By Mike Kinosian
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief
MEMPHIS — If you roll your eyes out of skepticism whenever you encounter the hyperbolic, clichéd phrase “market dominant,” consider this as a definitive reflection of those words: Memphis has had 23 PPM-based monthly reports and “V101″ (KJMS) has emerged #1 (6+) every time in “The River City.”
Moreover, the only instances in those 23 PPM-based ratings overviews in which “V101″ failed to record double-digits (6+) were in back-to-back months in 2011, October (9.3) and November (9.4).
Latest data indicates that, owing to its 14.0 share (a substantial +1.4 from July), the Clear Channel urban AC can rightfully claim to be August 2012’s leading station (by 6+ share) in Arbitron’s 48 PPM markets. “We appeal to everybody with the music we are playing – the way that it is flowing makes it so mass-appeal,” states “V101″ program director Eileen Collier. “We play music from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s; we are touching everybody.”
Making certain the station stays fresh and that each era is represented, Collier is “constantly updating” so KJMS does not “sound old” to its loyal partisans.
In addition to urban AC “V101,” Clear Channel’s seven-station Memphis cluster includes three other urban-flavored outlets: urban contemporary WHRK (“K97-1″); urban oldies WDIA; and gospel WHAL (“Halleluiah 95.7″). Programming duties for both “V101″ and “Halleluiah 95.7″ fall under Collier’s jurisdiction so she is very protective of KJMS’ siblings, yet she maintains it is not that difficult to keep the stations separate. “Some titles we play on KJMS are also on WDIA and there are some on WHRK – but there are not that many. We still have a lot of [‘V101′-exclusive] core artists.”
Isolating Entercom-owned mainstream adult contemporary WRVR (“The River”) as KJMS’ closest direct competitor, Collier declares, “We just do the format much better.”
Ever since the Memphis version of Clear Channel’s “Halleluiah” came into existence (2002), Collier has served as its lone program director and she added “V101″ PD responsibilities in 2005, following Nate Bell’s departure.
With a 7.4 in the August monthly (+1.2 from July), “Hallelujah 95.7″ zooms from #5 to #3. “I am very thankful to have the skill set to be able to do this and I am loving it,” proclaims Collier, who on top of everything else does morning drive on WHAL. “It is wonderful to maintain these numbers on both stations. It is a sense of accomplishment to be able to sustain those ratings for as long as we have.”
Prioritizing is something she learned a long time ago. “To be effective at anything, we must have a plan,” Collier opines. “The thing that works best for me is that I have to dedicate time to each station. I do not dedicate every day administratively to WHAL. There are some KJMS days; there are some WHAL days; and some days are dedicated to both stations. Having a plan and a ‘To Do’ list are mainstays in my life.”
Despite having perfect call letters for a “Jams/Jamz” identity, KJMS uses “V101″ as its handle. When Clear Channel acquired KJMS in the 1990s, the then-urban contemporary outlet actually was referred to as “101 Jams,” but as Collier points out, the property has evolved over the years. “At one point, it was a very smooth, urban AC,” she explains. “The ‘V’ comes from ‘Variety,’ because we were playing a little bit of everything.”
Think before you speak
Syndicated mega-talent Tom Joyner kicks off the station’s day (5:00 am – 9:00 am) and the celebrated “Fly Jock” will be in Memphis in December to host the “V101″ holiday party. “Many of Tom’s ‘Sky Shows’ have been done from here,” notes Collier, who is in constant contact with Joyner and his staff. “The relationship is wonderful.” Local producer – “Stormy” – does “a fantastic job” with local news, weather and traffic. “In addition to producing the morning show, she is my community girl,” Collier states. “She hosts our public affairs show and does a lot of local stuff.”
Mid-days are handled by long time Memphis personality Nikki French, who formerly did similar (10:00 am – 3:00 pm) duties for WHRK. On the air locally for approximately 25 years, Stan Bell is KJMS’ afternoon driver (3:00 pm – 7:00 pm) and Collier notes, “People have grown up on him here – he’s a legend. At night, we have Keith Sweat with the [7: 00 pm- 12:00 midnight] ‘Sweat Hotel’ and, oh my gosh, the audience loves him – it is just ridiculous. His numbers are amazing in every demo.” Popular 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm Los Angeles personality Renee Taylor of Clear Channel’s KHHT (“Hot 92.3″) is heard overnight on “V101″ as part of the chain’s “Premium Choice.”
Fully prepared when PPM became ratings currency in Memphis, Collier acknowledges some old habits had to be changed from what was executed in the diary world. “I am very blessed to have personalities who get it,” she emphasizes. “They make my job easier because I can tell them what needs to be done and only have to reiterate it one or two times. Gone are the days when on-air personalities talk and talk. These are now the days of the thinking on-air talent. You have to know what you are going to say and you must be impactful. Back in the day, you could talk until something good came out, but now it must come out in the beginning. They must put the ego part out of the way.”
Numerous examples exist of how “V101″ embraces the community. This past weekend, for example, all four urban stations in Clear Channel’s Memphis cluster did an across-the-board “Gas for Guns” promotion where listeners could turn in their guns in exchange for gas cards or tickets for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.
Many entertainers are appearing in KJMS’ artist lounge and Collier remarks, “That is pretty major because some of these folks don’t do radio. Many will want to do a call-in interview but for me, if you cannot take time out of your schedule to come to the station and talk to the people who have supported them, there is no need to call-in. I do not want to run phone interviews when someone is in town.”
Among those who have been to the “V101″ artist lounge are Brian McKnight, Jonathan Butler, Telma Hopkins of Tony Orlando & Dawn fame, Bern Nadette Stanis (who portrayed Thelma on CBS-TV’s “Good Times”), and Jackée Harry.
Apparently programming two enormously successful Memphis FM powerhouses and doing morning drive on one of those facilities must not be sufficient for entrepreneur Collier as she does personalized educational CDs for children via Just Kids, the company she owns. “My child liked to learn by music so I contracted a producer to help me,” the effervescent University of Memphis graduate recounts. “We personalize songs to help children learn the alphabet, numbers, and help with their manners. We put their names in the songs and their pictures on the CDs. We have been doing this for about one year.”
Current music is a very big part of what “V101″ does, with Collier explaining, “We play a great blend of ‘old school’ and ‘new school.’ I have great relationships with my record reps and we know how to handle each other. They send me great product and know that I am going to give it to them straight. I cannot play everything, so just because they are ‘working it,’ does not mean I have to play it. My allegiance is to my audience and I know what they like because I am ‘them.'”
KJMS Music Sample
Here is what a recent music mix sounded like on Memphis urban AC KJMS (“V101″).
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles “Tears of a Clown”
Peaches & Herb “Let’s Fall In Love”
Marvin Gaye “Come Get To This”
Aretha Franklin “See Saw”
Mary Mary “Go Get It”
Jackson 5 “ABC”
Stevie Wonder “Lately”
Otis Redding “Try A Little Tenderness”
Diana Ross & The Supremes “You Can’t Hurry Love”
Brian McKnight “Anytime”
Elgins “Darling Baby”
Sly & The Family Stone “Dance to the Music”
Mike Kinosian is the managing editor and West Coast bureau chief of RadioInfo. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or phoned at 818-985-0244.
COMING TOMORROW: Urban AC August Summary – Ratings results of approximately three-dozen urban adult contemporary stations.