Why this radio station might actually lure younger listeners back to the radio – Press Enterprise

The great 91X experiment that saw San Diego’s XETRA (91.1 FM) become what the program director calls a “Format of One” is quite intriguing. Many observers try to pigeonhole the format by labeling it a “classic alternative,” but that misses the point… and frankly proves that many supposed insiders really don’t understand the format.

The station 91X, like here KROQ (106.7 FM), did not start as an alternative. This description is more recent and reflected a tightening of the playlist long after its initial success. The stations started out as Rock or Rock & New Wave and played music that was meant to be truly innovative, first heard here and later on other stations. Rick Carroll, the programmer who brought KROQ to its heyday in the 1980s and an early advisor when 91X adopted the format, actually considered it a top-40 form, but both stations were definitely close to mainstream.

To borrow the slogan from UCLA’s student radio station, the idea was that today they play “Tomorrow’s Sound,” the songs you’ll hear later on other stations. And it was true. KROQ and 91X were both early players of Prince, Pet Shop Boys, The Clash, English Beat, Duran Duran, The Cars, Sparks, The Police and Devo while still playing mainstream artists like The Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

Something happened along the way and I don’t know why. The playlist got tighter and tighter. After all, it wasn’t the station you listened to music on, months before it was played on other stations, but the music you only heard there.

So while observers have a point – there’s more “gold” in the 91X format now than there was before the switch, the reason has very positive potential. The added songs – mostly from the early 1980s instead of more recent alternative hits – are added in part because audiences loved them during an A-XYZ special the station ran, which played songs that hadn’t been played on air for years.

And there’s the catch. Many listeners are so young that they have never heard the songs: Talking Heads. Adam Ant. Ramones. Red hot chili peppers. And when listeners respond positively to songs they’ve never heard before—new to them—it means there’s potential to add new songs without scaring them off, as programmers always fear. New music is new music.

91X has the potential to become a radio station that actually attracts younger people back to the radio. That would be a good thing. I’ll be watching closely…stations across the country will be too.

In this regard, the 91X website is well designed and fun to visit, easy to navigate and informative. Check it out at 91x.com.

Boss Radio Request Line

And I got a request I thought I’d share…

“I recently read your tribute article for Sam Riddle. I was hoping you could help me with one of my own puzzles. I am the owner of KHJ Boss Radio’s Surfin’Bird, a 1956 Thunderbird built by legendary customizer Bill Cushenbery and given away by the Boss Jocks in August 1966.

“By combing through well-known radio shows etc. I couldn’t find out who originally won the car. The promotion ended on August 8th with the announcement of the winner at the Dick Curtis 18-to-34 Show.


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