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Music director Frank "Frank D" Delgado took over the post at Fresno's college radio station last summer. In the months since, he's helped usher in a new era for KFSR. Famous sits down with Frank D to talk about the rotation system, local music, and his eagerness to compete with the likes of New Rock 104.
Fresno Famous: What made you settle on such a high percentage -- you've said 99% -- of management-chosen plays for your DJs?
Frank D: Let me begin this answer by stating that this decision to go to an almost full-rotation wasn't easy. I originally "grandfathered" the veteran DJs out of having to follow a rotation and limit it only to the new DJs, but it's a very slippery slope when you have different sets of rules for different people. Realized that along with a management position comes the need to make management decisions, some of which may be uncomfortable or unpopular initially.
Former Music Directors have unsuccessfully tried to initiate a rotation system, and suggested that DJs incorporate some number of CDs from the rack into their sets. The bottom line was that no one took these suggestions seriously and continued doing whatever they wanted to do. In order to avoid making the same mistake twice, I've made the rotation mandatory.
When I attended the CMJ (College Music Journal) conference in New York City this last October, I found out about how KFSR ranks against other college radio stations. What I didn't know was that KFSR is considered a "CORE Station" by promoters/record companies/reporting journals. Through a formula that calculates the population of a city, wattage of a radio station, broadcast range, and listenership, a station earns a specific ranking -- which determines how "important" you are to the record companies. As it turns out, these numbers work out in such a way that KFSR ranks alongside some much bigger stations in much bigger markets.
It's very easy for a DJ to give more airtime to the bands that they're already familiar and comfortable with, and what ends up happening is that a DJ will (without realizing it) play set lists that are almost identical week after week. In my own opinion, this is a waste of all of the great music that is getting major attention in larger markets, but is just sitting in the KFSR racks collecting dust. It defeats the purpose of what we're trying to do: expose people to music that they might otherwise never hear on the Fresno airwaves. Face it; aside from KFCF and our station, Fresno radio is garbage. [Ed note- we like KVPR too]
I take my job seriously, and I have a lot of love and respect for the listeners of KFSR. I'm looking to make KFSR a SERIOUS CONTENDER in the Fresno radio market. The only way to do this is to give people radio that is consistently great, which is where we're headed.
FF: Can you describe the method you'll use in selecting these playlists?
FD: It should probably be clarified that there won't be any "playlists." I'm not going to mandate that DJs play some specific song, followed by some other specific song...I'll color-code CDs into five categories and the DJs will pick a certain amount from each category every hour.
I've created two volunteer assistant music director positions and have made them available to any of our DJs who are willing to put in the time and effort necessary for the job. They'll come by the KFSR office on alternating Fridays, pick up a stack of CDs for review and bring them back on the following Friday. Twice a month, the three of us will get together to decide which CDs fit best into our format (meetings to be open to ANY of the on-air DJs) and add these CDs into the rotation.
I'll also have them writing reviews and short descriptions of the CDs which we'll be posting up onto the internet to familiarize our online community with the new music that we're playing on the air. I am in no way the "end-all" when it comes to musical knowledge and I'm excited about getting feedback from a couple of other people who are as passionate about KFSR as I am. In the end, I'm hoping that our racks will be bursting at the seams with CDs that the on-air staff will want to play anyway, rotation or not.
FF: How will DJs' personal picks and callers' requests fit into airtime?
FD: Well.... I guess they'll be that other 1% that's not mandatory rotation picks. Keep in mind that the people that call in to request songs are generally the SAME people week in and week out...and they generally request the same song/band every time. The result of this is that KFSR DJs fall into the rut of playing the same songs/band all the time because they're trying to play these requests!!
Once the new system is in place, and DJs are giving the listeners a steady diet of fresh music, people are going to be calling in requesting tracks from THESE CDs. If someone is going to quit listening to KFSR because we don't play the same Weezer track that they request every day, then let 'em quit listening. There will be many more people who are going to be drawn in to us by the fact that we're putting them ahead of the loop by playing NEW MUSIC by bands that are touring NOW. So, I guess at that point, DJs could be playing MORE requests since the requested music will be part of their rotation picks anyway.
