By Sean Ross of @RossOnRadio
When I heard that Envision was going to syndicate MeTV FM, the format based on Chicago’s 87.7 WRME, I wondered what I could write, especially for the Envision website and newsletter.
I’ve written about MeTV FM a few different times, and I’ve always come back to the depth and eclecticism of the AC/oldies hybrid, and its cheerful flouting of “radio law.” Often, programmer friends would call afterwards and say, “They’ve done better than anybody expected. But what if they did Soft AC, and played the hits?” That might have done well, too. But it wouldn’t have been MeTV FM.
When I write about MeTV FM, I usually come back to the “oh wow” songs. Could I do that here? Eclecticism and depth aren’t always something that a syndicator wants to publicize. But Envision also syndicates Howard Kroeger’s original Bob-FM, which helped redefine variety more than 15 years ago. And when I glanced again at the network’s press release, I knew MeTV FM was not being watered down:
“MeTV FM is curated for long listening enjoyment and features an astonishingly deep playlist from an active library of more than 3,000 songs across nearly four decades of great music, including singer-songwriters, country crossovers, Motown, iconic groups, and many other artists,” the release stated.
Added Neal Sabin, Vice Chairman of WRME owner Weigel Broadcasting, “MeTV FM’s music format has broken many of the radio rules in terms of presentation, depth of playlist, and mixing of genres. Using a challenging dial position in one of the most competitive radio markets in the country, we have proven the validity and viability of the format.” So we understand each other.
At this writing, MeTV FM is tied 6+ with Chicago’s two more traditional Classic Hits stations. Those stations are on full-signals and heritage frequencies. MeTV FM is on an LP TV frequency not available on every radio in the market. (When I was last in Chicago, the rental car went only to 87.9, so I had to DX them from a side channel. But I wanted to hear them.) The station doesn’t stream, choosing to offer a channel of similar music through AccuRadio.
So I thought it would be interesting to look at an hour in the life of MeTV FM, with its music mix that covers several positions, most of them otherwise missing in many markets: soft AC, MOR, ‘60s oldies, and, increasingly, ‘70s oldies. Here’s the station from April 18 at 2 p.m.:
Hollies, “Bus Stop” (#5, 1966) – Former Oldies format mainstay that was still testing when most stations decided to stop playing the ‘60s and become Classic Hits.
Steve Winwood, “Valerie” (#9, 1987) – Still a song you’d hear on some ACs and Classic Hits stations. Some people know this only from its 1987 reissue, but Chicagoans love Winwood and remember this from when it first came out five years earlier.
Mamas & the Papas, “Dedicated to the One I Love” (#2, 1967) — Another one-time Oldies format staple. Has some footprints in subsequent generations through its use in TV ads.
Silver Convention, “Fly, Robin, Fly” (#1, 1975)
Tony Orlando & Dawn, “Knock Three Times” (#1, 1970) – In this case, still a playable song for some stations when PDs decided to move on from the pop music of the early ‘70s.
Carole King, “Only Love Is Real” (#28, 1976) – One of her final hits, and one of the station’s signature sounds—‘70s singer/songwriter.
Beach Boys, “Fun, Fun, Fun” (#5, 1964)
Sheena Easton, “Morning Train (Nine To Five)” (#1, 1981)
Bobby Vee, “Take Good Care of My Baby” (#1, 1961) –A staple of the Oldies format in its first decade on FM, and another Carole King song!
Elton John, “Rocket Man” (#6, 1972) – An enduring hit at Classic Hits, although some PDs are now deciding to move on from Elton’s early ‘70s ballads, again with no urging from the audience.
Tommy James, “Draggin’ the Line” (#4 ,1971)
Lobo, “Don’t Tell Me Goodnight” (#27, 1975) – The hour’s biggest “oh wow.”
Four Seasons, “Rag Doll” (#1, 1964) – Even after “Jersey Boys” made me want to go back and hear the songs again, the Four Seasons were reduced to “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night” and maybe “Who Loves You” at Classic Hits.
Kenny Loggins, “Heart to Heart” (#15, 1983)
Burton Cummings, “Stand Tall” (#10, 1976)
Alan O’Day, “Undercover Angel” (#1, 1977)
Beatles, “Taxman” (1966)
Dan Fogelberg, “Run for the Roses” (1982) – The Kentucky Derby was coming up at this point.
Jimmy Soul, “If You Wanna Be Happy” (#1, 1963)
There are moments in any sample hour of MeTV FM that are obviously the work of a music lover. But because of the library size, the “oh wows” are not repeated four days later, when the wow might wear off. And there are a lot of hit songs that the audience didn’t abandon until that decision was made for them by a relative handful of programmers. And why shouldn’t music be programmed by music lovers?