The Demise Of Indie 103.1: Now It Might Be The Demographics’ Fault

Jan 16th, 2009 // 10 Comments

The Daily Swarm spoke to Mark Sovel, the now-former program director of the recently shuttered Los Angeles freeform-lite radio outlet Indie 103.1. Sovel, first and foremost, wants people to know that as of right now, none of the station’s “primary DJs or music programmers” are going to be involved with the online-only version of Indie launching next month. And he had a few words to say about the whole Personal People Meter controversy, too:

What about the ratings and the controversial Portable People Meter (PPM)?
I’ve seen the ratings and I know we didn’t do very well on PPM, but the kind of people who listen to our station are not the kind of people who want to carry around a device to measure what they’re doing. But they are the kind of people who show up to our events in droves. Our signal didn’t cover the entire city. We have transmitters in two places – Santa Monica and Newport – and our signal didn’t reach the Valley where the proportion of PPM is very high. Take for instance the entire area from Echo Echo Park to Beverly Hills to Wilshire, yet they said we had no listeners there. We know we have core listeners in Los Feliz and Silver Lake, but we supposedly had zero listeners there – it is just ridiculous. All stations with eclectic programming don’t register well with PPM. PPM is not even certified in Los Angeles but Arbitron pushed it through early because they make more money from it.

Those “kind of people” are, as he describes them, “the Coachella crowd, professionals, creative types.” And hey, they show up at concerts! But maybe, as one commenter pointed out earlier today, they’re also the “kind of people” who would rather program their own playlists, and not be forced to trifle with, well, anything that didn’t squarely appeal to them?

I’m reminded of a guy I worked with who asked all the folks at work who were under thirty if they would sit and watch music videos for an hour or two if they had the chance. The lack of a “yes” answer confirmed for him that MTV was never going to air music videos again.
It’s the same here. I think people are more willing to listen to the radio than watch TV, but definitely not the target audience of this station. Not when songs can be downloaded directly from pitchfork to your iPod and then played in the car with one of those iPod radio thingies.

I have to say, that sounds much more plausible than the “our listeners are too cool to carry around gadgets” excuse. (After all, wouldn’t “influencer” types be excited to, um, influence other people?)

An Exclusive Interview with Indie 103.1′s Music Director Mark Sovel… [The Daily Swarm]

  1. T'Challa

    Props to “Mr. Shovel” for keeping it classy in this interview.

    I’ll cut him some slack on the whole PPM thing, since the guy is obviously still trying to wrap his head around the whole thing. Granted Indie was never going to be a ratings blockbuster, but they obviously had a LOT of support from the local community.

    And money/ratings aside, they were dedicated to local music, with Sovel’s “Check One Two” show giving quality airtime to lots of up and coming bands that otherwise would never get any.

    Ultimately, it’s a shame that Indie had to go away. While they were far from perfect, they did what they could in a very difficult situation.

  2. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    The article includes news that people are trying to find another home somewhere on the dial. Jonsie at KROQ is mentioned. Maybe others hook on at 100.3 or 98.7? (Probably not, but I can hope. Those stations seem to be drifting about for an identity, although they might not want the ID of a station that just shut down.) He also lists some email addresses for people at Entravision, if someone wants to be heard and beg for a return to the airwaves.

  3. Ned Raggett

    Those “kind of people” are, as he describes them, “the Coachella crowd, professionals, creative types.”

    So not surprised to see this as the language describing that phantom demographic.

  4. Anonymous

    The guy does have a point though. Think about the very people who frequent this site (authors included). Sure, it’d be nice to have a radio station that played “your” music should ever be stuck in a situation where only an FM/AM radio is available but, otherwise, are you going give up your iTunes playlists/ipod to listen to someone else choose music with commercials in between?

    I wish RXP would be an alternative station here in NYC (and not a kitchen sink rock station) but, let’s be honest, the only time I’d ever listen is when I went home to visit family in CT and were borrowing one of their cars.

  5. Anonymous

    I know that the Silverlake-based, iPod-loving, Internet-reading, affluent creative people I work with all knew that 103.1 hadn’t yet switched to Spanish yesterday morning because we had all been listening to the station. So they’re out there. And I can attest to the signal being problematically weak.

  6. musicquizking

    Luckily I live in Santa Monica and I always had the signal come in loud and clear. My only problem with the station was Joe Escalante in the mornings but he had left the position a couple of months back. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.

  7. drjimmy11

    Jonsie at KROQ

    Really? If they make him start playing Linkin Park I am gonna have to break into the studio and put him out of his misery, Cuckoo’s Nest style.

  8. T'Challa

    @drjimmy11: No worries–KROQ has been courting Steve Jones for a while now. But unless they give him the same freedom to do/say/play whatever the hell he wants, he’ll never do it (and they won’t). What’s far more likely is him landing a plumb satellite radio gig. Given the major league celebs the guy pulls, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time (and good for him, money).

    @2ironic4u: I hear you. For those of us in LA and pretty much forced to drive EVERYWHERE (luckily I’m not among those with serious commutes), radio takes on much more significance. The commercials were a small price to pay to have a real person spinning good tunes, old and new, consistently. And the alternatives are shaky at best. Indie was kind of the perfect storm. In short, a lot of us out here had a station that played ‘our’ music. Sadly, they just never could take down the horrible Goliath that is KROQ–who have had to step up their own game due to Indie’s influence. Because of Indie, you heard KROQ venturing towards acts they otherwise wouldn’t have ever considered spinning, like TV on the Radio, M.I.A. (pre-Pineapple Express), etc.

  9. Anonymous

    Mark Sovel was the Music Director at Indie 103-1. The Program Director was Max Tolkoff.

    It’s really too bad they pulled the plug when they did – the station was actually SLOWLY starting to pick up some PPM numbers in the weekly ratings reports – they got rid of most of the shitty specialty shows, stopped playing so many unfamiliar songs, got some DJ’s in there who actually ‘sold the new music’, and it made a difference.

    Listening to L.A. radio is going to be really tough now. KCRW in the AM, and THEN what – 100.3 The Sound? Until Bonneville flips it Country which is going to happen some time this year…

  10. Anonymous

    Yes, the signal didn’t reach the eastern parts of the LA basin. But that was the same problem with MARS-FM and Groove Radio, stations that used the same frequency. One would think that they would have planted another friggin’ transmitter to cover the eastern parts of Los Angeles county by now. Its not rocket science.

    I have abhorred KROQ ever since they were bought out by a corporation back in the mid 1980s…and LA radio is just sucky.

    And I really don’t see Jonesy at KROQ. He would be totally out of his element. The radio personalities at KROQ are just annoyingly stupid and make asinine commentary to the point where I have fantasies of moving my hand through the airwaves just to slap them across the face. Can you imagine uber dork KROQ dj Sluggo interacting with Jonesy? i didn’t think so….

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