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Friday, June 11, 2004


An open letter to KNRK

Over the past few weeks, local rock stalewart KNRK has been soliciting opinions from listeners on which direction to take the station. Emails and calls have been pouring in. Here's what I passed along to their program director, Mark Hamilton.


Dear Mark,

I remember the first time I tuned into your station would have been sometime in 1994 or 1995. I read something in the Oregonian about an "alternative" station that was going on the air the following Friday. At the time, this was a HUGE deal, given the paltry offerings on Portland's FM dial.

The station was everything my 15-year old self hoped it would be. The DJs were friendly and cool and they played all the songs I my pimple-covered heart was longing for. Some of these bands I'm embarrassed to rattle off here: The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Veruca Salt, Rage Against the Machine, The Breeders, Radiohead and others. I can thank KNRK for helping me turn away from the pop-slop offerings being dished out by Z100. Without KNRK, I may never have been introduced to the likes of Beck, Bjork, the Beastie Boys and many other bands and artists that don't start with the letter "B."

Maybe it was the music that changed...wait, yup it was the music that changed. Sometime in the mid-to-late nineties the alternative scene mutated into modern rock and KNRK's format changed with it. Gone were the bands I loved and what I was left with was the likes of Blink 182, countless Blink 182 clones, Linkin Park and (*shudder*) Limp Bizkit. By 1999, it was almost impossible to differentiate between KUFO's cock rock assault and you guys. KNRK was even playing "Enter Sandman" on an hourly basis.

Regardless, there's no excuse for this. Many of the bands above were still making the rounds and selling huge amounts of records. If memory serves, KNRK played tracks off the immensely popular "Kid A" for about a week before cutting back to endless replays of Kid Rock's "Cowboy" (AKA the worst song ever recorded).

KNRK's attempts to emulate and conquer KUFO have led to all sorts of misguided tactics. In an ill-advised move that alienated a lot of your listeners, the station canned perennial favorites Daria and Gustav to make way for Marconi, fresh off his ratings-coup over "The Dogfaced Boy." After this, I, like many others, stopped listening to your station.

If you want to expand (and win back) your audience, here's what I suggest:

- Unlock the vault. Break out all those songs from the mid-90s and toss them into the mix. Everything from Radiohead to random one-hits like Green Jelly's "Three Little Pigs" and Nada Surf's "Popular." I can't think of a station in Portland that caters to those looking for a trip down '90s alternative lane.

- INDIE ROCK! INDIE ROCK! INDIE ROCK! Again, KPSU is the only station in town that plays anything off the smaller labels and their signal is impossible to pick up outside of downtown.

- More punk music would nice. Toss in more early stuff by the likes of the Clash and, shucks, why not the Dead Kennedys? With the exception of a few scattered shows on KPSU and KBOO, punk gets no airplay in this town.

- If at all possible, bring back Gustav, Daria and Jayne. This would be a nice PR move.

- Be what you claim. If you're going to be an alternative station be an alternative station. That means no more Linkin Park, System of a Down or any other bands appear over WWE promos.

There's a huge market out there just waiting for you to pander to them. Portland is town chock full of music snobs. Draw them away from their mp3 collections by playing what they like.

The number of articles that have appeared in the music press bemoaning the state of commercial radio is infinite. The backlash against cooperate radio and Clear Channel doldrums has to start somewhere. If I'm not mistaken, KNRK is owned by Entercom. That doesn't mean it absolutely has to suck. It's time for a change. Just like Captain Planet says, "the power is yours."



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