Once More With Feeling: A Classic Rock Story

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
Last week, I walked by my operations manager's office. His name is Clark. He oversees programming for all of our stations in Portland and is the program director for KGON, our classic rock station. Clark is also from Oklahoma and a huge Sooners fan. (That has nothing to do with this, but I thought I would point it out anyway.)

KGON has been around for 33 years and is considered one of the best stations in Portland. In the morning, you get Mark and Brian, and after that, you get to listen to some of the best music ever made, presented by an air staff that has been around for a very long time. It is Portland heritage in every sense of the word. In fact, one of our clients, told one of the jocks (DJ is sooooo passé) that she had grown up with him when she was in high school . . . now THAT is longevity.

The halcyon days of wild parties and crazy in-studio stories have since long passed. The air staff that was there years ago may look different, but they still possess magic and a youthful twinkle in their eyes when they talk about the music. There is a well-honed reverence and a musical IQ that would blow your mind. Ask Iris (mid-days) what track three on the first side of Led Zeppelin IV is, and you get an instant answer ("The Battle of Evermore"). Walk by the studio in the afternoon and you can hear Glynn Shannon crank up The Who. Spend some time with Marty Party at night, and you are taken to a place that is more than just an escape. Put together, these jocks represent close to 80 combined years in the business -- over 100 if you include Clark and the rest of the on-air staff. This is one of many examples of when radio is at its absolute best.

This brings me back to passing by Clark's office last week. I tend to be a bit nosy and, when excited, act like a Chocolate Lab puppy that's been in the car too long. Which is pretty much what I was like when I heard an old Genesis song playing on his radio. We were in the throes of KGON's A to Z Marathon where every track in the library, from A to Z, was being presented. I stopped cold, poked my head into his office, completely ignoring the fact that he might be in the middle of something very important, and started yammering away about how much I loved this song when I was in high school in New Jersey. Clark was (I hope) amused.

What it reminded me is how profound music can really be in our lives. I can distinctly remember where I was or what I was doing when I was listening to certain songs at certain times. An extremely partial list:
  • "Sussudio" by Phil Collins -- track meet in New Jersey in 1986 (I know . . . stop making fun of me)
  • "Caves of Altamira" by Steely Dan -- driving to seafood and wine festival on the Oregon Coast in 1992
  • "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones -- fraternity party in Colorado in 1988
  • "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia -- waiting to do one of my first breaks on the air in 1998. I was terrified and I was AWFUL
  • "Changes" by 2Pac -- the first song we played after we flipped formats in 1999
  • "Ribbon in the Sky" by Stevie Wonder, sung by a local singer -- my wedding in 2000
Music is, simply put, powerful. Classic Rock has a special place, I would guess, for a lot of us. What's telling to me is that the boys on the high school lacrosse team I coach like to engage me on the merits of Tom Petty, Joan Jett and The Beatles. Granted, they like to talk about hip-hop and pop, but the fact that they even have a passing interest in some of best music in history tells me that it is timeless and important to all of us, no matter the age. Empirically, music is a commodity. But nothing is more potent than the effect that it can have when served up with a healthy dose of sincerity and passion.

As an advertiser, leveraging the notion of the history, passion and compassion can be highly beneficial. Once you can get past the GRPs, CPP, cume, ratings and pure science of it all, you'll see what a radio station really means to people.

The next step is to make sure your campaign is solid. But that's a different story altogether.

Quick Hit
Are there "heritage" stations in your markets? What are they? What do they mean to the market?

What song(s) have a profound influence on you? Do you remember events/situations in life where a song has been the soundtrack?

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