Classical music radio in Los Angeles takes a hit
Well, we are now down to 1 classical radio station. It was just annonced that KMZT is switching format to be a country station. This is really unfortunate as many of the local ensembles broadcast on this station. The other classical station is much more corporate in nature- the syndicate dj's to other stations and don't do many live broadcasts.
The interesting thing here is the country station is now an AM station and the classical is FM. They are talking about switching the two. However, the AM station does not have a particularly strong signal and like most AM, it really doesn't sound particularly good. Will the audiophile-drive classical listening world put up with AM radio? I have a hard time seeing that happen...
Anyways, read the article from today's LA Times: http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/cl-et-format24feb24,0,5251690.story
KDFC in San Francisco changed hands a few weeks ago, and we're all waiting for the shoe to drop. No word yet. Let's hope it doesn't...
I read the same story this morning, Ben, and considered it important enough that, were I still in the news business, I'd have put it on the front page.
The reason for the change is that the classical station's ad revenues dropped 80-PERCENT last year. They lost such sponsors as BMW, Mercedes, and ATT -- all of whom wanted a younger audience. The dominant age group listening to classical is 60 and over.
There is a far larger story here than the microcosm of LA's classical station going to AM (starting 6 a.m. Monday) and replacing its FM station with Country:
Business no longer will support acoustic music to the extent it has in the past. Profit no longer is of paramount importance; it is EXCLUSIVELY important. That means the next step will be a loss of corporate sponsorship for secondary orchestras, jazz, and similar music genres. Ultimately, if the trend continues, symphonies will depend solely on donations from wealthy individuals.
The public has no taste. It is a herd bullied by peer pressure, listening to whatever is in vogue for fear of being out of step. Only such people as we on this forum and those we record have the incentive to try to change things.
Please, for your own sake, aggressively publicize your work. Put some of it online at no charge. Tell the world about it via the Internet. Utilize forums other than this one to spread the word.
I will make this offer: My own website, http://www.westlakerecords.com, now offers free podcasts of local jazz musicians performing Swing. I would love to include other kinds of acoustic music from symphonic and chamber music to folk, bluegrass, other kinds of jazz, whatever. Just send me an mp3 and I'll put it online giving credit to both you and the performers. I will work with you to present the music in whatever way you think best.
The effort has to start somewhere. Please accept my offer or do it yourself but let's do SOMETHING. -- Uncle Russ
For listeners in LA, KMZT's programming will still be available on FM if you own one of the new receivers that support HD-radio. I will probably get one as a result of this change.
Man, I would love to be able to cast music from this site, or at least have a professional slot to showcase our members work, work that never gets heard because of BS politics, lack of funding etc. We have such a following and really, this domain is well suited to expand further. If we could increase exposure for us all, explore and offer opportunities to market good work, it would be worth the journey it took to get recording.org this far.
If anyone out there reads this, has ideas, please chime in or PM me, I would love to hear from you.
A similar thing happened here in DC. The NPR station stopped playing music and the other classical station in town (wgms - either the nations 1st or 2nd oldest IRC classical radio station) has been bought out (or will be very soon) by the owner of the redskins and will be tuned into a sports only channel.
Of course, wgms sucks anyway. They primarily cater to the blue-hairs and pretty much play 75% baroque music, 24% early classical and 1% early romantic.
Frankly, I'm enthralled with XM's classical programming. I couldn't be more pleased with XM.
I used to engineer for an NPR station in town. Had a 50 KW ERP Classical FM. We put on a 2nd - VERY low power - FM for news/talk. Then switched formats between the two stations. (talk about easy! All I had to do was swap two pairs of XLR cables...)
Fundraising went way up, but the classical listeners really bitched, since you can't hear the low power FM noise-free but for a few blocks from the station. For some reason, 10 W ERP (not a typo) just doesn't provide a very large 60 dbu contour.
So, we did the multi-cast HD thing on the 50 KW station. (this comes after we tried to get the classical audience to listen instead to a 22 Kbps mono web stream.) HD-1 carries the requisite digital version of the analog news/talk. HD-2 carries 24 hr classical and HD-3 carries 24 hr jazz. 'Buy a new radio!' we said.
HD-1 sounds pretty good compared to the analog FM. HD-2 sounds like mp3's. HD-3 sounds like crap.
(but, it's 'High-Definition', CD-Quality radio!)
We are "blessed" with two really good classical stations here in Northern Ohio. WKSU-FM and WCLV-FM. WKSU is owned and operated by Kent State University and is an NPR station as well as providing classical and folk music to the listeners. WCLV is a commercial station that broadcast the Cleveland Orchestra and does the preparation for Karl Haas's programs as well as doing a lot of syndication of other programs. WCLV just worked out their funding so that they can become an "in perpetuity" foundation and will not have to worry about someone changing their format. The local college station, WOUB-FM use to play a fair amount of classical music but they are almost all pop and the classical has been shelved.
