Good commercial readio stations in the US?
July 25, 2004 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good commercial radio stations in The United States?
posted by TurkishGolds to Media & Arts (36 answers total)
None. They're all gone.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:00 PM on July 25, 2004

right wing talk radio killed them.
posted by quonsar at 12:09 PM on July 25, 2004

Define "good".
posted by cbrody at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2004

It seems like there must be some somewhere, but I do not know,
there were some recommendations for college radio here, if that helps.
(actually it looks like some of the responses were commercial stations)
posted by milovoo at 12:21 PM on July 25, 2004

Big greedy corporations certainly did. Here, the good radio is public, paid for by listener donations and private endowments.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:21 PM on July 25, 2004

ParisParamus and quonsar are right. (Now when was the last time anyone got to say that in the same sentence?)
posted by caddis at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2004

Some commercial stations are attempting to experiment with the alternative format. In Los Angeles, Indie 103.1 is a decent to other mainstream alternative (oxymoron!) stations. Take a look at their sample playlist. (Some background on the station.)

But if you have to listen to radio, there's no beating college radio for diverse and experimental playlists.
posted by waxpancake at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2004

There's the odd college radio, but aside from NPR, I've given up listening consistently to any single over-the-air station.

I don't have satellite radio, so I can't vouch for it, but some folks really like it for the programming. Overall, though, I've moved to Internet radio for solid programming, where I can consistently hear good music that I never would've found on my own.
posted by LairBob at 1:02 PM on July 25, 2004

I miss kpig. It's not a great radio station but worth listening to.
posted by rdr at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2004

When I moved to the US from the UK, I was looking forward to exploring the local airwaves in the, I now realize, naive assumption that it couldn't be all bad, surely? In the UK, I was an avid radio listener and always made a point of trying to catch the local stations wherever I travelled. Many of them sucked of course, but there were some gems in the dross. Having lived in the US a few years, I believe it's fair to say that there's no such thing as good commercial radio. My definition of "good", for what it's worth, is radio I'd want to listen to for more than a few minutes after the novelty value of its awfulness has dissipated. My dial is now permanently pointed to NPR.
posted by normy at 1:21 PM on July 25, 2004


I mean, sometimes you can find a classic country station on AM, if that's your thing. AM 1090 out of Tacoma, WA is one I listen to a fair amount. Only problem being that on Saturday they broadcast NASCAR over the radio. This confounds me on a number of levels.

1240 AM out of Portage, WI used to be an all polka station, which kicked serious ass. Last time I looked, it had changed to the classic country format.

KINE Honolulu, whose frequency I cannot recall, play "local" music, which in Hawaii means "Jahwaiian" music (a ki'ho'alu/reggae hybrid) and sometimes slack key, It's what I listen to when I'm on Oahu.

Other than that, KEXP remains the shiznit. It's non-commercial, but it's not college radio. They've got actual professional DJs and such.
posted by stet at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2004

I'm sure MetaFilter is hardly a representative sample of the US listening public, but who the heck is listening to the crap out there, anyway? Surely some people are, or the stations presumably wouldn't survive. Or are listening numbers really very low, but radio is a cheap commodity medium? Or am I just naively overestimating the taste of the listening population? Or is it all financed by interest groups who don't care about listenership, or something? Any radio insiders care to elaborate?
posted by normy at 1:36 PM on July 25, 2004

normy, I mostly listen to CDs but sometimes I'll flip on the pseudo-non-mainstream station in the area. What I have noticed is that many people listen to the radio on the way to work in the morning and on the way home from work at night. These periods of artificially inflated listeners is probably how they justify their existance. If they broadcast dead air in the none-prime time slots I'll bet their market penetration would remain unchanged.

