Not-for-profit KINGFM is the only classical music radio in Seattle, but to the dismay of its ardent listeners, it "disappeared" in the ratings after the PPMs began providing more precise data about the listenership. It's tied up in the basement with KVI.
All the civic hand-wringing and analysis over the plight of the city's cultural icon ignores the pachyderm in the orchestra pit: classical music, if not dead, is lingering.Record sales are down; live performance costs have sky-rocketed, while ticket sales have tanked; audiences are graying up and dying off. Orchestras are folding all over the country. Public schools don't teach music education. Classical music programming is scarce, even on PBS and public radio.
While it was never exactly, mass market, it's demographically-challenged, endangered in part because it's failed even more than usual to entice the next generation. What's happening to KING is happening to long-hair stations all over the country- Classic 99.1 (KFUO-FM) in St. Louis, it seems, is the latest.
(Such gloomy predictions have been made before, but classical devotees point to volumes of music downloads on the Net, and other localized or small distribution sources for a genre that's always been a niche. Add 'em all up, they say, and it's not so much shrunk as fragmented).
Cool jazz has the age-demo problem as a fading radio format as well. But it's not only the fading of the music as a popular genre that's problematic. The recession doesn't help -- ad revenues suck for all media. KINGFM's had lay-offs and drastic cost-cutting, but that isn't enough: something structural must change.
An option, perhaps the most palatable, is what Banel calls the Hybrid, Public-Radio Model. Listeners complain about dissonance of obnoxious radio commercials with the restrained and melodious tones of Beethoven and Liszt. And ads are plainly insufficient, to provide the revenues needed, so the hybridization part would be to add pledge-drives. That might be problematic, too:
The [Chicago hybrid] WFMT business model is obviously attractive, but making that switch would mean KING-FM would join an already crowded field of pledge-seeking media in the Seattle market: radio stations KUOW, KPLU, KEXP, and KBCS; and TV stations KCTS and KBTC.
Banel painstakingly recounts the heritage station's complex history as a commercial, then a commercial/non-profit radio station. Seems every civic-minded poobah in Seattle arts and media say they want to save KING as is, but the big ugly changes that might be necessary to save it, would certainly upset the avid listers, and might end up transformed into a radio station unrecognizable to those who love it.