KJOI-FM(99.1), Southern California's original elevator-music station, has found a sure-fire way to rise to the top of the Arbitron ratings.
Wait. Just wait.
Sooner or later, KJOI general manager Bob Griffith reasoned, the competition would hop on the latest bandwagon in Los Angeles radio: the yuppie pop-music format.
The only other "easy listening" station in Los Angeles, KBIG-FM (104.3), had been moving that way for two years. Between the non-stop Boston Pops-type instrumentals, KBIG deejays would slip in a pleasant Beatles vocal or an old James Taylor hit like "Fire and Rain."
This week, instrumentals became KBIG history and KJOI had the only easy-listening game in town.
"It's an evolvement," explained Rob Edwards, KBIG vice president for programming. "We have been evolving toward this for a long time. We had moved right up to the line and it was time to step over the line."
KBIG is not the only Los Angeles station to switch music formats in search of the yuppie advertising dollar. A half-dozen stations have leaped on the bandwagon during the past year by bringing back vintage rock under a pantheon of tag lines:
--Formerly Top-40 KIQQ-FM (100.3) has been playing "light rock" since it became K-LITE 100 a year ago.
--KKHR-FM (92.3), another teen-oriented rocker, took a giant step backward two months ago, resuming its pre-1984 identity as mellow rock KNX-FM.
--Increasingly, KLOS-FM (95.5) and KMET-FM (94.7) have relied on oldies to supplement their longstanding contemporary rock formats.
--KRTH-FM (101.1), which played occasional current hits two years ago, now plays music from the '60s and '70s almost exclusively.
--Last month, KBZT-FM (97.1) became the latest format switch casualty. The longtime home of morning deejay Charlie Tuna is now KLSX--an odd acronym for "classic" as in "classic rock."
Tuna has been banished to the morning drivetime slot at KLSX's sister station on the AM band, KRLA-AM (1110). Ironically, he joined many of the deejays who first popularized the music now being played all over the FM band on the new yuppie stations. The Real Don Steele, Wolfman Jack and Art Laboe all broadcast from the original oldies-but-goodies station.
The rush to please the baby-boom generation is music to KJOI general manager Griffith's ears. In the most recent Arbitron listener ratings, his station was rated the fourth most-listened-to station in Los Angeles. KBIG was sixth.
Griffith expects to pick up disaffected KBIG listeners and add them to his audience. There are enough listeners--yuppie and non-yuppie alike--stressed out these days by the daily grind to now make instrumental, laid-back KJOI the most popular station in Southern California, he reasons.
"When I was 26, the word stress had nothing to do with anything. Now as I approach my 40s, stress is very, very important in my life," Griffith said. "We are easy listening. We're not any hybrid. We're not evolutionizing. We are easy listening and, I am delighted to say, we're the only easy-listening station in L.A. right now."
KBIG's Edwards has given up instrumental music, but not the term "easy." Though his station is no longer easy listening as it has been defined by the powerful (105,000 watts of power blanketing most of Southern California) FM outlet during the past 12 years, KBIG is still something it calls Easy Music.
"It's Petula Clark, Beatles, Carly Simon, Air Supply," Edwards said. "I'm 44 and that's the kind of music I want to hear. James Taylor, Billy Ocean, maybe Elvis a little bit."
Edwards cites KNX-FM and "Soft Hits" KOST-FM (103.5) as his station's new competition. Easy listening, he acknowledges, is a field now left solely to KJOI.
Questioned about the rush to cater to baby boomers, Edwards acknowledged that advertising revenue and listener ratings are the bottom line. Men and women in their 30s and 40s are the biggest earners and consumers in Southern California, and market studies seem to indicate their preference is the music of their youth.
In the long run, however, the listening audience is the loser when it comes to variety, according to Griffith. With stations flocking to the yuppie rock format, there are fewer specialized formats for the rest of the listening audience.
While he regrets the loss of yet another specialized station like KBIG from the viewpoint of a listener looking for a choice of channels, KJOI's Griffith is not grieving when it comes to the effect of that loss on his own station.
"Quite frankly, their rationale and reasoning is their problem," he said. "I'm more concerned with where we're going.
"Our contention is that there is a vast audience of sophisticated, conservative listeners out there. The key is to talk to adults as adults insteading of chasing after the war babies. We've been doing easy listening for 15 years without going for the fads."
Following the latest trend is deadly, he said. "Everything is brand new for about three hours in this mishmash of a town. When the dust all settles, we're going to still be doing what we're doing."