"I don't want to paint a bad picture of KWSS, but I think the lack of format is a weakness," he says. "I think, during the day, we need to get a little more modern with what we play, and at night, you can have your specialty shows . . . But I think we kind of play trash during the day."


If the KWSS format lacks focus, it's not because the station's management lacks experience. Station owner Frank Magarelli has been in radio since he was 16, having worked for Clear Channel, CBS, and NBC. He moved to Phoenix from San Jose in 2000 to go to Arizona State University and applied for a low-power license during the FCC's brief filing window in 2000, waiting four years for the license to come through.

Brad "Beef Vegan" Pfirrman, host of KWSS' The Morning Infidelity
Brad "Beef Vegan" Pfirrman, host of KWSS' The Morning Infidelity
Local band Kinch and former MTV personality Tom Green dropped by The Morning Infidelity on the same day in January.
Local band Kinch and former MTV personality Tom Green dropped by The Morning Infidelity on the same day in January.

During his time in traditional radio, Magarelli saw things grow more corporate, less local, and less profitable. Now, he's torn about the future.

While he wonders whether terrestrial radio is doomed — the only segment currently

 doing well being Spanish-language fare — he also sees low-power stations like his finding a niche with local content. If LPFM has a future, he thinks, it's because big-time corporate radio has fucked up by airing so much syndicated, national programming.

"Localism is making a comeback," he says. "And LPFM is the perfect vehicle for bringing localism back to radio."

Corporate radio's shift from local personalities to syndicated or music-only shows has been felt most acutely in morning programming. In better times, morning shows brought in the most listeners, but they also cost the most to produce and promote. When the economy soured and ratings technology changed, morning shows were the first to get slashed.

For a nutshell version of how things have played out, look at alt-rock station KEXX 103.9 (known as The Edge until last year), the closest thing KWSS has to direct competition.

The station jettisoned its live local program, The Morning Ritual, in 2008. The local guys were replaced by a string of syndicated shows out of Los Angeles.

Now, KEXX has a dude named Gadger starting the day, mostly spinning Gen X-appropriate grunge records with as little commentary as possible.

Marc Young, KEXX's program director, says his station's situation is part of a national trend that started when Arbitron switched its ratings system. It used to be that selected audience members simply reported to Arbitron what they listened to, and for how long. Now, they are issued pager-size electronic monitors that pick up the radio signals of whatever they are listening to.

"The thinking was that more music in the mornings was key, which is why you saw a lot of big morning shows dissolved across the country," he says. "Stations tried to cut back on costs. Payroll is the biggest expense, and the research guys sitting in a dark room were saying, 'Here's the best way to maximize: Get rid of your heavy morning shows and go all music.'"

Now that the national economy appears to be improving and the nuances of the new ratings system are better understood, ASU communications professor Craig Allen says, morning radio should see better times ahead.

"Once the economy comes back, there will be more money available to bring in new morning stars or for some of the stations to start hiring away other stations' stars," Allen believes. "Then, the trading around, the moving around, the debuting of new morning shows — I think that's going to pick up."

Others aren't as optimistic. Take the man Allen describes as the Valley's all-time king of the drive-time show, Dave Pratt. "The Morning Mayor," as he was billed, is a guy who originally made his bones with hard-rock station KUPD, then skipped around the dial for 30 years before he was let go by country titan KMLE in December 2008.

Though Pratt recently announced the hiring of 22-year-old blond model Kassi Jayde as his co-host for new show that's not yet on the air, he sees a bleak future for music-formatted radio. Listeners are moving to other mediums, and program directors are too dumb to know that hiring top-notch talent pays off, he suggests.

"Most radio management today pretends that simply allowing a lower-paid, average disc-jockey to wear headphones and say 'good morning' will magically make them a 'personality.' This is like putting a Yankees jersey on a Little League kid and calling him a major-league player," he says.