Sometimes I do listen to the morning talk shows but usually it's only for a day or two. Then they something amazingly stupid and I tune out for a few months again.
posted by substrate at 1:57 PM on July 25, 2004

Hey TurkishGold -- what exactly are you looking for? Stations in your area? Stations with an internet feed? Or are you just curious?
posted by davidmsc at 2:06 PM on July 25, 2004

I'm just curious. The station that I work for (playlist) is _good_ commercial radio. We have big corporate ownership, but they've left the programming alone since we're bringing in healthy amounts of cash. It blows my mind that there aren't more stations in the same situation.
posted by TurkishGolds at 2:40 PM on July 25, 2004

NPR recently did a feature story about a new commercial radio format called "Neo -Radio". Ratings are good, and the format essentially aims to suck less.
Given the fear-channelization of com'l raio thats not a very hard thing to achieve.
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:50 PM on July 25, 2004

Fupped Duck, thanks. Great link. Those are the stations I was hoping to learn about through this thread.
posted by TurkishGolds at 3:07 PM on July 25, 2004

FP, thanks. I hope that format come out here to the NY/NJ market.

In some ways I feel lucky as I have so many good public stations. NPR has essentially gone talk itself. However, I have WBGO, a great jazz and blues station, as well as at least five college stations. A decade or so ago it seemed like everyone in college radio, at least in the rock shows, was searching to find the most obscure music possible, just to be cool with "you know" knowing all the obscure music. Perhaps now in part that commercial radio has gone from merely tepid to horrible, the college stations near me play a lot of great music. The death of commercial rock radio may have given them the freedom to play music they love, rather than music they think will make them look cool. Also, a lot of the DJs are adults with regular programs that span many years and are thus quite professional. I am not sure how this works; when I was in school all the DJs at our station were students. The best program is Phil Schap's Birdland. The music is great and you get a jazz education along with it.
posted by caddis at 3:53 PM on July 25, 2004

Here in Richmond, VA (where even the public radio station isn't so good) the radio stations leave much to be desired. There's the station run by students at the University of Richmond, and WRIR is on the horizon, but I miss WRNR from the days when I lived and worked in Maryland.
posted by emelenjr at 4:09 PM on July 25, 2004

I still like listening to KGSR out of Austin, TX
posted by Buck Eschaton at 4:38 PM on July 25, 2004

Power 106 in Los Angeles is great, if you like hip-hop. It's a big, commercial station, but it's (I believe) independent. Real DJs (like, actual turntables and scratching), a great old-school hip-hop show Sunday nights...

They had Dizzee Rascal freestyling live on the air!
posted by lbergstr at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2004

The last commercial music stations I listened to were KFOG and KSCA. KSCA was converted into ranchero music and KFOG , once a good commercial station 3 years ago, is merely tolerable.

K-MOZART is probably the best classical music station in the West, though. The right mix of classical music and no snooty announcers like the taxpayer funded competition. WQXR also comes to mind as a good commercial music station, although it happens to be all classical music, unfortunately.
posted by calwatch at 6:51 PM on July 25, 2004

Oops, make that
posted by calwatch at 6:53 PM on July 25, 2004

Seconding KEXP. Only on there would I hear this ad, heard two days ago: "I'm Eddie Spaghetti from the Supersuckers. Whenever I'm not down on Aurora Avenue smoking crack and picking up hookers, I'm listening to KEXP."

God bless ya, KEXP.
posted by GaelFC at 7:23 PM on July 25, 2004

in NYC hot 97 is pretty damn good sometimes if you like more mainstream hiphop. it has some pretty hot djs that actually mix tracks when its not playing top 40 crap. and also a lot of live exclusives with a lot of good artists.

but in all, prob my favorite radio station ever is wfmu to which you can listen to on the internet in a variety of formats.
posted by headless at 7:33 PM on July 25, 2004

I think ESPNradio is doing the best talk on the airwaves right now. They have too many commercials, but they have generally knowledgable guests and great hosts. Also, live broadcasts of events integrate a lot of commercials into the content, which is nice.
posted by rocketman at 7:34 PM on July 25, 2004

I find it funny that so many people here are in the dark about commercial-radio-listeners. Go out and meet common, every day people in this country and you'll find that most of them are unaware that there is anything else out there and they're just as shocked as you are, but they're often shocked that there are alternatives.

