February 26, 2007 at 8:02 PMIt's a sad day for classical radio in Los Angeles, California.
K-Mozart [KMZT-FM 105.1] was pulled from the FM dial today, relegated to the obscurity and lesser sound quality of the AM dial. In a nutshell: LA lost one of its two classical FM radio stations.
After 18 years of classical programming, owner Saul Levine chose to change the format of KMZT to country music. KMZT is one of the few commercial classical stations in the country (as opposed to viewer-funded stations), and Levine changed the format for business reasons, according to the LA Times.
I don't have a problem with Levine making a business decision, but I resent the fact that he chose classical music as the fall guy.
"It's something we haven't done on the spur of the moment," Levine told the LA Times. In fact, LA's only country station, KZLA, changed its format and left country fans marooned last August. Levin "called the void left by KZLA's departure 'an act of God' which gave him a chance to improve his bottom line, as well as slide into a comfortable format," said the LA Times.
"Levine said much of the KMZT audience is in its 60s, whereas advertisers covet the 25-to 54 ages group. He added that KMZT revenue had dropped 80 percent in the last year, losing accounts with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and AT& T," said the LA Times article.
I'm 39. I listen to nothing but classical radio. I own this website. Our readership breaks down like this: The average age of Violinist.com readers is 32. Their median household income is $80,000. You can read more about it if you like.
Yes, we are a niche website, so we attract mostly people interested in the violin and classical music. But all radio is niche as well. And, no matter what anyone outside our niche might believe, this niche is not old and dying. Can it be supported commercially? It is on this website. Maybe all the young classical fans have given up on radio and flocked to the Web.
Losing 80 percent of one's revenue in one year sounds a lot like a tank job to me. I could do a great job of losing 80 percent of V.com's revenue, too, I'm sure, through sheer neglect.
But don't tell me there's no market. Don't tell me there are no listeners for classical music or that all classical music fans are senior citizens. Don't tell me there are no possible advertisers.
Don't worry everyone, we will NEVER change our format. It is up to every single one of us to spread classical music to the world, because we apparently believe in it more than our elders do!
still, a great loss, at least culturally speaking. every time i travel to a new city, it takes me hours to locate a classical station.
Last year, I wrote in my blog about the demise of the last public radio station playing classical music in the nation's capitol, a change which has been reversed recently. One of the comments to my blog was from Carlos Majilis, of Buenos Aires, who said that that city has *4* classical music radio stations, and two of them operate 24 hours a day.
That was such a good station, with great hosts. I understand the commercial reasons but L.A. for Country Music??!?!? Was this a Mid-life crisis type of move?
Oh my, things change so dramatically when you live somewhere else.
I should probably listen to our local classical stations more often (in NYC) and check up on their status as well though I have long prefered to just listen to CDs I buy (and nowadays, conveniently ripped/accessible on my iPod for the most part) -- and use various non-radio resources to explore and look up composers and pieces of interest.
Actually, I wonder though. Is radio in general really all that "alive" nowadays? I know MTV didn't really/quite kill the radio back in the 80's, but a lot has happened since MTV first hit the "air". For instance, even w/in the radio medium, you've got digital satellite radio now. I wonder if classical music doesn't actually do great in that format, which probably delivers good revenue -- possibly much better than regular radio -- though I don't subscribe to it and am not sure if there is much of any advertising revenues involved. Also, last time I tried (digital) cable TV a few years back, Time Warner also offered tons of digital music channels, including some devoted to classical music, IIRC.
Personally, I'm much more saddened that classical music at the retail B&M level seems to have died almost completely now. I haven't gotten around to dropping by the downtown Tower Records in the Village in a very long time, but apparently, they're closing down for lack of solid business. And J&R Music World had shut down their dedicated classical music store a long while ago, downsizing it to just a small section w/ very limited selections w/in the larger music store. And even though relatively new formats like SACD are primarily surviving on classical music, I don't actually see much of that available at these stores either. And no, I don't really care for iTunes, et al, and their low quality pay-per-song approach.
I guess it's a good thing my family is taking up stringed instruments now. If things don't improve, we'll at least having our own playing to enjoy and be edified...
I think the solution is satellite radio. XM radio has three classical stations and no commercials.
I feel for the people of the LA area and the loss of their station. A similar thing happened here in the Minneapolis area some time ago (some 30 years ago, I suppose), and I still remember having lost that station to another genre, even though I was but a youth at the time and knew very little of classical music and seldom had the opportunity to listen. Even then I recognized the loss of this classical station for what it meant, which was not so much the loss of a station as the loss of something more and a sign of the times.
Despite an outpouring of fan support, and the mayor of New York speaking out against the change, nothing was done to remedy the problem. The motto of the station is "Playing what we want" and that is exactly what they are doing. Radio has lost is splendor as entertainer of the masses.
I typically include notes in Violin News about classical radio issues as I run across them, but have never gotten much in the way of comments. Now I know that people are interested, I will continue to include these items.
I will say this much: anyone in the LA area who worked in market research could probably see the format change coming for months if not years before it happened. On the business side, the demographic data supported the change, and i'm willing to bet that the station owner most likely resisted the format change until it almost put him out of business.
Here in Toronto our best classical music station was CJRT. I grew up listening to that station which broadcast out of Ryerson polytechnic, a technical university in downtown Toronto. CJRT had a unique budget and even had an orchestra of its own in the old days. They programmed enormous amounts of repertoire: it wasn't unusual to have their DJs play live concerts directly from Lanaudiere or Banff, or for them to play complete Bartok or Mahler cycles with NO commercial breaks!
In 2001, CJRT switched to an all-jazz JazzFM format. I remember telling my supervisors at work that they should strongly consider the switch a full YEAR before they actually did it! It was painful for me to listen to the classical music station knowing full well that a format change and the loss of Toronto's only real classical music station was actually a good business decision. The market share data became glaringly obvious from that standpoint. Btw, after CJRT switched from classical to jazz, their listenership doubled, which is exactly what the market data indicated would happen (much to my chagrin). Classical music's loss turned out to be a gain for Jazz. In Toronto we now have only one classical station left (CFMX 96.3 and 103.1FM) and they play mostly encores and showpieces instead of the heavy repertoire CJRT was known for.
The only answer to this pressing problem is for a classical music listener to stock up on CDs or make the move over to sattelite and internet radio. KING FM in Seattle is a fine, fine classical station and i hope they can resist the trend of removing classical music programming from the airwaves.
I honestly hope that satellite and internet streaming radio technology can develop walkman/ipod-type devices which would allow for free-range programming to be heard away from our computers. Such a technological advancement would remove the barrier now erected at commercial radio stations across North America.
Music in radio station can be in many forms...but we ought to keep up "the classic" with 1st choice.
I rather not listen anyother music if there is no classic music around.
That's why we need to be active playing live concerts to motivate young children...for the future generation sake.
So, teaching little kids at K12 is so important and I give support 100% what Laurie is doing now for the kids.
We have to act now to save "classic music"....or we will regret later.
Eventhough, there is a big declining demand for classic...there is a hope...!
Violin...is the answer!
Let's teach kids "violin"...even for free for needed children.(especially for disable kids at the church, I do teach them at my church for free at www.sarang.com)
I am willing to teach any under previleged children for free if they come to the church.
Because the Gospel(the good news)is for free...we should minister our "violin gospel^^" to needed children.
If anyone want to join this movement, please do so at your church...!
Eun Hwan Bai
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