Clear Channel Goes Indie?

When you hear the words “Clear Channel,” you probably don’t think “Indie.” But on Christmas night, Clear Channel’s Los Angeles affiliate KDL switched from a failing dance format to Indie 103-1: “Your Independent Radio Station.”

Take a look at these two hourly playlists, to get a grasp of the new format. It’s not college radio by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a more eclectic mix of music (e.g. Postal Service, Polyphonic Spree, Jeff Buckley, X) than any other commercial radio station in Southern California. And, even more shocking, the station will be running without on-air “personalities” or commercial interruptions for the next few weeks.

The switch seems distinctly out-of-character for “radio’s big bully”, known for its secretive payola schemes. Why the sudden interest in providing an outlet for new music?

In Los Angeles, the “alternative” market has long been dominated by Infinity Broadcasting’s KROQ. In the last few years, it’s evolved into a corporate rock nightmare without any competition. Without an adequate alternative to the non-stop stream of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park clones, many listeners simply turned off their radios.

One of the new taglines for Indie 103-1 is “bringing the alternative back to Los Angeles,” a direct jab at the new KROQ. By providing a more diverse station, Clear Channel will likely be able to profit off new bands that aren’t getting exposure from KROQ, while attracting KROQ’s alienated audience.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend reading Los Angeles Radio-Info, a message board for local radio insiders. They’re following the story closely, with tons of great commentary and speculation. It’s an interesting glimpse into the feud between radio’s two biggest conglomerates. If successful, Clear Channel’s “Indie” experiment may have surprising consequences across the nation’s radio landscape.

December 31, 2003: The Entercom-owned Seattle station “The End” switched to a similar format this week. It’ll be interesting to see how the ratings for both stations develop in the next few months.

An anonymous reader wrote in with some excellent insight into the situation, mentioning that Clear Channel is leasing the frequency from Spanish-radio giant Entravision in order to work around the FCC’s current regulations. I’ve posted the entire e-mail below.

January 1, 2004: You can view KDLD’s real-time playlists on Yes.net

January 4, 2004: Someone on the radio-info list found this mockup homepage of the Indie 103.1 website, which indicates they’re planning to stream the station. (Thanks, Boogah.)

January 7, 2004: Their site is live. A streaming radio feed was supposed to be added yesterday, but never went live.

March 30, 2004: I’m not affiliated with Indie 103.1, and I don’t know anyone that is! You can stop e-mailing me with song requests now, thanks.

nice concise write-up, except that kdl was not a clear channel affiliate. kdl was [and is in dallas, tx] owned by entravision communications, a [majority] hispanic broadcasting corporation. having taken cume and tsl away from clear channel’s kiis, k-big and star, clear channel made entravision an offer they couldn’t refuse. since current fcc regulations won’t allow clear channel to own another frequency in los angeles, they are leasing the frequency from entravision in order to get around the legalities.

as for clear channel interested in providing an outlet for “new” and “independent” music, i’m of the opinion that it’s a farce. 103.1 is an extremely weak signal in los angeles. clear channel’s babies are kiis, k-big and star. having a little thorn in their cash cows was unacceptable and has always been; look back at mars 103.1 and groove/groove radio. they’ve done this before and will continue to do it again.

so then why this choice of format? i can see two clear reasons: simple, effective marketing and the probability that they simply don’t care what happens on 103.1. both, however, will win them shares in a market they simply don’t care too much for.

by broadcasting on a weak signal with minimal coverage, they can exploit a sort of “pirate radio” and “indie” feel from the unassuming listener. it’s brilliant in it’s own simplicity. by not caring about the format, the programming director will be able to get away with content that normally wouldn’t get played. will this force kroq to change? no

indie 103 is aimed at a niche market. take a closer look at the playlists. indie 103 is not out to make new hits [with the exception of a few songs, i know]; indie 103 only plays the hits.

but even further, they don’t play the chart-topping hit songs, for the most part. they play the hit bands, but they play the songs that are a hit with the fans… the songs you want to hear when they play in concert. creating new hits is not the focus of indie 103 [nor is it the style of entravision radio]. because of this, kroq will continue to do what it’s done.

you won’t see a flood of local bands or minor label bands getting play because their name happens to be “indie 103”; they’re not going after kcrw.

to top this all off, this is a joint venture between clear channel and entravision. the partnership is set up in a way where both have say over the format, the pd answers to both, entravision provides the frequency, and clear channel handles the sales. clear channel is not changing face, nor are they the hero.

clear channel is doing what they do best: destroying competition in order to maintain their lucrative profit margins. that’s the way it’s always been and the way it will continue to be.

the lease is up in 2 years; that’s when the really interesting news will come up.

