Since its inception, music radio has been chronicled by a myriad of newspapers and magazines. Each focused on different aspects of the business, but most, if not all, were primarily concerned with either (1) how records were performing, (2) what records were being considered for airplay…or both. Over the years, these entities have included, in addition to The Network 40, other publications such as Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, The Gavin Report, Bob Hamilton’s Radio Report, Friday Morning Quarterback, Radio & Records, Bobby’ Poe’s Pop Music, Ron Brandon Report, Hits, Hitmakers and many more.
With all of the competition for readership and advertising, one magazine always rose above the rest. The industry always chose one magazine as the definitive. All others were measured against its popularity. Each one of these so-called Bibles lasted for a while, but in the end, they fell from grace for one reason or another: they got too big and just didn’t care any more; they made mistakes; they were dishonest and reported incorrect information; or time just passed them by.
Right after World War II, it was Cashbox. In the 1950s there were over 500,000 jukeboxes in the United States. Cashbox got its power and name from the coin-operated boxes. It was possible for a record to be certified “Gold” from jukebox sales alone.
As radio airplay began to replace jukebox play as the best way to sell records, Billboard became the giant. For years, record companies and radio stations looked at the “Hot 100” chart as the final determination of a record’s popularity. Billboard was always short on editorial information, but built its reputation through news, both national and international, and the all-important charts.
While Billboard maintained its popularity, Bill Gavin began the first trade publication solely dedicated to providing radio stations with informative “tips” on what records might become hits. The Gavin Report accepted no advertising and relied only on subscriptions to stay in business. A little later, Bob Hamilton created The Radio Report. This magazine combined the best of Billboard and The Gavin Report to provide its readers with radio information, industry news, charts and record information. For a brief moment in the sun…or maybe the stars…The Radio Report was the Bible.
In the mid-‘70s, Bob Wilson created Radio & Records. In the beginning, Radio & Records was dedicated to reflecting the wants and needs of both the radio and record communities. With no small degree of hard, accurate journalism and a big help from the powerful RKO Radio chain (we’ll discuss why playlists are done on Tuesdays at another time), Radio & Records became the Bible of the industry. For a while, it was worthy of the title.
Over the past several weeks, editorials on these pages have outlined the problems confronted by Mainstream Top 40 radio stations and have advocated some changes, suggest by our readers, as solutions. Many of these problems have been directly attributable to the policies of Radio & Records. Hundreds of interested parties, from record company presidents and local promotion managers to radio station owners, managers and program directors have responded to these editorials. With few exceptions, most have agreed with what has been written.
I believe, along wit the majority of our readers, that radio in general, and Mainstream Top 40 in particular, is in trouble today because of the many restrictive policies of Radio & Records. It is tough enough just to survive in the competitive radio business without having to justify your existence to a publication with restrictive policies. Particularly when these policies are made by out-of-touch regulators who have no knowledge of the problems of today’s radio and no solutions to offer. Yet they impose nonsensical rules solely to magnify their own diminishing importance. We believe these policies are antiquated at best and dangerous at worst.
Does the saying “…living in a subjective dream world of adolescence where you can’t comprehend your own environment…” ring a bell?
If we accept Radio & Records as the Bible of our industry…and for the sake of this argument, we will accept this absurd fact as a reality…the we depend on the information provided by Radio & Records to be accurate and without manipulation. It must beor we are allowing our business to be guided by decisions made on information that is patently wrong. For the moment, we won’t ask why radio stations in the same city that don’t share on current song on their respective playlists are categorized the same. We won’t question why radio stations in certain markets are given priority reporting status while stations with similar playlists and bigger ratings in larger markets aren’t. We won’t be stupid enough to ask someone…ANYONE…to explain this week’s reporting status and apply it accurately to all stations within and without the reporting corral. And we won’t even try and discuss the researched, mathematically calculated formula that restricts the total number of reporting stations under a certain figure. (If we did, we would ask, “Do the words ‘outdated computer system’ ring a bell? And then we would say, “Bing!” But we won’t say any of that.)
Just for the sake of argument, we’ll accept the premise that the information reported by Radio & Records should we accurate and without manipulation. That is why it is the Bible. We must assume that the information is pure. And what happens, boys and girls, when we assume something? Do we make and “ass” out of “u” and “me”?
Picture, if you will, a radio station with a P-3 status reporting aiplay regularly to Radio & Records. We know this information is accurate, because Radio & Records keeps a careful watch on all its reporters. We know this because some stations are “de-listed” from time to time because they fail to comply with the rules and regulations demanded by the powers-that-be. What if a radio station reported incorrect information, but the information fell within the rules and regulations? Radio & Records, the Bible of the industry would not allow that to happen.
Or would they?
For the sake of this argument, let’s assume that there is a radio station in Wheeling, West Virginia called WOMP. Let’s further assume that this radio station is a “CHR P-3” reporter. Let’s take it one step further and assume that on January 22, R&R reported that WOMP was sold to Associated Communications Corporation, which also owns WRKY in Steubenville, Ohio. The parent company decided to simulcast WRKY’s signal on WOMP. WOMP is an R&R reporter, but WRKY is not. If all of this happened two months ago, Radio & Records still wouldn’t list WOMP as a reporter, would they?
A call to WOMP was answered by the receptionist. She told us she was the only one there. According to her, WOMP only originates the morning show from 6-10am, Monday through Friday. The rest of the programming is simulcast from WRKY. Another call to Steve Kline, program director of WRKY, verified her assertion.
Radio & Records continues to list WOMP as a P-3 reporter with no stipulation that its programming is simulcast from another station…a station that had a decidedly different lean. Although WOMP broadcasts its own programming only during morning drive, none of the playlist is stipulated as “dayparted.” WRKY, a station with no reporting status, is broadcasting its playlist on WOMP 20 hours each day.
Yet WOMP has continued to be classified as a P-3 reporter. Should WRKY have this listing?
What’s going on?
Has Radio & Records gotten so big that they just don’t care any more? Did they make a mistake? Are they knowingly reporting incorrect information?
Or is time just passing them by?