KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

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Modernistfan
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KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:18 am

It looks like KUSC-FM in Los Angeles is in trouble. According to the Los Angeles radio Arbitron ratings, their average daily listening audience has plunged from something like 750,000 in the spring to, according to the most recent Arbitron ratings for November, 533,000. This is a drop of about 30% in just a few months. Their increasingly gimmicky and boring programming should get most of the blame; one of the worst offenders is Dennis Bartel in the mornings, who plays virtually no complete pieces of any length, only single movements, and wastes time with gimmicks such as stupid and juvenile sound effects; he frequently commits the cardinal sin in classical music broadcasting of talking over the music. He also has more and more talk, frequently talking about things such as USC football (if I ever wanted to hear that, I would put on a sports talk station). They need to give Brenda Barnes the boot, but it won't happen.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:59 am

Chicago had two very successful examples of short-selection, drive-time programming. WFMT's Morning Program and WNIB's 5 P.M to 7 P.M. programming (WNIB no longer exists). One might hear Reiner, Monteux, Stokowski, Galli-Curci, John McCormack and many other great artists, past and present. A number of Chicago's radio personalities were also very knowledgeable collectors and knew how to program this material and keep it interesting while stuck in traffic.

I remember a station in San Francisco playing Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra at 7 A.M. Sounded weird to me.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by some guy » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:01 pm

CharmNewton wrote:I remember a station in San Francisco playing Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra at 7 A.M. Sounded weird to me.
That's rather alarming.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

CharmNewton
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:03 pm

some guy wrote:
CharmNewton wrote:I remember a station in San Francisco playing Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra at 7 A.M. Sounded weird to me.
That's rather alarming.
LOL! :lol:

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by some guy » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:03 pm

Now you've got me laughing, too, John!

And you know how much I hate laughing. :D
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Guitarist » Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:57 pm

I was in LA a few years ago and couldn't believe my ears when they played Penderecki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima"! It was in the evening and wasn't one of their live concert recordings, which often reflect more interesting programming. My local NPR station would never play that piece.

Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:44 pm

That must have been some time ago. They would not touch Penderecki now with a 10-foot pole (pun intended).

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Guitarist » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:52 am

^ It was about three years ago.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Lance » Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:30 am

Modernistfan ... I think you knew this was going to happen if I remember your comments about KUSC in previous posts. A great pity. Some people never wake up. A 30% drop should awaken somebody at the top level before everything flops to the ground.
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Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:23 pm

They are still losing audience. The last Arbitron rating report showed another drop, to aboout 514,000. That is not a huge drop (about 3.5% from the prior rating report), but they are still losing audience and are not recovering. Not all that long ago, they had 750,000 daily listeners. It is impossible to believe that interest in and desire to listen to classical music would have dropped by nearly one-third in less than a year in the Los Angeles area, especially considering the hype (justified or not) surrounding Gustavo Dudamel.

I have to single out Dennis Bartel in the morning. Frankly, his program is a disgrace. Rarely if ever are full-length works played, and his program is disfigured with inane chatter, much of it about non-musical subjects (who cares about what the USC football team had done the previous weekend) and juvenile sound effects. He is playing more crossover and even pop junk (albeit in short snippets), and commits the ultimate sin, for a classical announcer, of talking over the music. If I were the head of the station, he would be out the door as soon as I could print up the notice of dismissal.

Of course, they have just about stopped playing 20th-century (or 21st-century) music except for a few extremely popular pieces (Gershwin, Copland, Rodrigo--you get the drift) and for 2 hours late on Saturday night on their "Modern Times" program (the highlight on tomorrow's program will be--wait for it, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring").

