A Closer Look at Bay Area Radio Stations

Back in the mid-2000s, a local DJ floated a semiserious slogan for his radio station:  BAY AREA RADIO SUCKS—WE SUCK LESS.  Well, the second part is debatable, but let’s expand on the first part:  U.S. RADIO SUCKS IN GENERAL.  There was a time when you could tune in to one or two radio stations and get a full and balanced musical meal.  Due to fragmented formats and regimented playlists, you’d have to be extremely vigilant to satisfy your musical appetite today—or perhaps you’ve given up like most people over 35.

The gloves are off; we’re here to review San Francisco Bay Area radio stations as we would the movies.  Click on Radio Formats if you need a primer on formats.  Click on Radio Guide for more details on each station.  We must all remember to listen without prejudice…and keep it turned on.

The Internet has rendered reception a non-issue for terrestrial radio stations—provided they offer free streaming audio and everyone has access to affordable broadband service.  With that in mind, we also highlight some outside stations that complement Bay Area radio.

Of all the companies that have started multicasting in the Bay Area, Clear Channel Communications seems to be the only one promoting its HD channels via streaming audio on the Internet (clearchannelmusic.com/hdradio/).  Click on HD Radio for more information on digital HD radio.

The biggest change in Bay Area radio reflects the same national trend:  a resurgence of mainstream top 40.  Rhythmic top 40, modern rock, mainstream rock, country, and smooth jazz are all formats that have lost stations in this market.

Spin Control

A few words about airplay frequency before we look at individual formats.  Top 40 radio—from mainstream to dance to adult—tends to repeat current hits more often than other formats.  While listeners complain that some radio stations play the biggest hits ad nauseam, most people wouldn’t mind hearing their favorite songs at least a couple times a day.  The sweet spot for each person lies somewhere between the most repetitive top 40 stations and something more sporadic like triple-A rock.

 

Average No. of Spins for a Top 5 Song (Sample Week in May 2013)
Station* Format Spins/Week Spins/Day
KYLD Rhythmic top 40 126 18
KREV Mainstream top 40 126 18
KHTH Mainstream top 40 122 17
KMVQ Mainstream top 40 109 16
KSXY Mainstream top 40 89 13
KMEL R&B/hip-hop 85 12
Radio Disney network Teen pop 72 10
KEZR Adult top 40 70 10
KIOI Adult top 40 66 9
KVVF Rhythmic top 40 as of March 2014 - -
KLLC Adult top 40 63 9
KMHX Adult top 40 60 9
KRZZ Regional Mexican 53 8
KITS Modern rock 51 7
KOHL** Mainstream top 40 49 7
KRTY Country 47 7
KSOL Regional Mexican 46 7
KFGY Country 46 7
K-LOVE network Christian AC 41 6
KXTS Regional Mexican 37 5
KFOG Triple-A rock 36 5
KBAY Adult contemporary 33 5
KRSH Americana 23 3
KBLX Adult R&B 22 3
KZST Adult contemporary 22 3
KCSM Jazz ? ?
KDYA Gospel 30s-40s (?) ?
KJZY Contemporary jazz 10s (?) ?
KKDV Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
KKIQ Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
KSFH Modern rock 40s-50s (?) ?
KSRT Regional Mexican 30s-40s (?) ?
KTRY Country 40s (?) ?
KUIC Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
KVHS Modern rock 40s-50s (?) ?
KVYN Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
Air 1 network Christian top 40 40s-60s (?) ?

 

Source:  Mediabase

* Excluding oldies and gold-leaning stations (KBRG, KISQ, KJOR, KNOB, KOIT, KOSF, KSAN, KUFX, KVRV) and variety stations.

** Estimate from station Web site.

In the past, the most repetitive mainstream/rhythmic top 40 radio stations would play the biggest hits up to 70 times a week.  Starting in 2008, some of these stations around the country redefined the meaning of heavy rotation by increasing the number of maximum spins to 120.  A year later, three Bay Area stations started playing their top songs over 100 times a week.  Soon even R&B/hip-hop and adult top 40 stations joined the spin race.  It’s strange that radio’s answer to the repetition complaint is to be more repetitive.

For terrestrial radio, a weekly total of fewer than 40 spins for a popular track usually means the station is playing a lot of oldies or recurrents.  In the case of satellite radio, a low spin total could also mean the station has a long current playlist (40-plus songs).  The size of the playlist is another key differentiator.  Gone are the days when pop radio would play about 40 current hits every week (hence the name of the format).  Many of today’s contemporary hit radio stations only maintain 20 to 30 currents and fill the rest of the time with recurrents (why introduce something unproven when they can play it safe and give a familiar hit another spin?).

It’s no wonder people hungry for new music must look to alternative sources such as satellite radio, the Internet, cable TV, and local clubs.  And they’d have to be avid readers as well.  After all, magazines and newspapers review many records that receive very little airplay on terrestrial radio—not to mention the hundreds of releases every year that mainstream journals don’t write about.

Aside from short playlists, another thing radio stations have in common is low turnover.  In the past, a hit single would remain in heavy or medium rotation for three to four months.  Today’s radio programmers refuse to retire the most popular tracks, keeping them around for at least half a year (click on Format Heath at Radio Formats for more details).