78 thoughts on “Clear Channel Goes Indie?

  1. I’m torn. While I did enjoy getting in the car tonight and hearing the B52’s “Dance This Mess Around”, I cringed every time I heard the call sign with the phrase “Indie” in it.

    I want to hate ClearChannel sooo much, but tonight I heard the Specials “Too Much Too Young” for the first time in 8 years, and it made me smile.

    If they play Radio, Radio I’m going to barf.

  2. ugh, I hope this doesn’t turn into another 94.9 where all they do is blab on and on about how “real” they are. That got old way to fast.

  3. KNDD Seatle-

    12/18/03

    They switched in Seattle too. Though they started out in Alternative.

    They have fallen in favor quickly.

    I suppose that is expected with a switch.

  4. (yea, it’s sd) they even had their parent company buy-out 92.1 (the only supposedly true independent owned station ive heard of) right after a big rivalry with 91″x” during which they gave a bunch of guff about them being owned by clearchannel

  5. hold the phone here! the site thats hosting the indie 1031 logo is “independent.fm” that was 921’s domain when they were on air

  6. It’s worth noting that a lot of these bands aren’t, strictly speaking, “indie,” if you define an indie band as one that isn’t on a major label. And this doesn’t seem that dissimilar to radio stations all over the country switching to an Alternative/New Rock/Whatever format after Nevermind came out. Although novel at first, they almost all quickly degenerated into promoton vehicles for bands like Limp Bizkit, Bush, and whatever other band Viacom decided had cool hair that month. Co-opting the word “independent” doesn’t make it so.

    But in any case, it sure beats the pants off of any of the commercial radio stations we have up here in SF, and it’s nice to see X getting some airplay…

  7. If you read the (terribly disspiriting) recent Harper’s article on Clear Channel, it’s clear that they’re willing to play with indie bands if it can lock up a monopoly for them; the article singled out Philadelphia, where they’re backing Brian Dilworth, who seems to be the city’s major indie booker (and Kristin Thompson‘s husband, ironically enough). I don’t think Clear Channel thinks that booking a Erase Eratta show is going to make them money; I think they realize that locking up as many venues as possible in any given city is going to make them money. The airwaves would seem to be a neat parallel.

  8. Judging from my experience with clear channel here in Dallas, I have a hard time believing this will last very long. They assimilated our indie station, KDGE, and made it into another corporate rock toilet. Not the exact same situation I know, but it seems laughable to me to think they’ll change their ways anytime soon. So I don’t expect this to stick; it will probably last for the few weeks you mentioned the station will be without personalities or commercials.

  9. We had a similar thing happen in Wichita, KS, where a low-power Spanish station was suddenly bought and changed to “ecclectic.” Called Fly 92.7, it played some very cool music for a short time before becoming just another tired sound on the dial.

  10. i’ve loved what i’ve heard so far. unforntunatley, it seems the standard practice for new radio stations – or at the very least format changes on old radio stations – is that the radio station plays outstanding music and then changes things up to something more corporate after a month or two.

    at this point i wouldn’t be shocked if the songs we’ve been hearing are just an mp3 player loaded up with radio friendly songs on random play. then again i’ve heard the polyphonic spree’s “light and day” about 20 times in the past four days – and i’m already starting to get tired of it. so the repetition is a bit like regular radio.

  11. For some reason, the Yes.net playlists are very incomplete. (Look at the large time gaps between songs.) KCRW plays much better music, but it seems like they’re never playing music whenever I turn it on.

