From The Road: Montgomery, AL

(pictured: Me, Matt Austin, Michael Olson)

Michael Olson (recently re-dubbed “Molson” to save time) travelled with Brian (my road manager) and I to Montgomery Alabama to play and speak in support of WAY-FM yesterday.  WAY’s Southeastern regional head honcho is Matt Austin, a long time friend of mine, who asked me to come play for the crowd of businessmen, clergy and listeners interested in partnering with WAY-FM to bring a WAY-FM station to the area.  They currently have translators that rebroadcast WAY’s music in Montgomery but no station actually existing in the city or staff interacting with local listeners daily.

That’s something that sets WAY-FM apart from other radio networks.  They try to put real people in an actual building in the cities they broadcast to.  This allows listeners to contribute to the station by answering phones, calling with complaints or encouragement etc. and makes WAY-FM’s programming more likely to float the boat of each city’s listeners and better understand the needs of the local ministries, businesses and churches they partner with.  There are other massive radio networks that just pipe their programming originating on one coast all across the country with no tailoring and adjustment for local weather and news, local concert promotion, local sponsors, or local accents.  Imagine living in Montgomery and being forced to listen to some guy from California all day.  How personal would that feel? 

As an artist these large impersonal networks are a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand they get my music out to far more people than one local station can.  On the other hand they can’t often advertise my show in Boise because the programming originates from somewhere 700 miles away and is also broadcast to SanAntonio listeners who don’t care that I’ll be at the Boise Civic Center next week.  WAY-FM’s goal is to eventually span the country but maintain that personal feel and service you usually only get from a local station.  That’s the best of both worlds so I gladly support WAY-FM when I get the chance.

WAY-FM is a CHR formatted station.  Quick lesson on formats for those of us who don’t work in the industry…Christian radio is divided into four main formats: Inspirational (aka. INSPO), Adult Contemporary (aka. AC), Contemporary Hit Radio (aka. CHR), Rock.  Inspirational stations often broadcast teaching along with music and tend to be the least aggressive musically and have the oldest most conservative audiences.  Adult Contemporary stations target, according to their own admission and not my opinion, 35-40 year old white mothers with small children.  CHR stations generally aim a little younger and more aggressive, often claiming an audience of young adults, though they don’t deny that moms of those young adults make up a large chunk of the audience as well.  Rock is of course pumps out the most aggressive music and often attracts the youngest audience.

Stations of all formats fall into two larger categories: commercial and non-commercial (aka non-com).  Commercial run ads from local businesses that sound like ads you’d hear on any other station.  Non-Com stations do “share-athons” which resemble telethons, asking listeners to pledge to give to the station.  Those who pledge a larger sum get what sure sounds like an ad played in rotation but is subtly different.  These ads cannot make comparative statements.  So no prices or discounts can be included in the ad for instance.  It can’t seem like it’s promoting a product over another, in other words, or that station is not non-com and would lose some tax benefits.  That’s why a non-com station often refers to itself on air as a “ministry” while often skating as close as possible to commercial behavior.  So if yo hear an ad for 20% off at Mattress King you’re listening to a commercial radio station but if you hear, “This house of broadcasting brought to you by our sponsor Mattress King, a Christian owned family business for over 25 years” that’s supposedly a non-com station.  Seems a little sketchy to me.  Seems like great music should compete head to head with great music for ad dollars and it seems like non-com stations are already advertising so why should they get the tax shelter commercial stations don’t enjoy?  But, hey, I got in at 2Am this morning so don’t listen to me.  What do you think?

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