 

A Closer Look at Bay Area Radio Stations

Back in the mid-2000s, a local DJ floated a semiserious slogan for his radio station:  BAY AREA RADIO SUCKS—WE SUCK LESS.  Well, the second part is debatable, but let’s expand on the first part:  U.S. RADIO SUCKS IN GENERAL.  There was a time when you could tune in to one or two radio stations and get a full and balanced musical meal.  Due to fragmented formats and regimented playlists, you’d have to be extremely vigilant to satisfy your musical appetite today—or perhaps you’ve given up like most people over 35.

The gloves are off; we’re here to review San Francisco Bay Area radio stations as we would the movies.  Click on Radio Formats if you need a primer on formats.  Click on Radio Guide for more details on each station.  We must all remember to listen without prejudice…and keep it turned on.

The Internet has rendered reception a non-issue for terrestrial radio stations—provided they offer free streaming audio and everyone has access to affordable broadband service.  With that in mind, we also highlight some outside stations that complement Bay Area radio.

Of all the companies that have started multicasting in the Bay Area, Clear Channel Communications seems to be the only one promoting its HD channels via streaming audio on the Internet (clearchannelmusic.com/hdradio/).  Click on HD Radio for more information on digital HD radio.

The biggest change in Bay Area radio reflects the same national trend:  a resurgence of mainstream top 40.  Rhythmic top 40, modern rock, mainstream rock, country, and smooth jazz are all formats that have lost stations in this market.

Spin Control

A few words about airplay frequency before we look at individual formats.  Top 40 radio—from mainstream to dance to adult—tends to repeat current hits more often than other formats.  While listeners complain that some radio stations play the biggest hits ad nauseam, most people wouldn’t mind hearing their favorite songs at least a couple times a day.  The sweet spot for each person lies somewhere between the most repetitive top 40 stations and something more sporadic like triple-A rock.

 

Average No. of Spins for a Top 5 Song (Sample Week in May 2013)
Station* Format Spins/Week Spins/Day
KYLD Rhythmic top 40 126 18
KREV Mainstream top 40 126 18
KHTH Mainstream top 40 122 17
KMVQ Mainstream top 40 109 16
KSXY Mainstream top 40 89 13
KMEL R&B/hip-hop 85 12
Radio Disney network Teen pop 72 10
KEZR Adult top 40 70 10
KIOI Adult top 40 66 9
KVVF Rhythmic top 40 as of March 2014 - -
KLLC Adult top 40 63 9
KMHX Adult top 40 60 9
KRZZ Regional Mexican 53 8
KITS Modern rock 51 7
KOHL** Mainstream top 40 49 7
KRTY Country 47 7
KSOL Regional Mexican 46 7
KFGY Country 46 7
K-LOVE network Christian AC 41 6
KXTS Regional Mexican 37 5
KFOG Triple-A rock 36 5
KBAY Adult contemporary 33 5
KRSH Americana 23 3
KBLX Adult R&B 22 3
KZST Adult contemporary 22 3
KCSM Jazz ? ?
KDYA Gospel 30s-40s (?) ?
KJZY Contemporary jazz 10s (?) ?
KKDV Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
KKIQ Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
KSFH Modern rock 40s-50s (?) ?
KSRT Regional Mexican 30s-40s (?) ?
KTRY Country 40s (?) ?
KUIC Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
KVHS Modern rock 40s-50s (?) ?
KVYN Adult contemporary 20s-30s (?) ?
Air 1 network Christian top 40 40s-60s (?) ?

 

Source:  Mediabase

* Excluding oldies and gold-leaning stations (KBRG, KISQ, KJOR, KNOB, KOIT, KOSF, KSAN, KUFX, KVRV) and variety stations.

** Estimate from station Web site.

In the past, the most repetitive mainstream/rhythmic top 40 radio stations would play the biggest hits up to 70 times a week.  Starting in 2008, some of these stations around the country redefined the meaning of heavy rotation by increasing the number of maximum spins to 120.  A year later, three Bay Area stations started playing their top songs over 100 times a week.  Soon even R&B/hip-hop and adult top 40 stations joined the spin race.  It’s strange that radio’s answer to the repetition complaint is to be more repetitive.

For terrestrial radio, a weekly total of fewer than 40 spins for a popular track usually means the station is playing a lot of oldies or recurrents.  In the case of satellite radio, a low spin total could also mean the station has a long current playlist (40-plus songs).  The size of the playlist is another key differentiator.  Gone are the days when pop radio would play about 40 current hits every week (hence the name of the format).  Many of today’s contemporary hit radio stations only maintain 20 to 30 currents and fill the rest of the time with recurrents (why introduce something unproven when they can play it safe and give a familiar hit another spin?).

It’s no wonder people hungry for new music must look to alternative sources such as satellite radio, the Internet, cable TV, and local clubs.  And they’d have to be avid readers as well.  After all, magazines and newspapers review many records that receive very little airplay on terrestrial radio—not to mention the hundreds of releases every year that mainstream journals don’t write about.

