Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jimmy Baron’s Audition Finally Pays Off

Okay, how long has it been since Zakk Tyler took that vacation? That’s when Jimmy Baron did his on-air audition in mornings. Mike Wheeler was still PD back then.

Current Dave-FM PD Scott Jameson apparently listened to the aircheck and liked what he heard. And Jimmy’s persistence to get back on the air in Atlanta paid off as he takes the helm of the AAA station in morning drive starting on Monday.

Making this happen took some smarts on both sides of the table. I saw Scott Jameson speak at the recent CBS Radio Book Breakout Lunch. In introducing him, Market Manager Rick Caffey commented, “I spent many months looking for the best person possible to program Dave-FM. And I got him.”

I have to agree with Rick Caffey. Jameson first straightened out the music. Then he went to work surrounding it with an environment that enlightens the AAA audience, who are the most demanding music listeners in commercial radio.

In his talk, Jameson told us about research commissioned years ago by VH-1, then still playing videos. The cable network had seen its ratings in free fall and wanted to know why. The study’s bottom line according to Jameson was “context,” influencing Scott to add short vignettes on Dave-FM embellishing upcoming cuts.

That Jameson is not a run-of-the-mill corporate PD was evident from listening to Dave-FM and hearing him speak. He has displayed expertise, creativity and vision, and has Caffey’s confidence to guide the ship. He obviously learned about Jimmy Baron’s background in this market.

Are there better-sounding broadcasters than Jimmy Baron? Certainly. But in Jimmy, Dave-FM is getting a popular personality with equity in Atlanta radio. The station also is bringing in someone who is interesting and will command the attention of Dave’s demanding audience. And Jimmy is a guy who seems universally liked by people who know him.

For his part, Jimmy Baron kept himself in front of the public during his 19-month hiatus from radio. He appeared at clubs, and filled in on TV and radio. That he never really left us finally paid dividends.

The real question for Dave-FM is what the potential is for an AAA format in the Atlanta market. The format seems to get good numbers in markets having a high white liberal concentration, of which Atlanta is not one. And one more thing: I’m going to miss Tim Orff, and I wish him the best.

So What Will Chase Really Be Doing?
Did Star 94 hire Chase Daniels to do afternoon traffic and voicetrack overnights? Was Star Program Director JR Ammons just trying to help a friend who was out of work?

Daniels is a guy who could take Star to new heights in afternoon drive, replacing the canned Ryan Seacrest. But so far Seacrest is staying put. I’d love to know the reason and wonder whether the station is contractually obligated to carry On Air for a certain length of time. Maybe Daniels was hired as a part-timer. Perhaps Ammons feels Seacrest is a better fit (although I somehow doubt that).

I hated to see Creative Director Danny Wright get laid off a few months ago, but I must say that Star 94’s imaging is sounding super great. The station has added excellent formatic elements and is executing them to perfection. I have to hand props to Doug Miller, who apparently is responsible for taking them from concept to on air. Miller was once Imaging Director at CHR Mix 93.3 in Kansas City.

What Up With Frank Ski’s Contract?
According to the AJC’s Rodney Ho, Frank Ski’s current contract with V-103 will end on September 9. Will he and the station renew?

Ski’s morning drive show with Wanda Smith is obviously a huge success, racking up double-digit Arbitron shares. Market Manager Rick Caffey has a reputation for not wanting to mess with success.

In light of the economy, however, will CBS be able to afford to renew Ski’s contract at its current level? After all, billings at even the V monster have taken quite a tumble since Ski last signed on the dotted line. I don’t know Ski personally, but his reputation leads me to wonder if he would accept a lower salary, especially since doing so might send a message that he needs the station more than the station needs him.

Unfortunately for Ski, he doesn’t have tremendous leverage since Ryan Cameron, who does afternoon drive on V-103, could probably fill Ski’s morning shoes with hardly a quiver in the ratings. I do hope Ski, who’s been a part of the Atlanta radio landscape for almost 11 years, stays on.

Roddy Freeman

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Link to Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Blog:

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