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:40 pm

Well, they have made no changes (except to further cut the amount of 20th-century music, vocal music, and other works not readily fitting into their dumbed-down format), and the most recent Arbitron ratings (for June 2012) have them down to 484,000 daily listeners (they had recovered very slightly, to about 533,000, only to drop again). That is yet another 10% drop. They are now down something like 40% in about a year.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:26 pm

The Los Angeles Times the other day ran a big story entitled "Where Have All of KUSC's Listeners Gone?" The article reported that, according to Arbitron, the core listening audience for KUSC had dropped 63% since 2009. The station disputes the numbers, claiming that Arbitron is undercounting their audience, and that Arbitron does not have enough college graduates in their sample. Arbitron stands by its numbers and replies that their most recent samplings have an overrepresentation of college graduates versus their proportion in the Los Angeles area general population. Moreover, an announcer let go by KUSC in August, Kimberlea Daggy, has made a statement that she was told by KUSC management (namely, Brenda Barnes) that the station had lost half of its listeners and a million dollars in the past year. KUSC has refused to comment on Ms. Daggy's statement, but has said that its donations are up.

It is clear that they are really in trouble, and one reason is that there are a lot of other options for classical listening, especially for listeners who are not content with KUSC's ever-shrinking playlist: CDs. especially from budget labels such as Brilliant Classics and Naxos, relatively inexpensive (and legal) downloads, Sirius/XM satellite radio, and streaming classical stations (including one called Contemporary Classical, from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, that plays all the stuff that KUSC is seemingly too scared to play). (I used to joke that there should be a station with the call letters KXLT, which would stand for "All Xenakis, All the Time"; Contemporary Classical comes awfully close to that, having played Xenakis, Schoenberg, Wolfgang Rihm, James Macmillian, and other major modernists recently.) An example of what I am talking about is that, when I got in my car for lunch the other day, I had KUSC on, and they were playing yet another Handel concerto grosso (they never play the vocal music of Handel, who, of course, was mostly a composer of vocal music); I switched over to Sirius/XM, and, sure enough, they had the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 2.

Because KUSC has bought out the San Francisco station KDFC, formerly a commercial station, I suspect that, because of costs, it will not be long until KUSC completely merges the two stations and goes with the "easy listening" classical format of KDFC; that will probably cost Jim Svejda, who is still on in the evenings and whose programming is still the only bright spot in an increasingly boring and stale range of programming, his job. (I have noted that even Mr. Svejda's programming has become relatively circumscribed; he plays much less Mahler, Bruckner and Hindemith, virtually no Martinu, formerly a huge favorite of his, no Szymanowski, another huge favorite of his, no Shostakovich, and so forth.)

We shall see what happens, but, unfortunately, I am not optimistic.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Dec 02, 2012 1:12 pm

Well, we have another programming change, and it is not good. They have now dropped the "Sunday Night Opera," which played full-length opera recordings. There were some things on that program that surprised me--they actually played Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," which must have irritated Brenda Barnes! They are moving more and more to "classical music lite" (the misspelling is deliberate).

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by John F » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:47 pm

Does KUSC broadcast commercials? Full-length operas are unpopular on commercial classical music radio because the slots for commercials are few and far between. WHRB in Cambridge, MA got the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts because their previous carrier, a commercial "good music" station, wouldn't accept the Met's restrictions on commercial messages even in the intermissions.
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Dec 02, 2012 11:13 pm

No, they do not broadcast commercials as such, but they sometimes carry announcements or acknowledge underwriters. If they wanted to do this, why couldn't they do it between acts of an opera (unless they were broacasting the original version of "Der fliegende Holländer" in one very long act)? I think that they merely want more control over the programming and don't want to play full length works. I think that they are committed to the Met broadcasts for 2012-13, but I would not be placing any large wagers on their broadcasting the Met for 2013-14. Anyway, this represents more degradation of their programming.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by springrite » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:30 am

I can still remember more than a decade ago (almost 2?) when KUSC got rid of Bonnie Grice, at the first pledge drive a couple of days after that, an excited jim Svejda said "KUSC is BACK!" And the subscriptions went way up for that year.