Aside from short playlists, another thing radio stations have in common is low turnover.  In the past, a hit single would remain in heavy or medium rotation for three to four months.  Today’s radio programmers refuse to retire the most popular tracks, keeping them around for at least half a year (click on Format Heath at Radio Formats for more details).

 

Top 40

 

Top 40 (Mainstream/Rhythmic/Adult/Dance/Teen)

Mainstream Top 40

Stations:  99.7 KMVQ, 92.7 KREV, 100.9 KSXY, 101.7 KHTH, 89.3 KOHL

Digital Channels:  97.7 KFFG-HD2

Radio stations, like movie theaters, are at the mercy of the creative side of the industry.  They are stuck with whatever music the recording industry has to offer.  While it’s true that program directors could think outside the box and still cobble together an interesting playlist, very few of them bother.  So when KREV debuted with a top 40 format in 2009, it seemed like a questionable call at first.  Mainstream top 40 had been in the doldrums for years, not to mention the fact that this format had not fared well in the Bay Area since the early 1980s (former R&B stalwart KSOL [107.7] routinely clobbered any top 40 competition).

As it turned out, top 40 started to get its groove back—figuratively and literally—around 2009.  A noticeable dance beat has returned to this format.  Let’s start with the dance-pop sounds of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Taio Cruz.  Throw in LMFAO’s and Pitbull’s party music.  Even such R&B/hip-hop artists as The Black Eyed Peas, Flo Rida, Chris Brown, and Usher collaborated with dance/electronic producers.  And EDM artists themselves scored crossover hits, including David Guetta, Afrojack, and Calvin Harris.

The defining moment during the latest top 40 turnaround was perhaps the release of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”  Yes, the 2010 album (and its extended edition) would go on to spawn eight top three singles, including six No. 1 hits.  But more important, it’s the kind of quintessential pop album that was more prevalent in the 1970s and ’80s.  Bruno Mars carries on what top 40 does better than other genres—synthesizing different styles into a pop package.

What about top 40 core artists like Pink and Kelly Clarkson?  For the most part, the faux-rock musical arrangement of their records just doesn’t quite hit the spot.  We’re glad pop music no longer has to rely on Pink, Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, and The Pussycat Dolls as standard-bearers.

Just when you thought top 40 was overplaying its dance card, the format has welcomed a steady stream of alternative acts:  Foster the People, Fun, Gotye, just to name a few.  As is the case with dance music, top 40 radio has always played some alternative artists occasionally.  The difference is this time multiple tracks representing these genres are played concurrently in heavy rotation.  Multi-format sensations Adele and Taylor Swift have also found a home here.  A vibrant variety of styles and tempos—this is what top 40 is supposed to be.

The Bay Area’s top 40 pool went from one lonely college station in the mid-2000s to five stations 10 years later, the highest total in years.  Among the four commercial top 40 outlets, KMVQ and KHTH have the shortest playlists.  KMVQ’s rhythmic roots may explain why it favors more R&B/hip-hop than alternative acts.  These differences don’t matter much in terms of ratings because KMVQ is the only one with a strong enough signal to reach the entire Bay Area.

Rhythmic Top 40

94.9 KYLD

94.9 KYLD-HD2

As top 40 became more segregated—er, fragmented—in the 1980s, it splintered into mainstream and rhythmic.  KYLD used to give former rival KMEL a run for its money.  Now that they’re sister stations (part of Clear Channel Communications’ portfolio), competition is out.  Hip-hop rules both stations these days.  Perhaps hedging its bets a little as rap music sales decline, KYLD also mixes in some pop (Natasha Bedingfield and Elliott Yamin), pop/rock (Maroon5), and dance (Bob Sinclar).

Adult Top 40

101.3 KIOI, 97.3 KLLC, 106.5 KEZR, 104.9 KMHX

Adult top 40 evolved from adult contemporary during the 1990s; its sound is somewhere between mainstream top 40 and adult contemporary.  KIOI shows its easy listening/adult contemporary roots by continuing to play songs like Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” something most adult top 40 radio stations wouldn’t program.  Between the two sister stations, KEZR represents the more typical adult top 40 outlet than KLLC.  When KLLC first went on the air, it used to play alternative tracks like Mickey Hart’s “Where Love Goes (Sito);” it’s still the least conventional of the adult top 40 stations (for instance, it used to broadcast a syndicated dance mix show every week).

Dance

99.7 KMVQ-HD2, 101.3 KIOI-HD2, 97.3 KLLC-HD2 (adult dance)

The Bay Area may be missing a full-time dance station after the demise of KNGY (92.7) in September 2009.  But thanks to college station KSJS’s 50-plus hours of electronic programming, you can get your EDM fix on the local dial.  Why should anyone care if there’s a dance radio station?  Well, dance is one of the few niche formats left on commercial radio.  All the major formats—mainstream top 40, R&B, country, rock, and AC—are totally homogenized.  Below is a list of dance/electronic mix shows around the dial. 

