(Reprinted with the kind permission of LARADIO.COM)
The Anatomy of the K-Mozart Flip to Country
(February 26, 2007) The latest seismic shift in the L.A. radio landscape happened Friday with the announcement that Classical K-Mozart (105.1/fm) was flipping to a Country format. After 18 years as a Classical music station with such artists as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, the 105.1/fm frequency would now house a stable of artists filled with Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks, Big & Rich and Alan Jackson.
Saul Levine, longtime owner of K-Mozart described what prompted his decision to change formats. "Let's go back to 1989," said Saul by phone yesterday afternoon. "The listener who is 60 today was 42 when we started, which was a very viable target audience for advertisers. It is the same thing that is happening to Oldies and even Smooth Jazz. The audience is getting older and the advertiser wants younger. This is a phenomenon that has become acerbated in the last three or four years."
Saul remembered that 20-30 years ago Classical stations like KFAC received a premium status with the advertising community. "If your Arbitron share was a 2, they would tag an extra 5% on it because it was Classical and the audience was so exclusive, so desirable and so difficult to reach. Today, we not only don't get a premium, they subtract from our value because of the age situation."
"The advertising has never been the same since the implosion of the dot comers," said Saul. "What would happen with us, even in the good days, we were the last to get a buy. There was so much money out there at the time, when other stations couldn't take any more they'd come to us. As far as the general market we would get the left-overs, but there were lots of left-overs back then."
With the flip of the long-time Country outlet KZLA moving to an Urban AC format. Saul felt there was a void in the marketplace and switched his two AM stations to Country – first his 540 AM in October followed by a simulcast at 1260 AM beginning in November. "I thought one of majors would switch one of their stations to Country, but it just didn't happen," observed Saul. He eventually put Country on 540 with the hope of continuing Adult Standards on 1260. "Within a couple of weeks, people were shouting ‘we want to hear what you are doing but we can't hear you in parts of Los Angeles.' The next step was to simulcast on 1260."
Saul and his team were expecting this move to be embraced by Nashville and the advertising community but instead, the opposite happened. Not only were key music buys not going to 1260 and 540, some labels refused to even service the stations with product because there was not the glamour of an fm station playing Country.
"At this time I did not have the slightest thought about putting Country on the fm. In fact, someone wrote LARadio asking why I didn't put the Classical on the AM and the Country on the fm. I thought to myself, I'm not going to do that. Then others suggested I do it since it was such a mass appeal market format that desperately needed area-wide coverage. Candidly our 1260 signal cuts back at sundown," admitted Saul.
Saul addressed the success of KFRG in the Inland Empire. "When KZLA dropped Country, K-FROG developed illusions of grandeur and decided they were going to be an L.A. station. They were starting to push us and we were finding it difficult because they were going around telling the agencies that they had L.A. coverage, which they don't. They don't penetrate buildings. They are marginal in many parts of the city, and you can't hear them north of the Hollywood Hills. So we had the Country fans clamoring for the service on fm, and we had K-Frog going to the agencies and poo-pooing us demanding buys. We had all this pressure on us."
These factors were coupled with the reality that the ad community was not as supportive of Classical music as it once was. In January, Saul discovered that some of his most loyal annual accounts were not renewing. "This was a whole new can of worms for us. The agencies are very careful where they allocate their budgets and they had a very high cost per point situation. For us to even sell to them we had to throw in either bonus spots or spots at $25 a piece. You can't stay in business doing that."
BMW was one of K-Mozart's biggest accounts in the past and the car maker cancelled running their ads on the station. "When BMW, an upscale luxury car, says they are not going to advertise to the Classic listener, you have to take notice of that. Mercedes hasn't bought us in a couple of years. They took the attitude that the audience was set in their ways – if they already own a Mercedes, they'll probably replace it with a Mercedes. If they don't own a Mercedes, they're not going to buy a Mercedes. They are set in their ways. We have research that Nissan is very big with our audience and yet we could never get them to buy us."
"In addition to all these advertising factors, we are in what we consider an anti-competitive situation where you have Clear Channel getting buys for all their stations freezing others out. We have account after account saying they couldn't buy us because we're buying the entire Clear Channel package. We filed a notice with the FCC recently and they responded with, ‘We don't have a policy to do that.' Our counter response was you may not have a policy to do that but that's what you do. And this has hurt us."