  12. liked it so far, though don’t know how long it can last. And the signal was not ‘weak’, I got it in the car from Dana Point to Ventura. I immediately called Live105 in SF when I arrived home and told them they have to do this too. They said ‘we’ll try..’ (with an audible smirk) Give it a chance. It’s really good to hear this stuff again, and some I’ve never heard. If I never hear Outkast again that’s still too soon.

  13. Well, the one thing about this format change, this is the LONGEST I’ve gone listening to a music station in LA for the last 6-8 months. I’m going to enjoy this for as long as it’s on, at least until ClearChan’s true satanic nature inevitably turns the whole affair to a pile of fecal matter. (oh, BTW, Andre Torrez, they _did_ play Radio Radio this evening when I was coming home. You can clean the barf out of your keyboard with a little club soda… 😉 )

  14. Screw Indie 103.1 FM “indie,” it sucks, and it sucks a lot. KDL was JUST starting to get good. I hope another station will pick up its dance music format or I’ll just have to get rich and start my own electronica station…Thank God for live clubs and DJs.

    Cami

    http://www.cami.net

  15. can’t but wonder if it was just a coincidence, then that i caught “richard blade” of infamous KROQ fame starting a new show on STAR 98.7 last night. Wonder if we could see him (clear)channel switching to 103.1? And will we see him take his trademarked “flashback” with him?

  16. I don’t think it matters so much whether or not this station is interested in promoting new music; rather it is a way to sell professionals ages 25-35 their relevance (and a few carefully marketed products from our sponsors) again, much like KRTH 101 does to baby boomers and KITS does to aged rockers. This is a retro station pure and simple, and it has already suceeded in becoming my ‘flip to’ station when NPR or ‘Morning becomes eclectic’ has started to bore me. But hey, I get to hear Pulp on the radio again so what do I care?

  17. Hi, I’m just back in the Netherlands (cold & wet) from LA. I already miss 103, I loved every minute! Any chance of a live stream so I won’t have to miss out? Check http://www.kink.fm by the way, our Dutch Indie station.

  18. For indie music in LA, I don’t think you can beat KXLU (88.9), I agree that it sounds like they are using “indie” as another term for flashback.

  19. Indie shmdie. Marketing ploy or not. I am hooked. I am finally relieved of the age old question…to iPod or not? Thanks, 103.1 for transmitting my music collection to me for free.

    As the curse of my generation, carpal tunnel syndrome, settles into my withered and aging hands. Young and nimble fingers I whored to “The Man” so so long ago. I smile. Yes, I smile and listen. Salute!

  20. LA needs this, KROQ sucks,a lot of the stuff being played on 103.1 is good, but some it stinks this morning I heard Papa ooh mow mow,bad,and yesterday,I heard some shit in Spanish,how about The Stills,The Pleased,Longwave,Peter Murphy,they need me as program director or at least let me have some input.

  21. Maybe you heard some “rock en espanol” – that was a hot trend that never went anywhere.

    I’m just wondering if KKDL in Dallas will flip to match this format. There’s absolutely no reason why Postal Service shouldn’t be getting played on the radio. On almost every station.

  22. Hey…just doing a little research about this new Indie103.1. I was pretty excited when I heard the new format, but come on, do you think it’s really going to survive? Anything good that has ever landed on 103.1 goes away just as quickly as it came.

  23. Okay, so we got an answer, finally, to the poor radio situation in LA. Hopefully Clear Channel runs with it. My advice to Clear Channel – broaden your playlists, eliminate your future plans to host fat-headed DJ’s, and keep up the random, strange eclecticism.

  24. “Indie” can also be the name of a music genre, basically corporate garage rock. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when/if 103.1 drops the automated jukebox.

  25. KDL is playing a song that’s 50% “It’s Make’s You Happy” (that country sounding Cheryl Crowe thing) and 50% an old Brian Eno pop hit. Sounds like manufactured KROQ crap. Now I’m hearing the Rembrandts!! Ugh, it’s been only a couple of hours ago since I heard the Cramps’ Human Fly.I guess we’re all laboratory apes taking a few whacks before getting the hits we want!!!