"Who needs to listen through long commercial breaks just to hear music that can be downloaded to personal choice? In 2011, personalities on music radio are about as relevant as a turd in a urinal. "

Though Pratt is now a Paradise Valley resident who received a windfall buyout from KMLE that probably dwarfs what everyone at KWSS was paid over the past decade, KUPD wasn't all that different from KWSS when Pratt started there as a 19-year-old kid in 1981.

"The station was in a beat-up double-wide trailer in the middle of a Guadalupe dirt lot," Pratt says. "Only a few years later, I took over the morning show, and KUPD became the top-rated station in the market. It was a special time."

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30 comments
Guest
Guest

No mention of KUKQ at all?

justareader
justareader

I'm a fan of the station, but this article is garbage. Maybe the author should have "sneaked' into a few classes at NAU. Please re-submit to an editor. Yikes, New Times.

S!ick
S!ick

This sounds like a station I should be working, and want to be, on...do they have any openings?

Edmonds and FosterTechtalkRadioThe Tech Buzz

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guest
guest

Most people in radio do it because they don't know what else to do? Try running your own business behind it, getting and keeping long term sponsors, writing and fulfilling contracts. I don't sit in my skivvies and do my show on the fly. And YES I'm on 106.7, too. Oh, Gassman's not a burnout - but I do think that Beef needs mo meat in his dog!

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Tanktruthaboutlies
Tanktruthaboutlies

Thats awesome!!! Did an interview as Truth About Lies a few years ago when they were way out east!! Basically a few miles away from Florence. Good to see the word is getting out.. Get em Beef!!!

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TheFabulousOne
TheFabulousOne

As a former DJ of KWSS, I am very happy to see the exposure. Also, the author of this article is in NO way a part of the station, just a fan. :}

Brad Bielesch
Brad Bielesch

Beef, Shorty, Big Buddha, and Tom are fucking solid. They're uplifting a music scene that is stricken with disequilibrium, it's so goddamn unbalanced. They deserve nothing but praise. Thanks, dudes.

John McNary
John McNary

I kept reading this waaste of electrons waiting for the payoff. There it is at the bottom. The writer is part of the KWSS team.

This remonds me of the old old joke: why does a fog lick it's balls? Because it can. Same thing.

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Anamieke
Anamieke

I agree there are some negative-flavored tones in this feature, but nonetheless this kind of exposure will hopefully reach the rest of the people in Phoenix who actually care about innovative yet listenable music. Wherever you are, we need you to band together and help get this scene off the ground!!! There are too many tourists who want cheesy covers and too many counterculture-extremists who want experimental noise and no one in between. What about those of us who create and promote intellectually stimulating yet pleasantly catchy material that isn't a rehash of the 90's (Gadger)? Where is our audience? Thank you KWSS for being a visionary and beacon of truth in a shit-storm of hypocrisy and materialism. Please don't give up.

azmomma e
azmomma e

i am a regular listener to KWSS in the morning. i live upstate so have to listen on my computer. so by 6:35 every morning the first thing i do after i get up is turn on TMI. they are funny, super clever and real. the music is pretty darn good too, and it's a great start to my day. wowser! that was so corn-bread pc...how 'bout this then: TMI is dope. they really rock it. right on guys (and gal)!

corky
corky

1994 called, they want Tom Green back.

stpatrick
stpatrick

KWSS is awesome. Glad they're doing what they're doing, and I hope they gain more traction. Rock local!

Michelle
Michelle

The article could have mentioned that Frank spends 10 hours a day 7 days a week keeping the station going, instead it paints him in a negative light when he first played local and indi music 6 years ago.

dr dread
dr dread

TMI rules! and Cizmar is sexy

TheFriend
TheFriend

Hey his "friend" did radio with KWSS for a few years not months and went to X103.9, not lost interest, droppped the show on his lap and walked away. He also helped him build the studio, get ready to take over, and regularly provides input and help when needed.

James
James

kwss rocks. beef for president.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

I'm not part of any KWSS "team," John... I just call in and give them a couple new tracks to play on Thursdays.

What's a fog?

AlphaK
AlphaK

2003 called, it wants it's joke back.

azmomma e
azmomma e

i didn't get that vibe about frank from the article at all. hmmmm...

 
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