Bill Virgin's Radio Beat April 3, 2008

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat April 3, 2008

Postby radiofan » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:19 pm

On Radio: Even the original classics can get old
KING-FM takes a few cues from pop music stations


It's not just the classic-hits stations that worry about burning out listeners on the same narrow repertoire of music.

The original classic-hits genre -- classical music -- faces the same challenge of trying to balance pieces listeners want and expect to hear with more unfamiliar music and composers.

So KING-FM/98.1 is tweaking its programming and music selections to deal with that issue, says program director Bryan Lowe.

Lowe recently spoke to a counterpart at another classical music station who mentioned that station has a playlist of 480 pieces. That's way too limited for KING's audience, he says. That means some pieces get played as often as five times a week.

On the other hand, people do want to hear the standards. If he played an audience favorite such as one of Dvorak's "Slavonic Dances" once a month, the typical listener might hear it once or twice a year. "Not enough," he says.

So Lowe is looking at playing certain most-popular pieces once a week instead of once a month, but varying the daypart (such as morning drive, midmornings, afternoons or evenings) in which it airs, "not so often that they get old."

The plan is that each hour should have at least one of the mainstays of the classical music library.

He's also trying to include new discs in that mix. "I couldn't believe the response we got the other day to a classical cut by Bobby McFerrin," he says.

KING is also trying to give advance billing to certain favorites, such as a Mozart piece at 8 a.m. weekdays and the Bach's Lunch at noon. It has also, like some local pop-music stations, begun airing 98 minutes of commercial-free music beginning at 9 a.m.

There's also a seasonal shift to KING's playlist. While Lowe says KING is not likely to be the station of choice for people playing volleyball on Alki Beach, it might be used as an accompaniment for gardening or people having dinner outside. Given that, Barber's beautiful but funereal "Adagio for Strings" gets a vacation from the summer playlist, Lowe says.

For a supposedly niche format like classical music, KING-FM does well in this market, placing in a tie for ninth in the fall Arbitron ratings book among commercial stations. Lowe says KING is No. 1 among women 18 and older on weekends.

In other radio notes:

KBRF-AM/680, the Olympia-based sunrise-to-sunset station, had a few simple rules for programming: Only music that founder and operator Skip Marrow liked, and nothing after 1959. Marrow died in 2005 but his station lives on with a foundation established to continue its operation. In fact, it has added two features: Streaming 24 hours a day at, and adding programs at 6 p.m., including rebroadcasts of such old-time radio shows as Dinah Shore on Wednesday and Bing Crosby on Thursday. Saturdays alternate between Spike Jones and the Hoosier Hot Shots.

David Boze, the 3-6 p.m. host on talk station KTTH-AM/ 770, has signed a three-year contract extension (effective Jan. 1).

The Metropolitan Opera performs Puccini's "La Boheme" at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on KING-FM.

Jim Wilke's "Jazz Northwest" at 1 p.m. Sunday on KPLU-FM/88.5 features a recent performance by the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra.

Mono in VCF and The Dimes perform live from the High Dive in Fremont on "Audioasis" starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on KEXP-FM/90.3.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat, Thursdays in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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