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.
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 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.