Sophie 103.7 FM switched from an all-talk format to an adventuresome "hot AC" (adult contemporary) format in June. The latest Arbitron ratings indicate the station is 28th in popularity among all local listeners. Those sluggish ratings have proven to be a blessing for local unsigned artists.
Kemistry, Appleseed, Republic of Letters, Wendy Dailey, and other local artists without nationally distributed record deals have scored daytime airplay on Sophie.
"They even put us on their website for a while," says singer/guitarist/songwriter Tommy Graf, 19. Sophie 103.7 played "Low" by his Beatles-flavored local band Mojave at 1 in the afternoon.
"I don't know of any other stations that will add an unsigned artist," says Sophie programming boss Charlie Quinn. He says his station is the only one in the country to add songs to regular rotation based on their MySpace activity.
"We go to MySpace and see who has the most downloads. These artists typically have 20,000 or more downloads."
Though Sophie's playlist (VHS or Beta, Eskimo Joe, Slightly Stoopid) is atypical for an AC station and doesn't get as much hip credit as other local alternative stations, Quinn says, "I don't care about cred. I care about our listeners who care about new music."
Robert Hughes, co-owner and afternoon DJ on KPRI, says, "It's easy to hype your friends on MySpace. It's easy to get a lot of so-called 'friends,' and it's probably meaningless. It all comes down to if the music is any good. If you're a local artist and the music is bad, being local ain't gonna save your ass."
Meanwhile, FM 94/9, Rock 105.3, and KPRI air local artists on weekend nighttime shows. Loudspeaker, the all-local show on 91X, airs from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Mondays.
Mojave appears tonight at Scolari's.