City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Dave FM’s final top 92, plus its roller coaster ratings history since 2009

mumford and sonsDave 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?

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

53 comments Add your comment

George L.

October 1st, 2012
2:12 pm

The On-Air staff went out on a positive note. It was ‘good radio’ for sure!


October 1st, 2012
2:28 pm

Thanks for all the good years, DaveFM. And especially Mara!! I know you will land on your feet.

John C

October 1st, 2012
2:41 pm

Either 680 the Fan is moving to 92.9 or 92.9 will be the home of the new CBS Sports Network. They have already announced that Jim Rome will be doing the 12-3 shift, Doug Gottlieb is doing the 3-6 shift and Scott Ferrall has just been given the 10pm-2am shift. The network will start in January and they are announcing they are coming to Atlanta.


October 1st, 2012
2:55 pm

I find it odd that even as we speak, this station is still playing music! Wonder what’s up with that? “Wouldn’t it be nice” (with a nod to the Beach Boys), if they changed their minds? J/K, I know radio isn’t a land of miracles. : ) Thanks so so much for keeping us in the loop with all the radio scoop.

Sad to See

October 1st, 2012
3:07 pm

Great… another sports talk radio station. (sigh)

an alternative, with familiar ATL DJ voices could be www-ex99radio-com. Just found this through a buddy… it’s been good listening since the weening process started from DaveFM


October 1st, 2012
3:17 pm

This was a great station, last of its kind. Atlanta radio is officially dead. Too bad.


October 1st, 2012
3:40 pm

Dave FM was a great station, an oasis of originality in a sea of corporate radio blandness. I will miss Mara Davis, Margot, and all the personalities. It wasn’t just about the music, anyone can cue up a playlist on an Ipod and get that, it was the delivery by people who KNEW and LOVED the music as much as the listener did. Radio is officially dead for those of us who want MUSIC, unless you love the same 20 top 40 pop songs, talk, or hip-hop- you have NOTHING in this market. Pony up for an unlimited cellphone plan or sat radio.


October 1st, 2012
3:41 pm

The issue with radio is the obvious but nobody really wants to say it: it’s like 78RPM records, 8 tracks and Reel-To-Reel. The format, in it’s current state, is now more for older gens than it is for younger. Young adults aren’t really listening to FM unless they have no choice…otherwise, it’s the ipod or the internet through their phones. People are willing to pay for Satellite radio. What do satellite radio, media players and internet radio have in common? Choice. If I want to listen classic hard rock, I can do that without the possibility of having to hear 90’s grunge..or if I want to listen to 90’s alternative, I won’t have to worry about hearing nu-metal.

I think HD radio was an open opportunity for local radio to offer a similar choice for listeners..just don’t know what happened. Clearly they didn’t take advantage of it like they could have. Even DTV got more coverage…and maybe that’s what it comes down to: forcing the system to upgrade to the next gen.

Who knows..maybe format flipping every so often will become the new norm.

Jc Allen

October 1st, 2012
3:41 pm

First, I am not completely sure how ratings are determined. I do not know about anyone else, but no one ever called me for my input or what I listened to. So I kinda have to wonder if these “ratings” are some what stacked to a certain demographics and those who fall outside that do not matter. If that is the case, then people over 35 are not being represented in the figures in appropriate numbers.

And secondly, the radio has missed a HUGE opportunity to earn more money. People all over the FB page have been begging for recordings of shows and music lines that they would be more than willing to pay for. When I looked at back comments, they have been asking that question for a long time. Seems to me that was a missed revenue opportunity that could have more than kept the station alive. And other stations have done this in the past quite successfully. So I do not see that this was inevitable, at least not for some time to come.


October 1st, 2012
3:46 pm

I really would like to know where I can go now and be introduced to new (to me) bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Bells, One Eskimo, etc.

Also, Dave was the only station I’ve heard play “Karma Police” by Radiohead. I will truly miss them.

Tommy H.

October 1st, 2012
3:47 pm

While it’s not Dave FM, I did make the assumption that the sports talk had begun and flipped over to the AM dial to 1690-AM. The signal is – well, what you’d expect from a top of the dial AM station – but amid the arts talk and well-informed chat, they might play anyone from Wilco and Mumford & Sons to Kristofferson, Miles Davis, Mozart, Bob Dylan or Bob Marley. While that’s not an ‘adult rock/roots-only’ format, at least it has some diversity and an eclectic sensibility. That’s where I will begin my listening on my ‘take the kids to school’ drive each day.

Certainly beats sports talk and pop.

Rodney Ho

October 1st, 2012
3:53 pm

@Jc Allen. Arbitron ratings are determined by a demographically sampling given “people meters,” which look like beepers but measure actually radio listening. Arbitron actually has less trouble getting people over 35 to use the meters. They continue to have issues with 18 to 24 year olds, especially, with 25-34 the second toughest demo. This past week, 1,674 Atlantans carried these meters. They track people down by phone (cel and landline) and will pay people (very modestly) to use the meters. In some cases, they will go door to door.


