Rock is…not quite dead yet


Gentlemen, Pertaining to your editorial of August 18 declaring that Rock radio was dying and incapable of generating listenership amongst an 18-34 year old audience, might I call your attention to market #206 an hour north of Houston that happens to have “College” in the market name. 

We went against industry trend of cheap, easy to manage, syndicated programming and launched Rock 103.9 last year in Bryan/College Station with live, local personalities replacing syndicated Jack-FM which we felt had run its course here. 

Results via Arbitron: 

•         Persons 12+: 1.9 Share Spring 10 to 5.4 share Spring 11
•         M18-34:  2.4 Share Spring 10 to 14.0 share Spring 11 – #1 in market (also tied fort #1 w/M18-49)
•         Primary CHR competitor dropped from 22.0 share M18-34 to 9.3 in Spring 11. 
•         Classic Rock competitor dropped from 5.1 share 12+ Spring 2010 to 3.0 share Spring 2011

I spent 9 years of my career at Arbitron as an Account Manager with territories based out of the New York and Dallas offices and I can assure you that each survey brought success stories across formats and markets that both supported and countered theories about the relative “health” of formats.  While we had plenty of complex analytics trending station format trends by a multitude of variables (excluding young male sample performance as a contributing factor, of course), I came to develop my own non-MRC accredited predictor of station performance which I dubbed “G.A.S.” or “Gives A Shit.”  Stations that exhibited a full tank of G.A.S. with creative promotions, marketing, sales integration, and passionate talented personalities that continued to refine their skills did well, while those running on empty didn’t and eventually broke down on the side of the road.

I haven’t followed or listened to WYSP since I moved back to Texas from the Northeast a decade ago, and would never presume to understand the market nuances that lead to such decisions at this time, but I can tell you that our Rock station was inspired in part by the Rock stations of my youth in Houston including 97 Rock and 101 KLOL which were scuttled in the 80s and 90s when Hot AC and CHurban were perceived to cater to more survey and revenue friendly constituencies.  It took the support of an open minded owner willing to ignore some gloomy headlines in the trades, and a PD, airstaff, and GM with G.A.S. tanks quite full to achieve success here in Aggieland, but I would encourage you to look beyond a few high profile format changes and recognize that for every station “passing” in this industry there are plenty of successful births as well.  

–Chris Kiske
VP/General Manager
Brazos Valley Communications
College Station/Bryan, TX
98.3 KORA / Rock 103.9 / 101.9 The Beat / 1240 Radio Alegria / Oldies 107.3

Editor’s note: Also see Entercom CEO David Field’s commentary on the Rock format. We have to agree—any station that has “GAS” is going to make it, even in today’s world of iPods, Pandora and satellite. And as we’ve said, Rock seems to be faring better in smaller and mid-sized markets than the larger ones. And for Classic Rock to keep a consistent following, we do suggest that digging deeper into that era of Rock music, beyond the same 350 songs, is the way to keep it rolling (along with being live & local). Many congrats on Chris’ success!