Here’s how the radio station gets back on top – Daily News

June 6 is the big day.


That’s the day Kevin Weatherly returns to program KROQ (106.7 FM). Weatherly programmed the station for many years and oversaw some of its highest ratings ever.

Now he’s got his work cut out for him if he hopes to return the station to its former glory. But that’s not the focus of this column. Indeed, I want KROQ to excel.

To do this, it helps to understand what put KROQ on the map in the first place.

Rick Carroll programmed a few stations before he arrived at KROQ, most notably KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7) and KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM). When he arrived at KROQ in 1978, his idea was for more of an irreverent top-40 station — or perhaps a top-40/AOR hybrid — than an album-rock station.

His basic plan was to go against the likes of his former stations by playing songs before they became hits — though choosing tunes that would indeed become smashes. Listening to Carroll’s KROQ was like being part of a musical time machine, where Prince or Michael Jackson or any number of punk and new wave bands would be heard on KROQ months earlier than anywhere else. He also gave his DJs a free spot on the hour to play something they liked, a move that is said to have helped groups like Depeche Mode break big on the station.

Carroll’s system worked far better than anyone expected and became the prototype of new-wave music stations everywhere. Carroll himself consulted or helped launch numerous KROQ clones in such cities as San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. Here in Los Angeles, it was KROQ more than direct competitor KLOS (95.5 FM) that finished off KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM), because KMET had previously been the place to find new music before KROQ stole the new music thunder.

There are many who believe that you can’t play new music on the radio anymore. That it will push away listeners. My take is that not playing new music on the radio is why the average listener is getting older and older. Radio offers nothing to young people, who shun radio for Facebook, Apple Music, Pandora, Sound Cloud and more.

Certainly, KROQ’s current ratings prove they have nothing to lose. I believe Weatherly needs to recommit KROQ to the original intent: get local jocks who love music, let them be part of choosing that new music, give them the freedom to have some fun on the air while keeping it fast-paced and entertaining, and most of all, expose new music.

It doesn’t mean playing new music for new music’s sake. But as the online streaming services and SiriusXM’s The Pulse Hits One prove, there is a lot of great new music around and much of it never makes it to traditional radio airwaves.

Get into the areas where high school and college-aged kids and young adults hear music and find out what they like. Make it your purpose in life to break the next big act. Get them to perform concerts for listeners. Become the must-be place on the dial for new music. Don’t limit yourself to one style — think top-40, which included everything. Young music fans are far more open to new styles than are adults, and adults already have their own stations.

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