Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seeing Red

An idea for [alternative] rock radio...

CURRENTS and lots of them.

Am I crazy? I don't think so. [You, of course, are free to think what you want.]

How many currents? How does 70% of the clock sound? WHAT?!? Yup, 70% current/recurrent. Why not? It's way more than most than most Alternative stations play but still less than a typical CHR would offer. This station is all about today's alternative music. Don't like today's music, that's OK, but this station is probably not for you.

And the Gold? Nothing older than 1992-1993 and usually no more than 4 titles per hour.

This is an idea I have been talking about for quite a while, but as you might imagine it is not an easy sell. No need to go through all of the reasons--you already know what they are.

Last spring I was having a conversation with a friend and client about this very subject. I laid out my vision
for the format and outlined why I thought it could work. To my [pleasant] surprise, we started really talking about it. By the beginning of August we were on the air.

The market is an unlikely place--Alexandria, LA. A market of around 162,000 people and devoid of rock currents.

Nearly everything about the way this station was put together challenges convention. Starting with the logo--it's hard to read, there's no positioning statement, and one could argue it doesn't really look like a radio station logo. Exactly! Kudo's to the local station folks for creating such a distinctive non-traditional look. We tested this logo with the locals and the response was off the map. I came up with the name "RED" and it does have a local connection--the Red River runs through the city. But ultimately we believed it spoke to the hip and cool image we were trying to create.

What else did we do to prepare for launch? Sure, we did the normal music scheduling set up, prepared an imaging package, and lined up LOCAL air talent (that's an entire post for another time). While those are vital pieces of the puzzle there were two other elements that I felt were mission critical: 1. We had to stream on day one. 2. We had to be connected to our potential listeners on multiple social network sites on day one. The station is active on My Space, Twitter, and Facebook.

The social networking strategy has been a big success. Despite the fact that this is a very small market the station has amassed over 900 friends with more than 21,000 page views in a very short time on My Space alone.

The station launched with a simple splash page website that included the logo, an email address, streaming link, and links to the aforementioned social networking sites. Today, the stations full website is up and running...see it here.

By now you are probably asking yourself...this sounds kinda interesting but how's it doing? Glad you asked. The fall ratings were released the other day and Red 104.3 is off to a tremendous start. Here you can see some of the highlights compared to the last book of the previous format (classic rock):
Source: Arbitron Maximiser sp08/fa08

Needless to say everyone involved is quite pleased with the results of the stations first book. Now the hard part begins...continuing to grow the stations fan base and build a local franchise.

Formats like this take courage and guts--largely missing from most "conference room" format discussions today. It's not easy to test. It will most likely never show up as a "most desirable" format. Heck, many format finder studies are designed with the format left out completely.

As radio struggles on so many levels today, the timing is right to rethink everything. It might be time to at least consider the concept that there might be a market for newer rock music played without the older rock safety shield.