94.7fm KNRK – Give us Feedback? Then "#YouFail"

94.7 fm KNRK

94.7 fm KNRK

At times I've been a vocal critic of the direction 94.7 fm KNRK . Over the past year they've changed their format, fired some of their key on air staff (most notably Tara Dublin, their only female dj) and changed the way they participate in the community.

Last September I wrote a piece in response to some of this entitled KNRK – It’s Absolutely Not Different Here. I wrote it as a listener, a life long fan of music and as someone who believed that Portland, Oregon should have a vibrant and significant alternative radio station.

While driving my kids in the car the other day I happened to switch over to Z100 (at the sole request of my kids). I was amazed at just how much new music I was hearing.  I'll admit that Z100's fare isn't my genre of choice, but I couldn't help but recognize just how much 'new' I was hearing and just how much that was lacking on 94.7.  For the record, I don't think  new music = good music.  But growing up on alternative radio I'll never forget the experience of hearing something new, exciting, and different.

I remember sitting in my car on an extremly cold December morning (in Ithaca, New York) listening as the radio station played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the very first time. I sat in 15 degree cold, idling my car in the driveaway just listening, realizing just how amazing the new song Iwas hearing was.

I do think that artists like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, XTC and even Bob Marley have their place in the rotation of a modern rock station. But when they make up the vast percentage of music on that station, you leave little room for the genre to move forward, for local bands to find their audience and for anything significant to happen.

But this isn't just about the music on 94.7fm. It's what happened when I expressed my frustration to them:

94.7fm Feedback

Now keep in mind 94.7fm is a station which has built its brand on listener feedback. They run daily promos with listener feedback and encourage people to tell them what they think. The thing is, this seems to only apply if what you say is positive.

#youfail from KNRK

I was shocked. Was an Entercom-owned radio station's official twitter account name calling because I expressed my frustration with the lack of new music?!

Since this exchange was happening on the eve of the station's big benefit concert "Pet Aid", with proceeds going to Dove Lewis, I replied.

For Chairty

Again I was met with downright hostility:

No For Dove Lewis

I'll spare all the back and forth, but the capper to me was:

blahblahblah

I emailed Mark Hamilton, 94.7fm's program director, who seemed to be as befuddled by the interaction as I was. His response:

Neither our Facebook or Twitter accounts are meant to be a forum for a back and forth with a listener.

And yet, nothing really has been done about it.

I'm writing about this interaction not because I think I'm right. There are many people out there who want a station that plays more classic alternative music than new music.  Also the economics of a radio station have changed dramatically over the years, making it harder for art and creativity to have a place over commerce (look at Indie 103's demise on the airwaves as an example).

The lesson here is that a company's twitter and facebook pages ARE its face to its customers/listeners.  DJ Squid (@squidvicious, who is also appearantly the person behind @947fm)  literally lambasted me for my feedback and he did it AS 947fm.

All businesses will have their critics, some of them more harsh than others, but businesses can never go on the attack against them. You can't on one hand ask for feedback and then another chastize people for their feedback when they say something you don't like, or in a way you don't prefer.

With iPhones, iPods, Pandora and so many other ways of consuming music, radio stations – especially local radio stations – can only really survive if they have some sort of relevant relationship with their listeners. Firing DJs, lambasting people on twitter and dropping support for local non-profits isn't the way to build that relationship, it's the way to kill it.

So I'll move on, like so many other people, I'll flip the radio to AUX and plug in my iPhone. I'll stream KEXP (or OPBMusic) while I work and wait patiently for KZME to launch.

I'm convinced that someday Portland will have a truly amazing local radio station committed to being the alternative. It's clear that 947fm isn't it.

Relevant links:

Geoff Kleinman

27 Comments

  1. I agree. 947 has become a major FAIL. Firing Tara Dublin, their response to her being fired and this poor twitter response is all proof to me. I've moved on. Problem is, by the time the management gets the message, it'll be too late.

  2. You are comparing NRK to Z100? Really? Z100 plays top 40 pop, no fucking wonder they constantly play new music.

    I love NRK and hope they keep it up.

  3. @hop no. it was the experience of listening to Z100 which illustrated just how significant the issue of 'lack of new music on knrk" was. But again, the issue here isn't the music, it's how 947 dealt with the feedback.

  4. I used to listen to KNRK at work but I got tired of listening to the same Pearl Jam, Nirvana, David Bowie, and Sublime songs every single day. If they did have something new then I heard it at least 3 times during the course of the day (once per block). I haven't been listening lately so I don't know what the current state is but I'd rather find new stuff on Pandora and last.fm then buy it and put it on my iPod than bother with that station.