Earlier this month Saul sat with his staff lamenting the accumulating disappointing news with the worst January they have ever had (40% down from year-to-year) and for the entire year they were projecting an 80% drop in revenue. K-Mozart grossed $4.8 million in 2006, which Levine admitted was "pretty pathetic." He said, "Here I have one of the most powerful stations in Los Angeles with everyone else doing $30, 40, 50, 60 million and we're only grossing $4.8. And we were looking at substantially less for this year."
Saul had to come to grips with the fact that he was either running a hobby or a business. He looked at the KZLA cume of 560,000 listeners who were no longer being served in L.A. and Orange County and thought there was a huge potential to serve this format.
Typically what happens when a Classical format is dropped, the owners sell the station and then the new owners take the brunt of the complaints when the change is made. "But I'm not doing that," emphasized Saul. "We're trying to keep Classical on 1260 AM and our 105.1 HD2 channel and we're going to serve this incredibly dynamic population that wants 24-hour wide fm coverage of Country."
Saul's son Michael, who is marketing director for Mt. Wilson Broadcasters, spent Sunday at the station sifting through the hundreds of email and voicemails. Michael spared some of the harsher responses to losing Classical, but Saul read one email that thanked him for providing many years of Classical music pleasure.
In the first week of March, a Country veteran will be joining the station as music director and midday personality. Mike Johnson, a long-term programming associate of Saul's, will be program director for the Country operation. He said that the goal of KKGO Country will be live and local during the day until they join Whitney Allen's syndicated show from Dial-Global. Dial Global will be providing evening programming until Shawn Parr's live morning show. "The weekends will be a combination of Dial-Global, special shows, countdown, and features. This is very fluid, at the moment," said Saul.
On Classical 1260 AM, Laura Brodian will work from 7 a.m. – noon and Gary Hollis will on from noon until 5 p.m. "We're working on filling in the rest of the schedule, which will include Nick Tyler who will work around his busy acting schedule." Sixteen year K-Mozart veteran and morning man Rich Capparela will not be joining the AM operation. "Rich is truly professional," enthused Saul. "I told Rich that I hope we can work out projects together and keep the relationship going."
In an unrelated story, Saul is awaiting final approval to take over the operation of California State University, Long Beach's radio operation, KKJZ. Will this flip at K-Mozart raise eyebrows about KKJZ continuing with jazz or will there be a change? "There are two reasons why there will be no change," Saul emphasized. "One, I'm not going to. I love jazz and I want to keep it on the air. Second, and more importantly, our contract with Cal State Long Beach says that we must stay jazz or we lose the contract. It must be classic jazz or we void the contract." Saul is talking with a veteran jazz program director and is very close to signing this programmer.
Saul is hosting a press conference later this morning to talk about the change. A surprise Country artist will perform at the Museum of TV & Radio following the press conference.
Parr Thrilled. "I haven't been able to breath for days!" enthused Shawn Parr, morning man at KKGO. "I have been on a Southern California night club tour and I am absolutely overwhelmed at the response. In my 20 year career I have never seen anything like this! It's really happening and Saul Levine has answered so many prayers. I am at the studio now and don't anticipate getting much sleep! I mean after all I don't want to wake up from this incredible dream! Country is BACK!"
Capparela Sleeps In. "I find myself at ground zero quite a lot when it comes to the Classical formats going under and I seem to wind up with very little mud on my cuffs," said a reflective Rich Capparela yesterday, less than 48 hours after being told by K-Mozart owner Saul Levine that his morning home of 11 years had come to an end as the station was flipping to Country. The parting was entirely amicable, according to Rich who has detailed his leaving at his Web site: http://www.cardiffstudios.com/. "Station owner Saul Levine and I have known one another for nearly two decades, and this marks the end of my longest run at any radio station: eleven years non-stop as the weekday morning announcer."
