Thursday, March 5, 2009


Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

Years ago, following a stint writing for Billboard magazine as well as writing about the music industry for the Denver Post, I was asked by a local media mogul what was wrong with Phoenix radio.

Ironically, what was wrong with Phoenix radio 20 years ago is just as wrong now. I've had a saying about Phoenix radio: "If it is old music, it must be Phoenix radio." On the whole, Phoenix radio stations are stuck in the '80s, except for a few stations still stuck in the '50s.

Even at my gym, the radio blares songs 40 years old. This is the 21st century. You wouldn't wear the same shirt you had in 1975 -- OK, some people do -- so why make your musical diet what you listened to 25 years ago? Try something new, like Aly & AJ or ZOEgirl.

If a station wants to be No. 1 in the market, my advice used to be: Look at the Billboard Top 40 charts. Over the past two decades, I've felt Phoenix radio experts were missing a bet by not sticking to a Top 40 rotation. There is a Clear Channel radio station in Phoenix, 104.7 FM, that has adopted that formula and is near the top of the 2007 Arbitron surveys.

With the proliferation of Internet and satellite radio, I would change my advice from sticking to a Top 40 rotation. As a teenager, a new manager for "our" band told us we had to play at least five songs from the "current" charts as well as our own material in a set. That meant we had to keep adding new songs as the charts changed.

That would be a terrific formula for a station that wants to be No. 1 in the Phoenix market.

When radio station 101.5 FM changed from talk to hip-hop in June, it used the hook of going with about eight hours of pure Paris Hilton music. I listened as long as it lasted. Refreshing: 21st-century music on Phoenix radio!

To be the No. 1 station today, you would still look at the Billboard charts. There are new charts today, many more than there were 20 years ago.

There's digital downloads, ring tones, independent and dance/electronic, or what I still call disco -- some habits die hard. There's even charts for the top European songs. Add these to your musical wardrobe, and you'd have the most listened-to station in Phoenix.

I would add teen pop faves like Hilary Duff, Bowling for Soup, Something Corporate, Jack's Mannequin, Fall Out Boy and all the groups I was exposed to while my children were growing up in the 21st century. Even the Simpson sisters, Ashlee and Jessica, as well as Hannah Montana.

Yet in 21 years since my oldest child was born, not one radio programmer in Phoenix has followed that formula on building a top station in Phoenix. That may explain why the top radio station is an AM talk station.

Richard C. Kelleher is a media relations specialist who lives and works in northeast Phoenix. He is a former Billboard magazine journalist.