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.7 KFJC Stairs and Flowers Thu 7-10 pm Yes
89.9 KCRH Bayraves Show Wed 9 pm-midnight No
90.1 KZSU Big Love Mon 3-6 pm Yes
Dancing in Outerspace (2004?) Thu midnight-3 am Yes
An Epiphany of Sound (1993) Thu 9-11 am Yes
Bump and Hustle Music Fri 1-3 pm Yes
90.5 KSJS Jaythoven’s Excellent Overture! Mon 2-5 pm See facebook.com/ksjselectronic
Friend or Foe Show Mon 10 pm-2 am
Lightning Lounge Tue 2-6 am
The Quest Thu 2-6 pm
Electronically Energized Wed 6-10 am
Off the Leash Wed 10 am-2 pm
Club Curls Wed 10 pm-2 am
Meow Mix Thu 10 am-2 pm
Genetically Impossible Thu 6-10 pm
The Shamrock Beat Fri 2-6 am
Russian Roulette Fri 10 pm-2 am
Insomniac Nation Sat 2-6 am
Allergic to the Wyde Sat 6-10 pm
Disco Katz Sat 10 pm-2 am
No Show Sun 10 pm-2 am
90.5 KWMR Burma Shave Mon 10:30 pm-midnight No
Insomniac Dance Theater Thu 10 pm-midnight No
90.7 KALX Shortwave Mon midnight-1 am No
Disco Shawn Mon 3-5:30 pm No
91.1 KRCB Open Space District Sun 10-11 pm Yes
91.5 KSUN Amazing Future Vision Mon 2-4 pm No
Surrender to the Flow Fri 10 am-noon No
Jasmeet Singh Fri 2-4 pm No
92.7 KREV - - No
94.1 KPFA Off the Beaten Path (1995) Mon 10 pm-midnight See dubmissionsf.com
94.9 KYLD Wild Workout Mon-Fri noon-1 pm Sporadic
Traffic Jam Mon-Fri 5-6 pm Sporadic
House Nation (1996) Sat 1-4 am Partial/Sporadic
97.3 KLLC Chill With Alice Sun 7-10 am Yes
100.7 KSFS Needle Damage Mon 2-4 pm No
RadioTronika Mon 6-7 pm No
103.3 KSCU The Mach Five Fri 9-11 am Yes
Elektrocinetik Fri 11 am-1 pm No
Dekadance (1984) Fri 9 pm-1 am See deka-music.com
The Electrossential Mix Show Sat 1-5 am See electrossential.com
Fat Circles Sat 7-9 pm See fatcircles.com
Proper Social Etiquette Sun 11 am-1 pm See soundinwater.blogspot.com
105.7 KVVF Vivamix (Lunchtime Mix) Mon-Sat noon-12:30 pm No
La Hora Trafico (Traffic Mix) Mon-Fri 5-5:30 pm No

 

Dance radio stations come and go; one exception is KNHC Seattle (c895fm.com).  For more information, see our Dance Radio Post.

Teen Pop

1310 KMKY

Leave it to The Walt Disney Co. to do the radio time warp.  In the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, teenagers were top 40 stations’ core listeners.  As baby-boomers become parents and, yes, grandparents, pop radio no longer caters to just the teen market.  Except for the Radio Disney network.  If you’re a parent, you don’t have to worry about R-rated songs, racy commercials, and double entendre (your kid won’t ask you about those ubiquitous what’s-in-my-pants riddles on other radio stations).

Disney plays all the young artists who got their start on television:  Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney, Aly & AJ, Raven-Symone, Miley Cyrus, Cheetah Girls, and Jonas Brothers.  Its playlist also includes such mainstream top 40 artists as Usher, Bow Wow, Avril Lavigne, JoJo, and Chris Brown.  And since 2006, KMKY is the place where you hear all the songs from the phenomenal “High School Musical” franchise.  Novelty acts and “American Idol” alumni are also a natural fit for Disney.  The up-with-people vibe is punctuated by a daily dose of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good).”

 

R&B/Hip-Hop

 

R&B/Hip-Hop/Adult R&B

R&B/Hip-Hop

106.1 KMEL

106.1 KMEL-HD2

Just as mainstream rock and modern rock are now format twins, R&B/hip-hop and rhythmic top 40 are nearly identical.  Neither set of twins started out with a similar sound.  Indeed, modern rock was a reaction against mainstream rock.  And once hip-hop took over both rhythmic top 40 and R&B in the 1990s, it was inevitable these formats would end up sharing so many artists.  Chalk it up to the power of homogenization.  While KMEL and KYLD both serve up the latest in hip-hop, rhythmic veteran KMEL plays more R&B artists like Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott.

Here are some hip-hop programs on other radio stations.  Note that we have “the world’s longest-running hip-hop show” in our own backyard (“The Drum” hosted by Kevvy Kev).