When did Rich have an inkling that the station might flip? "In December the station had its annual holiday staff party at Prego Ristorante in Beverly Hills. As was the tradition, it was a lunch and gift- exchange party. I was given a Santa hat and asked to host the gift- exchange portion of the afternoon. I started my remarks by saying, ‘I see several new faces in the room today. In case you don't know me, my name is Rich ‘Country' Capparela.' I then looked over at owner Saul Levine's table and added ‘Just hedging my bets, Saul. Just hedging my bets.' I then continued with something to the effect that 'I love Country music. Yeah. Really. Especially that woman group. You know, the Chixie Dicks. And also I loved that bio-pic about the Man in Black - the film Walk the Line, celebrating the legacy of that great singer Johhny Paycheck - or some sort of currency.'"
Rich (r) said the format flip was a shock, but not a surprise. "Say what you will about the ruthlessness of the radio industry, but Friday night I was scheduled to host a live broadcast concert by the Pacific Symphony on 105.1/fm. A concert featuring [can you say ironic?] Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony. Saul did not cancel the planned concert broadcast. Saul Levine did not replace me with someone else. Saul allowed the broadcast to go on as scheduled. He allowed me to go on his airwaves even though we'd just ended our professional relationship. Anyone in radio will tell you that it's not done that way. You just don't let a former employee get near an open mike. Well, Saul trusted me to be a professional. At somewhere in the vicinity of $250,000 per obscenity fine by the FCC, that's a whole lot of trust.
"I saw the station logs were not as full with commercials as it should be," admitted Rich. "From a financial point of view, it is hard to argue with going for a format that obviously has a very big audience. This was a huge gift on Saul's platter that was given to him. It's not like Saul Levine is the only person to drop classical in the last 20 years. Somebody should come up with the call letters and call it what the industry thinks it is – AARP-FM."
Rich is headed for Italy at the end of the week. "The timing is perfect, and it will be a chance to clear my head. But I feel terrible for the listener. At Friday night's event, people came up to me as if someone had died. I seem to be a lightning rod for people's concern."
(Reprinted with the kind permission of LARADIO.COM)
** Classical in SF in Jeopardy? “I wouldn’t be surprised if the K-Mozart flip to Country is causing nightmares for Classical music fans in the Bay Area. There has been speculation that Entercom will flip our longtime classical music station KDFC to another format after they take ownership next month, along with Bonneville’s two other San Francisco stations.
KDFC usually rates in the Arbitron Top 5, but it seems like any station that caters to older listeners is poison these days. KFRC’s Oldies…uh, sorry ‘Classic Hits’ format was dumped for ‘MOViN late last year. I’m amazed that advertisers no longer want to target consumers in their 50s, who are the most affluent generation in world history, typically ‘empty-nesters’ with tons of disposable income who are earning more than at any time in their lives, have great credit ratings, and huge equity in their homes they can borrow against. I would think that we would be the most prized demographic for Mercedes, BMW, and other big-ticket advertisers. But as Saul Levine noted, advertisers have decided we are ‘set in our ways,’ and it’s too difficult to convince us to change our buying habits.
It’s worth noting that KFRC’s ratings have dropped by about 60% since the switch to MOViN, probably because there was already a glut of urban-oriented stations in the Bay Area. I guess CBS is happy with KFRC’s tiny new audience, since they’re in that magic 25-49 demographic. I’ve noticed that ‘Light-Rock’ KOIT’s ratings have improved significantly since Oldies disappeared, and I’d speculate that they’ve picked up many of KFRC’s listeners. As this trend continues, I suspect that XM/Sirius will become a hot item for us baby boomers, so we can hear the ‘music of OUR lives.’” – Llew Keller, San Francisco
** Classical Dilemma
Our culture – and I further suspect it's not only in America – started to go to the dogs some years ago. The crap that's on radio and tv [as well as in the Hollywood films] everywhere ... California ... the US ... the world is what the undereducated majority wants to eat up. There's no stopping this trend.
The sad dullness of Sunday's Oscar broadcast, is just one of the many symptoms of that cultural malaise.
And it isn't just broadcasting. There have been a number of reports on the decline of higher education, the collegians apparently doing less and less book-learning relying, instead, on getting themselves force-fed, via mobile electronic devices and such. Will the classroom – like radio music – soon disappear and replaced by the quick chip?
