Lone Star 92.5
April 23, 2007 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Is this the future of non-satellite radio? So an old rock station flipped formats in the wee hours of the morning. "Lone Star 92.5 will not air traditional spots. Instead, the station will have 'sponsors' whose content will be integrated in throughout the hour [a la NPR]. Lone Star 92.5 will feature such artists as ZZ Top, The Old 97's, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and of course, Willie Nelson. In fact, the Red Headed Stranger will also serve as the voice of the station." This just might be the significant step it takes HD Radio to rise to the challenge of satellite radio. Those who claim to know radio cynically predict the new format will go down in flames. Maybe they just say that because it is a part of the universally reviled Clear Channel Communications.
posted by Doohickie (23 comments total)
Sounds kind of like the old "Mother's Best Flour Show" and the "King Biscuit Time Show" except that it's more than just one hour long.
posted by caddis at 11:56 AM on April 23, 2007

Yeah, this isn't a completely new concept. In fact, it's a pretty old one -- think of A Prairie Home Companion, which is an homage to pre-WWII radio. Still plenty of advertising, just no commercial "breaks."

I used to DJ assorted shifts on a modern rock station, including the commercial-free lunch hour and assorted other big times (our afternoon drive-times often had long blocks without commercial breaks.) During the lunch hour, I just talked about the local restaurant sponsor, oh, a half dozen times, instead of taking two spot breaks.

Their cost was not unlike buying a 60s spot in each break that hour -- except they got to be the only game in town. Which leads to the question ... why would Clear Channel do this? They'll (presumably) take in less total advertising revenue, right?

Well, not necessarily. CC is really worried about losing listeners because there's too much advertising time, and people drift to another station or another activity. Ratings go down, you charge less.
...however, if you can keep people around, your Arbitrons go up, and you can justify higher costs from the advertisers you keep.

ClearChannel has experimented before. A couple years back, I talked to a friend of mine who's an assistant program director at an NYC station in the empire. Word had come down from corporate that they would no longer sell 60 second ads, only 30s, in order to try and shorten breaks and keep people around.

They had a meeting with some of their advertisers and agencies to explain the change. In her words, "the reaction couldn't have been any worse if I'd climbed up on the conference table, pulled down my panties, and taken a shit in the middle of it."

So, call me wary, but I'm not so sure this one's gonna go over any better, at least as a total remake of the economics of FM radio.
posted by theoddball at 12:15 PM on April 23, 2007

Howard Stern says non-satellite radio as a medium is in big trouble. To sum up his comments from this morning on Sirius satellite radio, channel 100:

Calling this ‘commercial-free’ while disguising commercials as subtle advertising is not going to help radio. It will turn the audience off. Unlike Letters from Iwo Jima which turned audiences on!

The audience will know a (non)commercial when they hear it, and they can hear it better with MiracleEar hearing aids. When the ‘product placement’ is meshed with performer’s content it will become a bore. Everytime the on-air performer speaks, it will become a boring shill; not a legitimate endorsement, but a paid one.

The audience is too smart for that. They have trusted radio like they have trusted the Midas touch for their brakes, mufflers and tires. Don’t bullshit them.

Also, if the on-air personality speaks about a product, the sponsors will be unhappy unless they say point 1, point 2 - hard-headed brand recognition. Strong brands such as Budweiser, the King of Beers who want you to please drink responsibly. Sponsors want exact messages, not a scripted comment like:
“I was at Autoland the other day and I was talking with this salesperson Pat…”
Can you imagine if this turns out to be twenty product placements per hour?
posted by badger_flammable at 12:28 PM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Due to licensing restrictions we are not able to allow access to the content you are requesting outside of the United States.

posted by medium format at 12:30 PM on April 23, 2007

The audience will know a (non)commercial when they hear it, and they can hear it better with MiracleEar hearing aids. When the ‘product placement’ is meshed with performer’s content it will become a bore.

"Pass The Covoursier!"