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.5 KPOO Way Out Late Night Thu 11 pm-3 am No
Mr. C’s Showcase Fri 6-10 pm No
Ghetto Gumbo Fri 10 pm-2 am No
Hugh E MC Sat 7-10 pm No
Mal Amazing Experience Sun noon-2 pm No
Bombay Mix Sun 4-7 pm No
89.9 KCRH Hip-Hop Backstage Fri 6-9 pm No
90.1 KZSU Urban Innercity Experience Fri 9 pm-midnight Yes
Farthest Radio (2004?) Sat 4-6 am No
The Drum (1984) Sun 6-9 pm Yes
The Perennial Philosophy Sun 9-10:30 pm Yes
Sub Daze Hip Hop Show Sun 10:30-midnight Yes
90.5 KSJS Ryan Mon 6-10 am Partial
Roy Mon 10 am-2 pm Partial
Madd Thoughts Tue 10 pm-2 am Partial
DJ Variable Wed 2-6 am Partial
Lawrence Wed 2-6 pm Partial
Diebigben Thu 2-6 am Partial
Big Bang Theory Thu 6-10 pm Partial
Deeveus Sat 10 pm-2 am Partial
Christina Sun 2-6 am Partial
B-Know Sun 10 am-2 pm Partial
DJ Nate Sun 2-5 pm Partial
Kevin the Trainee Sun 10 pm-2 am Partial
91.3 KDZN DZ NuttS (1997) Mon-Sat 9 pm-midnight See dznuttsradio.com
91.5 KSUN Juancho Mitchell Wed 8-10 am No
Matt Harris Wed 10 am-noon No
The Three Kings Sat 4-6 pm No
94.1 KPFA The Friday Night Vibe (198x?) Sat midnight-2 am See daveyd.com
100.7 KSFS DrewTopia Mon 9-11 am No
Auditory Cooze Mon 7-9 pm No
Carl & Frank Tue 7-9 pm No
Shane Hurman Thu 9-10 am No
The Other Side Thu 7-9 pm No
103.3 KSCU The Beatbox (2004?) Wed midnight-3 am No
Soul Abstractions Thu 9 pm-midnight Yes

 

Adult R&B

102.9 KBLX

The pioneer of the “soft and warm” format is still going strong after almost 30 years.  KBLX may not play as many jazz instrumentals as it did during its early years, but “The Quiet Storm” continues to thrive while trendy formats come and go.

 

Country

 

Country

Country

95.7 KBWF, 95.3 KRTY, 92.9 KFGY

99.7 KMVQ-HD2

The Bay Area is not country music country.  However, this market is eclectic enough to support at least one country radio station since the 1960s.  KRTY is the only locally owned country station.  For a taste of bluegrass and alternative country, listen to the following shows, including what is possibly the Bay Area’s longest-running music program (Stompin’ Steve Hathaway’s “Cupertino Barndance”).  Kudos to KFJC for preserving playlist archives going back to 1995!

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.7 KFJC Out Behind the Barn (1994?) Tue 10 am-2 pm Yes
Lubbock or Leave It Wed 10 am-2 pm Yes
90.1 KZSU Sunny Side Up Sun 9-11:30 am Yes
90.5 KWMR Roadhouse Twang Wed 6:30-8:30 pm No
Grits Ain’t Groceries Sat noon-2 pm No
90.7 KALX Why Baby Why Wed midnight-1 am No
91.5 KKUP Monday Nite Bluegrass Mon 6-9 pm No
The Moonlight Trail Thu 7-10 pm See radiorail.com
Swing Boogie Sat 3-6 pm See angelfire.com/ca3/swingboogie/
Cupertino Barndance (1971?) Sun 9 pm-midnight See westernswing.com/barndance.html
94.1 KPFA Panhandle Country Sun 3-5 pm See panhandlecountry.com

 

Rock

 

Rock (Mainstream/Modern/Triple-A/Americana)

Mainstream Rock

101.7 KXFX

As late as the mid-18th century, some people thought California was an island—the state’s legendary isolation persists today.  As local residents already know and outsiders suspect, the Bay Area is not your typical market.  For starters, sports is not a religion in this area the way it is in other parts of the country.  Culturally and politically, the Bay Area is progressive even by California standards.  For a region that was an early adopter of new sounds ranging from top 40 and free-form radio to album-oriented rock and modern rock, it appears to have shunned both mainstream top 40 and traditional rock formats.

So one of the country’s top 10 markets lost its last mainstream rock radio station, KSJO, in 2004 (anything left is either too remote or too weak).  Call it the revenge of mainstream rock:  modern rock has turned into a clone of mainstream rock.  All the metal heads out there probably already listen to the following programs.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.9 KCRH Vault of Doom Thu 9 pm-midnight No
90.5 KSJS Cool-man Mon 2-5 pm Partial
Jesse Tue 2-6 am Partial
Jonathan Tue 2-5 pm Partial
Andy Wed 10 am-2 pm Partial
Scorn Wed 6-10 pm Partial
Dante Wed 10 pm-2 am Partial
Insanitarium Thu 10 pm-2 am Partial
Andrea Fri 2-6 am Partial
The Nation Fri 2-6 pm Partial
The Power Surge Fri 6-10 pm Partial
James Fri 10 pm-2 am Partial
Nonny Sat 6-10 am Partial
David P. Sat 10 am-2 pm Partial
91.5 KSUN Andrew Brookbush Tue 8-10 am No
Ramon Talley Thu noon-2 pm No
Jason Dahlstedt Thu 10 pm-midnight No
100.7 KSFS Nick & Justin Thu 2-3:30 pm No
103.3 KSCU Addicted to Khaos! Tue midnight-3 am No

 

