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WMAK changes format, releases DJs

May 13, 2005

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WMAK changes format, releases DJs
By Chris Lewis, clewis@nashvillecitypaper.com
May 13, 2005
 
Jumping on a trend sweeping the nation, Nashville oldies station WMAK-FM switched Thursday to a new format known as “96.3 Jack-FM” and let go three on-air personalities, including veteran and popular DJ Coyote McCloud.

The new program emphasizes hits from the 1970s to current rather than the ’60s-focused music of a conventional oldies station, said Dennis Gwiazdon, vice president and general manager of the station.

“Jack” also plays about 1,200 songs, four times what’s currently spun, with fewer commercials and no jocks – at least not for the foreseeable future, Gwiazdon said.

“It is about true variety, it is about low repetition, but it’s all about favorite songs, all about hits. You recognize everything you hear,” he said.

He said it was difficult to let go of the on-air talent, including Cathy Martindale and Bobby Knight. McCloud had been with WMAK-FM for six years. The station has been among Nashville’s top 10 in terms of ratings.

“I’ve got the most profound respect for Coyote, [Martindale and Knight]. Their contributions were significant to the success of oldies,” Gwaizdon said. “Unfortunately we’re moving in a direction that doesn’t require the services of on-air personalities and there just wasn’t any place to put them.”

He said the station, owned by South Central Communications in Evansville, Ind., is attempting to reach listeners in the 24 to 44 age group, which attracts more advertisers than typical oldies listeners, age 45 to 54.

The Jack format, a trademark brand that began in Canada three years ago, has been copied in the United States by at least 20 stations in markets ranging from Los Angeles and Dallas to Indianapolis and Kansas City.

Nashville-based radio consultant Robert Unmacht said the format hasn’t yet proven successful. Doing away with disc jockeys, he said, eliminates an important component of radio listening: companionship.

“People are making a big error in thinking a catchy name can replace substance,” Unmacht said.

Adam Jacobson, radio editor for Radio and Records in Los Angeles, said he’s sad Nashville is losing its only oldies radio station. But he said South Central is a savvy company that wouldn’t have made the move if it hadn’t seen a hole to fill in the market.

“I just wonder if the older [over-age-55 listeners] in Nashville aren’t going to revolt and say, ‘If I‘m not important to you, you’re not important to me. Forget radio,’” he said.

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