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A Century of Radio Stories

Radio Programming Research

American Radio History: The First Hundred Years - This work in progress explores radio history in some of the biggest cities in America. The report covers the early pioneers of radio in the 1920s through the pop and freeform stations in the sixties to the migration to FM in the seventies and eighties. Since I grew up listening to radio in Sacramento, I did the most research on my hometown and nearby San Francisco. I learned about other markets from studying trade magazines, ratings and visiting several cities, meeting programmers at radio conventions.

History of Freeform Radio - Freeform radio marked an era of free expression on the airwaves mixed with underground rock music and a variety of other genres. These stations began appearing in the mid-sixties and lasted mainly through the late seventies to mid-eighties before being structured into more PD or consultant-driven than jock-driven programming. Freeform meant alternative to the mainstream. It was a time when DJs were allowed to play whatever they wanted. The format is still heard today on a handful of unique stations, but mainly on the left side of the dial (public and college stations).

The Rise of Alternative Radio - KWOD will be remembered as the independent station that beat its corporate competition without a big budget, but it was more than that. During a few quarters it was one of the highest rated Alternative stations in the country. This is the story of how I programmed this outside the box station in Sacramento during the 1990s. The story also covers what was happening at other Alternative stations around America, in the format's most successful years. Unlike the 2020s, back then ALT artists flooded the album charts and the most successful stations in the format played album tracks by those ground-breaking acts. It's about the quest to find great music in an era that welcomed musical innovation and songs with more lyrical depth than typical pop. Consolidation wiped these stations out and drove the format nearly into obscurity with too many tired "top 40 tricks."

San Francisco Bay Area Radio History - I worked in San Francisco radio on air at KNGY/Energy 92.7 for 2004-2006 and took an interest in the radio history of the market. I was amazed to learn that the first time a human voice replaced Morse Code on radio was at a Bay Area station in 1909 (now claimed by KCBS, but on a different frequency and based in San Jose). The Bay went on to have many legendary stations such as KFRC and KSAN in the sixties and seventies. KGO became the unstoppable talk leader in the late seventies through the 2000s. It's a fun journey through decades of Bay Area memories.

A Brief History of WHFS - I wrote for a radio industry trade magazine called VirtuallyAlternative 1997-2001. One of my projects was writing nearly the entire December 2000 issue, which was a tribute to WHFS in Washington DC. The station was freeform in the late sixties and through time evolved with album rock then alternative rock. I interviewed about 20 people who worked for WHFS through various eras. It was a great experience talking with pioneers who touched many lives in the nation's capital.

Alex Cosper, Founder/Publisher, Playlist Research
New Music Industry Podcast

New podcast featuring music and radio leaders
interviewed by Alex Cosper. The shows originate from San Diego. Some guests are live in-studio while others phone in, discussing careers and insights in music and the platforms that deliver it.



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