Modern Rock

105.3 KITS, 104.9 KCNL, 90.5 KVHS, 87.9 KSFH

105.3 KITS-HD2, 104.5 KFOG-HD2

The moribund modern rock format is just a shadow of its former self (see The Death of Modern Rock).  While the Bay Area’s longtime commercial modern rocker and stations like KROQ Los Angeles are somewhat more faithful to the original idea of the format, it’s still not good enough.  Since media giant CBS owns KITS, don’t expect them to reinvent the genre.  Does punk rock or true alternative live?  Check out these shows and decide for yourself.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
90.7 KALX 45 RPM Sun 3-5:30 pm No
91.5 KSUN Nick Grizzle tha Grizzla Mon noon-2 pm No
Nate Mahan Mon 6-8 pm No
Half Sack Tue 2-4 pm No
Austin Muncy Tue 4-6 pm No
Kim & Lindsay on the Rocks Wed 4-6 pm No
Stephanie Sinkhorn & Robert Brown Thu 10 am-noon No
Andy Kotch & Kevin Hogan Sun 10 pm-midnight No
100.7 KSFS The EMO Afternoon Wed 2-3 pm No
Nick & Ian Thu noon-2 pm No
103.3 KSCU Get Your Adverbs Here Mon noon-3 pm No
Listen and Learn Tue 9-11 am No
Liz & Sanny Show Tue 11 am-1 pm No
Modern Rock Wed 9 pm-midnight No
The Neighborhood Thu 7-9 pm No
The miXed-FILES Fri 6-9 am Yes
The Naked Rob Show Fri 3-5 pm No

 

Thanks to the Internet, Bay Area residents can listen to the aforementioned KROQ Los Angeles (kroq.com), XTRA San Diego (91x.com),  and WOXY Cincinnati (woxy.com), a longtime modern rock outlet (1983-2004) that’s now a Web-only radio station.  KROQ has a weekly program, “Afterhours,” that’s similar to KITS’ defunct “Subsonic.”  XTRA maintains archives of annual playlists since 1983.

Triple-A Rock/Americana

104.5/97.7 KFOG, 1510 KPIG, 95.9 KRSH

The graying of the customer base has prompted radio formats to evolve.  Triple-A rock is to rock what adult top 40 is to top 40.  Without this format, you’d never hear the latest releases from veteran acts like Tracy Chapman and Peter Gabriel.  Expect adult-oriented formats to expand in the future.  Someday we might get adult hip-hop!  There’s already something akin to adult dance music:  chillout or downtempo.

On paper, the triple-A format looks promising.  Its 2006 playlist included a diverse mix of artists ranging from Death Cab for Cutie and Gnarls Barkley to Mat Kearney and Feist.  Triple-A was the first format to play Amy Winehouse and the second to play Peter Bjorn and John in 2007.  Unfortunately, KFOG only spins the most popular tracks about three times a day.  So you’d have to tune in all day if you don’t want to miss your favorite songs.  And its catalog is filled with classic rock staples such as Pink Floyd and the like, which is a mismatch for its current playlist.  If only this format would increase its rotation and change its recurrents.

 

Adult Contemporary

 

Adult Contemporary/Rhythmic AC

Adult Contemporary

94.5 KBAY, 100.1 KZST, 95.3 KUIC, 101.7 KKIQ, 92.1 KKDV, 99.3 KVYN

As baby-boomers continue to age, classic AC player KOIT’s standing is ever more secure.  But do we need so many AC radio stations?  The good news is you’ll hear Michael Buble only on AC—that’s why without eternal vigilance, you miss a lot of good music—and if radio played Eva Cassidy at all, it was probably AC.  In an ideal world, music directors would recognize that her rendition of “Fields of Gold” goes well beyond AC.  It’s too bad the three local companies that own four of these AC radio stations couldn’t come up with a more exciting format.  What does it say about this format and its programmers when they can get away with playing Christmas music nonstop between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Rhythmic AC

99.7 KMVQ

Three years after the demise of 93.3 KKWV, CBS decided to give rhythmic AC another try in 2006.  The reggae image is out; the new formula includes a little bit of Daft Punk, Fat Joe and M/A/R/R/S, artists you wouldn’t normally hear on adult R&B or traditional adult contemporary radio.  By playing old hip-hop acts such as Naughty by Nature, KMVQ sounds more like rhythmic adult top 40.  This gold-sounding station is unusual in that it puts about five current top 40 hits in heavy rotation like a typical top 40 station along with 25 hits from some of the biggest top 40 acts in the last two years—Nelly Furtado, Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, The Black Eyed Peas, The Pussycat Dolls, Sean Paul, and Gwen Stefani—in medium to light rotation.

 

Latin

 

Latin (Top 40/Rhythm)

Latin Top 40

98.1 KISQ-HD2

In a span of 14 months, Clear Channel Communications went from no Latin radio stations in this market to two—at the expense of its mainstream and modern rock outlets.  But the ratings for one of its new Latin stations really suffered, so Clear Channel resurrected its modern rocker.

