Michaels, per corporate protocol, was escorted from the station.
  • Michaels, per corporate protocol, was escorted from the station.
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Radio station FM 94/9 is at a crossroads. Admitting that its current Arbitron rating status (21st place) is “unacceptable,” station manger Rick Jackson made a move on June 13. At about 10 a.m., Jackson informed program director Garett Michaels that he was no longer part of the team. Michaels had been running the alternative-rock station for almost ten years. Station employees say that Michaels was then escorted out of the building. This is a common practice at corporate-owned radio stations, insiders tell the Reader, to ensure that departing employees don’t leave with proprietary information.

Michaels’s last public appearance was at 94/9’s sold-out SPF (Sandy Parts Festival) concert at the Oceanside Amphitheatre June 3. He played guitar in the opening band, Federal Reserve of Consumption, which included other 94/9 DJs.

Michaels, who was the afternoon DJ, was the only original on-air staff left from when 94/9 launched in November 2002 (Anya Marina and Mike Halloran were also on the original crew).

Over the years, 94/9 has been lauded with national radio-industry awards for its left-of-center playlist. Rolling Stone said 94/9 was one of a handful of stations “that doesn’t suck.”

When it launched, 94/9 positioned itself as a station that cared more about quality music than their Clear Channel–owned competition, 91X, and 94/9 occasionally beat 91X in the ratings in certain time periods. But it seemed to score biggest in the public-perception battle, where 94/9 positioned itself as “independent,” 91X the corporate tool. When Clear Channel spun off 91X in 2005 to a new owner, the station “relaunched” itself and its DJs went on the air to decry Clear Channel. “We must embrace the suck,” said one DJ.

In the past two years, 91X has rebounded while 94/9 has lagged. Now Jackson says that 94/9 must turn itself around or change to something different: “We had to make a change.”

Jackson says Lincoln Financial spent a lot of money on audience research, polling listeners in auditoriums and over the phone. He says it was determined that listeners want 94/9 to go in a more adventurous direction and that they want to hear a wider variety of songs and “deeper cuts” off of albums: “They don’t want to hear the same Linkin Park or Soundgarden song over and over.” Jackson says listeners want to be “surprised” by a station that takes chances with its music.

Jackson’s decision to move 94/9 to a more progressive format surprised almost every radio insider contacted for this article. “Our research shows San Diego is one of the best cities in the country for alternative music,” says Jackson.

Kevin Callahan, currently the program director of KSON, has been named to take the reins at FM 94/9. (KSON, 94/9, and KIFM are all owned by Lincoln Financial.) Callahan will be assisted by music director Jeremy Pritchard.

Michaels did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, he said he was proud of his work at 94/9 but that the past three years were “particularly challenging.” When the all-talk Mikey Show signed on in January 2010, many core 94/9 fans complained that the station had lost its way. At a station-sponsored concert headlined by Black Keys in December 2010 at RIMAC, Mikey Esparza was heckled when he took the stage.

The FM 94/9 Independence Jam, which Michaels booked for September 16 at the Oceanside Amphitheatre (Fiona Apple, Best Coast), will go on as planned.

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Comments

DrusillaVonLaevyn June 27, 2012 @ 3:19 p.m.

Well...

I hate to say it, but I think the death knell is being heard on what was once my beloved FM 94/9.

They have changed so much in the last three years, and not in a good way. They haven't just lost their way, they lost their own vision and core philosophy that made the station so unique and appealing in the first place.

Gone are Desert Island Discs, gone are the Blues Break, Insider takeovers, Coup De'Tat..... replaced with call in radio contests and talk over the beginnings and endings of songs. You know, that thing they prided themselves on NEVER doing?

Worst of all? Gone is the integrity. It's not "About the Music" anymore, and hasn't been for a while now.

This truly is a damn shame. FM 94/9 used to be everything I could have ever wanted in a radio station.

Now?

Now I think I'll go back to 91X full time, where with Halloran, Steve West, and now music director Robin Roth back at the mics, things might be the way they should be in San Diego alternative radio. At least....as much as they can be.

RIP FM 94/9....

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sageofsantee June 27, 2012 @ 4:06 p.m.

Not so fast. Those are good points but IF (and that is a big if) the station can do a big mea culpa and say out loud and on the air that "we made a mistake with Mikey" etc., and they really do play cool new music, then there is hope. This station has a ten year history here and those listeners are still out there, waiting to be brought back into the fold. I mean you got Halloran playing Red Hot Chili Peppers over and over. He's a local brand but now hes a local brand playing very safe hits. There is nothing special about 91X right now. On the other hand, if this is all talk from 94.9 and no real change, they are just tooling us again. What I wonder is is there anyone left at 94.9 who even knows what good music is. Did you know that new KSON program director worked at CLEAR CHANNEL for 5 years? google him. This doesn't look too promising. But you have to let them see if they are genuine or frauds. Plus, what the hell is with the Mikey show leftover yawn fest 94.9 has in the mornings? That has to be fixed as well. They don't mater to core 94.9 fans and Mikey fans don't care either.

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JeffBurgess July 2, 2012 @ 5:32 p.m.

I just received a letter from Rick Jackson stating exactly the opposite of what is being predicted in this story. There is going to be no more "adventurous direction". There will also be no more surprises. I don't see the station lasting much longer in this new weak alternative format. It's my opinion that a FM talk station will be coming soon. Paying the Mikey show close to a million dollars for a three year contract appears to have been what started to sad chain of events. Whoever hired Mikey should be the one being shown the door. Ken...please send me an Email if you'd like to discuss more of what was in the letter.

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kenl July 3, 2012 @ 2:30 p.m.

Yes. It does seem like the station is sounding nothing like what Rick Jackson said was going to happen. I would interested in hearing what he said. It would be not nice if Jackson was simply telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, when he had no real plans to do that.

I am at oogumboogum@earthlink.net

Thank you

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Donna P. Crilly July 9, 2012 @ 4:32 p.m.

It's sad to see Garrett Michaels go. I grew up listening to FM 94/9. I was a freshman in high school when it was brad new. Before that, it was 92/1, which became a country station.

I have to agree that I wasn't a big fan of the talk radio when it came about in 2010. Since then, I haven't really listened as often as I used to, since the morning was my prime listening time.

I also didn't know that desert island discs and blues break is gone!? I loved Friday morning blues break when they would drink local beers and play some blues, even if it was brief.

It'll be interesting to see the direction that FM 94/9 heads. I'll admit that too much RHCP, Green Day and Nirvana were getting to me.

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mharpy July 24, 2012 @ 8:37 a.m.

And then of course you have the Mikey Show fans like myself. As soon as Mikey left I took 94.9 off the dial. With so many posers and music snobs in San Diego, Mikey never was able to get any traction or really given a chance. Fair enough. But I wont support 94.9 any longer. I imagine soon Mikey will be back on and doing what he does best. I hope he goes to AM to be honest. Its been sad, nothing good is on in the morning anymore...

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tomjohnston July 24, 2012 @ 9:21 a.m.

Need I point out that "Mikey" has been absent for almost 5 months? So as for being back on soon, well maybe not so much.

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gager Aug. 15, 2012 @ 6:47 p.m.

Mikey is coming back via Podcast and new website (on his own) within the next week.

  • M1 12Gage
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tomjohnston Aug. 15, 2012 @ 8:23 p.m.

WOW!!! But I have say honestly say that "coming back" after a nearly 6 month absence, with a podcast and a new website, is something less than awe-inspiring. In any case, good luck with that.

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SelectiveINfusion Feb. 27, 2013 @ 8:42 a.m.

I love how all of the M1's talk crap on the dedicated following of 94.9 as "snobs" and "posers". Also, I see their crap talking on the 94.9 fb page. We snobs aka the previously loyal following of 94.9 didn't move in on your beloved Mikey Show and wreck it...mikey came to 94.9 and ruined something we used to enjoy on a daily basis. Furthermore, your comments underscore the notion that M1's are self-righteous d-bags. "You're station was nothing before the Mikey Show." Actually, it was everything until M1 virus killed it. I used to be a Mikey fan when he was on KIOZ, but toward the end Mikey just became a more cynical/self centered a-hole character. I don't wish I'll will on the guy, but his 94.9 move brought a bunch of arrogant M1's and it ushered in a terrible format to a station I religiously listened for over a decade.

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