Six Major Stations I Haven’t Written About Yet

Five are heritage radio stations. One is among the year’s few successful new launches. Most have been consistent at the top of the ratings, although one has stealthily passed a major competitor over the last year. One has had an incredible run over the last year or so that hasn’t been acknowledged enough here or in the trades in general. 

The other thing the six stations have in common is that I have somehow never profiled them in the modern era of Ross on Radio (which is to say over the last decade, when I began publishing the newsletter in its current format). One did get a shout-out in my article on the “Intriguing Stations of 2023,” but to the best of my recollection, the others have never been featured in any significant way. 

All had success in the just-released May PPM. All have a larger story to tell. Together, they’re only scratching the surfaces of worthy major-market stations. (I’d estimate that I get to about 500 stations a year in some form. It’s encouraging for radio to realize that’s not everybody.) So please welcome …

102.3 WBAB Babylon 95.3 WHFMWBAB Long Island, N.Y. 

Cox’s WBAB identifies itself as “Long Island’s Classic Rock.” That’s particularly true now that a decade-long battle with Adult Hits WBZO has ended with “Max 103.1” becoming Country WWWF (The Wolf). Although WBAB had long regained dominance, it achieved a record high in May, up 7.8-8.9 6-plus under PD Chris Lloyd. That makes both New York and Long Island markets where Classic Rock does better than Classic Hits these days.

As a rock-radio powerhouse in the ’80s, WBAB had one of my favorite top-of-the-hour IDs, thanking various towns in rotation “for showing the world they love rock and roll.” Now the shout-outs are part of the station app promo. So was an upcoming giveaway to see Warrant, Lita Ford, and Firehouse, although the major promotion is “Home & Away,” tickets to five major tours in both New York and Los Angeles. 

WBAB imaging in general is quirky/off-kilter. (One hook promo begins with “tell me you listen to WBAB without saying you listen to WBAB.”) Here’s WBAB with middayer Domonique just before 10 a.m. on June 12:

  • Aerosmith, “Crazy”
  • Poison, “Your Mama Don’t Dance”
  • Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
  • Eddie Money, “Two Tickets to Paradise”
  • Asia, “Heat of the Moment”
  • Billy Joel, “My Life”
  • Rick Springfield, “Jessie’s Girl”
  • Foreigner, “Feels Like the First Time”
  • Metallica, “Turn the Page”
  • Van Halen, “Why Can’t This Be Love”
  • Tom Petty, “Runnin’ Down a Dream”
  • David Bowie, “Rebel Rebel”

93.1 WPOC Baltimore Laurie DeYoungWPOC Baltimore

For all its recent success, Country radio remains inconsistent in some markets it once dominated. But for iHeart’s WPOC, a rebound month is one like May, when the station went 7.9-6.0-7.9 under PD Jeff Kapugi.

“Today’s Best Country” WPOC stood out in a number of ways. Veteran p.m. driver Michael J. did seven breaks in the hour I heard — mostly about the music. There was an unusual twist on the usual iHeart :00 ID with instructions to “make everyone listen on your free iHeart Radio app.” 

There was also an unusual twist in the station imaging. One sweeper promises to “help you stay sane” in traffic. Another promises to “keep your anxiety down and your attitude up.” There’s been more about stress and emotional wellness in station imaging since COVID, but I’ve heard it more on AC/Soft AC or Christian AC than on Country.

Here’s WPOC just before 4 p.m. on June 11:

  • Dustin Lynch, “Stars Like Confetti”
  • Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
  • Luke Combs, “Fast Car”
  • Scotty McCreery, “See You Tonight”
  • Bailey Zimmerman, “Rock and a Hard Place”
  • Sam Hunt, “Outskirts”
  • Morgan Wallen f/Ernest, “Cowgirls”
  • Jason Aldean, “My Kinda Party”
  • Megan Moroney, “I’m Not Pretty”
  • George Birge, “Mind on You”
  • Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
  • Jelly Roll, “Need a Favor”
  • Tyler Hubbard, “Back Then Right Now”
  • Luke Combs, “Ain’t No Love in Oklahoma”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Undo It”
  • Kenny Chesney, “Take Her Home”

Mix 104.1 WWBX BostonWWBX (Mix 104.1) Boston

Audacy’s Mix 104.1 has long had a high-profile afternoon show, but Tuesday there was so much going on in Boston sports (The Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis injured during the playoffs; a Tom Brady Day ceremony) that hosts Gregg Daniels & Fast Freddy were joking with morning co-host Karson about being a sports station. The third team member, Andrea Lauria, was out with COVID and was broadcasting, we learned, not just from home but from bed.

