Thursday, April 16, 2009

Magic disappearing act

I've never understood why radio stations change their formats with no advance notice. One popular station, KIDD, better known as Magic 63, did just that last week, unleashing a flurry of fury from upset listeners.

Magic 63 presented an easy-listening format for a good 20 years, playing classic recordings of people like Nat King Cole, Petula Clark, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra, along with some newer artists like Diana Krall and Peter Cincotti.

When it started long ago, Magic 63 was playing the music that was popular with the 50-somethings to the 60-somethings of the day. Now that these people are in their 70s and 80s, the station has gone back to serving the 50s to 60s bracket as "Oldies 630." That is not too radical a change in my estimation, and even allows for a little overlap in the offerings.

Still, quite a few people wrote angry letters to The Herald saying they'd never listen to the new "rock & roll" format, which now features such blatantly contemporary artists as The Beatles, The Supremes, America, Bread, and Neil Diamond. Let's be clear, this is mostly not rock & roll, it's 1960's and 1970's pop and soft rock. In fact, Neal Diamond was played on Magic 63 as well as Oldies 630.

However, none of this should imply that I am pleased with the format change myself. I like '60s and 70's pop, but I also liked the easy listening stuff, too. I often listened to Magic 63 before getting out of bed because it reminded me of what my parents listened to in the morning when I was a kid. The oldies format is better for later in the day, but so is the higher fidelity of FM radio. Listening to my favorite hits of the '60s and '70s on the tinny AM band is not my cup of tea.

But the big question in my mind is why do radio station owners think it is a good business practice to make significant format changes unannounced? On day one they immediately disappoint everyone who tunes in expecting something familiar, while their intended audience doesn't have a clue that the new format even exists yet. What other business thinks it is a good idea to alienate all of their best customers, and do so without lining up new ones? It would be like walking into Safeway expecting to buy groceries, only to discover that suddenly the store is now a carpet dealer!

It truly boggles the mind. And so does this. Two of those people who wrote letters to the Herald vowed never to listen to Oldies 63. They also vowed to never patronize Oldies 63 advertisers. How will they know who is an advertiser?

Maybe there needs to be a station that plays the Looney Tunes theme.

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