(Second Week in a Series)
This set of interview segments with radio consultant/management pro Robert Endsley was recorded a week after the first interview on 11/16/19. In the first interview Endsley talked about his overall radio career, how he rose from sales and promotions to upper management. In this series of segments he reflects on good times at KWOD, in contrast to the big mistakes made by big biz across the dial.
The loss of KWOD to the indie community marked a continued sign of the times when it happened in 2003. In this period several independent radio stations were purchased by big companies that grew from mergers following the Telecom Act of 1996. The result was a handful of giant radio groups controlling nearly half the radio industry across America. In many ways this bipartisan bill signed by President Clinton - that drew no public debate - nationalized an industry that performed much more efficiently when it was more regional.
The controversy continues as to exactly how KWOD owner Ed Stolz lost the station treasured by Sacramento alternative music fans. Did he sign a letter of intent in February 1996 to sell the station to Entercom, which owned Live 105 in San Francisco? That was the month Clinton signed the Telecom Act. Even if that's just a coincidence, it's still an interesting fact for those exploring the history of how radio went super corporate. Big biz was snatching up indie stations left and right during that era. Endsley explains that Stolz thought he was going to trade KWOD for Live 105. Entercom paid $25 million for the station.
What's interesting about alternative radio in the 90s is that it was surging in popularity until peaking in 1995, the year after Kurt Cobain died. Was he the John Lennon of Gen X as many media commentators have suggested? Many music historians will point to the late seventies or early eighties as the beginning of "modern rock." But at that time there were only about a dozen stations that devoted their formats completely to that sound.
It wasn't until after KWOD shifted from top 40 to a modern rock hybrid station in 1991 that other top 40 stations began flipping to alternative as well. The west coast became the focal point of the radio and music industries because alternative radio was breaking acts in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Sacramento and San Jose. In 1993 KWOD officially went full time "New Rock" (which was renamed "Alternative" the following year at Radio & Records) and became one of the highest rated alternative stations in America in the next few years.
At one point the station had a cume (cumulative weekly listeners) of over 200,000. Its image as a top 40 station in the 80s had long faded, as it was overshadowed by the 1990s version of KWOD during the height of the "grunge" era. During that time KWOD was very diverse, mixing in a wide variety of styles with guitar music as a base. The music mix included electronic and reggae. This conversation between the two people who led the station to its winning ratings provides answers to several mysteries surrounding the question: whatever happened to mom and pop radio stations in major markets?
Robert Endsley Explains the KWOD Story Part 1: How Big Biz Took Indie Station KWOD
Robert Endsley Explains the KWOD Story Part 2: More Details on How Entercom Took KWOD
Robert Endsley Explains the KWOD Story Part 3: Crosstown Entercom's KDND Water Drinking Disaster
Robert Endsley Explains the KWOD Story Part 4: What Made the Station Special
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