If you find today’s mainstream top 40 radio lacking in memorable pop songs (“Freek-a-Leek” is catchy in its own way, but hip-hop is not everyone’s cup of tea)—and you have an open mind—give Latin pop a listen.  Latin top 40 harks back to a time when top 40 radio meant inclusiveness and presented the best in popular music—before playlists became tightly regimented (see our Latin pop crib sheet).  You can also tune in to 96.1 KSQQ, a mostly Portuguese station that plays five hours of Latin top 40 music every Saturday from 8 pm to 1 am.  If you want more rock en espanol or Latin alternative music, check out these other programs.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
90.5 KSJS Florecita Rockera Mon 6-10 pm No
Vampira Tue 6-10 am No
Guiliermo Wed 6-10 am No
DJ Rockcio Thu 6-10 am No
David Thu 10 am-2 pm No
DJ Creature Sun 6-10 pm No

 

Latin Rhythm

105.7/100.7 KVVF

Reggaeton (reggae with a Latin twist) has taken Latin radio by storm the same way hip-hop and disco did years ago.  Whether it’ll have the same staying power as hip-hop remains to be seen.  In the meantime, it has inspired a format that features lots of reggaeton and some English-language hip-hop.  Some people refer to this format as “hurban” or Hispanic urban top 40.

 

Christian

 

Christian (AC/Top 40)

Christian AC

K-LOVE network (88.9, 89.5 [2], 89.7, 91.3, 91.5, 91.9 [2], 99.3)

Educational Media Foundation’s flagship network began in the early 1980s.  Some of K-LOVE’s recurrents still feature generic choral vocals.

Christian Top 40

Air 1 network (88.9, 100.9)

This isn’t your grandfather’s Christian music radio; Christian pop is no longer just Amy Grant, Petra, and Michael W. Smith.  Artists like Kathy Troccoli, DC Talk, Jars of Clay, Bob Carlisle, and Sixpence None the Richer enjoyed crossover success in the 1990s.  In more recent years, secular radio has played Lifehouse, P.O.D., Switchfoot, Chevelle, Stacie Orrico, and MercyMe, among others.  We figure this format will hit its stride in another 10 years.  Air 1 is Educational Media Foundation’s second network.

 

Jazz

 

Jazz (Smooth Jazz)

Smooth Jazz

103.7 KKSF, 93.7 KJZY

103.7 KKSF-HD2

Ah, music for the wine-and-cheese crowd.  KKSF, the Bay Area’s smooth jazz pioneer, has a way of making every music set sound consistently soothing—and perhaps a tad muted.  If KKSF inserted a 50 Cent record, it would sound mellow (there’s something to be said for context).  One thing is clear:  a major U.S. market can comfortably support no more than one radio station with this format (KJZY is based in the Wine Country, a good distance from KKSF).  For more contemporary jazz, listen to the following shows.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.9 KCRH Jazz in the House Thu 3-6 pm No

 

And if jazz means only Louis Armstrong and company to you, then set your Web browser to WWOZ New Orleans (wwoz.org).

 

Oldies

 

Oldies

Oldies

96.5 KOIT (AC), 106.9 KFRC (1960s-80s), 98.1 KISQ (R&B), 107.7 KSAN (rock), 98.5 KUFX (rock), 97.7 KVRV (rock), 96.7 KNOB (1970s-90s), 93.7 KOOX (rock)

'96.5 KOIT-HD2 (1950s-60s), 98.5 KUFX-HD2 (rock), 95.7 KBWF-HD2 (disco)

Until the early 2000s, most oldies radio stations played classic rock or a limited selection of top 40 hits from the past.  Then someone proved the adage that everything old is new again.  When KNOB became “Bob” in 2004 and KMAX “Max” the following year, the invasion of the “guy” radio stations had finally reached the Bay Area.  This is a new format that emerged in Canada in 2002; it also goes by other regular guy names like Jack, Joe, Hank, Dave, etc.  Its focus is 1980s hits, but some stations also play 1970s, 90s, and even current stuff.

So what makes it different from other gold-oriented formats?  Bucking the prevailing trend of niche programming, it promises to play a mix of pop, rock, AC, and R&B.  In short, it aims to be as inclusive as the way top 40 used to be.  Fragmented formats have been around for so long that diversity is seen as a novel idea; free-form radio is back with a slightly different twist.  “Anything goes” is the rallying cry, and these stations tout the size of their catalog.  But “Jack/Bob/Max” is essentially an oldies format.  Still, for people who live in the past musically or are too young to remember the 1980s, this is a welcome development.  Bear in mind that some radio stations mix it up better than others.  Now if somebody wants to redefine top 40 for new music, that would be a different story.

