Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006 | 7:22 a.m.
What was revealed the day the music died was ... Jessica Simpson.
At 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 30, Kool 93.1, the valley's last oldies station, was snuffed out by the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Nelly - with a promise of Whoopi Goldberg in the mornings.
And the oldies fans sang dirges in the dark, pushed aside for The Party at KQOL 93.1-FM, and its new audience of 30- to 40-year-old women who remember dancing in clubs to Rhythmic Adult Contemporary music, although they probably didn't call it that then.
"You'd remember it from back in the day," says Brandy Newman, Clear Channel general manager for Las Vegas. "We like to say that it's the music that moves you."
And for Clear Channel, it's the music that moves money. The chain has three other stations in town - new country station KWNR 95.5-FM, easy listening KSNE 106.5-FM and Spanish-language pop KWID 101.9-FM - and it figures to offer advertisers a "one-stop shop" for female listeners. All that was needed was Whoopi.
"Vegas is ready for Whoopi Goldberg," Newman says. "Waking up with Whoopi is something that Vegas will embrace."
And so it goes in the radio business, where the old and the cheap are left behind. Newman estimates that, at the end, Kool 93.1's audience was between 50 and 65 years old. Still active, sure, vigorous even, but certainly past their peak spending years.
"The format is fine," says Jerry Del Colliano, a University of Southern California music industry professor. "But the audience is not one that advertisers care about."
Plus, as the definition of "oldies" creeps later and later into the 20th century, its mix of, these days, Top 40 hits of the '60s and '70s are also played on Classic Rock stations and snarky-jerk-voiced "train wreck" stations such as "Jack" (KKJJ 100.5-FM). So you can still satisfy your oldies yen elsewhere, up to a point.
"Obviously there's the hard-core oldies listener that would argue the point and is definitely having a hard time finding their doo-wop," Newman says. "But we had made a lot of music changes to the station over the last year and a half, playing more '60s and '70s and nothing from the '50s."
The oldies audience is also a shrinking audience, one dwindling into deafness, death and talk radio. Arbitron, which tracks radio listening habits, says that over the last seven years, the oldies audience has been one of the fastest shrinking ones, up there with fans of Frank Sinatra and mid-1990s Aerosmith.
Where is a profit-minded radio station to turn? Nationally and locally, no audience is growing faster than the one for Spanish-language radio.
"Now you're talking. Spanish-language radio is boomtown. Hispanics love their radio," Del Colliano says. "That's your loyal, growing audience."
It's an audience to build on, Del Colliano says, and not likely to be wooed away by iPods "and all that technology." It's an audience Newman is banking on to help her build the largest pool of listeners in the valley.
"I was missing at least 30 percent of the market before I turned on a Hispanic station," she says. "Now I'm the only person in the market with both Hispanic and Anglo audiences."
But good luck finding new listeners who want to be identified with oldies. As Baby Boomers find themselves in their 50s and 60s, they refuse to admit their age, doing anything they can to avoid the label. Newman says that when Paul McCartney came to town to play shows, Kool 93.1 used to fill the air with his songs, but not with his advertising. Team McCartney, it seems, wished to avoid what she called "the oldies stigma."
"Every great idea runs its course," Newman says. "The 50-year-old adult today is yesterday's 35-year-old adult. And most of them don't want to consider themselves old and associate themselves with an oldies lifestyle, you know, the car shows.
"They just don't want to be considered old."