Drake Blasts Recording Reps for Tabbing Him Tight-Play Addict
NEW YORK — Bill Drake, program consultant who has been just hired to consult all RKO General radio stations, including CKLW in Windsor/Detroit, lashed out at record reps who would tag him with the image of a tight playlist artist.
Drake, who scored ratings successes at KFRC in San Francisco and KHJ in Los Angeles, was in New York last week trying to work his magic on an FM station — WOR-FM, a stereo operation that had already made a sizable dent in New York ratings with a rock ‘n’ roll format. One of the first moves Drake did make was hire Gary Mack, formerly at KHJ, at WOR as program director of the station, replacing Art Wander.
As for other changes at the station, Drake said he would would try to improve the presentation of the music and the content. “The station will continue to play a lot of diverse album music, aiming at the 18-35 age group. It’s going to be rock, using every type of LP cut. Oldies would have a lot of influence…. a lot of Motown product, for example.” He said that other radio stations under his banner have been playing album cuts, “but to take an album and put it in the control room and say the deejay can play from it, is the same fallacy a lot of stations make in saying Sinatra is a super star. You don’t play Sinatra for the sake that he’s Sinatra; he’s had some bad cuts too. You don’t play Dylan for the sake he’s Dylan, Sinatra for the sake he’s Sinatra, Motown for the sake they’re Motown,” Drake concluded.
“The object is to play the good Dylan, the good Sinatra,” he said. And a lot can determine this. People working at the various stations guided by Drake listen to every cut of every LP, every single. Drake credits his success to “hard work and the good people working with me in striving for total success.”
Information between the stations is exchanged in writing, there are conference telephone calls on the music itself, as station personnel all exchange playlists. “But the music playlists at various stations vary an awful lot. This actually gives us the opportunity, contrary to opinion, to expose and test nine times as many records as anyone else. If a radio station plays three new different records each week that the other stations are not playing, this would run to 27 new records each week.”
Basically, he felt his radio station policy isn’t just to play the top few records . . . but he does advocate not playing “losing” records. “The object is to play winners. It’s good for us, it’s good for the record companies. If you consistently have weak records on the air, it’s obviously going to limit the amount of exposure you can give a strong record.”
“I could never understand why record companies wouldn’t be irritated because their good product was being hurt by the amount of weak product sometimes played.”
Drake does believe definitely in playing new records, saying his stations were spinning LP cuts by the Jefferson Airplane before the group hit paydirt with their recent single, “Somebody To Love.” “You’ve always got to have fresh new product on the air… good new records… whether by some new or known artists. Otherwise your station winds up with a staleness.”
Playing records by and for hippies will not lead to a successful radio station; he felt. he believes the whole of the San Francisco movement is a myth. Request radio is also too narrowly aimed . . . “What’s wrong is that these stations get the teenage listeners. You want them too, but not exclusively. Younger kids are the only ones, however, who have the time and patience to dial for a particular song they want to hear on the radio. They aren’t going anywhere anyway. Because they have more time on their hands than older people have.“
The object of winning radio is to please everybody without going after just them. “You play ‘Happy Together’ by the Turtles, ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On,’ by the Supremes . . . those are monster records everybody likes.”
Still, aside from the “monster” policy, Drake’s stations for the most part, do allow for some leeway. Tom Rounds, he said, picked up on “Ode To Billie Joe” early and began playing it under the assumption that it was going to become a monster hit on the chart. The record hit the chart a week ago like gangbusters and is still climbing.
Obviously, so is Bill Drake, currently rising fast with WOR-FM in New York and CKLW-AM in Detroit. END
(Information and news source: Billboard; August 12, 1967)