Monday, May 13, 2013

5.13.13 Back Page: WRIF Trades Drew and Mike For Dave And Chuck The Freak

D&M's last day is Friday

When I was a young teen, I remember going to visit family in Detroit and one of the stations I listened to was 97.1 WKRK - K-Rock.

K-Rock was a CBS-owned station that had a modern rock format with Howard Stern in the morning. One of the station's most-remembered features were their promos blasting rival WRIF. Some ads blasted their editing of music, others blasted their jocks like the aging Arthur Penhallow. But other promos dealt with their morning show, Drew and Mike. They proclaimed that the duo did nothing but rip-off Howard Stern and his ideas. One promo even had Howard talk about Drew and Mike and how they were just Stern clones.

Of course, K-Rock didn't last long, and the rock format was replaced with Extreme Radio, which had Stern along with Chicago's Steve Dahl and Mancow along with other various shows. Now, 97.1 is WXYT - The Ticket, a successful sports-talk format.

For years, WRIF had nothing to worry about. They had heritage jocks and music. However, they report to the trades as an active rock format, which traditionally means that they're supposed to play a lot of new rock and little classic rock. Instead, they're a mix of rock from the past 50 years to keep both young rock fans and the listeners they've had since they began in 1971 happy. It's quite common to hear bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent and Bob Segar on The Riff and not many other active rockers.

But, The Riff is showing its age, and last week, they finally made the big announcement: Drew and Mike are leaving the station after 22 years in front of the mike.

The last episode of their long-running program will air this Friday. The rest of the show's regulars will also be out as well.

As expected, D&M's replacement's none other than Dave and Chuck the Freak, the former morning show at 89X out of Windsor. The two left the station several months ago due to a contract dispute and have been on the beach due to the contract's non-compete clause. They told their listeners via Facebook that they were going to "work for another station in town", leading to speculation that they were headed to classic rocker 106.7 The D, which does not have a morning show. Others even speculated that they would do an afternoon show at WRIF.

To many, Dave and Chuck replacing a top-rated show like Drew and Mike was something that came out of left field. D&M still have great ratings, and WRIF is Detroit's top rocker. Problem is, Drew and Mike's audience is mostly in their 40's and older and The Riff wanted something younger.

Over the years, WRIF has changed in the jock department. Doug Podell moved to classic rock sister WCSX while Arthur P. retired and moved to Hawaii. However, the music hasn't changed much to preserve their 42-year heritage.

Thing is, nothing lasts forever, especially in rock. A 20-year-old hippie in 1971 is now 62. He's probably retired - or getting close to retirement - and will live on a fixed income for the rest of his life. Sadly, in the advertising world, that's not what most rock stations want. Most radio stations want 25-54, which is the spending demo for most stations. I feel that when Dave and Chuck the Freak start, WRIF will push most of their geezer rockers over to WCSX (several other ex-Riffers such as Karen Savelly also work there) while they focus more on the rock of the past 20 years or so.

But here's the million-dollar question: will Dave and Chuck the Freak be a success on The Riff? That's a good question. Drew and Mike are to Bob and Tom while Dave and Chuck are more akin to Howard Stern. Drew and Mike's fans are older and blue collar while Dave and Chuck's fans are younger and more internet-saavy (D&M have 10,000 Facebook followers while D&CTF have 90,000). Also, 89X is the top station streaming on the web out of the Detroit area. WRIF's up there, too, per Alexa.

Drew and Mike have even mentioned that they're open to work somewhere else, possibly even The D. After all, they need the ratings.

In the end, radio is just like all other businesses. There's a door, and it revolves. You come in it one day and are forced out of it down the road. Some shops treat their workers like family, others tend to change them like underwear. In the case of The Riff, it's similar to what NBC's doing to Jay Leno: his ratings are good, but he and his viewers are old. So, they're replacing him with a guy - Jimmy Fallon - who has a following and younger fans. Leno's #1, but has older fans.

In radio, it's not just about how many people listen to you, but it's also how old they are. In the case of rock 'n roll radio, it's better to air ads from the strip club over the old folks' home. 

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