I Wanna Rock!

How did The Bone shock the Dallas radio world? With market research, double entendres and hair bands.

Jon Dillon, a fixture at KZPS for more than a decade, says much the same thing, at least about the new rivalry helping all involved. "You know, we feel like competition is good for everybody, no matter what it is," Dillon says. "We've been through the same thing several times. I've been here at ZPS for 15 years and, you know, I can't remember the call letters, but it was on what's currently The Oasis frequency, they came in for a while. And then there was The Arrow. They came in for a while. So we just kind of keep our head down and keep doing what we do. Let the world go around. We don't really worry about it, I guess, because we just do what we do, and we just do the best that we can. If you start worrying about things like that, you can drive yourself crazy."

Brian Purdy, Clear Channel's regional vice president and market manager for their Dallas-area stations, did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Clear Channel's initial plan of attack reflected Dillon's keep-on-keeping-on attitude. Sort of. When The Bone set up its new Web site, located at www.933thebone.com, they found that Clear Channel had bought the rights to the domain name www.933thebone.net, meaning that anyone who mistyped the station's address would be redirected to the KZPS site. (Clear Channel has since given up the rights to that particular domain name.) And not long after The Bone hit the air with its "classic Texas rock that rocks" slogan, KZPS began using it as well. "They said they've been saying it for, you know, five years," Strong says. "It's funny, because nobody heard it, and Bo Roberts, who worked there, said, 'Hey, I worked there for a couple of years. Wouldn't you think I would have to say it?'"

Thanks to the likes of Van Halen, Yvonne has been holding up solid numbers during her midday shift at The Bone. Bottom: Yvonne displays the action figure made for her by one of the station's many passionate fans.
Mark Graham
Thanks to the likes of Van Halen, Yvonne has been holding up solid numbers during her midday shift at The Bone. Bottom: Yvonne displays the action figure made for her by one of the station's many passionate fans.
He looks like Clark Kent, but Scott Strong, The Bone's program director, has been a Superman in the station's first seven months.
Mark Graham
He looks like Clark Kent, but Scott Strong, The Bone's program director, has been a Superman in the station's first seven months.

"They say the same thing, and they don't care, because their method is to confuse you," Rody explains. "That's all they're trying to do. It's like if I came up with a newspaper called the Dallas-Fort Worth Observer and I put it out on the street, and I say that we're the only alternative media in town...If they throw tomatoes at us, who cares? Because we're Clear Channel."

KZPS has backed off that approach lately, repositioning itself as everything The Bone is not, going back to, like Dillon says, doing what they've always done. That doesn't mean it's the end of the war. As Jeff K points out, Clear Channel has another fresh platoon ready for its tour of duty.

"Now you'll hear sweepers on ZPS that say, 'You know what the great thing is about heavy metal and hair bands? We don't play any,' he says. "So they're drawing that line in the sand as well, and saying, 'Well, if The Bone is gonna be this, we're gonna remind you of what we are, and we're not that.' Clear Channel is very lucky that they can, if they want to, they can pull ZPS back into being a hit-driven lite classic-rock station, and then send The Eagle to attack us for a while. The Eagle will play a lot of stuff that we play."

Or, as Adam Jacobson says, "It'll continue as long as Clear Channel lets it continue."


Everyone at The Bone has his own moment where he knew the station was a success. Scott Strong remembers the first day on the air, when the phones wouldn't stop ringing and he spent hours answering e-mails. That never happened at Merge. Jeff K remembers the Sammy Hagar-David Lee Roth concert in June at Smirnoff Music Centre, looking out at the crowd and seeing a sea of Bone T-shirts. That never happened at Merge. And Yvonne remembers the station's first live appearance at a local bar, where people were lined up out the door before the jocks even arrived. That never happened at Merge either. Or anywhere else she'd been, for that matter.

"I worked at 99X in Atlanta, which was one of the first modern-rock stations in the country 10 years ago, and we never got that response," Yvonne says. "And it was a huge station. So, it was overwhelming. The bosses, they were like, 'Wow, this is pretty cool, huh?' And I go, 'This is more than cool. I've never seen anything like this, you know, for anything.' It's exciting. You can work your whole career and never have people be so passionate."

But will that infatuation continue to translate into ratings for The Bone? Already, the monthly trends have leveled off, and in some instances, declined a bit. The Eagle jumped back into the top 10 in the last Arbitron book, a spot they no longer take for granted and one they're determined to hold onto. And KZPS hasn't given up trying to win back its listeners either. Plus, Rody believes that The Bone is so determined to get its name in front of people, it's on the verge of turning some of them off. "Can they play two songs in a row without an image liner? I haven't heard one," he says. "They're so damn hungry and nervous about every quarter hour that they just can't afford not to keep hammering it down. And I think that causes fatigue, and I think people get sick of hearing it."

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