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aircheck WNEW-FM (1982) — A cautionary tale

Here’s a terrific inside studio look at New York City’s legendary progressive rock station WNEW-FM. The station ruled New York’s album-oriented rock audiences from the late 1960s through the 1980s. These videos show the creative nature of the radio station in its heyday. Deejays picked their own music and crafted shows for the mood of the moment.

By 1998, the station had gone through a litany of management changes, reliance on heavy research, and a dictation of rigid airplay rotation. Naturally, WNEW-FM saw its ratings evaporate. No creativity = no listeners in music radio

Legendary deejay Scott Muni and his cast of popular colleagues were all fired by the late 90s.

New York radio has never seen another station completely cradle the cool factor for so long. Louisville’s WLRS-FM, Cincinnati’s WEBN-FM, Cleveland’s WMMR-FM, and hundreds of other stations imitated the WNEW-FM mojo to corner the cool factor in their regions back in the day.

Today, an unlimited number of sources provide music, but none has the power of local radio stations.

Recent Nielsen ratings research show that 91.7% of Americans listen to the radio every week. Alternate music sources such as Pandora and Sirius/XM satellite radio have small but loyal subscriber bases which have had very little effect on radio’s penetration.

Terry Meiners on the air at beginning of his radio career -- WKQQ-FM (Lexington) in 1977.
Terry Meiners on the air at beginning of his radio career — WKQQ-FM (Lexington) in 1977.

At my first music deejay job, a program director scheduled categories of music in a specific sequence and deejays were able to select songs from within those categories to “flow a show.” Good times.

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