The big 91X experiment, in which San Diego’s XETRA (91.1 FM) became what the program director calls a “ones format”, is quite intriguing. Many observers attempt to categorize the format by calling it “classic alternative,” but that misses the point…and honestly proves that many supposed insiders really don’t understand the format.
Station 91X, like KROQ (106.7 FM) here, did not start as an alternative. This description is more recent and reflects a playlist crunch that came long after the initial success. The stations started off as rock or rock and new wave, playing music that was intended to be truly avant-garde, heard first here and later on other stations. Rick Carroll, who was the programmer who took KROQ to its heights in the 1980s and who was an early consultant when 91X adopted the format, actually considered it a form of top 40, but the two stations were definitely close to the general public.
To borrow the slogan of the UCLA student station, the idea was that they play today “the sound of tomorrow”, meaning the songs you will hear later on other stations. . And it was true. KROQ and 91X have pioneered Prince, Pet Shop Boys, The Clash, English Beat, Duran Duran, The Cars, Sparks, The Police and Devo, while also playing mainstream artists such as The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys .
Something happened along the way, and I don’t know why. The playlist got tighter and tighter. Eventually, rather than being the station where you heard music months before it was played on other stations, it was the music you only heard there.
So, while observers are right – there is more “gold” in the 91X format now than before the change, the reason has very positive potential. The added songs — mostly from the early 1980s, in place of more recent alternative hits — are added in part because audiences liked them during an A-XYZ special the station aired, playing songs that didn’t. had not been aired. years.
And here’s the catch. Many listeners are so young that they have never heard the songs: Talking Heads. Adam Ant. Let’s row. Spicy red peppers. And if listeners respond positively to songs they’ve never heard before – new to them – that means new songs can be added without, as programmers always fear, scaring them off. New music is new music.
91X has the potential to become a radio station that really attracts young people to radio. It would be a good thing. I will be watching this closely…stations across the country will be too.
On a related note, the 91X website is well designed and fun to visit, easy to navigate, and informative. Check it out at 91x.com.
Boss radio request line
And I got a request that I thought I’d share…
“I recently read your tribute article to Sam Riddle. I was hoping you could help me with a personal riddle. I am the owner of KHJ Boss Radio’s Surfin’Bird, a 1956 Thunderbird built by legendary customizer Bill Cushenbery, donated by the Boss Jocks in August 1966.
“Scrutinizing well-known radio shows etc. I was unable to find out who originally won the car. The promotion ended on August 8th with the announcement of the winner during the Dick Curtis 18-to-34 Show.
“I can’t find any radio spots mentioning the winner, which is odd because most of the competition winners have been mentioned on air. I was hoping you would know how to contact Gary Mack or Johnny Williams. There are a lot of beautiful stories surrounding this great promotion, and unfortunately, all the people who know it are leaving us.
“Here is a link to information I have compiled to date around this great moment in radio history. And any help or insights are greatly appreciated. –Kevin Bennett
If you or someone you know has the answer, please let me know!