94.7 KNRK Portland sounds more CFNY than CFNY does now,,, (they just played Istanbul Or Constantinople from They Might Be Giants...) Here's the 94/7 Mantra:
The MUSIC comes first
We LISTEN. We want and respect your ideas
We actively SUPPORT our community
Music in the MORNING
prepare to be SURPRISED
KNRK is singing a different tune
Indie and nonstandard alternative rock replace shock jocks, and listeners are taking notice
The Oregonian, Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Flipping across your FM dial it's likely you've caught the slogan: "It's different here."
And if you've lit on 94.7 long enough, you've heard the proof: Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," and then The Killers' "Mr. Brightside." Greg Glover, "Alternative Mornings" co-host (and local label Arena Rock Records' founder), giving a two-minute history of an Australian band called INXS. Disc jockey Tara Dublin allotting Monday morning airtime for "The Blower's Daughter" -- a Damien Rice track that has yet to crack any of the trade's alternative rock charts.
Welcome to the new KNRK.
In the past seven months, since the triple-firing of deejays Marconi, Tiny and producer Nik J. Miles for their broadcast mocking of hostage Nicholas Berg's beheading, the Portland radio station has undergone a complete sonic makeover.
Gone is the coarse morning banter, and the harder-edged sound of bands like Korn and Godsmack, what station manager and programming director Mark Hamilton terms "Muppet rock."
Hamilton now encourages new on-air staffers, such as Glover and Dublin, and returning talent, such as Gustav, to delve into alternative rock's 25-year history and reach into its indie-rock future. And to play what they feel, even if what they're feeling doesn't fit into the industry's current, standard alternative-rock format.
"What we're doing is something no one has really done before, or is doing," says Hamilton, 42, who joined KNRK in May 1995, two months after it hit the airwaves, and prefers to call his on-air staff "presenters" instead of deejays. "So we're kind of going into uncharted waters here. We're writing the rules, making mistakes, right as we go along."
Though KNRK could have stuck with its former format, Hamilton chose a different path, citing the falling interest in "shock radio," a drop in the artistic quality of harder-edged alt-rock, and the station's own slipping ratings. Add to these the fact that radio competes with new sources of music like the Internet and satellite broadcasts.
"There was this opportunity after the Marconi incident," says Hamilton, "to serve and super-serve an audience in Portland that wasn't getting the music that it wanted."
Call it the alternative to alternative. It's the listeners, Hamilton says, who fueled KNRK's nearly-DIY-programming approach.
In June, the station conducted an online 50-question survey, asking 8,000 listeners everything from what they wanted in an on-air personality to the amount of contests they'd prefer. More than 7,100 surveys were returned in 10 days.
Result? Music mattered most.
So now there is a more of it (an average of 11 to 13 songs per hour), and talk has been stripped back to comments and news -- and maybe a little gossip -- about music. The style of In-Your-Face-Through-Your-Ear chatter is now left to other stations.
"I remember someone telling me that the first hour of my show was going to be up against Howard Stern," says Dublin, who came on last July, "And I was kind of like, 'Wow, OK, that's the biggest name in radio.' But I try not to think about that. I know I enjoy what I do and I love the music, and I hope that comes across."
The station's daily playlists span a broader spectrum of sounds as well.
Though Korn is banished, Green Day, Depeche Mode and David Bowie are mined. "Deeper cuts," that is, tracks from new albums that haven't yet been issued as singles, are allowed airtime as well. And Gustav, 34, is able to champion local bands, like Crosstide, via his afternoon show.
"(Portland) is such a hot spot musically," says Gustav, "and to be able to share that music now is astounding."
Though his morning show at KNRK with Daria O'Neill ended in 2003, his name topped the listener list of people they wanted back. ("Heartwarming," says Gustav).
"My first few days back, I was a little afraid," says Gustav, "I was so used to a preset format. It's like deejaying with your pants down; people see more of who you are by what you play."
Another move, and perhaps the savviest: KNRK added indie.
While independent rock acts like Ambulance, LTD., Keane, and the Killers ruled live venues and late-night talk show musical slots this past summer, and logged countless comments on rock blogs and chatrooms, finding these bands' tracks on the nation's radio dials was next to impossible. Active rock and traditional alt-rock formats, for much of the year, virtually shut this music out.
"KNRK was one of the first six stations to play (the Killers') 'Somebody Told Me,' " says Christine Chiapetta, vice-president of Modern Rock promotions for Island Records. "It totally arrived from the West Coast. It was San Francisco, KROQ in L.A., The End in Seattle, KNRK in Portland, and 91X in San Diego. 'NRK was one of those very early stations that played it, even before the band had a video done, before it took off at all."
Breaking bands is one thing. But are the changes helping where it counts: the ratings?
The most recent Arbitron book shows the station lost some teen listeners, a drop the station says it expected. But October 2004's cumulative numbers (which tracks listeners for this past summer) show KNRK ranked seventh overall for 18-49 year-olds, Monday through Sunday, 6 A.M. to midnight. This is a jump from the station's 10th-place ranking in the previous book, issued in July. More females are tuning in, too.
"It's nice to know that people in modern and alternative rock radio are doing things the old-fashioned way," says Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci, "and that there's deejays taking chances."