The Bad News: Despite KUKQ's business-asusual broadcasting, the indie-rock AMenclave will cease to exist sometime Monday--the third and, evidently, final time the financially strapped station has folded since it signed on in 1989.
The Good News: There really isn't any.
The Cause of Death: What else? Money. Sandusky Newspapers, a middleweight media conglomerate that owns several Valley radio stations--including KUKQ and the FM commercial-rock powerhouse KUPD--grew weary of losing it on the Q.
Tim Maranziole, operations manager for Sandusky's Valley radio properties, says the drain was more of a trickle than a hemorrhage; "but, like in baseball, a mark in the loss column is still a loss."
When the Word Came Down: A few days before Christmas. "That was my Christmas present," says KUKQ program director Larry Mac. "It all came down to one word: AM. I wish they had given us a littlelonger, because I was feeling the buzz."
When and Where the Decision Was Made: Sometime after April, at the Phoenix level. "Sandusky properties are run locally," says Maranziole. "... In radio, you're always looking for an opportunity. It was obvious, even eight months ago, that we were struggling with the Q. While we were trying to solve that problem creatively, we were also looking at other options for the station."
Other Options Like What? Like turning KUKQ into ... (insert proverbial drumroll) ... KUPD II!! (insert audience groans).
According to Maranziole, on Monday, the Q will undergo a quick metamorphosis and turn into an AM version of KUPD.
How It Breaks Down: Although KUPD and KUPD II will not be simulcast, they will pull songs from the same playlist. Which means that, as of Monday, you'll be able to hear the very same commercial hard-rock songs in mono at 1060 AM that are already broadcast in stereo on 97.9 FM.
Hey, what a great idea!
To be fair, there are a few redemptive factors that will (slightly) distinguish KUPD II from its big brother on the better bandwidth: Several of the specialty shows that Mac and music director Allison Strong recently added to KUKQ will survive the transformation, including Industrial Waste; the goth-rock program (formerly called The Dark Side of the Q, now in search of a new name); the Green Card import show; and, most important, In the Red, the monthly punk/indie roundup. Another Rotten Day, the syndicated, daily rock-almanac show by the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten, also will make the cut.
Some variation of the Monday Morning Music Meeting--a Q innovation that provided a weekly call-in forum for listeners to directly influence the station's programming--will reappear sometime in the future on KUPD II as simply The Meeting. I'll give this latter-day version of the show a six-week life span, tops.
The beauty of MMMM was that so many of the Q's listeners were slackers with nothing better to do early on a Monday than call up and duke it out with industry reps pushing the station to add a recording. Those same listeners are going to take one listen to KUPD II and run for cover--maybe they'll tune in for the specialty shows, but I don't see them calling in to debate the merits of the latest Ozzy single. Once the "This sucks, bring back the Q" calls cease and desist, so will The Meeting.
Time slots for all aforementioned programs have yet to be set.
New features on KUPD II will include: live concert broadcasts (which run the gamut from primo to weak, depending on the band/artist); time slots for albums to be played in their entirety (see previous parenthetical comment); and MTV Music News (lame by any standard). Maranziole says Sandusky also is in negotiations to make KUPD II the anchor station for sports coverage of the future Phoenix National Hockey League team.
Hey, what a great idea!
Why Haven't We Heard About This on the Air? Good question. Strong says she and Mac have been told not to announce the coming change. On January 5, Maranziole said he and Chuck Artigue (general manager of Sandusky's local radio stations) "haven't decided yet" if the change will be announced on the air.
So What Now, Larry and Al? Mac's head is still on his shoulders--he's been retained as program director for KUPD II. "There's nothing that could ever be as outrageous as KUKQ," he says, "but this might come close." Strong says she has applied for a job at an alternative-rock station in the Pacific Northwest. "We're close," she says. "We're talking money."
In Related News: Shortly before Mac got his Christmas present, The Edge (KEDJ-FM 106.3) took a step onto KUKQ's turf by noticeably toughening up its playlist--lessR.E.M., Crowded House and Joan Osborne, more Ministry. The station also stopped "day-parting," the practice of going with a softer-rock format during the workday than at night. "There will be no more day-parting," says KEDJ program director John Clay, "and so no more Hootie."
The format adjustment followed the sale of a controlling interest in the station by KEDJ owner Steven Taslitz of Sterling Capital (Chicago) to New Century, a Seattle-based media house that quickly brought in a new general manager (Reid Reker) and put The Edge's edge to the grindstone.
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Clay says the sale and subsequent playlist revamp were prompted by market research the station conducted in August. "The station now has a harder, grungier sound, which is exactly what the research told us to do," he says.
Hmmmm ... Coincidence? Maranziole says the shift in format at The Edge and the recent evolution of The Zone (KZON-FM 101.5) from an eclectic modern-music station to a straightahead rock-alternative format had "not that much" to do with the decision to pull the plug on the Q. Strong, however, says she believes the changes at The Edge and The Zone "forced our hand."
An Itsy-Bitsy Sliver of Hope: Sandusky has retained the FCC rights to the call letters "KUKQ." Maranziole says his company didn't keep the call sign out of fear that a competing station would try to capitalize on the name recognition with a new (and, presumably, FM) alternative venture. "I don't think there's anyone out there with the talent to do it," he says. So could the Q pull another Lazarus? "What's the title of that Bond movie?" Maranziole asks. "Never Say Never Again?"
Best Eulogy to KUKQ So Far: Comes, surprisingly, from John Clay at The Edge: "I feel bad that they're going away. That people chose to go to them even though they were AM--that, in itself, indicates what an important function that station served."--David Holthouse