The way to fix this is to only play songs that are out-and-out ads, like The 8 Seasons of Chromalox (#13, skip down).
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2007

>such artists as ZZ Top

Every girl crazy 'bout a Henry Poole & Co., 15 Savile Row, London dressed man.

Doesn't scan. They better stick to hip-hop, which already has several hundred thousand product placements for Bacardi.
posted by jfuller at 1:23 PM on April 23, 2007

As others have said, the concept is nearly as old as radio itself.

Texas is one strange place for radio. Pockets of die-hard fans who take "Texas music" seriously -- more so than for any other region of the country. Getting them all lined up and listening is another thing (and then there's the international contingent of "Texas music" fans).

But it's worth mentioning Tracy Pitcox, who has been doing wonders with programming traditional country and staying in business in an unlikely fusion of region, charisma, and hard work. His show is The Hillbilly Hits Show," on KNEL-FM/AM in Brady. I don't think it streams, alas. I miss it.

Last I was in Texas I listened to "Willie's Place" on XM throughout the trip -- the former Hank's Place. Same concept, very good music, limited number of artists and a lot of repetition, annoying lack of human presence behind the mic. But I could listen in places where a terrestrial radio dial would spin forever trying to find a signal. It was cool.
posted by spitbull at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2007

I hate to say it (because I hate to endorse Clear Channel) but, as far as I can tell, this really is the only direction commercial radio can sensibly move in.

This harkens back to an earlier form of radio, but it also harkens across to a model still espoused by many small town stations that have not yet been bought up. And it's wonderful. After a DJ who actually likes and knows about music plays a well-thought-out set of songs, she actually comes on the mic and reads a brief announcement from Jack's Hardware.

And when you hear that, you think, "Yes, I'm glad Jack supports the radio I like. I'll go tell him. Oh, and I need a crowbar!" It's honest advertising, so much more dignified than the 60-second mind-control sessions.

I've said it elsewhere on this site, I don't buy the hype about satellite radio at all. With a few exceptions, it seems to be Radio for People Who Don't Really Like Radio. Real music fans are listening to the great noncommercial stations like WFMU, WDVX, Pirate Cat, KPFA, WOXY, etc.

By the way, is there an iTunes stream for this thing?
posted by roll truck roll at 1:49 PM on April 23, 2007

This is what two of the college radio stations around UVA do. WNRN, the modern rock station, and WTJU, the freeform station, both use the format of having sponsors, and the DJ's read a sentence or two of the sponsor's info on air. However, both of them also have to have fundraising drives to stay afloat, and are probably both public radio stations in some sense. Incidentally, they're both pretty good (especially late night WTJU).
posted by apathy0o0 at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2007

Show of hands, please: who here actively listens to "radio" - satellite or otherwise? As trailing edge boomers, my SO and I wake up to CBC Radio2 (public broadcaster, mostly classical during the day), listen to news/weather during the drive in, and occasionally have the classic rock FM station on, on Sunday afternoons when they do Psychedelic Sunday.

The only focussed listening we do is to CBC Radio 1 & 2, for specific programs we like.

At work, I play MiniDiscs (how retro is that) or CDs, occasionally Soma.fm

I'm not ready to shell out $15 a month to listen to satellite radio; does anyone here use it and like it? I suspect it will stumble like cable did, the choice of stations will drop by 2/3, and commercials will make their way back onto them.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:59 PM on April 23, 2007

Sponsors want exact messages, not a scripted comment like:

“I was at Autoland the other day and I was talking with this salesperson Pat…”
Well, Paul Harvey is like the king of these sorts of interjections, and his sponsors seem to be happy with it...
posted by deanc at 2:11 PM on April 23, 2007

reads a brief announcement from Jack's Hardware...It's honest advertising...

Just because Jack pays for it?

Real music fans are listening to the great noncommercial stations like WFMU, WDVX, Pirate Cat, KPFA, WOXY, etc.

What channels are those on my radio?

On preview, I've had Sirius for a year and a half. For about 43 cents a day I have commercial free music, the NFL, every game of the NCAA Men's basketball tournament, talk right, talk left, talk center. I have a portable unit, a boombox, and access on the Internet. It also has a 49 minute buffer that I use to skip commercials.

