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Fallen Out of Love With Radio (part 2)

614523672I must have struck a chord in last week’s Struming about my lost love for traditional radio, Why I Have Fallen Out of Love with Radio. Clearly many others feel likewise.

I am sad about my fading love of radio. I embrace change and all that it brings. On the other hand, I still yearn for the things I loved in yesteryear. Perhaps I am showing my age, but that’s OK. I do not live in the past and avoid technology. Video did not kill the radio star as the Buggles proclaimed (first ever video on MTV as historians know), however digital is killing the radio star.

Absent Howard Stern on SiriusXM, with his limited, yet loyal reach, there are few “radio stars” any longer. DJs used to be stars because they delivered the goods—the latest music. They were personalities as powerful at the stations they announced for.

In NY, WABC and WCMA, the 2 top 40 stations had a powerful line-up in the mid-60s

WABC

–Herb Oscar Anderson

–Ron Lundy

–Dan Ingram

–Scott Muni

–Bruce Morrow (Cousin Brucie)

WMCA “Good Guys”

–Joe O’Brien

–Jack Spector

–Harry Harrison (who would later “defect” to WABC)

–Dandy Dan Daniel

–B. Mitchell Reed (BMR)

Alas with the recent passing of Dan Ingram, afternoon drive at WABC, only Harry Harrison and Cousin Brucie remain from that group.

Later as FM became the primary vehicle of rock music, new stars arose. In the early 70s at rocker WNEW-FM in NY they were:

Dave Herman

Pete Fornatele

Dennis Elsas

Scott Muni (yep same one from WABC)

Jonathan Schwartz

Alison Steele (“The Night Bird”)

Only Elsas and Schwartz remain from that early 70s group.

All major markets had their own “Radio stars”. WCFL and WLS in Chicago, WFIL and WIBG in Philly, and FM rockers as well. And alas they remain memories for old timers like me. But DJs from that era were my heroes and they inspired my love for the medium as much as the music.

Hum with StrumMy desire to be a DJ came from them. I was smart enough to realize my talent was limited but didn’t stop me from playing rock and roll records at WDHA in the middle of the night on Friday night/Saturday morning for $6/hour, while my “day job” was as a Management Supervisor at BBDO/New York. I was GETTING PAID for playing rock & roll records. I was a professional. How cool was that! (Very cool, I thought—but very hard to make a living).

In the late 80s before I journeyed to the Philadelphia market, I had the yen to acquire a radio station in the Monmouth/Ocean County area in NJ. Made several “offers” (with money I didn’t have) and money or not, was unsuccessful in acquiring anything. Acquisition multiples were very high in that era. Maybe the lord did me a favor. So I kept my day job in advertising.

Fast forward to today, no doubt I would have exited the radio business by now (if I were smart enough to have done so). Stations were still sold at aggressive multiples particularly after the 1996 Telecommunications Act which allowed multiple station ownership in a single market. Today, the medium struggles to maintain its share of advertising revenue. And, alas the DJs of today are largely as vanilla as the music formats. They are not “radio stars”.

But the share that’s most important to me is not share of advertising revenue. It’s share of “my heart”. Unfortunately the radio medium has lost mine, and nuthin’s gonna bring it back.




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2 Comments

  1. Paula Decker says:

    Lonny, I disagree with your view that traditional radio fails to connect with listeners. Take a moment to consider Philly rocker 93.3 WMMR. WMMR signed on the air as an AOR station in April 1968. This year WMMR turns 50 and has never had a format change. It continues to break new music (in the mainstream rock format) playing brand new bands like Greta Van Fleet, Dorothy, Struts, Pretty Reckless and many more, alongside heritage rockers Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones and newer “classic” rock artists like Nirvana, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, Sublime, Offspring, 311 and the list goes on.
    WMMR is LIVE & LOCAL 24/7 — yes, a real DJ in the studio overnights! And is consistently top-rated among A25-54 — currently ranked # 1 total week.
    We have a killer morning show that on occasion out-ranks the # 2 show in the morning drive daypart 2:1.
    Finally, I have worked in sales at WMMR for 20+ years and I see everyday how the station connects with listeners because it continues to produce results for our sponsors who advertise on the “Mighty MMR!”

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Appreciate your feedback Paula. And I respect your passion for your station. Yes, WMMR has lasted 50 years without a format change and that’s a big accomplishment. Much to be proud of. Alas the industry has changed and your longevity while admirable doesn’t negate the decline of the medium in general.

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