A few years later, KUSC went back, and became far worse than even the years with Grice, etc. It never recovered and kept on that course. I remember when I left ten years ago, the only KUSC program I listened to was The Record Shelf.
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:11 pm

Well, as bad as it is now, it's still not nearly as bad as at the end of the Bonnie Grice regime. I recall that, near the end, I had to come back from San Diego to Los Angeles after a business meeting on Friday afternoon. The trip took about three hours because of heavy Southern California traffic, I had KUSC on in the car, and, in that three-hour time period, a grand (not so grand) total of about fifteen minutes of classical music was played. The remainder was taken up with show tunes, Krossover Krap, new age, jazz (but nothing so "difficult" as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, or Bud Powell), and various kinds of ethnic or pseudo-ethnic music. I still remember the last selection with horror: it was something from a group known as the Flirtations, a gay a cappella group. They haven't yet reached those depths, but they are getting there fast, although the vast bulk of their programming is still recognizably classical, but hideously hidebound, anodyne, and conservative.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by springrite » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:20 pm

Not that I dislike Szell/Cleveland, but when Bonnie does play something classical, it is too often Cleveland/Szell. I remember when she had a comparative listening program with Rich Caparella, they play several versions, a bit at a time. Everytime she'd say "Oh, I hope I picked Cleveland... I hope I got it right this time..." because she grew up in Cleveland.
Music starts where words fail.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:59 pm

Another gripe--cheesy Christmas music. I have no problem with Christmas music of quality, such as Handel's "Messiah" (I know he originally wrote it as an Easter piece), Hector Berlioz's "L'Enfance du Christ" (so conservative for that avant-gardiste Berlioz that, when it was first premiered, the audience couldn't really believe that Berlioz had written it), Bach's "Christmas Oratorio," works by Heinrich Schütz, significant works by Benjamin Britten, and many others. Unfortunately, KUSC has, instead, chosen to largely play cheesy Christmas music of the sort that you could hear in any mall in the country. They don't realize that: (1) a substantial segment of their listening audience does not celebrate Christmas in any way; and (2) of those who do celebrate Christmas, a large number of people actually turn on a classical music station to get away from that omnipresent cruddy Christmas music. If the music has substance, I don't care about the theology perhaps associated with it. As Brooklyn's second most famous composer, Morton Feldman, used to say: "If I wanna listen to Bach, does that mean that I hafta convoit?" I have made several complaints about this to KUSC, to no avail.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by some guy » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:03 pm

KUSC has been shooting itself in the foot for many years.

Woulda been quicker if they'd aimed a little higher.

This slow bleeding to death is painful to watch.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:38 pm

This is how bad it has gotten. Here is the upcoming Saturday night's lineup for "Modern Times," billed as "Going French": Milhaud, "La Boeuf sur la Toit" (version for piano duo); Satie, "Relâche"; Jean Françaix, "Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet; Milhaud, "La Creation du Monde"; Poulenc, "Suite for Piano". Except for the Françaix, written in 1977 but in an idiom that was current 50 or 60 years earlier, there is not one work written past 1925, and no Honegger, no Boulez, no Messiaen, no Dutilleux, no Grisey, no Barraque, no Gilbert Amy, no Boucourechliev, no Landowski, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. If this is what you are going to do for "Modern Times", why bother? (In fairness, not all of these programs are this lame, but this is one is lamer than a thoroughbred racehorse who fractures both sesamoids at the quarter pole, and probably should meet the same fate (they shoot horses, don't they?))

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:38 pm

This is another example of how bad it has gotten. Years ago, pre-Bonnie Grice, they used to have something called a "Beethoven Birthday Bash" for just about the whole week of Beethoven's birthday (December 16). During that week, they managed to play just about the complete works of Beethoven, including all nine symphonies, the concertos, the other orchestral works, the chamber music, the choral music, Fidelio, and the solo piano music, even though December 16 was pretty close to Christmas. They considered Beethoven, justifiably, more important than playing Christmas music. This was gradually cut down, until, this year, his birthday was marked with exactly one Beethoven selection, the Third Symphony ("Eroica"). The bulk of the airtime was filled up with the cheesy Christmas music that I have been complaining about to no avail.

