coast markets where Rhythm, not pop/rock, was the dominant sound. KUBE’s legacy was such that even Nelly Furtado, listening from nearby Vancouver, once told an interviewer about the brief mid-’90s period when KUBE had tried to throw some rock back into the mix, to the dismay of its core. And aside from a short-lived Urban FM around that time, KUBE has pretty well set the agenda for new rhythmic music in the market.

“Movin'” has been targeted to those listeners who grew up with rhythm, not rock, when Top 40 evolved in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Announced several months ago, “Movin'” has been targeted to those listeners who grew up with rhythm, not rock, when Top 40 evolved in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Burns’ format is centered in gold that Hot AC has rarely tried to deal with, and recurrents (Usher, Black Eyed Peas) that those stations deal with reluctantly. Playing “the Greatest Hits of KUBE” (or any other heritage Rhythmic Top 40) is a logical enough concept, but one that has usually not found a pre-sold audience in research.
Perhaps for that reason, the new station was careful on the first day about making sure listeners understood its benefits. In promos delivered at various times by both male and female voices, Movin’ 92.5 promises not only to “help you feel good,” but also to play music from “today and back in your school days.” The station also promises a “mostly upbeat” mix and to put anybody who listens for an hour in a “good mood.” Another liner offers to “get your mind off your problems [and get] your body in the music.”
In the 90 minutes that we heard on day 1, KQMV scanned nearly three decades’ worth of titles, from late ’70s disco (“Le Freak”) to late ’80s dance and freestyle to early ’90s party rap to recurrent Top 40 hits. It managed to do so without resorting to many records that don’t have a recent history of testing anywhere, although the one that most fits that description, Calloway’s “I Wanna Be Rich” was the one that made my coworker in his late 20s perk up–and his tastes run more toward rock these days.
Some other observations:

  • Most of the rap titles in the music monitor below are late ’80s/early ’90s party rap, although 2pac’s “Changes” did show up on a monitor later. Most of the songs in the former category have pretty well been defanged by time, although I’m curious about how 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny” sounds to people now.
  • While all of KQMV’s eras cohered nicely on the air, the ’70s disco–so exciting when played next to Faith Hill on a Mainstream AC–sounds a little flat on the same station with “Baby Got Back.” Same for some softer ’80s titles: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me” or “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.” Those songs might fit with “This Is How We Do It” at the same wedding reception, but they’re not necessarily all the music of the same person’s life.
  • Nelly Furtado notwithstanding, one also wonders what would happen if there were at least one party rock song of the “Pour Some Sugar On Me” variety every now and then. (The poppiest songs so far have been two Pink titles.) Even the most focused Bob- and Jack-FMs have left themselves some leeway to throw in a rhythmic title every now and then. And if those stations prove to have more durability than their Jammin’ Oldies predecessors, it’s going to be because they’re able to play all those school year memories, not just some of them.

KQMV comes along at a time when rival KJAQ (Jack FM) is off sharply after a big launch, impacted, apparently, by the launch of country KKWF (the Wolf). Even if Jack doesn’t show the rebound that others in the category are starting to show as the winter books roll out (here and in Canada), there’s still the issue of putting on a second gold-based station on the heels of one that has gotten so much attention. Sometimes it’s hard for two to get traction in short order.
That said, KQMV is starting out with Hot AC cume (albeit from a very different type of Hot AC). It’s one dial position away from the station whose upper end it’s targeting. It was a lot more together on day one than many new stations. And if it does make the rhythmic early ’90s work as an adult format it will have pulled off something that only WKTU New York and KBIG Los Angeles have come close to so far.
KQMV Music Monitor 12:50-2:20 p.m., May 1, 2006
Shaggy, “It Wasn’t Me”
Pretty Poison, “Catch Me, I’m Falling”
Rob Base & DJ EZ-Rock, “It Takes Two”
Rihanna, “S.O.S.”
Janet Jackson, “All For You”
Chic, “Le Freak”
Alicia Keys, “Karma”
Soul II Soul, “Back To Life”
Mariah Carey, “We Belong Together”
Heavy D & the Boyz, “Now That We’ve Found Love”
Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)”
Next, “Too Close”
Tone-Loc, “Wild Thing”
Destiny’s Child, “Catch My Breath”
Usher, “You Got It Bad,”
Calloway, “I Wanna Be Rich”
Quad City DJs, “C’mon And Ride It (The Train)”
En Vogue, “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”
Black Eyed Peas, “Pump It”
Kool & the Gang, “Celebration”
Inner Circle, “Sweat (A La La La Long)”
Black Eyed Peas, “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”

4 replies
  1. Joseph Gallant
    Joseph Gallant says:

    The “Movin'” demo on Alan Burns’ website has jingles and sweepers between songs, but no DJ chatter.

    Given the uptempo nature of the format, I wonder if “Movin'” is intended to be a jockless format. It seems to me that DJ talk may actually slow down the pace of the format’s presentation.

    On the other hand, by using only uptempo jingles and brief recorded liners between songs, the uptempo pace is maintained.

    I wonder what would happen if someone were to try “Movin'” with live personalities. My guess is that unless a station were blessed with uptempo air personalities who could keep the format’s momentum going, jocks might only slow the “Movin'” format down.

  2. rebecca johnson
    rebecca johnson says:

    This format is horrible! They play the most stale, burnt out songs that people are sick and tired of hearing. The playlist is waaaaay to conservative.

  3. mike martini
    mike martini says:

    That shit format does not work. most of the stations have changed it in the meantime. movin in los angles with rick dees plays only 70ties and 80ties. so as u see that format is crap and will never work

  4. chizau
    chizau says:

    FINALLY!! A station I can leave on without switching. I grew up on mostly 90’s pop, a bit urban dance, Its like I love every song on here which is RARE on radio these days. Wow, yeah, its seems like our demo has been left out till now. I guess its not for everyone, but at least our generation finally got a format of our own. They do have personalities on in the morning that are totally awesome with just the right balance of music and talk which is also rare, and they sound authentic, almost like non comm or college radio personalities, pretty cool. I’m from the east coast, but I think Ive found my new station, even if from ALL the way over in Seattle, who knew. 😉


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