It’s been at least 40 years since the classic rock format first appeared in markets like Chicago and Cleveland, 35 years since its arrival in most major markets thanks to format pioneers such as Fred Jacobs and Gary Guthrie, and 20 years since its national audience share surpassed that of traditional rock album.
This week, Inside “By The Numbers” Radio features the Eagles, Hawks, Foxes, Hogs and other rock ‘n roll beasts among the top-rated classic rockers in each of four distinct market bands. The numbers, exclusive to Indoor Radio from Nielsen Audio, are based on the average quarter-hour share among people 12 and older Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Fall 2021. Friday.
Leading the largest market group with an 8.8 12+ share is two-time winner Marconi Rock Station of the Year from St. Louis, Hubbard Radio’s KSHE. The legendary KSHE has been formatted for rock since rock formats first emerged in 1967, for most of his 55 years with his rock pig mascot “Sweetmeat” and with current “Morning Rock Show” co-host. John “U-Man” Ulett for over 45 of those years.
“KSHE 95 has been part of St. Louis’ DNA for nearly 55 years, so it’s become a generational appeal,” says Marty Linck, director of brand and content. “Grandparents, parents and children have passed on the tradition, encouraging growth in even the youngest of the demos, especially men aged 18-34, in recent times. KSHE attempts to bridge the gaps by gently navigating musical genres from the 60s to the 2000s. Our most recent promotion “March Bandness” featured four musical regions with 16 artists from a different decade in each quadrant.
“If you’re from out of town and tune into KSHE while driving through St. Louis, you might not know certain songs or artists, especially during certain weekend programming blocks. Many Midwestern acts from the 70s and 80s are still featured on KSHE to this day, giving the station an extremely local flair.
Another Marconi winner, Beasley Media Group’s WMGK Philadelphia, in the classic rock game since 1997, ranks second. “As simple as it sounds, the consistency behind WMGK’s performance is talent,” said Bill Weston, WMGK program director and vice president of talent development for Beasley Media Group. “Philadelphia legend John DeBella turns 20 at MGK matinees in June, [and] Afternoon ace Andre Gardner turns 20 this month. Midi Cord Matt [has] Over 30 on the air, and PD assistant and nighttime host Tony Harris, who knows where all the skeletons are in town, [has been] lifelong radio fanatic. So it’s consistency with the product – classic rock is really timeless music – [along] with local and benevolent voices that embrace the listeners, [who] reward us with tons of tuning and TSL.
Philadelphia isn’t the only top-10 market with a classic rock station strong enough in terms of share to make the cut. There’s also Houston with Cox Media Group’s “The Eagle 106.9/107.5” KGLK, and Boston with iHeartMedia’s WZLX. The latter is also a Marconi Rock Station of the Year winner, as is Cumulus Media’s KQRS Minneapolis, which has won the award three times.
This band’s top two classic rockers pull in a double-digit 12+ share, led by Audacy’s WNCX in the house of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The station has been playing the classics since 1987, with market veteran Tim “Slats” Guinane waking up Clevelanders for more than a decade.
“WNCX is Cleveland,” says Dave Popovich, chief operating officer and vice president of programming. “The staff, led by Bill Louis who recently retired after 34 years, has a very special relationship with the public. Dominic Nardella, the new Brand Manager, understands this connection. One of his first acts was to appoint the NCX studio after Michael Stanley, the Cleveland music icon and former afternoon host who died last year.”
Second is Dick Broadcasting’s WKRR in Greensboro, North Carolina. Classic rock since 1986, “Rock 92” is the home base of syndicated “2 Guys Named Chris” (Chris Kelly and Chris Demm), who have rocked Carolina mornings since 1999 with features like “Put Up or Shut Up” rock and roll trivia. The station’s annual Brews Festival, launched in 2005, is the largest in the state.
“Over the past two years, Rock 92 has earned some of the highest ratings in [its] history,” says program director Jason Goodman. “We attribute much of this success to ‘personality content’, particularly from 2 Guys Named Chris. A lot of [our] Hit [comes from] generations [having grown] with the station and personalities.
Sacramento is the highest ranked market with a classic rock station in this group, i.e. Audacy’s “Eagle 96.9” KSEG. iHeart’s WFBQ “Q95” is the only top 10 Marconi winner, with four “Rock Station of the Year” awards in its trophy case.
Tomorrow, “By The Numbers” continues its look at classic rock stations with top stations from the 50-100 and 101-forward markets.