October 1st, 2012
3:56 pm

Dave FM wasn’t a great station, but it stood as unique among the radio offerings in this market. The best thing about it was that the playlist was HUGE compared to most other stations here. As a radio junkie, I seek out stations that don’t play the same songs over and over, and how anyone can listen to 97.1 The River boggles my mind…songs that have been played to death for over 30 years!

Now, what do I program my radio preset button to? So far, I haven’t found anything. :-(

I’d like to know why station owners can’t be satisfied with a smaller, stable, affluent audience. Instead, they all adopt Top 40/pop formats, (or sports talk formats, in this case), and kill each other fighting for the same listeners…ultimately just cutting that listener pie into smaller pieces, and the lower ratings start the vicious cycle all over again for the next format change.


October 1st, 2012
3:57 pm

Enter your comments here


October 1st, 2012
4:05 pm

Not sure why you’re crediting Rick Caffey with anything at 92.9. He’d throw his dog under a bus if it would benefit him. He did a lousy job of keeping the station’s format flip under wraps. His staff at Dave was the last to know. Why not let them do whatever they wanted at the end? What’s he gonna do, fire them?


October 1st, 2012
4:18 pm

I’ve been a semi-loyal Atlanta radio listener since 1978 until about two years ago when I got a car with an ipod input and Sirius satellite radio. I recently started to listen to Dave and/or WSB/Boortz in the morning to get some local perspective. Shame that both are going away.

There is so much good new music, so many great local and reigonal bands, so many artisits open to playing unplugged shows, live in studios, do interviews, yet the programing leaves almost no room for that.

Atlanta radio is 100% dead at this point, esp. since 99x also got the axe.

I knew is was trouble back when 96 Rock went away.

hey now.....

October 1st, 2012
4:30 pm

My God……look at the list of 92 songs. No dang wonder the station sucked! Skewed way too old and too “new wave”. That does not mix with the newer Folk/Americana music they were trying to break..Actually, Dave Roots on HD2 was much better. You want what Dave should have been?
92.1 KNBT out of New Braunfels, TX (south of Austin).


October 1st, 2012
4:37 pm

Atlanta needs an eclectic rock station like WXRT in Chicago.


October 1st, 2012
4:46 pm

I will miss Dave FM and the crew to bad Atlants could really use a radio station

Louis Lewow

October 1st, 2012
4:48 pm

Wow!! Jim Rome and Scott Ferrell!!! Maybe they should go out and find John Renshaw and Coz Carson and it will sound just like Atlanta sports radio circa 1997. Sorry but we’ve been here before.


October 1st, 2012
4:54 pm

maybe part of the problem for dave fm was that they still played the Barenaked Ladies and Blind Melon. Oh, and Big Head Todd.


October 1st, 2012
5:55 pm

I think what killed Dave FM was not the repetitive playlist but 80’s weekend for at least a month or two. Also, I think CBS Radio overreacted but there’s only so much that can be done. Plus, over time Dave FM starting playing too ’safe’ with their music — it was really no different than B98.5 minus the ‘kids’ music.’

If there is a return for adult alternative radio to Atlanta, it needs to be more willing to embrace the I-pod, social media, Spotify & Pandora. I know that Dave FM actually had a weekend where they played the DJ’s ipods on the air and I think the listeners’ ipods too. Also, have the listeners go to Facebook and post bands they think people should hear.


October 1st, 2012
5:56 pm

Dave FM, I will miss you greatly! My favorite Atlanta FM station BY FAR!!


October 1st, 2012
6:09 pm

Sad to lose an old friend! ROCK ON!!


October 1st, 2012
6:46 pm

Who listens to sports all day? Anyone out there? I always listened to Dave FM in the car on the way to and from work and other places. I don’t know what station to turn to? The River, I mean really! I like oldies but like to be introduced to new artists that aren’t Country, Rap or whatever you call the crap Brittany Spears does.
I can not see a Sports Talk station making more profit than a music station.
Guess I have to load up the car with my CD’s again.


October 1st, 2012
11:53 pm

Maybe Star 94 will change its format to alternative.

dick whiskey

October 2nd, 2012
8:48 am

nothing worse than listening to a bunch of old fat ass bald guys siting around talking about stupid ballgames,are you listening you old fat ass bald headed jew steak shapiro


October 2nd, 2012
8:50 am

and whatever happened to kate mccarthy? what a joke that was


October 2nd, 2012
9:07 am

I can’t believe so many people settled for and celebrated the mediocrity of this station. It was absolutely AWFUL. Those songs listed pretty much reflect how bad their rotation was and why they failed. People want variety and not annoying midday DJs that get stuff from Reddit and post it on the station’s site or try to be funny but are really just old and uninteresting. I am sorry the station failed and that Atlanta radio sucks but there was absolutely nothing redeeming about that cookie-cutter station.