We are talking here about Beethoven, one of the most important composers in the entire canon of classical music. We are not requesting a "Birtwistle Birthday Bash" or a "Xenakis Xirthday Xash." Los Angeles deserves a lot better. It's no surprise that listeners are fleeing.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by some guy » Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:44 pm

I don't see much difference between a Beethoven Birthday Bash and a season of playing cheesy Christmas music. They are both reinforcing the known by playing the same things over and over again.

Perhaps you should ask for a Birtwistle Bash or a Xenakis Xash. :D

I think it's the idea of the canon that should be questioned. Not "Beethoven is one of the most important composers in the entire canon of Western classical music," but "Western classical music is full of all sorts of delightful things, canonical or not." The popular things don't really need any promoting: they're already popular.

But that's of course to dream way beyond even Modernistfan's dreaming. But since it's only a dream, why not really dream in a big way? Imagine an audience that expects, nay demands, new things. Mmmmmm. Wooden that be sweet?
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

Modernistfan
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:47 pm

Agreed. I would love to see a "Shostakovich Shirthday Shash" or a "Xenakis Xirthday Xash." Wouldn't happen on that station. The only point I was trying to make is that of what use is a classical music station that is afraid to play Beethoven, never mind Shostakovich or Xenakis. I agree that there is a lot of interesting music outside the traditional canon, and the bulk of my CD collection testifies to that.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:50 am

Well, things are even worse for KUSC. Without informing the listeners, they have almost completely integrated their programming with KDFC in San Francisco. This is true for most of the midday programming and on weekends. They still have local announcers appear to be on for each station through electronic trickery, but the playlists are identical. They have stopped playing Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts, relying on the syndicated and very conservative "SymphonyCast" for orchestral concerts. More and more of their programming is taken up with single movements and excerpts; it has become rare to hear a complete symphony or concerto during the day. Even relatively short works such as the Sibelius "Karelia Suite" and Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije" are almost always excerpted. Vocal music is almost completely gone (they very rarely will play a short choral selection or a popular aria). What has replaced vocal music is the performing of arias or Lieder with an instrumental solo in place of the voice by such performers as Joshua Bell and Sol Gabetta--I absolutely hate that and do not buy those recordings. They celebrated Schubert's birthday the other day and could not bring themselves to play even one Lied. Even Jim Svejda, who used to frequently play symphonies of Bruckner, Mahler, and Shostakovich, as well as a fair amount of Bohuslav Martinu, now rarely if ever plays their works. They absolutely avoid any music, particularly 20th- century music, that has any kind of a political or social edge or any extra-musical references (I cannot remember the last time that they played the Jewish-themed, Holocaust-memorial, Shostakovich First Violin Concerto, one of the most important violin concertos of the last hundred years).

They are in the midst of one of their interminable pledge drives, and they were dissing satellite radio when I had them on for a few minutes (they said that, unlike satellite radio, they actually played great music). I have to laugh--yesterday I went out for a snack for a few minutes and when I put on XM Radio in my car, they had on the Martinu Fourth Symphony. KUSC would rather have their announcers eat a live rat on the air, with Béarnaise sauce, then play that work. XM frequently plays Bruckner, Mahler, and Shostakovich, among others.

Even their Saturday-night two-hour "Modern Times" program is watered down. A couple of weeks ago, they had a program featuring "Music of the 1940s" and, among the works played were Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," the Stravinsky Concerto for Strings, and Copland's "Quiet City." Before they took a hatchet to their programming, all of those works used to be played regularly; now they are consigned to the modern-music ghetto at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday nights. (By the way, where were the early Boulez works, Webern, or Schoenberg (say "Ode to Napoleon" or "A Survivor from Warsaw") on that program?)

