Southern California rock radio lost its "Edge" earlier this month. It happened when the management of freewheeling station KEDG-FM abruptly decided to sack program directoJ. Jackson and his talented staff, to change the call letters to K-LITE and to devote the programming to such dentist's office favorites as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.
OK, before the Streisand and Manilow fans storm over here with torches aflame, I'll admit that sure, they deserve a place on the radio dial just like any other musicians. But that's just the point--there are already numerous stations with Adult Contemporary or soft-rock formats that play their records.
The Edge, on the other hand, was the \o7 only \f7 commercial station where listeners with eclectic tastes could tune in and catch records by John Hiatt, the Waterboys, Elvis Costello, Easterhouse, the Call, the Replacements, Melissa Etheridge, Graham Parker, Michelle Shocked and on and on. The Edge even played Orange County favorites, like the James Harman Band and the Swamp Zombies, who otherwise couldn't get commercial radio play in their own back yard.
There is still some hope that the Edge may not be dead, just in hibernation: Jackson has said he is pursuing ways to revive the Edge, and that he has received some "very serious" offers from other stations.
Hey, J.J.: How about resurrecting the Edge at KEZY-FM (95.9) in Anaheim?
Ever since the innovative Rick Carroll left as its program director in the late '70s, there has been little reason to search out KEZY, currently Orange County's only commercial rock station. Its format is an undistinctive hybrid of Top 40 a la KIIS-FM and ersatz-Power 106 dance-pop.
I've long been of the mind that it's futile for a small Orange County station to compete for listeners against Los Angeles' radio giants and their massive promotional budgets. If you want to develop an audience, why not try programming that's \o7 different \f7 from everyone else's?
Furthermore, you could draw on the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local aspiring musicians (and their respective followings) with a local-music show that certainly would be talked up in clubs, records stores and the local media.
The Edge's strength stemmed from a lineup of top-notch veteran deejays--including Cynthia Fox, John Logic, Raechel Donahue, Mark Goodman, Randy Thomas, Jim Ladd and Jackson--who were encouraged to play the records they liked, rather than those indicated by a demographic survey to produce the greatest listener response.
That roll-with-it attitude was what once made rock radio so great, not the rehash of '70s moldies that KLSX-FM promotes with so much self-congratulation.
In the 2 weeks since the Edge disintegrated into K-LITE, the fierce loyalty of its audience has emerged demonstrably. When word came out that the Edge would soon be blunted, phone calls, letters, even flowers poured into the station. Dozens wrote letters of protest to The Times. Faithful radio listeners are a rare and precious commodity in a world filled with fickle button pushers.
According to one rock music consultant who works with numerous record companies in Los Angeles, the Edge, which never in its brief life reached the Top 10 in ratings, was responsible for turning more listeners into record buyers than KLOS-FM, the No. 1-ranked station in the 18 to 34 age bracket. KEDG ranked just behind KIIS and KPWR-FM (a.k.a. Power 106) in terms of motivating listeners to buy records, even though both had dramatically higher Arbitron radio survey ratings.
What does that mean? That people who feel a station is giving them something unique are more likely to respect, and patronize, the businesses that support such a station.
Unfortunately, station managers often look strictly at rating numbers, and the Edge's management saw only the 0.9 rating in the latest Arbitron survey, contrasted with KPWR's overall market-leading 6.4 and KIIS's 6.2. Never mind that KEDG was working with a promotional budget the size of Mother Teresa's.
Which brings us back to my suggestion about KEZY-FM, where I'd wager that station officials would flip at the prospect of a 0.9 in the Los Angeles-area ratings.
Grabbing the Edge staff and transforming KEZY into a genuine entity would make the station hero to thousands of disenfranchised listeners and the beneficiary of a ton of positive publicity that surely would be accorded the savior of the Edge.
Maybe there are sound, financial reasons why KEZY couldn't afford Jackson and the Edge staff. Still, why not take note of the waves the Edge generated and simply duplicate the format right here, with a different cast of characters?
All this may just be wishful thinking on my part--KEZY station manager Jeff Salgo says the station's current format is generating enough money to keep the ownership happy, and so they have no interest in making major changes.
Still, I'd like to think that somewhere in the world of commercial radio there is room for intelligent deejays to trust their ears, and for a wide range of mainstream and alternative music by domestic, international and local performers.
And maybe one station that, instead of being so caught up in going after the \o7 biggest \f7 audience in town, would be content to have the \o7 best\f7 .