Of course, one office in which I temped had a disproportionate number of middle-aged women (100%, perhaps a dozen of them), and they all seemed to like the local pop station because, it seemed to me, they felt more young and hip.
posted by crazy finger at 7:57 PM on July 25, 2004

college station here is pretty damn good. it's been the top college station in the state for a few years running. lots of variety, one hour of talk at 7 nightly, different song formats (jazz, progressive country, techno, blues, etc.) from 8 to 10 and some nights from 10 to midnight as well. commercial free, live broadcast over the interweb (quicktime only, no other format streams availabe, sorry).

love it. except the 4 hour reggae thing they do sunday afternoons is a little much for my tastes.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:42 AM on July 26, 2004

In the DC area, 99.1 - WHFS.

In the Cleveland area, 91.1 - WRUW.

In the Boston area, 101.7 - WFNX (no seriously, it got better again).
posted by warhol at 8:33 AM on July 26, 2004

Cincinnati area: 97X (bam!) The future of rock 'n roll

I second the WFNX vote. I was just in Boston over the weekend and it was the best station.

Indianapolis area: WTTS
posted by internal at 3:03 PM on July 26, 2004

KEXP remains the shiznit. It's non-commercial, but it's not college radio. They've got actual professional DJs and such.

"Professional" perhaps in the sense that they get paid, but not "professional" in the sense that their presentation is smooth and polished. It's kind of endearing, though.
posted by kindall at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2004

Here in Toronto, I find it similar. I don't like any of the local commercial radio stations, although q107's psychedelic Sunday is always fun. He plays the same old songs but he tosses in live jam sessions and lesser-heard songs.

I'm like the rest of the metafilter subset. I listen to college radio, the three CBC frequencies and sometimes to the commercial-donation Jazz-FM.

>and they all seemed to like the local pop station because, it seemed to me, they felt more young and hip.
Yes. I've seen this, too, trying to look young and hip.

>I find it funny that so many people here are in the dark >about commercial-radio-listeners. Go out and meet >common
Yes. Many people I work with choose commercial radio, likely because it is inoffensive. But I still find it puzzling why someone would like the "easy listening" endless love song format. I find the singing and the drumming distracting and disruptive to the point where I often can't concentrate on other things.
posted by philfromhavelock at 3:40 PM on July 26, 2004

And while I'm here talking about Seattle radio, I might as well admit that i don't mind KMTT much. They are an "adult album alternative" (AAA) station, and this format tends to have broader playlists than typical hit radio, to play some album tracks in addition to the singles, and stuff like that. There's some '80s college rock, some folk-pop, some classic rock, and so on; mainstream, rarely anything with a lot of bite, but most of it's catchy, and rarely do they play a song that I outright loathe. It's basically an updated version of AOR. You probably have a station like it in your town; it's an accepted format in the radio industry.

At its worst, I find KMTT tolerable, if bland, and at other times I actually find their choices fairly interesting. They often have live in-studio performances and they regularly go back and play recordings of these, which of course you can't hear anywhere else. Their evening "chillout" programming is pretty adventurous for a commercial station, and has proven popular enough that they now run it six nights a week. If it weren't for KEXP, it might be the best station in town, but if it weren't for KEXP, it might not be nearly as good, either.

CIDR in Windsor is a similar format (at least, I assume it still is) and was a regular listen back when I lived in Detroit. Of course, CIDR was even better in the first couple months of its life; I heard all sorts of great album tracks I'd never heard on the radio before or since.
posted by kindall at 3:59 PM on July 26, 2004

After ten a.m. I usually listen to Detroit's 24-hr all-news station because they have traffic updates every ten minutes.

When I'm not listening to them, I'm usually listening to K-100 for a few seconds while waiting for my iTrip to start cranking out the good stuff [99.9 is one of the better -- er, less crappy -- frequencies I've found in the Detroit area for iTrip... come to think of it, that would be a good question for AxMe].
posted by britain at 6:21 PM on July 26, 2004

As mentioned above, WQXR is one of the best commercial radio stations in the country. When I'm back in Cleveland, WCLV is also a fantastic commercial station (although I believe it has a foundation's backing...).

And I concur that WRUW is great, but it's not commercial.
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:54 PM on July 27, 2004

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