I personally think that classical music, opera, ballet and any form of arts programing is slowly going the way of the dinosaur. The first thing that any school system cuts if there are budget problems is the music/arts program and most high schools now have a music program only so that they can have a marching band for the football games.
Less and less people are being exposed to classical music and opera and ballet and I think this is going to be the death knell for the symphony orchestras, ballet companies and opera companies since many young people have never had the chance to experience them first hand.
When I went to high school we had an orchestra, a choir, a show choir. a symphonic band, a wind ensemble and the marching band. Today my high school only has the marching band and choir and all the rest is history.
The arts are expensive and there are no government subsides and the rich who were the primary contributors to things like opera companies and symphonic orchestra have other things to spend their money on and corporation and foundation funding is drying up.
Classical musicians are demanding and getting higher and higher salaries and want no part of recording or summer "pops" concerts where they could potentially reach more listeners. It was just announced in the local arts magazine that the concert master of the Cleveland Orchestra makes over $400,000 a year and that is quite a chunk of change and if you figure like salaries for other members of the 80 + piece ensemble you are talking BIG BUCKS! and that money has to come from somewhere.
My parents use to play classical music all the time at home and it was a ritual that we ate Sunday brunch listening to classical music and if we went to my Grandparents house my Grandfather would have us sit and listen to operas on his 78 record player.
Today I don't thing most young people even know what classical music is and are never exposed to it in school or by their parents unless their parents are musicians or someone with a classical background.
Oh well we will just have to see how this all plays out.
That's too bad, let's hope good music finds a way to be heard
Commercial Classical music on "Free" FM radio is all but dead in this market. It's scary, and it's wrong, but it's a sad fact now.
We've had a similar situation here in Philadelphia about ten years ago, but the slide began long before that. Our long-time (35 yrs or so) commerical classical station WFLN-FM was bought in 1988 for 15 million, and flipped owners several (at least 6) times over nearly ten years (all the while tweaking with and messing up the classical format-even playing "Short" works and single movements on morning drive time, for example.)
Finally in 1997-98, the inflated price of the station/frequency (by then it was 44 million) couldn't support the cost of yet another bank loan, so a long-held traditional, THRIVING classical station had its plugged pulled because the interest on the bank loan was higher than its' gross revenue. Nothing wrong with the format or the audience or the sales revenue per se; just the inflated price of the frequency, after it was sold & flipped by greedy industry weasels. Greater Media (and you can quote me) was the final villian in the drama; and they flipped it to "Female-Oriented" 25-35 demographic, with thier lead-off song at 6 p.m. that infamous day, being "A Change is Gonna Do You Good".
AFter 6 million$ in refurbishments and advertising, the format never made a DIME in profits, it finished too low in the arbitrons to even RATE (lower than a test tone would have gotten), and to this day, it's STILL losing money for Greater Media at 95.7 FM - BEN Radio. It's absolutely galling. THey now have NO Format, and their advertising says: "We play what whatever we want" (Translation: we have no idea what to play).
But the happy ending/silver lining is that the entire record & CD library of WFLN was "gifted" to Temple University, and the core staff was hired to run the sleepy old, tired "Jazz" Format of WRTI. Suddenly, the station's fortunes changed; 12 hrs classical, (daytimes) 12 hrs Jazz (night), and the city rejoiced. (I"m not exaggerating, it was really the top news story for about a month...)
Now, they're entirely self supported by the listeners/subscribers, have a 3.5 million $ new facility built for them by the University, and have just gone to HD radio and can do 24 hrs per day for BOTH formats (flipping 12 hrs on SD radio, and 12 hrs on HD for classical, and the reverse for Jazz.)
In a market like Phila., with so much going on in the universities and older-historical & deeper roots, it's a godsend, but no one's kidding anyone: it's the ONLY serious classical outlet around. (It's only competition is WHYY TV & Radio, which largely has talk radio all day long).
With 6 repeater stations all over the Delaware Valley, it's got as good a coverage as its old ancestor WFLN ever had, and without the demands of commerical radio, it can do a heckuva lot more interesting and less demeaning stuff. Philadelphia dodged a bullet on this one, other markets haven't been as lucky. Thankfully, classical and jazz is still available on the radio here.
And with a LOT less compression, too.
the station I used to engineer for has been working to buy an existing frequency in town for their classical station. They finally closed the deal and are to go live on May 1st. Here's the best part - they bought a COMMERCIAL station in the middle of the band and will convert it to a non-profit 24 hour a day classical. Sweet! And, it's a LOT more power, to boot.