" 'Whatever goes' is a pretty good idea of what we do," says Mark Moss, KACC's operations director and local rock radio veteran. "There are so many genres of rock, so we try to avoid just being classic or new. We try not to play the stuff that's been rubbed into the ground. Like, if we do play classic, we get a little deeper in the disc library. From the Floyd library, we'll play 'Sheep' or 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' instead of 'Another Brick in the Wall.' And Hendrix is not just 'Purple Haze.' We'll also play 'If 6 Was 9' or 'Castles Made of Sand.' "
Believe it or not, most kids have never heard those cuts, which have long vanished from the Arrow's playlists. "To younger listeners, deep-catalog stuff from those bands sounds like new music," Moss says.
Moss also wants to stamp KACC's sound with a Texas feel. "Nothing you hear on the dial really sounds identifiable as Texas anymore," he says. "It's an old theory of programming, but it makes us geographically different from anything else on the dial."
Take Los Lonely Boys, for example. Most Houstonians don't know it, but "Heaven" and the rest of the Grammy-winning trio's official debut album had been out for many months before the song became ubiquitous. KLOL was too busy spinning Tesla and crap like that; the Buzz had to make sure their daily quota of Marilyn Manson spins had been reached. Neither would give LLB a chance.
But KACC did. "I was goin' to see Los Lonely Boys when they were playing over at the Saxon Pub in Austin," Moss says. "We had four or five songs by those guys on the air long before they were ever on the commercial radio. And a few months later, 'Heaven' started getting airplay in Austin. I never really thought it should have been the single, so we never did add that song, but it did end up winning them the Grammy. At any rate, to me, those guys epitomized Texas."
Moss also spins (drumroll, please) local music. (And why we wouldn't he? In his spare time, he strums guitar in the Clear Lake-area trad-rock bar band the 4 Barrel Ramblers.) "We'll add the good local rock, and even the stuff that has a country flair. To me, that's where a Texas station should be. And the funny thing is, I get so many people that hear something and call in and ask, 'Who was that? That's a great song!' And I'll tell 'em it's [local rockers] Dune*TX or somebody like that."
One more thing:
Radio is a brutal business -- and it is getting more so by the year. You can be on top of the world one week, and one crappy quarterly ratings report later, you're fighting for your survival. If the suckitude continues, you're on your ass. Again.
Hmmm. How did that WKRP in Cincinnati theme go again -- "Got kinda tired of packin' and unpackin' / Town to town, up and down the dial?" Yep, that's the radio biz.
Or, more accurately, that was the radio biz back in the good old days. You can't go up and down the dial the way you used to, because virtually all of the thousands of small companies that owned radio stations have vanished into the maw of the Clear Channel, Cumulus and Infinity behemoths.
And neither did the radio of 1978 have to cope with so much competition. Today, the whole medium seems to be in a battle for its very existence. Home listeners were already a thing of the past by the '90s, and car CD players and satellite radio have eaten away at the formerly captive commuter audience. In more crowded cities, the future is even bleaker: New York-based Houston Press DVD reviewer Jordan Harper told me that hardly any Big Apple train commuters bother with the stodgy old box. "This is iPod Nation, man," he said. "I don't know anyone up here who listens to the radio."