I may be a mark for Sirius, but I don't suspect a drop in channels or an increase in commercials.

On preview again, that is exactly why I am not in Paul Harvey's demographic. Boring radio may be okay for some folks.
posted by badger_flammable at 2:20 PM on April 23, 2007

I'm not ready to shell out $15 a month to listen to satellite radio; does anyone here use it and like it?

I do, though I worry that the XM/Sirius merger will ruin it by adding commercials. I do also listen to soma and wfmu, but in the car or when I want to just hear music, it's perfect. It's also a great way to discover new music.

If wimax becomes a widespread reality, then all you'd need is a wimax tuner, at which point satellite dies.

That said, FM needs to die. It's a horrible waste of spectrum.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:22 PM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not ready to shell out $15 a month to listen to satellite radio; does anyone here use it and like it?

I think that's the point, in a way. XM/Sirius charge that monthly fee in exchange for no commercials and digital reception. HD radio sounds like a good alternative- digital with no monthly fees- until you think about the screaming car salesmen in between sets. Yuck.

I've been listening to this on and off this afternoon and there are short promo announcements by Willie Nelson ("Lone Star 92.5. You might think we ripped off your CD collection.... Have you checked lately?") and others, and also sponsor announcements to the effect of: "This set of music is made possible by Coors Light." That's it. No jingle, no "ad libs", just who paid for the music. Pretty good.

The music itself is a little too Texas for this yankee; I'm hearing a lot of stuff I don't know, and I'm not sure I care to. But it would be good background music for a party.

I've heard the first week or two will be pretty much music and no announcers, then they will bring back the traditional dj's (they're probably in "ad-lib" training right now).
posted by Doohickie at 2:23 PM on April 23, 2007

Show of hands, please: who here actively listens to "radio" - satellite or otherwise?

...I'm a shortwave geek, which is a surprise to no one.
posted by mykescipark at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2007

I hate to say it (because I hate to endorse Clear Channel) but, as far as I can tell, this really is the only direction commercial radio can sensibly move in.

I'm not sure it's the *only* direction, but you're right; they've got to do something.

This harkens back to an earlier form of radio,

I think that is the way it will be received. When I first discovered this switch, I thought it was pretty cool. Now that I've listened a while, the music mix isn't exactly to my tastes (although it isn't bad and may grow on me), but the format, so far, is pretty good. If they can keep the lowdmouth commercials off, I may continue to listen just to show my support for the advertising format.

The minute they go all NPR and do a fund drive, though....
posted by Doohickie at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2007

I think that is the way they hope it will be received.
posted by Doohickie at 2:30 PM on April 23, 2007

Get used to it. This is a perfect example of the way that media is moving.

It used to be that as a publisher or broadcaster, you had control of your output. You owned big machines and expensive people: not just anyone could play. You created or bought expensive content, you broadcast it or you printed it, and that was an end to it. You controlled the format, you could slide in adverts as you wished and anyone consuming what you were doing was practically forced to hear or read them. Of course, people could record or photocopy your stuff, edit it and pass it on, but that had vanishingly small implications.

That's not true now. Whatever you do, it has to appear on the Net somewhere - and once it's there, it's the work of a moment for a consumer to capture, cut and shove onto the Web, YouTube or whatever. The stuff you've paid for is suddenly out there for anyone to get at, outside your control, whereas the stuff that's paid you is discarded.

As a publisher, you have two choices. You can fight it by throwing lawsuits and lobbyists about, or you can get on board with what the people want. And that means changing what you do with your basic revenue model: not everyone can or wants to do that. It basically means treating advertising as content -- something that goes against the grain for anyone with a strong sense of the importance of the independence of editorial control -- and finding a way of building content that combines the stuff you pay for with the stuff that pays you.