 

World Music

 

World Music/Reggae

Noncommercial radio has always been a welcome place for world music, especially reggae, the format of choice for some college students.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.5 KPOO World Music Wed 8-11 pm No
La Verdad Musical [Music from the African diaspora] Fri noon-3 pm No
90.1 KZSU Bigger Than Bollywood Wed 6-9 am Yes
Morning Glory Sat 6-9 am Yes
90.5 KWMR Bigger Picture Mon 8:30-10:30 pm No
91.1 KRCB Crossing Borders Tue 10 pm-midnight No
Afropop Worldwide Sat 7-8 pm See afropop.org
91.5 KKUP Echoes of Africa (1989?) Mon 3-6 pm See kkup.com/nado.html
The Orient Express Tue 10-11 pm See turkradio.us
The Ethnic Connection Wed 10 pm-midnight No
Aloha Friday Fri 7-9/10 am See cocontyrls.com
One World in One Hour Sun 8-9 pm No
96.1 KSQQ Bollywood Beat (2003) Sun 3-4 pm See bollywoodbeat.com

 

Blues

 

Blues

Well, you didn’t really think you’d find an all-blues radio station in the Bay Area, did you?  You’re near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta—not the Mississippi Delta.  To get your fill of the original American folk music, tune in to these programs.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.5 KPOO The Power of Blues Compels You Mon 9 am-noon Yes
Tuesday Morning Blues Show Tue 9 am-noon No
Wednesday Blues With Noel Wed 9 am-noon No
Blues for the Night Owls Sun 2-7 am No
89.7 KFJC The Blues Bar Fri 10 am-2 pm Yes
90.1 KZSU Blues With a Feelin’ Sat 9 am-noon Yes
90.5 KSJS Blue’s Café Fri 6-10 am No
90.5 KWMR Coast Highway Blues Wed 8:30-10:30 pm No
The Blues Addendum Sat 10:30 pm-midnight No
91.1 KCSM Crazy ’Bout the Blues Fri 9 pm-midnight No
91.1 KRCB Blues Before Sunrise Sat 2-6 am, Sun 2-6 am See bluesbeforesunrise.com
91.5 KKUP Key to the Highway Wed 2-5 pm No
Blues Evening Train Thu 5-7 pm No
94.1 KPFA Blues by the Bay Sat noon-2 pm See sfblues.com
103.3 KSCU Roots and Branches Sun 6-9 am No
Sunday Blues Brunch Sun 9-11 am No

 

If you have a high-speed Internet connection, check out WDIA Memphis (am1070wdia.com).

 

Eclectic

 

Eclectic

Do you think it’s easy to play anything and everything under the sun?  You may frown on this kitchen-sink approach to programming, but you can’t fault these shows for being predictable.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.9 KCRH Whole Lotta Love Mon 9 pm-midnight No
The 80s Disaster Thu 6-9 pm No

 

Radio stations known for their creative programming—a rarity these days—include:  KCRW Los Angeles (kcrw.com) and KEXP Seattle (kexp.org).

 

Uncommon

 

Uncommon Formats

And now for something completely different:  we’ve compiled a list of some of the more unusual programs for your listening pleasure.

 

Station Program (Est.) Time Playlist on Site?
89.7 KFJC The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show Sat 9 am-noon Yes
Phil’s Garage: Surf’s Up! Sat 6-9 pm Yes
91.1 KRCB Harmonia [Early music] Sun 9-10 am See indiana.edu/~harmonia/
Schickele Mix (1992) Sun 4-5 pm See schickelemix.com
Le Show Sun 6-7 pm See harryshearer.com
100.7 KSFS Samurai Radio Mon 4-6 pm No
Euro Flava Tue 9-11 am No
103.3 KSCU The Great Space [TV music] Thu 3-5 pm No
Movie Hop! Thu 5-7 pm No

 

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Wanted:  Bay Area Radio Reporters

Bay Area Radio wants to promote a rich and diverse radio market.  In most cases, noncommercial radio stations are at a disadvantage because of a weak signal.  In addition to power issues, the size of the Bay Area makes it impractical for the average person to monitor these small radio stations (and you realistically need broadband to listen to streaming audio).  So if you’d like to volunteer to serve as a Bay Area Radio reporter, send your e-mail to simcoblog at the domain gmail.com.  Please specify “Reporter” in your subject line.  We need you to report any schedule change and tell us whether we should mention a particular program on this Web page.  Radio station employees are welcome.  Here is the signup sheet.

 

Station Hip-Hop Bluegrass/ Alt. Country Metal/Punk Dance/ Electronic Latin Rock/Alt. World/Reggae Blues
89.5 KPOO Open N/A N/A N/A N/A? Open Open
89.5 KSMC ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
89.7 KFJC N/A Open N/A Open N/A ? Open
89.9 KCRH Open N/A? Open Open N/A? N/A? N/A?
90.1 KZSU Open Open N/A Open N/A Open Open
90.3 KUSF N/A? N/A? Open Open N/A? N/A? N/A?
90.5 KSJS Open N/A Open Open Open ? Open
90.5 KWMR N/A Open N/A Open N/A? Open Open
90.7 KALX N/A Open Open Open N/A ? N/A
90.9 KCSF ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
91.1 KRCB N/A N/A N/A Open N/A Open Open
91.5 KKUP N/A Open N/A N/A N/A Open Open
91.5 KSUN Open N/A Open Open N/A ? N/A
94.1 KPFA Open Open N/A Open N/A ? Open
100.7 KSFS Open N/A Open Open N/A ? N/A
103.3 KSCU Open N/A Open Open N/A ? Open

 

Note that “N/A” means we don’t think this radio station has any weekly show that plays predominately the genre of music we’re interested in for now.  “Open” means we could use more reporters; “Closed” means we have enough reporters.

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