Monday, March 15, 2010

Cumulus Puts Q100 in the Bush League

I was weaned on Top-40 radio, and it has always been my favorite format.  Its magic and excitement helped hook me.  And speaking of hooks, as I aged out of the demo, the hooks in the songs still mesmerized me.

One trademark of Top-40 radio has been its nighttime sound, when the overall audience was small but young people were listening en mass.  Playlists were extended, and evening personalities typically were exciting--many were screamers--and interacted heavily with their audience.

Over the years, radio has matured, and format restrictions have increased.  Top 40 is now CHR, a term coined by Radio & Records.  Evening CHR jocks are more scripted, a result of both the homogenization of radio and the sophistication of programmers regarding how Arbitron works.

Q100's Adam Bomb was close to as good as today's CHR evening jocks get.  He did a quintessential evening CHR show, the only one in the market.  He executed the format well and performed his act with his young audience in mind.

After Adam's promotion to mornings at i93 in Dallas, Cumulus teased us with Q100 part-timer Carter, and then sprang the syndicated Access Hollywood host and former presidential relative, Billy Bush, on us.  Did the price of keeping Jeff Dauler on the Bert Show deplete the cash drawer?

Evening syndication is a growing fact in today's radio landscape.  And while radio's repeater business model is unfortunate, ratings for the most part have been standing up.  Look at how many Country stations air CMT Live with Cody Alan or 2nd Shift with Alan Kabel and do well.  Bringing Billy Bush to Q100 obviously was not a decision made by Rob Roberts, Q100's Program Director.  It probably was not even made by Cumulus' CHR programming honcho, Jan Jeffries, although his fingerprints are all over the music.  This was likely a financial move that came from the top of the company.

The contrast between Billy Bush, who had been on after 10PM, and Adam Bomb is tremendous.  Bush sounds like he's syndicated though whether that's detected by Q100's audience is questionable.  But Bush has no energy, no forward momentum, and contributes no meaningful content over song intros.  He lacks charisma, and his laid-back delivery is a total disconnect with nighttime CHR.  The music seems a mix of rhythmic recurrents and Jan Jeffries specials such as Clocks by Coldplay.  Might I go as far as calling the Billy Bush extravaganza a train wreck?

Q100, by expanding Billy Bush, and B98.5, by dismantling Steve & Vikki, have bestowed gifts upon Star 94, which must be feeling the love these days.  Both Star and The Beat are live and local at night and could be beneficiaries of Q100's decrease in quality.  However, despite Q100's shortcomings, the station's evening playlist is by-and-large CHR while Star 94's and The Beat's are not.  So whether Bush will affect ratings remains to be seen.

Cumulus has managed to put the Jan Jeffries touch on Q100, keeping it a great station in morning drive and a haven for lovers of recurrents and Hot AC the rest of the day.  That's not to take anything away from Brittany and Johnny O, both of whom are solid jocks.

When Cumulus Media Partners acquired Q100, the company brought in Rob Roberts as head programmer.  Roberts had programmed Clear Channel CHR Y100/Miami for years.  He knows his way around a CHR clock.  But Roberts' role in Atlanta seems different from his Y100 stint.  His job apparently has changed from programming to insuring Jeffries' vision is properly executed.  I would love for Roberts to program Q100 rather than hang out around the Selector software.  We all can dream, I guess.

Moving Billy Bush into evenings is symptomatic of radio's deterioration.  We can only hope that ratings prove Cumulus wrong.  While we wait, I sit and wonder whether Atlanta will ever again get my favorite format, CHR, in its true form.

Mason Dixon to Step Down
George Mason Dixon has announced he will leave his afternoon drive post at Country WNGC.  He's been part of Atlanta-area radio for many years and was named in our "Atlanta's Best & Brightest" column last year.  The reason for his departure is said to be the long commute to and from his house in Suches.  Suches is also the home of another former Atlanta radio icon, Willard, who worked for years at 96 Rock and then Z93.  That both live there is kind of a coincidence since the population of Suchess is 899 people.

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1 comment:

  1. I wish they would get rid of Jan Jeffries. He has not idea what he is doing!