October 2nd, 2012
9:15 am

@Gary – If you are a “radio junkie” who seeks out variety, you must be pretty awful at judging DaveFM. It was the most repetitive station I have ever come across. They played “Bittersweet” by BHTATM every single day around 1 pm and “Beds are Burning” soon after that. They were a radio station trying to do everything on the cheap so they never branched out.

Ronny Willbanks

October 2nd, 2012
9:33 am

These comments just prove true the old saying that opinions are like, well, to clean it up, elbows – everybody has them. So many people loved DaveFM and so many people hated it. Just like everything else. A station will never please everyone at the same time. I am one of those old listeners (in years and in length of time listening) and can say that if you find a station that an aging grandfather, his teenage granddaughter and early middle age daughter can all listen to and agree that it is the best station on the air then you will have found DaveFM… so why did it have to go away. Thanks to DaveFM and thanks to Rodney Ho for providing this avenue to share and voice opinions – not “elbows”…


October 2nd, 2012
10:37 am

Dave was far from perfect, but other than WABE, it was the only over the air station I really listened to after the repeated deaths of 99x.

Here’s my problem with radio, and I see lots of media writers reinforce it-why must formats be so tight? I’ve known very few people in my life who ONLY like one kind of music! (On my iPod I have Mumford and Sons, Carl Perkins, Simon and Garfunkel, Annie Lennox…)

As the weeks wound down toward the end, Dave got amazing as the DJs pushed against the boundaries of the format. I don’t only want to listen to ’80s music, or ’90s grunge, or new hipster music. I want a mix, and I occasionally want surprises. Why is that so hard?

Now, for a little Dave dig. Why did they play Tom Petty All.The.Time.? One of the things I liked about leaving the station on in the background was they did play a broader playlist during the day than any other station with few repeats-except for fracking Free Falling! During the 92 countdown they announced “this song has a long history with Dave” and I knew instantly they were going to play it. And they did.

Until something better comes along in Atlanta radio, I’ll stick with NPR in the mornings and listen to streaming radio the rest of the day.


October 2nd, 2012
11:45 am

If I listened to FM, it was pretty much either Dave or 99x.

I’m pretty much screwed now right?


October 2nd, 2012
12:48 pm

I listened to Dave in my car that does not have XM. I like the mix, and yes it probably got somewhat repetitive if you listen all day every day. To me the best thing about satellite radio is the DJs. You get music, a small amount of DJ talk, and no commercials. Mark Goodman is on a few of the stations and very good. And I jump from format to format as well.


October 2nd, 2012
12:59 pm

I agree with the comment about WXRT in Chicago – I listen to them online, and they have a great mix. Very Dave like, but less repetition.

In a perfect, or at least better world, CBS radio would go ahead and put that on the 92.9 HD2 channel that just went dark. CBS owns both stations, and they’ve already got the equipment and programming – just a matter of making the connections.


October 2nd, 2012
1:04 pm

The other thing – Dave wasn’t perfect, but in my carpool, me, a 44 year old former college DJ, and my two 25 year old passengers with very different musical tastes, could only agree on one station – Dave. I think that speaks volumes about either the lack of variety on Atlanta radio, or the breadth of Dave, or both.


October 2nd, 2012
1:59 pm

Thanks for posting the top 92. I was out Saturday night and got in around 11:30. I stayed up til almost 1 listening to the end with Margot. Great show Saturday. Margot had the perfect voice to end it all. Funny I just can’t tune in this week, without the DJs there.

Money problems

October 2nd, 2012
2:04 pm

Moving to all sports makes all the sense in the world. In fact, it wouldnt matter what the topic is – if you own the station, and the syndication of that talent is essentially free, it is immediately more profitable and attractive than paying anyone local to run the station. Jim Rome makes millions but his salary is paid by the hundreds of stations that are getting his content free of charge. How? They own the station.

Very simple and smart content. One set of talent. Own the distribution. Single sales force.

There will be next to zero local programming. That will be left to the “other guys” in town.


October 2nd, 2012
2:12 pm

Hey Rodney – Is the sports talk station just going to stream nationally syndicated programs? Will there be any local content? I give it six months at most if they do not develop a local brand.


October 2nd, 2012
2:37 pm

How anyone can listen to satellite radio is beyond me. The compression level they apply to that stuff makes most of the stuff sound worse than a CB radio.

Now You're Just Someone That I Used to Know

October 2nd, 2012
3:40 pm

I have a difficult time believing 92.9 truly is going all sports talk and that they are only going to run nationally syndicated shows. Seems like a waste of a strong signal.