  26. Well 1031 will have clearwreckers to toss up the crap for few…now this makes me as sick as KROQ playing the crap they play..I guess I need to go back on vacation in Italy where I heard the best music stations that were like a combination of KCRW/KXLU/KSPC just playing everything from 60-90 alternative/indie/electronica..2 more years and the station will be spanish ranchero format.

  27. 103.1 is alright, but i HATE HATE HATE HATE CLEAR CHANNEL. clear channel represents all that is evil in the world. they’re the reason why channels like COOL 94.3 are gone. if anyone remembers that station, it was based in garden grove and was truly independent. independent meaning it wasn’t owned by big business! i feel sort of jilted being told i’m listening to indie when it’s really a megacorporation cashing in on the little guy. i’m sorry, but i’m just not sure if i can ever support something like that.

  28. This station could be something special, as long as it’s evoltion is muddled by corporate goons who think they know something about anything except selling their souls.

    Here’s hoping.

    ‘tong

  29. At last! An alternative alternative station! Please say what songs you have played and what artist. Maybe after each set of 5 songs? You are playing such great music. When are you going to stream online?

  30. Look, I know there are undertones that I just don’t understand about radio. But I have been SO desperate for SO long living in LA- the ultimate music pit from hell. I’ll take this reasonable fascimile and watch me jump for joy!!!

  31. I have been curious about the back story on Indie 103.1 for several days now since stumbling across it on the dial. I was so excited so find it. Being Clear Channel I won’t hold my breath. But man, what a breath of fresh air for now. The thing I loved about radio when I was kid was the absolute surprise of what you might hear next. At least I can relish in that joy for a while. But it looks like it won’t be the “indie” outlet my music as I hoped.

  32. Someone posted that anything good to ever hit 103.1 never lasts, and that was my thought when I came back from the East Coast for Christmas vacation and heard the change. While I was excited to hear songs I hadn’t heard in years and new songs I had never heard (a rarity here in LA on the radio), I was skeptical of how long it would last. I decided to enjoy it while it lasted. It has been on non-stop in our house, cars, and office for the past several weeks. But I must admit, I am getting a little tired of “mad world” that “light and day” song by the brady bunch wanna be band, and some others that seem to come up for play more often than the others in their random CD player. Which in my opinion doesn’t make this station much different than the other LA stations who play the same stuff over and over and over and over and….. When 103.1 went to the dance format they didn’t have commercials or DJ’s for several weeks and they played crap! Once the DJ’s and commercials started their play list seemed to widen a bit. Maybe the same will happen with the new 103.1. Although I HATE to support Clear Channel in any way, I suppose listening to songs I actually like over and over again is better than listening to even a note of a Linkin Park song.

  33. i LOVE the new indie station in LA. love it love it love it. i am just desperate for new music or new old music.

    i hope this is a sign of something changing on the horizon.

    no doubt this has been the best radio experience i have ever found. i feel like the old bad radio ads they used to play – tune us in, and tear off the knob!

    question for the masses: they have been playing this one irish folksy type song with mandolins and a chorus that goes something like “if i make it out of this life alive” or “if i get through this alive” or something (i’m always in my car when it comes on).

    if anyone knows this song and can email me the artist, i SWEAR free oral sex or my first born or eternal gratitude or something.

  34. I THINK THAT INDIE 103.1 IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO RADIO IN A LONG TIME. I FIND MYSELF ACTUALLY LISTENING TO THE RADIO AGAIN AND NOT JUST MY CDS ALL THE TIME!

  35. A friend turned me on to “Indie” just the other day and my radio is glued to it. It’s REAL alternative music mixed with some classic old and sometimes underground stuff. Whoever did this, I’m sure you were sent by God. Thank You for giving So Cal real radio again.

  36. Indie has never played Rembrandts or Sheryl Crow,

    Lord Butticus must be listening to a differnet station, or reading the very innacurate BDS. Though they do play a lot of Cramps.

  37. Mighty Jimbo-

    Save the oral favors for somebody else, but that song is by the bland Flogging Molly.