I hate sounding so down ... so let me end on a sort of up-note: We older folks are really quite fortunate: we were able to experience that former, much greater world, in which learning and cultural exploring was highly respected.” – Gary Franklin
** Levine Has Wrong Focus
While most everyone agrees that FM Country is a good idea for Los Angeles, no one has been able to make it succeed.
Maybe Saul Levine's the guy...but he sure didn't sound like it in his LARadio.com interview. I wish him luck.” – John Leader, Northridge
** Congratulating Saul Levine
It's also exciting to be able to hear legends such as Jimmy D [Jim Duncan] and Gary Owens on weekends!! No words can describe the talent of those two, not to mention the decades of talent in LA Radio!!
I enjoy many formats, but I think Saul has a big hit with this move, from an entertainment perspective, to a business move - it's big hit. It makes Country entertaining to those of us who might not normally choose it, which just has to be good for business!
Thanks for covering the story so well, from your bulletin EM, to the great interview today - you're all over the story, as always!” – Dan Thom, Seal Beach
** Classical Music Stations Still Available
I certainly understand why Mr. Levine ‘very reluctantly’ has decided to switch 105.1 to Country music and to feature Classical music instead on 1260. It has all to do money. Unfortunately, many advertisers take the position that those of us who are over 60 years of age don't count. However, the fact of the matter is that we also buy things – including new cars. As the graying of America continues to progress, I think it is time for some of the major advertising firms to rethink a few things.
The good news is that Classical music is still available here in Los Angeles – both on KUSC and KCSN in the San Fernando Valley. And it is also available on 1260.
Now that 1260 is featuring Classical music and 105.1 is ‘doing’ Country, maybe it is time for Mr. Levine to rethink what he should feature on 540 – a station that basically covers San Diego County and parts of Orange County. Just prior to its switch to Country in October, that station enjoyed a 1.9 rating on the Arbitron scale – when it was playing Adult Standards. When that same frequency was playing Oldies [about year earlier] it had about a 1.3 rating in the San Diego area. The January rating for that station was only 0.5.
Since there are already two other fm Country stations in San Diego, and K-FROG comes in loud and clear in much of Orange County, I strongly suggest that Mr. Levine switch 540 to a combination of Oldies and Adult Standards – a format that was highly successful for many years on San Diego's KPOP.
I sincerely hope that Saul Levine will take this suggestion to heart.” – Carl C. Spring, Jr., West Los Angeles
The period covered is only about a month - from Friday the 23rd of February when we learned of the coming format switch, up to a March 30, 2007 article in the USC Daily Trojan.
- Rich Capparela
K-Mozart FM Radio Station Switches To 'Go Country 105'
KNBC Story POSTED: 12:55 pm PST February 23, 2007
UPDATED: 1:48 pm PST February 23, 2007
LOS ANGELES -- Southern California will lose its only commercial classical FM radio station Monday when K-Mozart switches formats to "Go Country 105," station officials announced today.Saul Levine, president of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters and one of the few individuals in the nation to own a multimillion-dollar full-service FM radio station in a major market, will make the switch from classical to country on the station at 105.1.The University of Southern California's KUSC is the only other classical FM station that covers Southern California, but that station is nonprofit.
There has not been a full-service Southern California radio station programming country music since FM station KZLA switched away from that format last year.Levine scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills.The current KMZT, referred to as K-Mozart, years ago had a jazz format as KKGO. Levine said the new country format station "will be reinvented as KKGO 'Go Country 105."'"The previous 105.1 classical format (K-Mozart) will remain on the station in its second HD channel, and be simulcast on 1260 AM," according to the station.High-definition radio, or HD, is a relatively new development in American radio that provides enhanced sound and additional channels for individual radio stations. However, HD radios are more expensive than other radios and so far they are owned by few listeners.Levine's AM station at 1260, also called KKGO, covers much of the Los Angeles area and has been through a number of formats since he purchased the station that was years ago known as KGIL.It was not immediately known if the FM 105.1 station will have its call letters officially changed back to KKGO or retain the current KMZT call letters.
