Monday, March 26, 2012

The Many Lives of Dave-FM

Do you believe in reincarnation?  I've never been able to come to terms with the idea that I may someday be a cow.  But I have to say that 92-9 Dave FM is starting to make me wonder.

How many different forms can Dave FM take?  When the station launched in 2004, it was Rock Without Rules.  Next came Radio Without Rules.  Then suddenly, it was just plain Dave FM.  Last fall, it borrowed from Chicago's 93XRT and became Atlanta's Finest Rock.

We have witnessed a parade of program directors.  It started with the highly-regarded Michelle Engel, who crossed the country from Seattle hoping to guide the new Dave FM to great things.  Next arrived another well-thought-of and experienced PD, Mike Wheeler.  And now, Scott Jameson, with more than 10 years of rock success in Indianapolis under his belt, guides the ship.

The music has been all over the place.  It started with a bright mix of Rock targeting adults and kind of veered to Michelle Engel's personal favorites.  (She loved The Police.)  Mike Wheeler gave Dave FM some direction and made it a Triple A station.  Then Scott Jameson installed an AAA playlist similar to the country's leading stations in that genre.  Toward the end of last year, currents were decreased, and a perplexing mix of Classic Rock going back to the 60's was intermingled.  Now Dave has returned to a more typical AAA playlist.

We certainly cannot leave out the cavalcade of morning shows: Barnes & Firfer, Holly Firfer (with her studio announcer Orff), Orff & Firfer, Orff, Zakk Tyler, Orff, Jimmy Baron, Jimmy & Yvonne, The Steve Show.  And of course, mornings have gone back and forth between personality and music intensive, not that any of the personalities had that much leeway.

What does the Dave FM brand mean to listeners?  Could they be confused?  Why does the station seem like the Eveready Bunny?  That signal is too big for Dave to be mired in the high teens among adults 25-54, its good qualitative notwithstanding.  Put bluntly, isn't it time to blow up the station and start from scratch?

CBS Radio Market Manager Rick Caffey seems to make big decisions when he has to.  So why is Scott Jameson still programming Dave FM?  I attended a luncheon at which Caffey told clients that after an exhaustive search, he found the best person to program Dave in Jameson.  Had he told his bosses that and therefore is reluctant to fire Scott?  Does each new music modification buy Jameson some time?  Is V-103 billing so much that it compensates for Dave?

Several months ago, Caffey dismissed Dave FM's General Sales Manager, John Riemenschneider.  Would terminating both his sales and programming heads put Caffey directly in the line of fire?  Does he feel firing Jameson would make no sense when 92.9 might flip in the near future?

92-9 Dave FM does boast the Rick Caffey hallmark of personalities in all dayparts.  Steve Craig, Mara Davis, Sully and Margot all entertain.  Mara is one of the market's premiere personalities, and Margot makes the station sound like a real AAA.

In mornings, which Dave has never been able to get right, Steve Craig is able to make a music-intensive show sound like a personality one through his incredible knowledge of music.  Adding news and bringing in Mitch Evans, one of the market's top sports talents, have been a plus; but I doubt it's enough to lift ratings in mornings.  Dave would need to create a real morning show, a huge challenge.

So life and Dave FM go on, with Steve Craig wondering whether he has a job; and me wondering how long CBS will allow 92.9 to languish at the bottom of the barrel.

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