For years, radio station KROQ-FM has proudly referred to itself as "the World Famous KROQ." Now the alternative rock giant's latest competitor is trying to steal some of its thunder by poking fun at the slogan and station.
Tune into Y-107--which can be found at 107.1 on the FM dial, just to the right of KROQ (106.7)--and you just might hear a between-song "sweeper" proclaiming the new alternative rock conduit as "not even famous in Lawndale" or "not even famous" in some other Southland community.
The 3-month-old Pasadena-based station is one of two nascent pop music stations in Southern California. About three weeks ago, Groove Radio (103.1 FM) unveiled an all-dance music format in the hopes of satiating what it sees as a growing affection for upbeat music.
The stations are taking different approaches as they try to carve out profitable niches in the lucrative but crowded L.A.-area radio market.
Y-107 has tried to make waves in an effort to draw attention from its mammoth competitor. It gave away tickets to KROQ's splashy "Weenie Roast" concert, an annual event held each June at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.
Y-107 program manager Steve Blatter says he believes that KROQ management is starting to feel the heat, even though his upstart station still has a long way to go to catch its rival in the ratings game. (KROQ management did not respond to interview requests for this story.)
"A few weeks ago, KROQ pretty much dropped 'the World Famous,' " Blatter says. "Now they're using the slogan 'Modern Rock.' 'Southern California's Modern Rock' has been our slogan since we started [last April]. It's probably an attempt to confuse listeners."
Unlike Y-107, Groove Radio has the advantage of having no direct competitors. You can find selected dance tracks on other stations, including KPWR-FM (105.9) and KIIS-FM (102.7), but no other radio outlet gives listeners a nonstop menu of dance music.
The Santa Monica station programs a wide variety of house, disco, R&B, jungle, trance and techno dance music styles. Featured artists include everyone from techno artist Moby and Latin house act El Presidente to Madonna and k.d. lang, whose dance remix of her ballad "Sexuality" is a Groove staple. Beginning this week, it will also present such weekend specialty shows as an hourlong reggae program on Sunday afternoons.
According to Groove Radio program director Egil Aalvik (a.k.a. Swedish Eagle), the station's uniqueness spares it the task of having to embark on any negative or high-profile ad campaigns.
"When you put something on the air that nobody else is doing, you don't have to worry about the marketing as much," says Aalvik, who also produces a weekly syndicated dance show called "Groove International." Easy-listening pop-rock station KBIG (104.3-FM) "constantly has to defend itself against [competitors] KIIS and KOST [103.5-FM] in their commercials. But we don't have to do that. Our marketing works like viral marketing. The cool people who like us start telling other people."
The sizzling success of the new, all-dance WKTU in New York City and a healthy L.A.-area dance club scene helped convince Groove Radio owner Ken Roberts to adopt this energetic format.
Roberts owned KROQ before selling the station in 1987 to its current owners, Infinity Broadcasting. He then financed MARS, a combination techno and alternative rock station that existed in L.A. between 1991-92. When MARS fizzled, Roberts switched the station's name and its musical orientation to jazz and then later to contemporary pop. Now it's been recast as Groove Radio.
Aalvik believes dance music has enormous cross-cultural appeal, which he says makes Groove Radio's format perfect for an ethnically diverse region like Southern California.
Still, Blatter wonders if the wide-ranging forms of dance music featured on Groove Radio will limit its success. "Usually when something is very eclectic, it doesn't have a great mainstream appeal," he says.
For Y-107 owner Odyssey Communications Inc., an alternative rock format represents the best way to corral a large radio audience in the L.A. area. The New York-based company reportedly paid $35 million last November to buy the station, formerly known as all-sports KMAX. According to Blatter, it then spent "into six figures" on marketing research to find the most viable format.
Y-107 faces additional competition from KLOS-FM (95.5), KSCA-FM (101.9) and KYSR-FM (98.7). All present some of the same rock acts featured on Y-107 and KROQ, as well as music that's not considered alternative. Blatter is most concerned with Y-107's battle with KROQ, the station it is most similar to in listenership and musical orientation.