Here’s a bit of radio news that runs counter to the trend. WMAK, a 1000 watt AM station in Lobelville, TN, is switching to an advertiser-supported, all-bluegrass format starting December 26.
The station is under the management of Whiplash Community Radio, who own five radio properties across the US. WMAK is currently airing all Christmas music, but will make the shift to bluegrass the day after.
Whiplash President Chris Lash tells us that the broadcast signal reaches between three and six counties in Middle Tennessee along the I-40 corridor, from their tower in Lobelville southwest of Nashville. He says that the biggest opportunity lies in online streaming and technology to rebroadcast the signal on an FM frequency.
“With technology improving for AM with things like phone apps, online listening, and the FCC making it a priority to make AM more viable, we felt it was time for an all bluegrass formatted radio station. In 2014, the FCC is set to approve an FM translator for most AMs, making them FMs in the process.
My long term radio relationship with Terry Herd, of Into The Blue, inspired me to put together a 24/7 bluegrass channel. Our former format was oldies, and it wasn’t making much of an impact in Perry County, TN. All research that we conducted said that 89% of the Tennessee households in our market, listen to some form of country music. We have an FM sister there, known as 101.3 HANK FM, which plays the legends of country. We wanted to take the research and do something different.
Everything we do involves not only streaming, it involves tying the station into the free Tunein Radio app. Tunein has been very reliable in allowing anyone to listen to their favorite stations, wherever they want, including in their cars. Simply plug a cord into your smart phone, and into your car stereo and listen any where in the world.”
The new format will involve hosted content for the most part, including syndicated programming.
“We will feature on air talent, pretty much around the clock with yours truly, plus Alan Kabel in mornings, and some other friends on the air during different dayparts. Terry’s Into The Blue will not only air daily during the lunch hour, but also on Saturdays.
We will be 60% currents from the Bluegrass Today weekly chart, mixed with 30% bluegrass of the past dating back to the ’60s. We’ll also have a recurrent category, where today’s current top hits continue to be played, even after they have left the chart.”
Other syndicated content will include popular shows like Knee Deep In Bluegrass and the Sutton Old Time Music Hour.
“We’re also going to include The Renfro Valley Gathering, the Bluegrass Gospel Hour on Sunday mornings, and our only produced monthly live radio show, The Mother’s Best Flour Hour.”
Chris said that they are looking into other syndicated programming as well.
You can reach the staff of WMAK through the HANK FM web site.