A MESSAGE TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CLASSICAL MUSIC LISTENERS
from Rich Capparela
As of Monday, February 27th, KMZT-FM (K-Mozart) is no longer be heard on 105.1 FM. Instead, the classical music service is now being broadcast on 1260 AM and on HD radios at 105.1 HD2. The 105.1 FM frequency is now a country music format. I am not part of the new announcer line-up at KMZT AM/HD. Laura Broadian handles weekday mornings from 7 am until noon, and Gary Hollis follows from noon until 5.
I am sorry for our loss, dear listener. KMZT's owner Saul Levine gave the format a long run (16 years), but we just couldn't make it work any longer. The audience was there but the advertisers weren't. Ad agencies buy commercial time like Starbucks buys coffee beans - in bulk and quickly. The advertisers couldn't be convinced of the quality of the audience classical music serves. Too nuanced for that crowd. Sic Transit Gloria Mozart.
The parting was entirely amicable. Station owner Saul Levine and I have known one another for nearly two decades, and this marks the end of my longest run at any radio station: 11 years non-stop as the weekday morning announcer.
It makes more sense for me to have a clean break with the station. Among other things, it allows me to maintain my affiliations with arts organizations that may decide to move their broadcasts from AM 1260 and HD 105.1 HD2.
On March 3rd I leave for a long-planned 9-day trip to Italy to revisit Rome, Pompeii and more. I may have more to tell you shortly after my return on March 11th. I may even have more to report here between now and next Saturday.
I've been asked about when I learned of the format change. Here's a story that can be verified by several dozen witnesses: In December the station had its annual holiday staff party at Prego Ristorante in Beverly Hills. As was the tradition, it was a lunch and gift exchange party and, as was the tradition, I was given a Santa hat and asked to host the gift exchange portion of the afternoon. I started my remarks by saying, "I see several new faces in the room today. In case you don't know me, my name is Rich 'Country' Capparela." I then looked over at owner Saul Levine's table and added, "Just hedging my bets, Saul. Just hedging my bets." I then continued with something to the effect that "I love country music. Yeah. Really. Especially that woman group. You know, the Chixie Dicks. And also I loved that bio-pic about the Man in Black - the film 'Walk the Line,' celebrating the legacy of that great singer Johhny Paycheck - or some sort of currency."
We all got a laugh out of my silliness, but, truth be told, an objective observer would have described the moment as whistling past the graveyard.
The "more recent" truth? I learned of it on Friday, just as everyone else was finding out about it. Yes, it was a shock, but not a surprise. Say what you will about the ruthlessness of the radio industry, but Friday night I was scheduled to host a live broadcast concert by the Pacific Symphony on 105.1 FM. A concert featuring (can you say "ironic?) Gustav Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony. Saul Levine did not cancel the planned concert broadcast. Saul Levine did not replace me with someone else. Saul allowed the broadcast to go on as scheduled. He allowed me to be on his airwaves even though we'd just ended our professional relationship. Anyone in radio will tell you that it's not done that way. You just don't let a former employee get near an open mike. Well, Saul trusted me to be a professional. At somewhere in the vicinity of $375,000 per obsenity fine by the FCC, that's a whole lot of trust.
Unlike many major cities in the United States today, Los Angeles is still being well served by classical music radio - public station KUSC at 91.5 FM (and several 'translators' serving nearby areas. Sure, we had two full time stations (and the hard to pick up but excellent KCSN 88.5 FM) but at least we've got one choice for our listening needs. Compare that with the situation in many other major metropolitan areas. It could be worse - a lot worse.
It's up to you to support what we've got left. If you can pick up the AM signal for KMZT, give it a shot. My understanding is that there won't be many commercials for some time. Enjoy it.
Of greater significance, perhaps, is supporting KUSC. What killed KMZT wasn't the audience, it was the advertisers. You can help keep Beethoven alive and well in Southern California by making an annual contribution to KUSC. If the station is wise, it will grasp the opportunity it's been given and capitalize on the audience's hunger for a live and locally oriented approach, something the station has not focused on in some time, preferring instead to become a hub for a classical radio network. They've been handed the Southland's very best audience on a silver platter.
