Alternative-rock upstart KLYY-FM (107.1), now more than a year into its Davidian attempt to take on the L.A. market reign of Goliath KROQ-FM (106.7), is getting ready to kick its campaign into drive--literally.
The station, which has spent much of its existence with no deejays to interrupt the music, now has finally filled out a complete on-air staff. Now, with ratings creeping up slowly but steadily, the next step for the outlet known as Y107 is to replace interim morning drive-time host Mel Tomei with a high-profile personality. It's the element that is generally seen these days as the essential anchor of any station's public image, a la KROQ's Kevin & Bean, Howard Stern at KLSX-FM (97.1) or the Mark & Brian team at KLOS-FM (95.5).
"L.A.'s very competitive in morning drive," says Steve Blatter, Y107's vice president of programming. "Whatever we do, we want to do it right. That's why we made it the last piece of the puzzle."
But the placing of that piece could mean that a more appropriate name for Y107 will be Catch-22. It's a move that could undermine the very element that may be the biggest reason for the station's growth so far.
"The biggest attraction for the station has been that it's a morning drive-time alternative," says Cindy Maxwell, rock editor for the Radio & Records weekly trade publication. "When the other stations are talking, they're playing music, and a certain segment of the audience only wants music."
That's been good enough, apparently, to justify Y107's existence, drawing an audience made up largely of people flipping over while KROQ is either on commercials, songs they don't like or filled with talk, and of those who may have outgrown KROQ's youth-skewed programming.
In the latest monthly Arbitrends survey, KLYY's market share rose by 10% to 1.1, meaning that nearly 19,000 people are tuning in at any average daytime quarter of an hour, about one-third of the KROQ crowd. And the station's "cume" figure--the count of people who tune it in at least once in any given week--has risen to nearly 600,000, which not only is adequate compared to 1 million for KROQ, but also ranks the station fourth nationally among alternative-rock formats.
And, Blatter adds, those numbers don't count the Ventura area where, transmitting as KVYY-FM, Y107 is the No. 1 rock station. Revenues as well as ratings, he says, are ahead of original projections.
But, Maxwell says, without a morning personality presence, Y107 may have grown as far as it possibly can, given the limitations of its signal (far weaker than KROQ and hard to get in many key parts of the region) and the unimpeachable success of its established rival.
"The music may be winning them loyal listeners," Maxwell says. "But to keep them, maybe they need something to drive home that loyalty. A morning team can do that--'That's my team, that's my radio station.' "
And Blatter believes that it's possible to have it both ways.
"Deejays can still have a lot of personality without having to talk too much," he says.
Identity Crisis: KLYY has recently worked on improving its signal, getting FCC clearance to transmit better in the key San Fernando Valley and Glendale-Burbank areas.
But a more important move needed for Y107 may be to establish an identity less based on the KROQ model. So far, the station has largely promoted itself by piggybacking on KROQ's success, with a slogan playing off its rival's "world-famous" tag, ticket give-aways for such KROQ events as the Almost Acoustic Christmas and Weenie Roast concerts and, lately, ads boasting about how much earlier it had played rising hits than KROQ had.
Blatter is mum about whether the station will be giving away tickets to this year's Weenie Roast (which will held June 14 at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre). KROQ limited its rival's access (and that of ticket resellers) to Acoustic Christmas tickets last December by putting them on sale just two days before the event.
KROQ, too, is playing its cards (and tickets) close to the vest. Station representatives won't comment about their plans regarding Weenie Roast ticket sales, hoping to keep those who want to redistribute them guessing.
Button-Pushing: Pop station KIIS-FM (102.7) and R&B outlet KKBT-FM (92.3) both have the same No. 1 song this week in Blackstreet's "Don't Leave Me."
Here are playlist toppers at some other key local stations: Hip-hop--KPWR-FM (105.9), SWV's "Can We." Alternative rock--KROQ-FM (106.7), Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "The Impression That I Get."