I just read an article in the Los Angeles Daily News (http://www.dailynews.com/arts-and-entertainment/20161008/radio-what-do-am-stations-have-to-lose-but-go-back-to-music-formats) that speculated on the notion of trying to resurrect one of the former AM giants of L.A. radio with a music format.
It’s an interesting read…and a nice sentiment, too. The author suggested taking a station like 93/KHJ (as well as others) and bringing it back to prominence.
God, do I wish. I grew up on the legend of that station…even though I grew up in Ohio. I listened to the air checks. Loved the style of guys like Billy Pearl, Charlie Van Dyke, Charlie Tuna (RIP), The Real Don Steele (RIP) and (Rest his soul, too), Robert W. Morgan.
On my first vacation from radio in the mid 70’s, I took a trip to Los Angeles. One of the things on my agenda was to visit 5515 Melrose Avenue. I didn’t expect to see, or meet anyone. I just wanted to stand in the lobby and breathe the rarified air of that station. And I did. I froze so badly standing there that had any of those guys come thru the lobby door, I don’t know if I could have made a coherent thought come out.
But, the reality of this: to really do something like that, and try to make it work is likely a financial impossibility today.
Let’s chart it out:
In 1965, the starting rate for a “boss jock” (as told by PD Ron Jacobs in his book “KHJ Inside Boss Radio”), was $15,000 a year. For those of you who are counting, that’s $354,787.50 in 2016 money. And, I suspect, that’s about what you would have to pay to find the caliber of potential talent for such a station. And remember, multiply that times 7 because there were seven full time jocks on KHJ. (Only overnighter Johnny Williams got stuck with a 6 hour airshift.)
Now that we have talent, let’s talk technical stuff. AM stations fight enormous amounts of interference today. The original KHJ towers were leveled 3 years ago. I’m betting the signal today probably covers, if they’re lucky, about half the ground it used to. So, I’m going to need the best engineer in the county to give me the best signal possible and will likely have to spend megabucks on improvements to the grounding system and audio processing, too.
Okay. Who here REALLY remembers KHJ? “GTO’s For Two”, “The Seven Car Sweepstakes”, “The Batphone Secret Number Contest”, “The Big Kahuna”, “Beat The Bomb”, “Wheel Of Fortune” and on and on and on. The promotions never stopped. And, OK some were “maintenance games” like “Hi-Lo”, but others were what we call “fantasy prizes”. Not to mention billboard, bus cards, TV ads. So how many million can I put in the promotions and marketing budget?
News. You need that news presence on the street for AM radio. A ten man news department ain’t cheap.
And whoever finances this had better be ready to do it for two to three years. At least. Because you may not see a dime in profit before then.
Oh yeah another thought on talent: to work for this station, you’d better be ready to put 10 hour days, or more in. That’s why you make the big bucks. And be ready for constant critique. When that hotline rang, you’d better answer it.
And before you’d premiere the station, you’d practice…for a few weeks…in a production studio, just getting the format down. That’s how it was done. Or that’s how Ron Jacobs related it to me in an e-mail shortly before I became a PD. (By the way, I didn’t know him well, but he was kind enough to correspond with me a few times by e-mail and on Facebook. He even endorsed me several times on my Linked In page. To me, that was like getting the endorsement of a higher power.)
I wish it could be. But, I know better. The Boss Train has left the station on its final journey.
Still, if some wealthy financier with some big bucks and the willingness to spend it wants to try, call me please! I’d love to hear your plans. Because I’d love to be, “number one then…and number one now!”