In the corporate crosshairs, a standout station struggles to stay alive.

Buzz Off? 

In the corporate crosshairs, a standout station struggles to stay alive.

Page 3 of 5

Lazlo's nemesis, Kaplan, isn't paying much attention to his on-air auditions or to Afentra's mutinous commentary. He's in an unenviable position, branded "one of them" by the DJs yet not privy to information about his own job security. In person, Kaplan weirdly embodies the middle ground between the corporate and alt-rock worlds. He looks like a hard-living power-trio frontman along the lines of Art Alexakis, but he frequently and comfortably speaks of the "global mass market," the "upper demo," the importance of being "consumer- and product-savvy" and selling a "viable product."

"The Buzz has the lowest ratings out of its cluster, which could foretell doom," Kaplan says. "But we're a station in transition. We recently moved over to the alternative format [96.5 previously played adult-contemporary material], and we've assembled an air staff and musical image to represent that. According to Arbitron, the listeners' habits haven't caught up yet, but that's quite natural, especially for a format such as this.

"If you look nationwide, there aren't many alternative formats that are number one in the ratings," Kaplan continues. "It's a passionate niche, but it takes time to develop that community."

This past February, the Buzz saw some of the older members of that community migrate to KLPZ 97.3, which adopted the Buzz's discarded Matchbox Twenty tunes.

"They had a huge marketing campaign, and people checked them out," Kaplan admits. "But now they're coming back once they see that product isn't as acceptable as this one."

A few hours later, Kaplan encounters a more pressing problem. The station's Homegrown Buzz concert, which has been advertised for months, must find a new home after the Beaumont Club's last-minute admission that it failed to acquire an all-ages permit. Kaplan phones El Torreon manager Brian Saunders, who is at his venue's parking lot, watching as a semi truck owned by the death-metal act Darkest Hour rolls in and the band's freakishly pigment-impaired members unload their equipment quickly to minimize exposure to the sun. Saunders informs Kaplan that he already has a show booked for the evening. So Kaplan tries the Madrid, which agrees to host an alcohol-free event. This might hurt attendance, but there's no time to be picky -- the show is scheduled to start soon.

Amazingly, the concert becomes an overwhelming success. The line in front of the Madrid snakes around the intersection of 38th and Main streets and continues a half-block up the sidewalk. There are a few tykes here and there, but mostly this is an adult crowd: men's men with beer bellies and backward caps are discussing the finer hollow points of guns and ammunition, belly-baring Westport babes are already planning an after-show bar crawl, weathered hippies are talking about a Phish-following road trip. The fact that this many people are paying $5 each to see an all-local bill with no available alcohol might be the strongest argument yet for the Buzz's influence.

Tuesday, June 24


Hours before the gates open for the Vans Warped Tour at Verizon Amphitheater, Danny Boi, Brand New and the Cooz are setting up a tent in the parking lot, next to the event's entrance. To look on the bright side of a possible death sentence, the condemnation could not have come at a better time. The Homegrown Buzz concert will serve as Exhibit A; station staffers were on hand taking pictures of the massive turnout. Now, here's an event that will draw thousands of fans, all within 96.5's target audience. By planting a "Save the Buzz" petition in front of a captive crowd waiting to see Vendetta Red, Anything But Joey, the Used and Rancid -- a Buzz playlist come to life -- the station stands to push its signatures well into quadruple digits.

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