BULLETIN 1 - Friday 3/2
From my point of view it's an exciting opportunity for this middle aged DJ to go back to his roots (I was KUSC-FM's morming host from 1980 to 1986). But I'm also hoping that this means the station will view the recent events as a chance to, well, make lots of lemonade. And, yes, I guess I am comparing myself to a glass of lemonade. What about it?
For now, suffice it to say that, though Los Angeles has lost (yet again!) it's commercial classical FM station, public radio is stepping up to the plate in a way that I hope will help soften that loss in short order. Beethoven, Bach and the rest of the crew are indeed alive and well. Long live KUSC-FM. For my part, I look forward to being on your radio again very, very soon.
Here are two promos I've recorded for the station.
Saturday 3/3 & Beyond...... Well THAT was an interesting week for some of us.
I am out of town until Sunday, March 11 (that little visit to Italy). Nothing much will be changing on this page between now and then, but I suspect that there may be an article here and there in the news about reactions to the re-teaming of KUSC and yours truly.
I thank you again for your kind emails and I look forward to serving you a generous helping of classical music on the radio very soon. Say, starting the 26th of March, weather permitting.
Monday 3/12....Back from Italy
While flying to Rome from New York's JFK I just could not sleep. That was the bad news. The good news? What kept me up was an idea I got for a promo that I would put together first thing upon my return to Southern California. During that flight, without putting pen to paper, I came up with a general outline of how it would go.
This morning I executed my 37,000 foot concept and delivered it to the good folks at KUSC for their consideration. If this spot generates any interest, later in the week I'll post the script for you. Believe me, you won't get all that's going on without that script.
So just what is this promo? I give you. . . . .
Hi. I'm Rich Capparela. I wanted to remind you that I'm returning to Classical KUSC on the 26th of this month - weekday afternoons from 4 -7. Alas, there was a problem with the recording. I'd just gotten back into town from some time in Italy and - well, you can hear what happened. My apologies for the necessity for this translation.
What's important to know is that we can still spend a few hours together throughout the week. I'll do my best to keep you up to date on breaking news, weather and - but of course - the music we both love. (Something about some boys giving bread or something to someone.) So please join me - weekday afternoons between 4 and 7 - starting later this month. I'm Rich Capparela. I'm back from Italy and I look forward to being with you again soon here on Classical KUSC. It should be fun.
Buon giorno. Mi chiamo Rich Capparela. Ho volleró dire di ritorno di me a questo statione ritardo alla venti sei in il mese - durante pommerrigii da quatro a la sete.
Non posso camminare in cima a l'aqua.
Ho perso la carta di credito.
Scusi signore. Dove la bagno?
Pero, che un problema con il nastro. Perdono me. Que e importante e sa - potemo alcuni ori asieme durante la setimana. Con notizie, tempo e - certamente - la musica classica.
Ho scrivito questi paroli durante a mia volo da LAX a Roma. No. E vero! (No possibile dormuto).
I ragazzi parleranno a di pane con ai loro insegnanti.
La mia grand azzurro l'autobus e molto triste.
Cosi: ho no voluto ascolatare la musica da Kenny Chesny. Lei non a voluto ascoltare Kenny Chesney l'uno o l'altro. Allora insieme sentiamo a Classica KUSC.
E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma.
Con il permesso di tempo.
Good day. I'm Rich Capparela. I would like to tell you about my return to this station on the 26th of this month - weekdays from 4 until 7.
I cannot walk on water.
I've lost my credit card.
Excuse me, sir. Where is the bathroom?
However, there is a problem with this tape. Please forgive me. What is important for you to know is that we can spend a few hours together during the week, with news, weather, and - but of course - classical music.
I wrote these words on my flight from LAX to Rome. No, really. I couldn't sleep.
The boys talk about [sic] the bread with their teacher.
My Big Blue Bus is very sad.
Also, I didn't like to listen to the music of Kenny Chesney and you didn't like to listen to the music of Kenny Chesney either. So let's listen together to Classical KUSC.
And before him all Rome trembled.
Laurin Perez of The Daily Trojan has written a piece about the return of two KUSC oldsters. It appeared in the Friday, 3/30 edition.
Daily Trojan Story