Our look at the intriguing stations of 2012 continues. And while several of the stations highlighted in part live somewhere other than the AM/FM dial, there are still more than a few big-group, major-market FMs represented, including:
WWPW (Power 96.1) Atlanta: The recent slew of launches have often expanded top 40's reach, but have rarely seen a newcomer push past an incumbent. Cox's WPOI (Hot 101.5) Tampa, Fla., was a rare exception. This time, Clear Channel owns the insurgent, not the heritage station. CC is using Power 96.1 as the best possible showcase for its national programming assets (Elvis Duran, Ryan Seacrest in his once-home market) and its group-wide ability to rock a station concert to the break of dawn.
KMVQ (Now 99.7) San Francisco: If Atlanta was the last market where the mainstream top 40 miracle kicked in, San Francisco was a late bloomer, too. "And they did it by running the hippest list in the format," reader Steve Sobczuk adds. Listen and you'll hear dozens of nice little imaging touches as well.
KSD-FM (the Bull) St. Louis: It was ahead of many country stations in upping the spins and weeding the veteran artists. By 2012, it had elevated itself from St. Louis' "other country station" to format leader. Increasingly, KSD is the template for much of the format. And judging from the parade of new "Bulls" coming out of the chute last week, so is its handle.
KMLE Phoenix: You could probably give most of CBS Radio's newer, hotter country stations a joint listing. But KMLE gets a few extra points for being the station that helped Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" crack the 100 spins mark in country before top 40 finally came around. And it has an extra level of energy.
KBIG (My 104.3) Los Angeles: In this particular market, it was adult top 40 that was never supposed to work. After several years of growth, in 2012 KBIG became a showplace for how to do hot AC in a multi-ethnic market without sounding like a "me, too" version of mainstream. And by year's end, top 40 sister KIIS was leaning more pop-something once unthinkable.
Some trends are best expressed by a handful of radio stations, such as:
German top 40 and mainstream AC: Pop's triple A influence stunned American top 40 in 2012, but Germany's mainstream top 40s, including some that were once as rhythmic as ours, have been digging into acoustic pop for a while. Meanwhile, such Germany heritage mainstream ACs as Radio Hamburg have evolved practically to top 40 themselves, differentiated only by an occasional '80s title. German radio probably isn't on the radar of many American PDs, but if it had been, they would have had a sneak preview into their own lives.
The pop-up radio station: Temporary stations have long dotted the broadcast dial in Europe. In North America, they've been facilitated by online radio, whether it's Slacker's Canadian Music Week station or TuneIn's side channel for WQHT (Hot 97) New York's Summer Jam. Then again, this industry still launches stations with "format of the day" stunting, and we switch formats on some FM translators (and some full power outlets) every few months. And few radio stations are truly forever.
Supersoft AC is still catching "Feelings": Radiocrunch partner Anthony Acampora cites Cox stations in Tampa and Miami. There's also the new WLRS (Easy Rock 105.1) Louisville, Ky., and two very successful Australian stations, Sydney's 2PTV (Smooth 95.3) and Melbourne's Smooth 91.5. An inevitable reaction to a more contemporary mainstream AC. And these days, a soft AC doesn't have to sound that old to be older than the competition.
Mainstream formats, noncomm values: This covers a broad swath of efforts, from Bruce Kelly's student-run top 40 KVIT (the Goldmine) Phoenix to KUT Austin's just launched triple A KUTX on a former commercial frequency. Then there's CBCRadio.ca, which has had the same galvanizing impact on the Canadian radio industry that Pandora has here, running multiple music channels that are more eclectic than their commercial counterparts, but not hugely so.
Triple A stations, commercial values: KTCZ (Cities 97.3) Minneapolis now plays P!nk and Taylor Swift (albeit the song with Ed Sheeran), and has lived to tell about it. KINK Portland, Ore., is currently third in its market. They're two of the best cases of triple A figuring out how to take advantage of its own hot music in the Portable People Meter era.
Your turn: Who intrigued you in 2012? Email me or leave a comment below.