Dave FM, Dead Radio Station Walking, wrapped up its life with live jocks Saturday by airing the top 92 songs of all time on the station, as voted by listeners. The top song: Mumford & Son’s “Little Lion Man.”
Steve Craig, Mara Davis, Rich Sullivan and Margot (Chobanian) Smith, among others, spent the day reminiscing and thanking everyone they could think of. It was an unprecedented event in Atlanta radio history, a truly classy sendoff for a station that never quite earned “legendary” status but did a good job catering to folks who are a bit grayer in the temples but enjoy hearing a mix of older and newer rock.
Credit Rick Caffey, the general manager who championed the station for eight years but could no longer fend off the powers that be who wanted to make the change to sports talk. The fact is Dave’s sinking ratings couldn’t justify its existence any longer despite excellent, high-end demographics of its audience. (Until 92.9 switches to 92.9/The Game and sports talk in mid-October, the station has continued to play music, minus the jocks.)
Most stations are killed unceremoniously in mob-hit fashion. Jocks can’t say goodbye. Listeners are left hanging unless they fish around the Web and read my blog. (Thanks guys!)
Many listeners see this as rude and a tad disrespectful to long-time fans of the respective stations. But nervous radio managers don’t always trust on-air staff to behave professionally knowing they are about to lose their jobs and prefer the “let’s pull the Band-Aids off quickly” methodology. They also like the element of surprise so other radio owners don’t have time to react.
Several radio station deaths were done this way, including Cumulus stations 99X and Journey 97.9 and Clear Channel’s 640/WGST-AM and Project 9-6-1.
So even if you’re bitter about Dave’s demise, be grateful the station’s staff was given a chance to truly say farewell.
Here are the top 50 of the top 92 songs. You can access the rest here for the time being.
People complained that the station played too much U2, Dave Matthews Band, R.E.M. and Sting/Police. But alas, those bands pop up in the top 92 frequently. So there.
And as Margot noted last night, the station was not named after Dave Matthews. It was merely a way to make the station sound more like your friend.
She was the last live jock Saturday night and spun her final song in homage to a former Atlanta producer and Dave FM friend: Butch Walker’s “Atlanta.”
1. “Little Lion Man” Mumford & Sons
2. “I and Love and You” Avett Brothers
3. “Everlong” Foo Fighters’
4. “Pictures of You” The Cure
5. “Crash Into Me” Dave Matthews Band
6. “Beautiful Day” U2
7. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” Simple Minds
8. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” Death Cab For Cutie
9. “Under the Milky Way” The Church”
10. “With or Without You” U2
11. “Bittersweet” Big Head Too & The Monsters
12. “Fortress Around Your Heart” Sting
13. “Roll Away Your Stone” Mumford & Sons
14. “The One I Love” R.E.M.
15. “Short Skirt, Long Jacket’ Cake
16. “One Week” Barenaked Ladies
17. “Just Breathe” Pearl Jam
18. “Times Like These” Foo Fighters
19. “Gold on the Ceiling” Black Keys
20. “The Cave” Mumford & Sons
21. “Lullaby” Shawn Mullins
22. “Creep” Radiohead
23. “Mr. Jones” Counting Crows
24. ‘Babylon” David Gray
25. “Tupelo Honey” Van Morrison
26. “Losing My Religion” R.E.M.
27. “Mystify” INXS
28. “Rolling in the Deep” Adele
29. “Interstate Love Song” Stone Temple Pilots
30. “I Melt With You” Modern English
31. “Nightswimming” R.E.M.
32. “Hold On” Alabama Shakes
33. “No Rain” Blind Melon
34. “Clocks” Coldplay
35. “Free Fallin’ ” Tom Petty
36. “Use Somebody” Kings of Leon
37. “Mr. Brightside” The Killers
38. “The Old Apartment” Barenaked Ladies
39. “Once in a Lifetime” Talking Heads
40. “One” U2
41. “Only Happy When It Rains” Garbage
42. “Satellite” Dave Matthews Band
43. “Let’s Dance’ David Bowie
44. “Beg, Steal or Borrow” Ray Lamontagne
45. “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” R.E.M.
46. “Love Song” The Cure
47. “Windows Are Rolled Down” Amos Lee
48. “Home” Marc Broussard
49. “December” Collective Soul
50. “Cath” Death Cab For Cutie
And for folks who were wondering what happened to the ratings, here’s a line chart I created going back to March, 2009, according to Arbitron.
Each point on the left is an Arbitron ratings point. Typically, anything over 4 gets you in the top 10. Dave’s moment in the top 10 was very brief over the past three plus years. (I excluded the Christmas holiday month just to simplify the chart.)
The station peaked in January 2011 with a 4.5 rating but then watched numbers slip precipitously over the next 14 months. It bottomed out at an abysmal 1.3 rating by April of this year.
Given that Dave’s signal is among the stronger signals in metro Atlanta, that was especially embarrassing and easily the worst among the “top tier” signals (including 94.9, 96.1, 98.5, 99.7, 101.5 and 103.3).
It’s hard to pinpoint why this happened. Dave’s management during that swan dive didn’t change. They did drop their morning show a year ago, but that didn’t have much immediate impact.
One theory is changes in listening behavior among the types of listeners who like what is called “adult alternative” rock music. They are not just demographically well off but technologically savvy. Many have wandered off to Sirius/XM, Spotify and Pandora. Many have vehicles where they can now plug in their smartphones into their stereo systems and bypass Dave for new music – or old music, for that matter.
The music mix certainly has been an issue. It has veered from deeper classic cuts to all-80s weekends to more currents, as has been the case since Margot was let go to program, unfettered, once management knew it was over.
I’ll post a new entry later this week or next about where fans of Dave can go as alternatives. And is there any realistic chance a Dave-like station could return to Atlanta?
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk