In depth: How Pandora helps its South Dakota radio station build local audience
As we reported some weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission recently cleared a crucial barrier to Pandora purchasing KXMZ-FM in Rapid City, South Dakota (“Hits 102.7”). KXMZ is a “contemporary hits” station (Adele, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, etc). The Commission waived its foreign ownership rules for Pandora, which usually bar a company with over a quarter non-United States ownership from buying a broadcast signal.
When Pandora first initiated the purchase several years ago, I got a kick out of KXMZ’s website, which appears to be run by Mike Swafford, KXMZ’s morning show deejay. For example, the bio page for afternoon deejay Christy Russell is written by Swafford, who notes that she declined to write her own bio, and “only agreed to work at Hits if she was in the afternoon and I was in the mornings and there’s some sort of clause that says I can’t be in the studio while she’s in the building blah blah blah . . . ” I’m guessing/(hoping) that this is least half farcical.
In any event, just for further kicks, I emailed Swafford shortly after the FCC announcement. “Any thoughts on your new employer, Pandora?” I asked.
Swafford replied this morning, noting that he had already been working with Pandora under the station’s Local Management Agreement with the company. “I’m excited for the future as we will be able to do even more once the sale is final and we will be working without limitations that come with operating under the LMA,” he added.
I started in radio in high school so I have over 30 years in the business as an on-air personality and General Manager so despite Pandora not being a traditional radio company the people I have worked with over the last two years were life long radio people as well from both the sales and programming side before they were at Pandora.
I’ve been fortunate to work with Connoisseur Media when they started the second time around and put HITS 102-7 on the air. They were a great company to work with as they were growing and I learned a lot from them. The reality of operating a single station in a small market like Rapid City and be successful has limitations. They were unable to find other stations in the market to buy and add to it so when they decided to sell it was exciting that they went with Pandora and the possibilities that it provided for the first time to get music data in this small market and apply it to programming. It also opens up another revenue stream the multiple station competitors have of selling all of their stations and formats by allowing our station to do that with Pandora stations and formats.
While everyone else focuses on the royalty issues which are obvious, as a radio guy that’s not my area. I’m not involved in it and I’m not a spokesperson for them. However, as a radio guy the things we have been able to do with the weekly information based on Rapid City Pandora users and apply that to radio has been a blast. I’ll let everyone else talk about royalties but for me, having immediate access to research that is local and accurate and not based on recall that an outside company might charge thousands of dollars for and provide weeks or months later is exciting.
“You may think some PR person provided this kind of a reply,” Swafford’s email concluded, “but it’s just the way I see it and I’ve had nothing but positive interaction with Pandora so I don’t have any reason to think that will change.”
I’m definitely going to write back to Mike and ask him about those “things” they’ve been doing with data on Rapid City Pandora subscribers. Pandora bought the station at least in part to get better royalty rates from ASCAP and BMI. But it appears that the service has been taking its new acquisition seriously as a broadcast entity. More intel on how that is going as we get it.
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