So many good radio stations have come and gone in the Cascadia corridor that I've practically given up the ghost on anything good happening in this tired old medium. Right now it's a Friday evening, I've got the laptop fired up after watching WALL-E with my daughter, who's off to bed now. I shut off the set and turned on 100.5 Peak FM, an entirely listenable radio station.
I was over at friends last weekend pouring wine down my gullet. They were old college radio vets like me and Stacey. They said you've got to check out this new station. Skeptical, I pulled out my iPhone to find out that in fact the Pattison media group had axed 600AM and upgraded to an FM license.
This was deja vu for me. I hustled for Coast 1040 in the early 90s as they tried to go FM without success. The Rogers group tried starting an "alternative" music station to compete with CFOX. It was terribly forced and frankly the music sucked.
No media company had any success in persuading the CRTC to license a company that might actually be good. Radio stations in order to receive their license from the government have to abide by a "Promise of Performance." Basically, this is a short (less than 2 year) covenant whereby the station owner promises the moon and stars, and forgoes profit to stay on the air.
PoPs often have conditions like supporting an arts group or some kind of charity that will favour a cultural society. After the covenant ends the station brings in the consultants, and whores itself silly to increase its market share.
A higher share (going from a lowly 1.5 share to a 3 share means big ad dollars, and happy sales people). I've not read Peak FM's PoP agreement with the CRTC, but it is a Pattison station after all. Jimmy may be nearly 90 years old, but the boy loves his cold hard cash. He won't run an alternative rock (AOR) station just to be nice. He wants to make more money than he did with the oldies station.
So, what does it mean? We'll see. I think the radio market has been turned upside down harder than any medium by the digital revolution. People just don't listen to radio except for something to do in their cars and brushing their teeth in the morning.
For now, The Peak is a very sweet mix of rich Canadian content and alternative faves, with no annoying over-the-top deejay histrionics.
Oh, and I know that stations always think that playing modern music means that their audiences are under 30 years old. The fact is that most people who might listen to The Peak might end up being people with kids, careers, RRSPs and big fat mortgages. In other words, the people radio has ignored for the past 20 years, who've held out hope for something worth listening to.
Radio stations must target niche audiences better and not stereotype them. The photo of the 20-something girl from their homepage with the headphones and the Yaletown backdrop might represent only be a fraction of whom is truly listening.
Stations must also accept that audience share is not the Holy Grail. Brand loyalty and recognition must factor in somewhere. A good station builds its fan base slowly. It goes up, and down sometimes over a couple of "books" (ratings periods).
Hold fast, Jimmy. The Peak has possibilities if you give it room to grow.