Under PD Steve Salhany and APD/MD Mike Mullaney, Mix 104.1 went 5.7-5.6 in May, but it’s third in the market and has led heritage Top 40 rival WXKS (Kiss 108) all year, although that station was up 4.0-4.6. This year’s Mix Beach House promotion includes a free Bon Jovi contest. There were also two contestants pitted against each other that hour in Lana Del Rey ticket trivia. 

Because the station was in an afternoon “music marathon,” there were 14 songs in the hour I heard, even with some longer breaks. Here’s Mix 104.1 just before 4 p.m. on June 11:

  • Miley Cyrus, “Flowers”
  • Justin Timberlake, “Selfish”
  • Sam Hunt, “Body Like a Back Road”
  • Noah Kahan, “Stick Season”
  • Ava Max, “Kings and Queens”
  • Gayle, “ABCDEForgetU”
  • Teddy Swims, “Lose Control”
  • Backstreet Boys, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”—the station’s ’90s-throwback sweeper points out, “There’s people buying alcohol who weren’t even alive when this song came out.”
  • Lil Nas X, “That’s What I Want”
  • Glass Animals, “Heat Waves”
  • Kygo & Whitney Houston, “Higher Love”
  • Taylor Swift f/Post Malone, “Fortnight”
  • Killers, “Mr. Brightside”
  • Beyoncé, “Crazy in Love”
  • Benson Boone, “Beautiful Things”
  • Harry Styles, “Watermelon Sugar”

Hot 101.5 The Vibe WPOI WTBV St. Petersburg TampaWTBV-FM (101.5 The Vibe) Tampa, Fla.

Cox’s Adult R&B outlet ended a more-than-a-decade-long CHR war of attrition with rival WFLZ last September. In May, the frequency had its best month since June 2014, up 4.6-5.6 in a market where the previous Adult R&B outlet, WBTP (The Beat), had been successful but evolved to Hip-Hop/R&B.

Here’s “The Vibe” just before 9 a.m. on its second day, Sept. 8, 2023:

  • Miguel, “Adorn”
  • Guy, “Let’s Chill”
  • Whispers, “Rock Steady”
  • Ella Mai, “Boo’d Up”
  • Chris Brown, “Go Crazy”
  • Michael Jackson, “Rock With You”
  • Justin Timberlake f/Jay-Z, “Suit and Tie”
  • Michel’le, “Something in My Heart”
  • October London, “Back to Your Place” — the then-current Adult R&B chart No. 1
  • Kanye West, “Jesus Walks”
  • Montell Jordan, “Get It On Tonite”
  • Force MDs, “Tender Love”
  • Rema & Selena Gomez, “Calm Down”
  • Monica, “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)”
  • Emotions, “Best of My Love” — staged with a “timeless” sweeper that had been used the hour before on Keith Sweat’s “I Want Her.”

And here’s “Tampa Bay’s only R&B” with weekender/R&B radio veteran Marc Young filling in for PD EJ Greig at 4 p.m. on June 11. As with WBAB, there’s a lot of attention given to the OpenMic feature of the station app, and a lot of listener drops/geography. Music sweeps are referred to as “playlists.” Giveaways included a trip to Keith Sweat’s SweatFest in Cancun, also featuring Stephanie Mills, After 7, Joe, and Atlantic Starr.