  5. Regardless of which station plays more new music it can't be dismissed at how ineptly KNRK communicated in this case. Mr. Hamilton's response in this matter SHOULD HAVE BEEN to find the person(s) responsible for the offending (and stupid) tweet and give them a stern talking to. If Mark Hamilton (who I've heard nothing but great things about) is so out of touch with modern media that he doesn't "get" that Twitter and Facebook ARE PRECISELY FOR communication back and forth with a listener – well, someone should see about replacing him, he quite obviously doesn't know his demographic very well and doesn't care to.

    So Mark, just what ARE Twitter and Facebook for then? The same tired old tune-it-out crap that real people get sick to death of every day? Are you going to pitch your contests through it? Tell me what's playing right now? Are you working up that automated Tweet machine to match the KNRK über-iPod that inevitably replaces your hard working DJ's? Oh yay, I can't wait for that.

    A fun bet with great PR potential for KNRK, completely ruined by defensive social media screwtards that think the "media" in "social media" is the important part. You have it backward. Now, get with the program please.

  6. I too was smacked down by the NRK Twitter account. Squid seems to really get Twitter on his own account, so it's disappointing to discover he's the one "officially" dissing people on the corporate account.

    I like listening to NRK. I like Greg, and I adore the Bootlegger's Dozen and the Oakenfold on Saturday nights. Nobody else is doing that, and I like listening to it, that REALLY is an alternative to what's on other stations. But if I try to give feedback and I get static for it, then nevermind.

    Here's a fun exercise: See how many times you hear them play one of those "It's Different Here" bumps and then follow it with Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Because now that I noticed, it seems to be ALL the time.

    Not that any of this matters, because when "the book" comes out if they have any listeners left they'll call it a win.

  7. Geoff, I agree with you. I saw the exchange between you and @947fm the other day and emailed Mark Hamilton as well. And as I told him, if you can't respond professionally to complaints, you have no business being in business. His response was that he was puzzled and that he would look into it.

    I listen to KNRK everyday while I'm working, but as this exchange continues, I am less and less impressed with how they have handled it. I didn't particularly love Tara Dublin, but they should have fired the jackass behind their Twitter account instead – and they should now, if they haven't already.

    Taking feedback and complaints, right or wrong, is part of being in business. If they can't handle the heat, they should get out.

  8. They are looking at an 18% drop in revenues for last quarter. To me, that would mean taking action to improve the line-up and attract more listeners and advertisers. Apparently to Entercom that means cut staff, automate, and drop marketing support for their stations. I am sick of the potato-in-the-throat voices on the sausage fest 94.7 has become. It doesn't make sense to me to leave behind socially clueless, rude DJs when Tara had a good show and a loyal online audience. I am quite happy with Pandora now. Sorry Entercom.

  9. Why go to Seattle for your streaming when opbmusic pays a huge amount of attention to local acts and shows each and every day? I love it and was surprised it didn't get a mention given the context. If you're less than impressed with KNRK, as I am, and Portland radio in general, I'd suggest checking it out– they're on radio weekend nights and online all the time.

  10. I stopped listening in the evenings when they got rid of Jamie Cooley and stopped listening all together when Tara was let go.

  11. Thanks for all the great comments. All really solid and well spoken!

    @Jim-Bob I added OPBMusic to the article per your recommendation, didn't mean to overlook a local station doing something in the space, just hadn't listened to them yet. Now streaming!

  12. Seriously? "Neither our Facebook or Twitter accounts are meant to be a forum for a back and forth with a listener."

    Why would they even be on these social networking sites? They have a website – they already have a forum for one way communication. No wait – as they don't care about listener feedback, make that two forums.

  13. I read this and think about the commercial stations here in Minnesota. I don't think we have one with bad public relations like this, but the music is not new or fresh. Luckily for us, a couple years ago, we got The Current (thecurrent.org) which is part of public radio. They are always playing new music, they support the local scene.

    Good luck with the radio there.

  14. Such a weird reaction from the NRK folks. If it really is Squid running that Twitter account, then I've lost a ton of respect for him. That's really too bad.

    For me the only time really worth listening to NRK is Sunday nights when Greg does the Bottom 40. I always find something new and interesting in those two hours. Otherwise, it's just the same Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Chili Peppers songs over and over.

    It's such a weird station. People genuinely root for them and are really passionate about making it their own. There's a place in town for a KINK for the 25-49, under-$100k crowd. I wish it was 947. Unfortunately it's not.

  15. When I first moved to Portland 2 years ago, I asked a colleague where I could find a station that played new, alternative music. She directed me to 94.7/KNRK. When I tuned in, they were playing a song by The Smiths.

