SAN DIEGO — The law of the jungle seems to govern local radio as well: What the big guy wants, the big guy gets--even if what it wants appears to belong to the little guy.
The big guy is album-rock radio station KGB-FM (101.5), currently the top-rated station in San Diego County. The little guy is classic-rocker KGMG-FM (Magic 102) of North County.
What KGB wanted that KGMG had is the right to present the Aug. 4 reunion concert by Little Feat, one of the most respected American rock bands of the mid-'70s, at the Bacchanal nightclub in Kearny Mesa.
The first week in July, Bacchanal co-owner Jeff Gaulton assigned that right to Magic 102. The station immediately set about fulfilling its part of the bargain by airing at least three free plugs a day promoting the concert. The Bacchanal, in turn, agreed to mention Magic 102 in all print ads and further promised that one of the station's deejays could introduce the band on stage the night of the show.
Greg Stevens, Magic 102's program director, felt he had scored a real coup.
"We're locked out of a lot of big venues, like the Sports Arena, because we don't have the high ratings promoters look for in assigning 'presents' rights," Stevens said. "Every station in town wants to be associated with shows at the Sports Arena, and the bigger the station, the better its chances.
"That's why little club dates are especially important to us. The competition isn't nearly as fierce, so they're really the only opportunity we have to invite our listeners to a concert we're presenting, to an event that belongs exclusively to our station."
But last Monday, presenting rights for the Little Feat concert, were suddenly snatched away from Magic 102 and given to KGB after KGB's promotions director, Scott Chatfield, complained to Little Feat's record company, Warner Brothers Records.
"Jeff (Gaulton) of the Bacchanal told me that KGB had been asked to present the show at the same time we were but didn't respond," Stevens said. "He took that to mean KGB wasn't interested, so he let us do it."
Little Feat subsequently released a new album that immediately began racking up heavy airplay all over the country. And lo and behold, Stevens said, suddenly KGB was interested.
"When KGB found out we were doing the show, they called . . . Warner Brothers to complain," Stevens said. "And since KGB is so much bigger than we are, Warner Brothers called the Bacchanal and insisted they get the show.
"What really frustrates me is that we've always played plenty of Little Feat, while I haven't heard KGB play them in years. But now, the new record comes out, and all of a sudden KGB is a big Little Feat supporter."
Equally frustrating, Stevens added, is the fact that Magic 102 has given up hours of valuable air time to promote a concert that is now being presented by KGB.
"It bothers me that after we made a deal and lived up to our end by running dozens of free promo spots, they stick their noses into it and undo the whole thing," Stevens said. "Still, I'm not surprised, because this has happened several times before. Unfortunately, I'm getting used to the fact that whether they do it ahead of time or not, KGB always tries to muscle their way into whatever they want, even if it's something we've already got in progress."
KGB's Chatfield begs to differ.
"It seems our friends at the Bacchanal have some explaining to do," Chatfield said. "Initially, they led us to believe the Little Feat show would remain neutral, with no single station presenting it. So when I found out that wasn't the case, I called the club as well as the record company to express my dissatisfaction. I didn't rant and rave; I simply made two phone calls, and apparently the record company took over from there.
"Aside from that, the bottom line is that since Little Feat has just put out a new album, they're no longer a classic-rock band but a current band. And the best way to promote a current band is on a current radio station, like KGB."
The Bacchanal's Gaulton refused to comment, other than to say, "It's the record company's decision, and it's out of our hands."
But Bob Merlis, vice president of publicity for Warner Brothers Records, maintains the Bacchanal is as much at fault as anyone.