    “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”

  38. I actually love this new station. i have listened to KROQ since the early 80’s. I loved KROQ then and still do. However I do get sick of hearing the same stuff played over and over and it’s always the sell out music. I love hearing old stuff. KROQ’s flash back is great but INDIE plays alot of everything and is great!

  39. I read an article recently (New Yorker?) that discussed this new CC format, though I hadn’t until now seen it in the flesh. As I recall, it’s not so much pitched internally as “independent” music but is explicitly aiming to be comfort-rock (my term :)) for the late 20s-mid 30s set – serving us up the hits of our misspent youth, with a few new cool bands to keep us in the loop.

    And when you look at the set-lists – thats what it is: pixies, smiths, nirvana, talking heads, etc. plus a little white stripes and polyphonic spree.

    I’m not complaining – i like the lineup -its just a bit eerie to be targeted so early (and so accurately) for an oldies station…

  40. I wish the signal was stronger, I only pick it up in my car, at many times badly but listen anyway. I was SO SICK of KROQ that I was listening to CLASSICAL music at all times. Some back announcing would be nice. Some of us old farts actually spend quite a bit of money on music. LOVE THE IGGY> MORE IGGY!!!!

  41. I don’t care if you call yourself “Indie” or anything else, just keep playing great music, like DK’s “California Uber Alles” (sp)! I quite enjoy hearing (a) bands I haven’t heard either in ages or ever on the radio, especially when it’s (b) not just the well known tunes but the really good not played much ones! Keep up the good work and I’ll keep listening.

    Oh, what gives with that “Jessica Simpson” tune? The last three times I’ve tuned in, it’s played w/in 5 minutes. Is there a particular reason it’s in such heavy rotation?

  42. 103.1 indie radio is the best radio station since Kroq was being played in the eighties. Not since than has a radio station been worth listening to intil now. I really don’t care about Clear Channel owning the radio station I only care about them continuing to play awesome music. I love hearing music being played from the eighties when music really kicked ass! That was a unique time in music history. It doesn’t get any better than that !

  43. Hey ya’ll,

    I need someone’s help desperately!! There is a song that 103.1 plays and I want to know the artist so I can get it. It is a female singer, and the lyrics include “there’s something exciting about knowing that only thing you’ll ever need is sitting in the seat right next to you.” I thought it was called “Another White Dash,” but that isn’t working in the record stores. If you have any information, please, please, please email me at [email protected]

    Thank you!!!!

  44. 103.1 played a funny song which included the lyrics “both my parents are german” sung by a woman .. it could have been an 80’s tune. anyone know who sings it?

  45. For johnnyutah, the song your looking for is Butterfly Boucher – Another White Dash. And for mieses your song is Chicks on speed – yes i do. I just found them on the KDLD Indie 103.1 song list mentioned by WLAchix site which had links to lyrics and such. I even downloaded the mp3s there by asking. Enjoy Indie!

  46. There’s also a station out of Claremont

    called KSPC that plays a lot of what it

    seems people here like. Here’s a quick

    rundown of some of the bands they play.

    (Her Space Holiday,

    Belle and Sebastian,

    The Midnite Movies,

    The Saturday People,

    Irving,

    The Unicorns,

    The Fuse,

    The Minders,

    Girlsareshort)

    I could go on. It’s 88.7 and can be heard

    best in the area. But it’s really good.

    Only thing is the better stuff starts at 2:00pm

    and ends at 10:00a.m. 10 -2 is jazz.

    Enjoy

  47. If you want to hear this kind of music both FM broadcast and streamed, check out KEXP.org. They are independent (mostly), user-supported, non-commercial, with a huge audience worldwide. When I lived in seattle my radio played nothing but.

  48. KROQ went lame when the young marque left.

    that was before most KROQ listeners were born Clear Channel is as much on your side as any huge greedy mega corp.L.A. is full of sheep when it comes to anything real. No Jazz station No Local music rock station and the (classical) stations are for dinner music fans.

    Hey kids most of the execs live in your gated communities it serves you right to suffer !

