Tracy Johnson, general manager of KFMB (100.7 FM), says he had second thoughts after he dropped his live DJs, quit playing new music, and switched to an '80s-oldies format called "Jack 100.7."
"I'd wake up at 3 a.m. and think I was committing career suicide," says Johnson. "[I'd think] 'Jack' may be a flash in the pan, but I have a company that backs me on the idea."
Two months ago, Johnson dropped his station's "Star" handle and its Hot AC (adult contemporary) music format after ten years. The move confounded some because Star 100.7 made more money than any other local station. Based on ratings, Star was the most successful major-market Hot AC station in the U.S. So, why did the station change its course? Local band Switchfoot gets part of the blame.
"[Songs by Star playlist regulars] Kelly Clarkson, Matchbox Twenty, and Switchfoot didn't stand out as being unique or exciting," says Johnson. "The artists don't evoke the same passion with our audience anymore. Our format is driven by women [aged] 35 to 54. Today [women in that age group] are more influenced by rap, hip-hop, and extreme dance music.... From 1994 to '96, artists like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Blues Traveler, and Hootie and the Blowfish were huge. It was a rich era for adult contemporary music.... Our audience accepts those artists [today], but it has no passion for them...."
Regarding Switchfoot's commercial viability, the Encinitas band's first CD for Columbia, released in '03, sold three million copies. Nearly every date on their 2004 U.S. tour sold out.
Charlie Walk, executive VP of marketing and promotion for Columbia Records, responded to Johnson's opinion of new adult contemporary music: "Top 40 adult radio stations with ratings helped John Mayer's last album sell three million copies and win two Grammys.... Thank you, Top 40 adult radio."