As for the playlist, much of the music seemed perfect for rainy Sunday afternoon spells of wistfulness. The problem was these same songs were being played throughout the week.

Rodney Ho

October 2nd, 2012
3:46 pm

@Now You’re Just Someone That I Used to Know. From what I hear, 92.9/The Game, the new sports talk station, will have primarily local sports talk. They will not rely on the syndicated product – except for news.

Rodney Ho

October 2nd, 2012
3:47 pm

@cafeej 92.9/The Game will have plenty of local content, I’m told.

Rodney Ho

October 2nd, 2012
3:48 pm

@Tiger1986. I only posted the top 50. I figure the blog entry would get ridiculously long if I listed all 92. But there is a link there for the other songs…


October 2nd, 2012
5:33 pm

Hip Hip Hooray, the ever boring Mara Davis is gone!!!

Bobbie Ventre

October 2nd, 2012
7:12 pm

I have been listening from the beginning. Great send off, have no idea what station to llisten to now. Still happy to tune in and listen to the music for as long as it is there. I wasn’t a big one for calling into the station but Steve, Mara and Margot you will be missed.


October 2nd, 2012
7:38 pm

Ptc dawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:41 pm

Just back from Lake Tahoe, MUCH better radio choices there than here.

Ptc dawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:43 pm

Agree on sat/internet radio quality, it flat out stinks.


October 3rd, 2012
9:20 am

Wow — people honestly believe 929 DAVE was a good/great station? Where to even start…

1 – Mara Davis. I know people loved her, and it maybe due to her history with the 929 signal. But come on people — all she did was ramble on about stuff that was pointless. I think she talked to hear herself talk. When I did tune in to the station as soon as I heard her begin to talk I switched it, knowing she would provide nothing useful.

2 – Margot?!? A great MD? Your kidding right? Hardly even close to being good. Anyone could have programmed DAVE the same way, plug in 10-20 heritage artists into Pandora and there you have it, DAVE FM’s playlist. On air she was 2nd to Mara for useless information. She was clearly reading the artist bio from the web, and did not have any other insight to what she was playing.

3 – Sully. Not bad, but his useless information in the afternoon got real old, real quick. And his news story commentary was worthless. Anyone can pick a headline from a newspaper and crack a joke about it or turn into a political outlet. I like it when he would ask the listener what they thought only to never hear anyone’s opinion.

Other DJ issues… 99X was pulled off the air for a reason. It was dead — no need to bring back every single former 99X jock you could find to see if they would work on DAVE. It was clear, most of them did not. It was fun for a day maybe, hearing old voices, but after that it was like “really”.

Now on to the music. What a complete joke this station was. Not once could they fine tune the format. Every time they started to fine tune it it was changed. Never once did they give the music a fair chance, unless of course you count the 20 heritage artists, which we got to hear over and over, and over and over. Not only did we hear them over and over, we got to hear the same songs from said artists — no need to go deeper into the album, just play the same 2 or 3 top 5 hits from each artist, you know, because people like that. DAVE was AAA at it’s worst. I don’t know how the format was even considered AAA to be honest. Not much about it was even remotely close. DAVE sounded like a hybrid mix of Z93/99X/The River, and a bad mix at that.

FM radio can not cater to large diverse groups of people, but DAVE sure tried hard and is one of the many reasons it failed. I don’t want to hear 70’s classic rock followed by Florence + The Machine. Your spanning 30 years of music, and your target demo it sitting there thinking “what is the world is going on” as they reach for the present/input of the radio.If I wanted to listen to 70’s classic rock on FM I would be tuned in to The River. And when the station started to learn hybrid AAA/Alternative what a mess, just as 99X was in it’s final years. Did the PD/MD not see what happened to 99X when they went back to trying to be a heritage formatted station? It failed. What did you think was going to happen on DAVE? Same songs, different outcome? Again, as above, too much spanning of years folks. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains; all great bands but mainly popular early to mid 90’s — music that is now 20 years old. It’s classic alternative — I don’t want it shoved down my ears because it’s a heritage band. I own all the CD’s and have it in my iTunes collection, don’t need to be reminded by DAVE or the late 99X what started it all. We are all well aware of what started it — now play us something newer and remind me what it’s become.

The silly programming of DAVE is was drove me nuts though. Besides the music, they could never get a “slogan” to stick. They could never get a morning drive show figured out, and the coming and going of the shows though out the day… Go Figure, the Beatles break, Dave’s daily rewind, Dave after tomorrow, the 9 @ 9 and the list goes on an on. Not one of those “side shows” was even close to how a AAA station should be programed. It’s like they were all walking with a different idea/approach every month. Nothing ever stayed the same, because DAVE was ALWAYS fighting to keep it’s audience and Arb ratings. They never once stuck with something long enough to see if it would work. Knee jerk reactions when numbers slipped a little, or for that matter rose a little.