Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Beautiful Music Radio Format

What a freak show this was...
It starts innocently enough on WDVR near Philadelphia in 1963. Then Music director Jerry Lee created a format that miled the new high fidelity of FM stereo sound. Within four months they were #1 in Philly. Then Jim Schulke arrived on the scene. He was not from radio, he was from TV. But with the ideas he had you'd have thought he was from the CIAs MkUltra department.

Jim Schulke, an ex Paramount TV executive and harvard MBA had this idea. He would design his playlist of Muzak to effect human behavior with through the tempo. The clock was divided into 15 minute music blocks in a process he called "matched flow." modulated the tempo of music to improve work place productivity. It gradually increased tempo from morning until the lunch hour then started the process again after lunch. The point was that each musical peice should flow together like one long song. It was desribed as almost hypnotic. But that was the idea right? And it worked! The TSL (time spent listening) was great, with led to a nice AQH and grat ad rates as well.

Jim Schulke started the company Stereo Radio Productions (SRP) and offerd the above format. His format control was absolute. To be an SRP client the staiton owner had to agree to a number of restraints. There were certain changes to the EQ, and no compression was allowed. They were limited to 6 minutes of ads per hour. Commercials had to be run at a reduced volume. Spots had to be dry read, no bed music. The music they shipped to station was on tape reels, and was also proprietary. major labbels jumped on the fad and well.. you find Living Strings LPs at the salvation army all the time right?

This was a cult. They even beleived that the demographics on a specific SRP station were directly related to the EQ manipulation. More bass for males, less for females... etc.

Shortly after all this set in, Bonneville introduced their own Beautiful music format as did others. The new format providers were not as obsessive about EQ, compression, spot loads or spot volume. This was easier to implement, and equally popular. Of course this was SRP's undoing. If the audio paranoia wasnt related to numbers, why do it? A coalition of independant beautiful music staitons popped up: Independent Beautiful Music Association (IBMA) Some of these were actually in Europe this was branded as "Beautiful Hits." It was about then that Cox bought SRP. This was 1978, there were hundreds of these stations. As many formats do, it reached some form of critical mass and the statiosn shifted their formats away from each other. New formats cropped up. Smooth Jazz, Sunny, Soft AC, Easy Listening, Magic, Soft Hits... etc.

WOEZ 88.3 Knoxville, TN http://www.woez88.com/
WKTZ 90.9 Jacksonville, FL http://wktz.jones.edu/
WMUU 94.5 Greenville, SC http://www.wmuu.com/main.asp

NOTE: about 5 years ago some christian music stations began co-opting the branding.