  49. There is a song, it is slow, heavy bass, punk vocals “barely made weapons” or “something, something, weapons” I’m dying to find out what it is . . . I’ve heard it a couple of times now. It pretty much rocks is a slow sick way.

  50. does anyone know a song that goes like this ‘callin out callin out have u ever wondered y ur alwayz stuck now in my head i need u to understand i miss u i luv u..didnt wanna leave u w/the wrong impression didnt wana leave u with my last confession yeaaa….’ thats how it goes if anyone knows who sings this pleaz let me know

  51. ummm yeahhhh… that song.. it definately wouldnt be on this radio station… well at least i hope not. Try asking kiis fm fans.

  52. L.A. hasn’t had anything close to freeform radio since the celebrated KEDG went off the air in 1989. Ironically, after Clear Channel acquired San Diego’s 91X in 1997, it went from “cutting edge” to a somewhat better, mainstream-alternative KROQ clone–much to the lament of longtime 91X listeners.

    Thousands of great songs have been recorded over the years. Most never got airplay anywhere, let alone in L.A., until such innovative programming as 103.1’s “Jonesy’s Jukebox,” Henry Rollins’ “Harmony in My Head,” “Head Trip,” and “Watusi Rodeo.”

  53. There’s a song I’ve heard on the station but I don’t know who it is. It’s an iggypop-sounding guy singing about all the different types of girls he’s into. There’s a little asian friend, and stupid girls giving dirty looks. The song’s neat. Who?

  54. Richard, the song is by Louis XIV, and it’s called “Finding Out True Love is Blind”. Surely one of the best new songs out there.

  55. To Help,

    For the record, the song you are asking about is Wrong Impression by Natalie Imbruglia. Doesn’t Matter is right,though. They don’t play it on Indie1031.

  56. Well it appears the FCC said no to the JSA between Clear Channel and Entravison…

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-indie24feb24,1,2766201.story?coll=la-headlines-business&ctrack=3&cset=true

    The future of Indie 103.1 FM, hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as “America’s coolest commercial station,” may be in jeopardy because a shift in federal regulations will force Clear Channel Communications Inc. to abandon its business partnership with the station’s owner.

    Indie 103.1 is owned by Entravision Communications Corp., a Santa Monica-based Spanish-language media company. But it went on the air 14 months ago under a so-called joint sales agreement with Clear Channel, the largest radio station operator in the U.S. and the owner of eight stations in the L.A. market.

    Roy Laughlin, Clear Channel’s regional vice president in Los Angeles, said the company would walk away from the partnership April 1.

    I hope they go back to the dance format!

    Kev

  57. who sings that song that goes ” i’m sorry ,so sorry” ? It sounds like new age music.

    melissa 🙂

  58. If you think things in L.A. are bad, try Toronto, which is why I’m with “Indie”(ugh)103 – thanks to their live stream – all the way up here.

    That and my hero, Steve Jones? Yay !

    Too bad about Clear Channel, though.

  59. Hey everybody. I need help with this song. It goes like “im a little pollo” or something like that and it repeats again and with the same beat. Its a male voice and it used to be played in KDL. Anybody that knows this song please tell me, i would really appreciate it!

    “KDl rocks”

  60. Hey everybody. KDL is where alot of dance music used to play and one out of so many people that LOVES the old KDL 103.1 Even though it repeated some songs I learned the lyrics and the name of the song. Radio station that talks and jokes around are crap. Bring dance techno euro music back to us you bastards!

  61. hey everyone. Well does anyone have satelite radio? Well they have a station of techno/dance that is played non-stop for those hardcore fans. Artist such as ferry corsten, dj encore, ect. Just telling you guys to hear it!

  62. i dont care wut anybody says, but indie 1031 is the best radio station out there..im tired of hearing that same shit they play over and over in kiis and kroq..

    1031 would be better if they had more music and less talk, though.

  63. What’s the song ending with “I’m Sorry, So Sorry” (Repeated). Alternative.

    Not Jem’s “They” but think how the Killer’s Mr. Brightside when he sings “jealousy”…that tone is how “I’m Sorry, So Sorry”.

    Might be “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry, So Sorry”.

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