FF: Will specialty shows be affected by this new policy, or is it specifically the noon to six slot you're focusing on?
FD: This is specific to the afternoon DJs and will not affect the specialty shows. The specialty show DJs at KFSR put a lot of time and effort into their shows, and many of them prep for their shows for the entire week between shows...so they're acting as music directors of their own shows and do a great job of keeping their shows sounding fresh.
FF: The last time we spoke, you said KFSR was interested in emulating Santa Monica's KCRW. How is that transition coming?
FD: This KCRW thing has sorta been blown out of proportion...but let me clear the air here. The analogy that I always use is the "band influence" one. If you're in a band, you don't want to sound exactly like some band that you love. But what you do is take the spirit of what makes that band great, and apply it to your own music in your own way.
The fact of the matter is that KCRW successfully programs music from a wide variety of genres and weaves it together seamlessly. KCRW is ONE of my major radio influences.
FF: One thing being discussed is that KFSR wants to change what local music is being played. What musicians, bands, and genres do you want to expand into?
FD: Local music has always been and always will be a staple at KFSR. When I moved back to Fresno from L.A. I had no idea that there would be such a huge music scene here in Fresno, and I'm still amazed at the number of bands that exist in this town. You have NO IDEA how many people come up to me when I'm out, asking whether or not it's true that I'm axing all the local music from the KFSR airwaves.
What I am getting rid of are all of the "live" recordings that we have in the rack that sound like they were recorded using headphones as a mic. Lo-fi recordings, unmixed dubs, etc will also be taken off the shelf.
So yeah, I'll be changing the way that we play local music. You're not doing a damn thing for the local scene when you ONLY play the CDs of bands that either you or your friends are in. Playing the same song day in and day out is the same whether it's Pinkeye or Green Day.
FF: Has KFSR discussed any further a specialty show for local music?
FD: We have a local specialty show of sorts...Josh "Joshman" Chilton hosts a segment show on his show on the first Friday of the month from 2-3 pm where he plays nothing BUT local music. He's really awesome in that he'll give out the web addresses of the bands, info about when they're playing and tell you a little about the band themselves. He also maintains the variety of local bands he includes into set.
Josh will actually be the Local Music director for the next semester, and will be working directly with me in setting up a system for giving equal airtime to a wider spectrum of local music. He discussed doing a local music specialty show, but there just isn't enough music to fill that slot for three hours, every week. It would take a LOT of music to fill that if you didn't want to be playing the same bands week after week.
FF: One recent tactic of KFSR has been to mock New Rock 104.1. How does KFSR view its relationship to KFRR?
FD: This "tactic" is used in radio ads all the time. Is it immature? Probably. But what have I said in these jabs that's not true? I've joked that there is nothing NEW about the "rock" that they play, and that there is nothing very "alternative" about Creed, Linkin Park or Staind. I'll stand by that 100%
My argument is that KFSR is actually the only REAL alternative station in Fresno. We're the alternative to the glossy, commercial fluff that people who listen to OUR station find boring and unsophisticated.
As far as our relationship with KFRR goes, I've got no beef with them. Their Program Director is just doing their job and is programming the music that New Rock 104 listeners want to hear. It's not their fault that the majority of that music is crap.
FF: What role does college radio play in educating its audience?
FD: It plays a huge role. KFSR listeners are people who love music and expect MORE from a radio station than your average listener. Our Japanese underground hip-hop show, Japanese Street Beat is a major musical education. Not to mention the blues, reggae, Latin jazz, and world music shows!
FF: What records were you most excited to play from 2004?
FD: This might be the toughest question so far because there have been so many really good releases. Here's about a tenth of them: Kings of Convenience, The Flesh, RJD2, The Faint, Futureheads, Gift of Gab, Handsome Boy Modeling School, DJ Shadow, Earlimart, The Delgados, Radioinactive & AntiMC, Interpol, DJ Krush, VHS or Beta, Mocean Worker, Rondo Brothers, Luna, Rob Sonic, Yesterday's New Quintet, Diplo, DJ Cam, Tortoise, Kid Dakota, Mixmaster Mike....and a bunch more