If you get it wrong, nobody's going to want your stuff (you're screwed) or they want it but you can't make any money (you're screwed). Mefi's a perfect example of how a major media entity can be run on a shoestring - I spend oodles of eyetime here, and it generates effectively no revenue from me - and it's drastically hard to compete while generating enough cash to keep a big boat afloat.

Getting it right is THE challenge for media today. I believe that there are ways to maintain editorial integrity while integrating the commercial side in ways that will do right by the consumers and the advertisers, but at the moment that's an item of faith rather than serene knowledge. My wages depend on the company I work for getting that right, and I can tell y'all that it's a fascinating, exciting and rather scary time in here.

Lone Star may or may not be getting it right. We'll have to wait and see.

Two conclusions: some of the big names in media will go down, and the game's open for anyone with a good idea to become the next generation of media mogul.
posted by Devonian at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2007

My local big radio station has this already, basically. The advertisers pay extra, and the DJs just talk about the product, only working loosely from the script. Seems pretty effective.
posted by smackfu at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2007

Given the development of cell phone towers and the movement toward cellular service as being Internet connected here's how I see it:

- I pay $x/mo for unlimited connection to a broadband wireless connection
- Broadband connection company pays fixed rate fee to content holders
- I enjoy streaming my MP3s or listening to a DJ from England's playlist or Sprint-Sirius radio that is only available through my Sprint-Sirius monthly connection and has Sprint-Sirius expert DJs pick commercial free play lists.
- At home my Roku pulls off the same generic WiFi service I bought. That I also use to surf the web.
- My iPod is now a phone and no longer has a hard drive because I can pull all my play lists off my PC and stream it that way.

See it works for everyone. I can listen to my obscure station from some guy's basement or a professional station that is probably sponsored by the company that provides my broadband wifi connection. Or my own collection. But everyone benefits. The WiFi producer (phone minutes are becoming a commodity, which everyone fears, but now they can add television, movies and music delivery over WiFi and have the phone minutes just an ancillary service), the content producers (who get paid by contracts that state they cannot sue users or the company in return for whatever slice) and it allows users to benefit from "long tail distribution." I can pick Top 40 station provided to me by Sprint-Sirius-BMG Top 40, commercial free or listen to Radio Nova or listen to my MP3 play list from home or listen to my good friend who DJs at a bar who runs his own play list for free (he doesn't get directly paid) but knows that exposure increases his pay and maybe even the bar pays him to increase their exposure. After all I'm tuning into "Local Indie Bar Radio" every time, hey wouldn't it be cool to go there for drinks afterward?

Of course this is if not everyone involved were 80 year old males who were promoted over a serious of say 60 years and now own a large slice and can now maintain two places in Florida if things stay the same but may see a major pay cut if things change.

If Congress gets on board we will start seeing deals where content providers make deals with various companies (non-exclusive) for unlimited access to a catalog. I mean it makes more sense and is more viable in the long-run. It probably is a whole lot more profitable.

The reason I think satellite will not last is that the sheer fact is we already have a wonderful system of towers in place that is a whole lot cheaper to upgrade than sending birds in the sky every 5 years or so. Of course a lot of people will need to get sticks out of their asses and realize that technology is forcing copyright changes and you either react and profit or die slowly.
posted by geoff. at 3:11 PM on April 23, 2007

Who listens to radio any more? I do; KDHX is a local station, almost completely community funded, that still has DJs that play whatever the eff they want.
posted by notsnot at 5:31 PM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Clear Channel has been slowly closing or converting all the rock stations in the DFW area (and Texas in general) for years. Only KDGE is left; it wouldn't surprise me to see them get a makeover next.
posted by mbrutsch at 9:12 AM on April 24, 2007

I've been listening to this station the last week or so, and I am loving it.

Somehow I missed this post. But when I googled Lonestar 92.5, this came up on the results page.

I think the set-up with the no commercial breaks is genius if they can make it work. And I prefer its music selection to anything else I have heard on the radio.
posted by dios at 7:05 AM on May 8, 2007

« Older He said he didn't feel like he had earned it.   |   FYI, 13yo skool grl is nu US txt mssg chmpN Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments