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Media: September 2011

Dahl’s Basement Tapes

Radio legend Steve Dahl started charging for his podcast last month. He was dumped from “free” radio in December of 2008, when CBS Radio bought out his WJMK-FM (105.9) contract (and continued to pay him). Two years ago, Dahl launched his podcast, joining a growing number of local media figures who have tried to reinvent themselves in today’s topsy-turvy media world: paying for equipment; a staff of seven; and a $7,500 per month fee to CBS to allow him to do the podcast.

Dahl has total control over every aspect of the show, since there are no suits or advertisers to alienate. He does it from the basement of his home – so there’s no commute (although some of Dahl’s most inspired bits happened when he called in late to his old show with Garry Meier). One of the drawbacks of the format is that there’s no room for live listener input.

Now, subscribers pay $9.99 per month (or $99.95 per year) to keep the podcasts a-coming (more info at www.dahl.com).

I asked Dahl a few questions about the pay-Dahlcast in an e-mail interview.

IE: So, how do you feel a week after launching the pay podcast? Is it different from before?
Steve Dahl
: I feel good. We have been signing up a lot of subscribers (many for a year) and they all say the shows are the best ever.

IE: Was this your plan all along (to offer the podcast for free, and then charge for it)?
SD
: No, that idea evolved as I began to understand that it was the only viable way to monetize it.

IE: What makes you think this model will work, when it is failing for journalism (i.e. trying to charge for something that is free), and Sirius XM Internet offers 120 channels for just $12.95 per month?
SD
: It’s the only place to hear me!

IE: Will the show have paid staff? If so, whom?
SD
: Yes, the same staff that I have had for the past two years (Mary Sandberg, Pete Zimmerman, Jim Ruffato, Stephanie Fallara, and Brendan Greeley).

IE: Why is a radio legend of your stature doing a podcast?
SD
: Because a legend can do whatever he wants. :)

IE: For that matter, why do you think that radio legends like you, Johnny B, and Mancow are all off the air in Chicago?
SD
: You would have to ask them, but I suspect it’s because radio is losing its focus and shifting away form the one-on-one connection that made it such a great medium.

IE: Do you think a young Steve Dahl could come up in today’s corporate radio environment?
SD
: Definitely not. There is no place to experiment, fail, and therefore improve.

IE: If Merlin Media, Tribune Co., or a similar entity offered you a lucrative prime time slot with Garry Meier, would you do it?
SD
: I wouldn’t rule it out, but no one has asked, and I’m very committed to making the podcast work, since I really think it’s the future of what used to be called personality radio.

IE: Please add anything else you feel is relevant.
SD
: I haven’t felt this good about something since I started talking instead of playing album cuts on FM radio back in the ’70s (while program directors told me to shut up)!

A NOT-SO-BRIEF-HISTORY OF Q101: In August, WKQX-FM (101.1) flipped to a news format, and Q101 joined the ranks of Chicago’s late, great rock stations: WMET, The Zone, The Blaze, and WCKG. But Chicago has always had alternatives to Q101 (anyone remember when WXRT and Q101 used to duke it out?) down on the nonprofit, lefthand side of the dial.

On Q101’s last day as a rock station, former DJ James VanOsdol exceeded his Kickstarter target for his upcoming book, Smells Like Rock Radio: An Oral History Of Chicago’s Q101 (1992-2011).

“I think that once the Q101’s demise became reality, there were a lot of people who wanted to ensure that the project happened, and become part of the it in the process,” says VanOsdol. “I’m grateful for the overfunding – it means I’ll have better resources and help with the book.”

VanOsdol spent years at the station, but left his on-air job earlier this year. “I was working part-time, doing weekend shifts,” he explains. “That found me working seven days a week for quite some time. I needed to catch my breath and get my weekends back.”

Now that the book is funded, “I’m proceeding slowly and methodically,” he says. “My plan is to talk to every air personality, Program Director, General Manager, and relevant support staffer from the station’s history. So far, I’ve completed 20 half-hour interviews, with an estimated 75 more to follow.”

So far, no one has declined his interview requests. He says the trickiest part is coordinating interviews around his work and home schedules.

He says the book will take “however long it takes. I’m trying not to put a date on it, simply because I want to do this right.

“If I had to guess, I’d say late ’12/early ’13.”

As for his music taste these days, “I listen to a pretty exhaustive amount of artists and styles,” he admits. “I’m perfectly happy listening to indie, metal, classic rock, and blues. It’s not unusual to hear The Jesus Lizard or Rush blaring from my car.”

More at blog.jamesvanosdol.com.

Not long after the music stopped on Q101, local radio stalwarts Matt Dubiel and Mike Noonan purchased the Q101 brand (the pair was also behind the short-lived “Save The Loop” movement and head up the Broadcast Barter Radio Network; DuBiel was program-operations director and air talent at WERV-FM Aurora and PD at 9 FM; Noonan is a former WLUP jock and former assistant production director at US-99). The duo kicked off the new “goes where the fans go” venture last month with a party at the Cubby Bear, featuring Redlight King. Look for the alternative rocker to be resuscitated via mobile apps, social media, concerts, and its online home – Q101.com.

— Cara Jepsen

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  1. Midas Hammond says:

    In an ideal world, we could download a podcast of both Steve AND Garry….

  2. Shannon McIntosh says:

    Hi there. I am a Casting Director for NBC’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ and I am going to be in Chicago this week. We have begun casting for season 7 and since Chicago is not one of our open call audition cities this year, I am holding a smaller, invitation-only audition this Saturday there.

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    Shannon McIntosh
    Casting Producer
    310.793.6166
    shannonagt5@gmail.com

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