Steve West has been spinning alternative hits in San Diego since 1983. He was there when 91X created its “cutting edge of rock” format, which showed that bands such as the B-52s, Devo, and Love and Rockets could deliver fat ratings.
West champions the idea that the local market could support a “classic alternative” format, which would basically sound like his Resurrection Sunday show all week long.
No station has taken West up on his idea to exclusively broadcast classic alternative. But several local stations have signed on with the contention that the new-wave era artists who put 91X on the map in the ’80s still matter in San Diego.
FM94/9 (the primary competitor of 91X), KPRI, soft-rock station KyXy, and even one-time oldies station the Walrus (105.7) have all increasingly turned away from their respective formats to include ’80s hits by bands such as Modern English, Simple Minds, the Cure, INXS, and U2 throughout the day.
“[KyXy] did a survey,” says a local radio insider. “They found that ’80s music is huge in San Diego.... Alternative is bigger in San Diego than anywhere else. Even L.A.”
Meanwhile, FM94/9 listeners may have noticed that station’s commitment to three songs in particular. A peek at the 94/9 website on November 25 showed that it played “Royals” by Lorde, “Hurricane” by Ms Mr, and “Demons” by Imagine Dragons every two hours.
“Somebody is panicking,” says a competing broadcaster about the 94/9 song rotation. “It says there is someone who is desperate to keep his job by showing his boss he is only playing the big hits, and he will play them into the ground.”
A DJ at a different station says, “If they are playing a song seven or eight times a day, they are probably getting favors from the record label.”
“Absolutely not,” says Jeremy Pritchard, music director at FM94/9. He says there is no consideration from record labels or promoters. He says he plays those songs so much because his research shows they are popular right now and that his playlist reflects what his listeners want.
“We are backed up by our own research. I have numbers to back me up.” Pritchard says his station relies on an outside company to send in test results about which songs work and he responds accordingly. “I send them the [song] hooks and they send me the numbers.”