In 2006 Rolling Stone Magazine named KMTT “The Mountain” one of the top radio stations in the U.S. market. They wrote a profound article entitled…
Rock Radio’s Last Stand
For years, The Mountain had a strong reputation as being a music tastemaker. Under the Triple A format KMTT championed quality local artists such as Brad, Brandi Carlile, Left Hand Smoke, Death Cab For Cutie and most recently The Head and The Heart. The KMTT we once knew is no more. The station now exists in name only.
On Friday, November 18th, the powers that be at Entercom Communications decided that it needed to cut costs and refine their format. Music Director, on air personality and station mainstay Shawn Stewart was unceremoniously sacked.
I visted the KMTT studios in October of 2009 and wrote the following piece…
Top of The Mountain (103.7) KMTT: meet Shawn Stewart, Music Director and on air personality
According to All Access.com, KMTT continues its musical evolution under the guidance of Program Director Mike Kaplan moving toward a more Classic Triple A approach, while still playing some current releases from the format’s core artists. The new station branding message is “Timeless Music … Quality Rock.”
Kaplan told All Access “We’ve added more timeless music, proven quality rock. The Mountain will still target the same adult rock audience who is adventurous, enlightened and musically discerning: U2 to Coldplay, Pearl Jam to Led Zeppelin to R.E.M.”
As if stations like KISW and KZOK and a host of other stations in the region are not providing listeners these musical offerings.
With the heart and soul of the station being yanked out and the live air staff being reduced to one local radio veteran John Fisher, KMTT will become a semi digital juke-box, A la Click 98.9 and 96..5 JackFM.
With Stewart gone it looks like Kaplan will take on both Program Director and Music Director duties.
The popular Marty Riemer, who returned last year after a year long exodus remains but will voice track his show from his home studio.
Marty Riemer will scale back up ‘The Mountain’
In terms of what will become of the Mountain Music Lounge or listener parties…who knows.
Different than the rest…
The Mountain was once a real gem in a crowded and increasingly corporate radio market. It was the type of radio station that hearkened back to the days of the 70’s when radio was a bit more free form and cutting edge. Back in FM radio’s heyday, one would often hear an artist’s single several months before the song would go into the Top 40 airplay rotation nationally. There was a time when KMTT shined the spotlight on artists that otherwise may have been initially ignored by “mainstream” radio.
For many years KMTT served as a beacon for the artists by evangelizing their work to an audience that may have had little or no exposure to them. The station provided value to the artist by exposing their work and value to the music audience by introducing them to newer artists that may have been previously anonymous in the Seattle market… everyone won here.
Internet is killing the radio star…
AM and FM music radio was pretty much the de facto 24/7 home or automobile music delivery system… that is until MTV came along in 1981. But video did not kill the radio star. Music fans did not watch videos in their car. Radio continued to thrive throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Today MTV is pretty much about everything but music with music videos being replaced by lowbrow reality shows like “Jersey Shore.”
The start of terrestrial music radio’s decent can be traced all the way back to Regan era deregulation in the early 80’s. The advent of illegal music downloading via the old Napster, MP3 players, namely the iPod, Podcasting and iTunes have contributed to the hastening of the medium’s demise.
In the last few years Rhapsody, Pandora, MOG, Spotify, Rdio and Turntable.fm. have come on the scene. Facebook recently integrated music onto its platform as well.
Of course Satellite Radio’s SiriusXM has played a significant role in deflecting listeners ears away from traditional radio. In addition, newer automobiles are coming equipped with Satellite and Internet Radio capability. There are several apps for almost any kind of mobile device such as TuneIn Radio, which allow listeners to hear their favorite terrestrial or internet radio stations and streaming podcasts on the go.
All of these factors are contributing to the errosion of radio audiences. Listeners have more choices than ever and the ability to program their own playlists without having to rely on marketing or focus groups to determine what it is they should be listening to.
Tough times call for tough measures…
The music business in general is going through tough times and the demise of music radio is collateral damage. KMTT is just one of many stations throughout the nation making wholesale changes to their programing and dumping live on air staff to stay afloat in a volatile market. Many of the suits in music radio have gone into survival mode. The industry is at Defcon 2.
Longtime free-form radio legend and “last DJ” Jim Ladd was let go from Los Angeles rock radio’s KLOS this past October as part of the Clear Channel blood bath, which saw hundreds for radio folks across the country join the ranks of the unemployed.
We live in a mobile and on demand world now. Radio will still have a place but it is trying to find out where that place is in this brave new world.
In the meantime brilliant, high tech studios across the country stand empty like ghost towns. Studio michrophone dials remain in the Off position because there is nobody there to speak into them.
Some rays of hope…
Fortunately, there are a few bright spots on the horizon. Listener supported KEXP enjoys great success and popularity locally and globally. Local internet radio stations such as Seattle Wave Radio and NWCZ Radio are picking up the slack by featuring local artists and featuring an eclectic blend of music and hosted shows that feature artist interviews.
As for KMTT, their slogan used to be “A passion for the music.” With the current state of the music industry and terrestrial music radio, passion is no longer enough to sustain what was perhaps the last of the truly great radio stations. In other words, passion don’t pay the bills.
With the firing of Stewart and change of format, KMTT has broken the covenant the station had with long time listeners and music fans.
Soon there will be a generation of music lovers and audiophiles who do not get their taste of newer music from terrestrial radio. The older generation that was raised on radio misses its DJ’s. It would appear that a younger generation that was not…they couldn’t care less.
This is a shame becuase when radio is done well and there is a real connection to the artists and fans, it is truly magic.
In the immortal words of George Harrison and Bob Dylan,“All things must pass” and “The times they are a changin’.”
Rest in Peace KMTT we will miss you.
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