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:19 pm

I wonder if they are actually attracting a bigger audience with watered-down classical programming. Is it really that much bigger a niche audience than educated classical? It seems to me that people who are only interested in the greatest hits stuff are probably not interested enough in that to keep a station going when alternatives are available, which could explain the number of stations that have now moved to completely different formats.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:07 pm

I doubt that they are attracting any larger audience, particularly in Los Angeles. Remember that Los Angeles has had an extremely strong new music tradition since the days when both Stravinsky and Schoenberg lived there (all right, to be picky, Stravinsky actually lived in Beverly Hills). There is an agenda that is driving this dumbing down, and it has never been explained or articulated. Although they constantly bleat that "70% of our funding comes from listeners like you," when it comes to programming, they treat their listeners like village idiots.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:08 pm

Modernistfan wrote:I doubt that they are attracting any larger audience, particularly in Los Angeles. Remember that Los Angeles has had an extremely strong new music tradition since the days when both Stravinsky and Schoenberg lived there (all right, to be picky, Stravinsky actually lived in Beverly Hills). There is an agenda that is driving this dumbing down, and it has never been explained or articulated. Although they constantly bleat that "70% of our funding comes from listeners like you," when it comes to programming, they treat their listeners like village idiots.
Are you sure they aren't providing what much of their audience wishes to hear? I know to you it is dumbed-down but to others it is beautiful music. This thread began over two years ago and the station is still kicking. :)

Have you tried services like Spotify? You will hear commercials but that should be expected for having the choice to listen to a work that would have otherwise required purchase.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by bigshot » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:46 pm

I don't see how any music oriented radio station survives in the era of Spotify.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Feb 09, 2014 4:46 pm

bigshot wrote:I don't see how any music oriented radio station survives in the era of Spotify.
I agree with you. I hadn't heard of Spotify until it was mentioned on a business show and decided to check it out. I was able to hear some new releases in their entirety.

One question with Spotify and other services is do they pay artist (or label) royalties? Are they currently or will they be subject to litigation. If the answer to those is yes and no, then I can't see how on-demand streaming loses.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by John F » Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:53 pm

A friend uses Spotify and speaks very highly of it - the free service, he's not a subscriber. I wouldn't know about online services, but in radio, we paid an annual lump fee to ASCAP that supposedly licensed everything. What the fee was, and what ASCAP did with the money, I never knew.
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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by lennygoran » Mon Feb 10, 2014 9:38 am

bigshot wrote:I don't see how any music oriented radio station survives in the era of Spotify.
I just tried this spotify out--the free version--I found it a little tough to set up but I'm a luddite--finally got to hear some music--tried Clare de Lune laura sullivan I guess at the piano--came in a little choppy. Then I used the search putting in verdi-chorus of hebrews--again kind of choppy--my Dell computer which is old maybe couldn't handle it. I wonder if just going to you tube gives you a bigger choice? Regards, Len

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:16 pm

lennygoran wrote:
bigshot wrote:I don't see how any music oriented radio station survives in the era of Spotify.
I just tried this spotify out--the free version--I found it a little tough to set up but I'm a luddite--finally got to hear some music--tried Clare de Lune laura sullivan I guess at the piano--came in a little choppy.
What a coincidence! I found "Laura Sullivan" played by Claire de Lune. :) Sheesh, Len, at least you could have done the opera research for us. :wink:

I checked it out too and can see getting some use out of it. As I guess you also found out, it will sometimes cut off a track before the last note has faded. Don't count on it as instant access to absolutely everything for the price of an occasional commercial.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by lennygoran » Mon Feb 10, 2014 7:56 pm

jbuck919 wrote: Sheesh, Len, at least you could have done the opera research for us. :wink:
But I did the opera too--Verdi--the chorus of the hebrews--it was choppy too. Regards, Len :(

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by bigshot » Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:46 pm

What kind of internet connection are you using? Sounds like your wifi isn't getting a strong connection.

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Re: KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in Trouble

Post by lennygoran » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:57 pm

bigshot wrote:What kind of internet connection are you using? Sounds like your wifi isn't getting a strong connection.
I've had some experience now with the DSL for wifi--I just got Roku and the signal seems pretty strong--from the DSL upstairs down to the TV the Roku connection works fine--I have to think the computers are old and weak. Regards, Len :(

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