    Sure, my colleague was a decade younger than I (and perhaps listening to songs from the 80s and early 90s is "kitsch" to Gen Y), but the playlist seemed to be more of the stuff I listened to in college (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Pixies, etc.) and was anything but "new."

    Luckily, now I have satellite radio in my car, where I can truly find new artists, and if I'm in the mood, I can relive my younger years with some "old school" alternative music.

  16. I am not a regular listener of Portland radio, with the exception of OPB, 89.9 or 89.1. None of the other stations, including KNRK hold any interest for me. Your post only serves to illustrate what a waste of time tuning into them is. I agree with OvertheAir? that satellite radio is highly preferable and there are more musical options to choose from, including alternative (I do find their classical avenues a little wanting…).

    I simply can think of nothing relevant about those corporate, commercial stations: what do they offer the public? At best they are a wallpaper of sound to drown out traffic noises on the Banfield. At their worst, they are the smug, self-involved self-referring simpleton crass masters of the corporate jungle gym. Really – who cares what they think, say or do? They are completely irrelevant to culture and society at large. In time they will be replaced by more of the same and no one will know any different.

  17. I was shocked when I read the #youfail! I remember reading your tweet and thinking that I had sent them similar feedback a year ago after listening to the millionth David Bowie and Bob Marley song. I heard nothing about it and so I tuned out.

    And how much time has passed and no apology has been issued?

  18. I also am a huge fan of the OPBMusic stream. You will not find a better source for independant, local musicians. As for @947fm I'm simply going to add them to my Twitter block list.

  19. @Chris Snethen

    The Bottom Forty is the only time I ever listen to the radio anymore either (besides that, I haven't listened at all for months). I love that show too much to stop listening to it entirely.

  20. I'm not defending what Squid and 94/7 did in this case, I'm here to drop some numbers about the base issue: Who plays more new music?

    According to BDSRadio.com, Z100 played 189 song titles in the last 7 days, KNRK played 580. On Z, 45 songs are "current" while on NRK 92 songs are considered such. The argument is easy to make that NRK does, in fact, play more new music. Even if it is a smaller percentage of their overall programming (23.8 vs 15.9).

  21. Is 94.7fm owned by the same corp. as 105? I've been looking for a song played a week or so ago, on one radio station… Perusing the various stations playlists I was appalled to see that both 105 and 94.7 have terrible playlists. Unless I'm missing something you can't search back more than a day, or only by artist. wtf?

    true, npr and opb do a fantastic job. interviewing new musicians and playing whole albums! whethers is loudon wainright, air, etc. I'd much rather support real 'alternative' PUBLIC radio!

  22. The key word here is ALTERNATIVE, unfortunately, that doesn't mean what it used to!! It might as well mean mainstream. So, for those of you that have no idea what ALTERNATIVE used to be, it was a far cry from what it is considered to be today. So, if you want to cry that 94.7 doesn't play as much new music as you want, then listen to those other stations that do, or just download it. Save 94.7!!! Let them try to be ALTERNATIVE, and realize that if it wasn't for the older classic alternative bands from the 80's and early 90's paved the way, for everything that is happening now, that is considered to be ALTERNATIVE. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THEM ACTUALLY PLAY A LOT LESS NEW CRAP, AND GET BACK TO BASICS OF REAL ALTERNATIVE THAT HAS SOME SUBSTANCE AND DEPTH AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, ORIGINALITY!!!!

  23. I understand what you are talking about. KNRK has gotten to big for its britches. I sent a request letter to help sponsor a benefit concert for Japan disaster relief through Mercy Corps and all the program director did was delete the email without reading. He should of at least read it. That shows me his complete arogance. It will be a great event without them.
    Concert is June 18th at the Bossanova Ballroom and will feature 12 original music bands from the Pacific NW. All excellent in their own genre. Smoochknob and the Smoochgirls will headline.
    We have received lots of support. Too bad the only station in town that comes close passed. It will be live cast on the webpage for the event. http://sites.google.com/site/headbanginforhope/
    I hope you check it out.
    Dan DeChynne
    DeChynne Enterprises

    donation page also
    http://www.mercycorps.org/fundraising.dandechynne

  24. I was cruising around Portland today listening to 94.7 fm. I don't know all the history, don't know who Tara Dublin is, or Squid, or whatever. And I heard no Marley, Nirvana, Bowie or Pearl Jam. What I did hear was junk like Young the Giant, MGMT, The Joy Formidable and other stuff your great aunt listens to because it makes her feel edgy. And then someone telling me I was listening to "alternative Portland."

    For a town with such great independent culture to have a lousy station like 94.7fm calling itself "alternative Portland" is a crime.

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