  • Jazmine Sullivan, “Pick Up Your Feelings”
  • Cherrelle, “Saturday Love”
  • Wale f/Jeremih, “On Chill”
  • TLC, “Waterfalls” — with the rap
  • Usher f/Summer Walker & 21 Savage, “Good Good”
  • Keith Sweat, “Don’t Stop Your Love”
  • Mary J. Blige, “Real Love”
  • Coco Jones, “I.C.U.”
  • Bobby Brown, “My Prerogative”
  • Jagged Edge, “Let’s Get Married”
  • Muni Long, “Made for Me”
  • Fantasia, “When I See U”
  • Hi-Five, “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)”

98.5 KTIS-FM Minneapolis St. PaulKTIS-FM Minneapolis

Non-commercial Christian AC KTIS has been No. 1 in 13 of the last 15 monthlies, second in only the December and holiday ratings. Ratings expert Chris Huff also notes it has set a station record four times. Its “rebound” was 10.6-8.7-11.0 in May under PD Matt Deane.

KTIS positions itself in multiple ways as “uplifting” — the :00 ID heard was “uplifting songs, uplifting stories, uplifting you.” As with other similarly imaged stations, there was a positive emphasis on all topics, including that day’s thunderstorms. (“Sunshine awaits you tomorrow,” said middayer Jen, also promising “we’ll figure it out together.”)

KTIS’s promotion was a $3,000 backyard transformation, also including a cookout and a concert from artist Ben Fuller. There was also a promotion you don’t hear as much these days: The station is trying to put 985 of its new window stickers in circulation before the winning begins on June 20.

Here’s KTIS just before 11 a.m., June 12:

  • Brandon Lake, “Gratitude”
  • Patrick Mayberry, “Lead On Good Shepherd”
  • Stephen Stanley, “Rest in the Father”
  • Rend Collective, “Joy of the Lord”
  • Cody Carnes, “Ain’t Nobody”
  • Zach Williams, “Chain Breaker”
  • MercyMe, “Always Only Jesus”
  • Crowder, “Good God Almighty”
  • Phil Wickham, “This Is Our God”
  • TobyMac, “Faithfully”
  • 7eventh Time Down, “God Is on the Move”
  • For King + Country, “Joy”
  • Micah Tyler, “Praise the Lord”
  • Matthew West, “The God Who Stays”
  • Ben Fuller, “If I Got Jesus”
  • Colton Dixon f/Gabby Barrett, “Build a Boat”

98 KUPD 97.9 PhoenixKUPD Phoenix

Hubbard’s KUPD is fifth in Phoenix (4.7-4.6) under PD/middayer Larry McFeelie. “Arizona’s Real Rock” and “Arizona’s Most Powerful Rock Station” is celebrating its 45th year in the format. The magnitude of that heritage became apparent when p.m. driver Fitz Madrid played Judas Priest and then announced that he still loved the band, even if that song was 42 years old. But KUPD was already a market force by then. It remains one of Active Rock’s bigger major-market successes. 

Despite the heritage calls, some KUPD sweepers identify the station only by dial position. Others lean heavily into movie/TV drops, a onetime rock-radio trademark that stands out again now. Here’s KUPD just before 4 p.m. on June 11. (At 5 p.m., it went into its hour-long “Maximum Rock” bloc.) 

  • Offspring, “Want You Bad”
  • Marilyn Manson, “The Dope Show”
  • Finger Eleven, “Paralyzer”
  • Tool, “Stinkfist”
  • Nothing More, “If It Doesn’t Hurt”
  • Three Days Grace, “(I Hate) Everything About You”
  • Beastie Boys, “Intergalactic”
  • Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”
  • Nirvana, “Come as You Are”
  • Pearl Jam, “Even Flow”
  • Evanescence, “Bring Me to Life”
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Can’t Stop”
  • Godsmack, “Bad Religion”
  • Seether, “Remedy”

It’s also encouraging to think that I could have done a separate list of six major stations several times over from just the May results. Christian AC WRBS Baltimore and KSBJ Houston had similar stories. There were a dozen Classic Rock contenders, including WCSX Detroit, WSRV (The River) Atlanta, and WMGK Philadelphia. WERS Boston has joined the list of Triple-A non-comms ahead of a commercial rival. Vibe’s Urban AC sister station, WCFB (Star 94.5) Orlando was written about early in ROR, and at year-end, but not profiled since PD Elroy Smith took them to record numbers. So look for more to follow.

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