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:


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:


KNRK – It’s Absolutely Not Different Here


It was late, well past midnight and it was the last day I was going to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area before heading off to college. I had called in to Live 105 and was chatting with Big Rick Stuart who was jockeying between our phone call and the on air play. Rick came on the air and wished me a safe trip and played a song to send me off. That was the kind of radio station Live 105 was.

Mark Hamilton was a DJ at Live 105. He was the voice you’d also hear promoting the DJ’s spinning tunes down at One Step Beyond or The X nightclub. He was surrounded by great music and great people. So it was a fantastic revelation (Back in 1994) to find that he landed here in Portland at the very young KNRK. I met him at one of the early KNRK snowball shows, the one with Everclear and No Doubt. He seemed like a great guy.

Unfortunately it seems that Mark has forgotten what makes a great radio station. Over time he tweaked the playlist favoring retreading bands like Sublime over debuting new music and new artists. Sublime might be a slightly notable band but I doubt they should be continually haunting the airwaves of an alternative station.

Recently KNRK did a major revamp to their playlist, out was most of the new or truly alternative music (except for bands coming to town in KNRK sponsored events) and in were classics. KNRK effectively remade themselves into a Rock Mix station. The switch started gradually, with ‘classic alternative’ artists like David Bowie. Listen to KNRK for 2 hours and you’ll hear classic Bowie at least once….Then came bands like The Cars and Tom Petty. Tune in enough and you’ll wonder if KNRK hasn’t fused with KGON. At times even KUFO is more alternative… Which is sad.

Perhaps KNRK is a victim of its own success. Late last year their morning show with Greg Glover began to beat the competition. Perhaps that taste of popular success fueled them on to chase the popular audience. But what used to be a fairly descent alternative station is gone. Many of the good people are still there. Greg is smart guy, knows his music and takes risks (Listen to his Bottom Forty Sunday Nights). Gustav is still the friendliest face of the station, his perfect playlist and track 7 show he wants the station to be a good one. Tara is just plain great, she knows what’s going on, but she’s as powerless to fix it as anyone.

It all boils down to Mark Hamilton… Program director. Who has made a major misstep with the station by building a playlist that simply isn’t alternative. At my home office I’ve switched of KNRK and listen to KEXPonline. KEXP, based in Seattle, ironically is the station supporting MusicFest NW (while local KNRK is notably absent). I hear new music via myspace and am more likely to fire up my mp3 player than my radio…

Next year Community Supported KZME 91.1 is set to launch. If KZME follows KEXP’s model it could give KRNK a serious run for its money. Until then fans of alternative music need to email Mark Hamilton and let him know that the playlist changes aren’t welcome, and remind them what ‘It’s Different Here’ really means. KNRK keeps saying it’s YOUR station… So tell them what YOU want.