11/15/87-Airwaves buzz with talk about KNUA’s new-age mood

VICTOR STREDICKE – November 15, 1987 – In a world of me-too radio, the new-age radio station KNUA is causing a lot of talk. At the very least, it’s easy to listen to. New-age radio is the hottest new trend in radio. It can be described as a blend of soft-rock favorites, light jazz and melodic instrumentals.
KNUA, at 106.9 mHz., began the format in September, announcing somewhat proudly “no disc-jockey interruptions.” There is no disc-jockey talk, but there is artist talk and repeated “sounders” to remind you that you are listening to “a new age for Seattle.”
New-age music is clustered around a few record labels, including Windham Hill, but its composers and performers come from all over the world. Most selections have a solo instrument carrying the melody with moderate background accompaniment. Every selection on the station comes from a compact disc. Because of the station’s new antenna location on Capitol Hill and the CD product, many listeners enjoy listening on hi-fi systems. To enhance that effect, compression and audio processing techniques commonly used to homogenize a radio station’s signal are missing. Maureen Matthews is program director. She is particularly pleased that the station is programmed in-house, even though another new-age station in the Gannett Broadcasting chain is programmed by satellite. Only six radio stations in the nation are programming new-age music, the most familiar being a Los Angeles station that uses the slogan “The Wave.”

In Seattle, KEZX-FM first presented new-age music programs and recently introduced KEZX-AM as “The Oasis,” which includes new-age, soft rock and jazz.

“There are no rules in this format,” Matthews said. “We hold meetings every week to talk about what sounds good together.” Listener input has supplied one rule: “Why are you playing `Murder by the Numbers’?” a caller asked.
“We don’t play songs about death,” Matthews said. Countering those “no disc jockey interruptions,” the station stills needs to identify some of its songs. Listeners can call an 800 phone number to get song titles played each hour. Some songs are followed by the voice of performers, introducing himself and the title of his song. In the first months on the air, a lot of local bands were included. Matthews herself is a musician, a former rock-‘n’-roll band singer. She had an afternoon air shift at KHIT, the station’s previous incarnation, became music director and, along with Carolyn Tappin, news director, survived the format change. KNUA’s new general manager, Marc Kaye, came in with the format in August.
“This must be the biggest TV blitz any radio station has had,” Kaye confessed. Insiders say the station spent more than $300,000 in three months of TV spots showing an ocean scene and personal testimonials from actors. That’s more than most stations spend on all promotions through the year.
Some record companies have done studies of core audience, poking to see what kind of autos they drive, movies they see, what income they have. “It’s not just upperscale,” Matthews said. “But whatever the amount, they have a large amount of disposable income.” She said the station’s sales manager has reported all commercial time is sold in November, and that includes national accounts from Kirin beer and Jaguar automobiles. “We also have some direct accounts _ businesses who have never been on radio before,” she said. “I can promise no contests, no prize give-aways,” Matthews said. “More likely, the station will sponsor charitable activities such as wine tasting, art-gallery openings and food-bank drives.”
More jazz is played in the morning hours because it is generally “brighter.” The longer new-age songs, with their slower pace, are more likely to be featured in the evening. “We mellow out,” Matthews said. “We are more creative at night.”

The kiss of death

After the interview with Charlye Parker published here last Sunday, Lee Rogers, program director, fired Parker and Gary Vance, plus the two KRPM-AM news people, Randy Quint and Kim Wilson.
There was a corporate decision to cut expenses. So KRPM-AM-FM is a simulcast operation.

Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times (1964-1989). --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke

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