Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Atlanta & Dave FM - The Station, the Market or Both?

In my January 13th post, I wondered about the future of 92-9 Dave FM (WZGC).  I questioned whether Atlanta is just not a market for the Adult Album Alternative format.

The column attracted no-hold-barred responses from two radio observers who are AAA fans.  One remarked, "(Dave FM should) identify four core artists/groups that represent the touchstone for the music. The reason WXRT (in Chicago) has succeeded for so long is that it has a musical center – the blues - and then spreads from there. Does Dave have that?"  The person added the absence of marketing is another reason for Dave's less-than-stellar ratings.  The other commented, "I can't believe how bad Dave is.  The music is all over the place.  If you want to hear what a Triple A station should sound like, listen to (the stream of) KBCO in Denver."  Ouch.
Okay, so is it the market or the station?  Or is it both?
Where are AAA stations the most successful?  The answer is Denver, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, followed by Seattle and Austin.  What do these markets have in common?  One trait is minority groups comprise a very small portion of their population with the exception of Austin.  Nevertheless, as in the other markets, African-Americans make up a small percentage of Austin's residents.  Austin had the same profile as the other strong AAA markets until the influx of Latinos in recent years.
Does the Atlanta market share this trait?  The answer is no.  Atlanta is approximately 30% African-American and 8% Hispanic.

The other characteristic of the leading Triple A markets is they are all known for their liberal-leaning politics.  Progressive Rock, originally called "Underground," emerged from the liberal anti-Vietnam sentiment of the 1960's.  During the early years, drug lyrics were added to the music content by the permissive young left of those days.  Triple A as a genre tends to be on the roots side of the rock spectrum.
Atlanta as a market can be aptly described as liberal, but that's largely a function of its large African-American composition.  The market's Caucasian population probably leans more conservative as a whole.
The same January post mentioned Dave FM does not sound like the leading AAA stations.  The format has a serious while laid back tenor created by its personalities and imaging.  I find the ambiance hypnotic.  Dave FM, meanwhile, sounds like a pop station in tone although Margot has a Triple A sound.  And as the above comments noted, Dave FM's playlist seems much broader than the typical AAA outlet.
Okay, where does this lead us?  Is Atlanta being an atypical market for the format the reason that Dave FM does not adhere to AAA protocol?  Or would a true Triple A station work in this market, with its college-educated populace?  Or is Atlanta just the wrong place for any variation of AAA?
Keep in mind that Dave launched in 2005 as "Rock Without Rules," and its music reflected that slogan.  Mike Wheeler, Dave's second PD, brought the playlist over to Triple A but with some songs that were outside the genre.  Current PD Scott Jameson tweaked the station to stay inside the format's confines.  Is Dave too broad, as the people commenting suggested?
I don't pretend to know the answers.  Knowing the landscape, however, I would not have introduced Dave FM in Atlanta.  I still think the powerful 92.9 signal is capable of getting ratings, which it has not had for the past 15 years.

It's a Wrap for Joyce Littel
I was saddened by Joyce Littel's release from late nights at V-103 (WVEE-FM).  To be honest, I always felt Joyce was not in the same talent class as her on-air counterparts at the station.  Yet she was very effective in creating a niche as the market's relationship expert and friend.  And she enjoyed popularity as the Quiet Storm host for almost 20 years.

What saddened me was it seemed still another example of how radio stations put loyal talent out to pasture after reaching certain age and salary platitudes.  Joyce is certainly a pro and had the smarts to use her V-103 platform to launch other businesses.  We wish her only the best.

We do not feel Joyce's departure will hurt V-103 since the "persons using radio" percentage is low in late evenings.  A few rumors have been flying around.  One is that CBS will syndicate a show to fill those hours on both V-103 and sister station WPGC in Washington.  Another is that Joyce's salary will be used to reunite afternoon driver Ryan Cameron with his former Radio One co-host, Rashan Ali.  A third rumor is that V-103 is looking for a host to replace Joyce Littel.

Thanks for reading.  Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/atlantaairwaves, and we’ll follow you back. I would love to hear from you at roddyfreeman@bellsouth.net.

Link to Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/


  1. 錢,給你帶來歡愉的日子,但不給你帶來和平與幸福..............................

  2. Dave needs a little twang. Start with an alt-country base and expand from there. Atlanta is still the south, after all.

  3. I have spent the last few hours reading all your posts, so first thanks for all the info!

    I enjoy Dave but enjoyed it even more when they first became Dave. Just like always (99x comes to mind) they played some music that you couldn't really hear anywhere else. Now, except during certain times, you pretty much hear the same stuff over and over and over. Plus it seems to be the same music/artists you can hear anywhere, you just might have to switch around to several different stations to find them though.

    I have never quite understood why a station and this would be any station I have grown up on in Atlanta, insists on playing what I would call the 'top 40' of their genre. With all the great songs most artists in Daves genre (U2, Death Cab, Tom Petty, etc) have why am I hearing the same song again at 2pm that I heard at 8am on my drive in.

    Sorry if my rant wasn't quite on topic. Maybe there is an answer to my question that I will find over the next hour of reading more :) Thanks again.