The Revolution Starts Now: Salinas, CA

The Revolution Starts Now

The Revolution will NOT be televised.

In Los Angeles, one has endless options for entertainment. Music, movies, theatre – it’s all here. For example, you can turn on the radio and find little dead-air as you can find just about anything on the dial. On my recent trip back home to the Central Coast, I was reminded that what works in L.A. doesn’t necessarily work elsewhere, as I tried in vain to find a radio station that plays to MY specific needs – namely, rock music created after 1990. I then remembered that my hometown media market doesn’t have a rock station, and hasn’t since about 2007. They haven’t had one since the one I interned for went belly-up.

I moved to Los Angeles  in order to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, but I began my career on the Central Coast as an intern for a small group of radio stations during my second year of community college. This should go without saying, but the Monterey media market is much smaller than the L.A. market (and most other markets, for that matter), so we’re not talking about huge corporate ownership. We’re talking about a skeleton crew of a staff shared over four stations, and one intern – me – for those four stations.

About 3 months into my 6 month internship, the alternative rock station in our group flipped formats to a rock/rap-hybrid-type station, similar to what we know now as Jack FM (“iPod on shuffle”), but instead geared towards angry young men (“Fred Durst’s iPod on shuffle”). Gone were Coldplay, The Killers, 311, Evanescence, and “Santa Cruz X@103.9″, and in were Metallica, Chamillionaire, AC/DC, Ludacris, and the “X103.9 Revolution”. The thought was the established listener base in Santa Cruz (the rock crowd) would be augmented by a new listener base in the Salinas Valley (the rap crowd), and the station would print money.

To get that Salinas base, promotional efforts were heavily skewed towards the Salinas Valley (Hello, Soledad!), and one particular promotional effort still sticks out in my mind today.

Know that as a locally-owned station, we didn’t have the money nor manpower to go head-to-head with the corporate owned behemoth that dominated the ratings in the Salinas area. Because of this, the station staff of 3 (two DJs and one intern) had to handle EVERYTHING – on-air duties, programming the station, promotional efforts, etc. The station adopted a self-referential, “wink-wink” persona on the air, knowing that we were little, that we were broke, we were all learning on the job, and we were in on the joke. One day, I was tasked to take a handful of Salinas Rodeo tickets and our station banner (a homemade, hand-painted banner, of course) to a mall just up the street from the rival station (pictured above) and pass the tickets out to whomever found me in the parking lot. The mall cops didn’t like the idea of me hanging up a huge banner in their parking lot, and promptly had me removed from the premises – all while I was on the air. Off the air, I told the DJ (also the station’s programmer) that I was going to head down the street to KDON, hang my banner up outside the station, and see what happens. The DJ loved the idea, and so I went.

Not 10 minutes after hanging up my crappy little banner, the entire KDON promo team descended upon me with righteous fury perplexed indignation, and did their thing while I did my thing. “Their thing” was dancing in the middle of a busy intersection/freeway on-ramp while handing out station bumper stickers and Brooke Hogan concert tickets (I should mention that this was 2006) while screaming at me and telling me how horrible my little station was. “My thing” was dialing in to my station on my Motorola RAZR phone and giving updates on what was happening in front of me, while the KDON promo squad did their best to ruin what little on-air presence I had. We went about this for over an hour, which eventually led to this on-air exchange:

(Bear with me, I’m doing this from memory since we didn’t actually record or save any of these…)

Me [Shouting over "DON squad"]: I’m still here in front of the KDON studios in Salinas with ten of my new best friends – the entire DON squad is here with me, helping me out, and you know what – they said I was doing such a good job out here promoting The X, that they want me to come to work for them!
DJ: They did what? Are you saying that they want to steal our ONLY intern from us?
Me: They did. And I’m REALLY considering their offer… They promised me Brooke Hogan tickets…
DJ: I am disappointed in you, Forrest; we expected a lot more from you. This is unbelievable – we have done EVERYTHING for you, and you do EVERYTHING for us, and this is how you repay us?
Me: They want to pay me! I don’t work for free!
DJ: Well, that settles it. Forrest, you are officially fired as our intern. Please come back to the station immediately, return your key to us, return our van, but please bring it back fully gassed up, and give us back your X shirt – you have our last one, and we can’t afford to get any more printed. You are done here [hangs up].

Mind you, this was all ad-libbed on the air, but it was basically exactly what our station wanted at the time. We openly made fun of ourselves on the air, the DJs constantly belittled the intern on the air, and we had a blast because we were all in on the joke. When I did get back to the station that evening, the DJs told me that we had made it sound so convincing that they received several calls from listeners asking them if I’d ACTUALLY been fired.

Unfortunately for us, while the Jack-FM format took off soon after in L.A., The X’s rap/rock “Revolution” format never took hold on the Central Coast, and the station switched to a country format about 18 months later. To this day, there is still no alternative or active rock station in the Monterey Bay area, which is really a shame. However, I had a wonderful time learning the ropes of broadcasting during my internship, and I gained a TON of experience and learned many lessons that I still carry with me today in my present career. It’s no exaggeration to say that without experiences like this one, my professional life would look a LOT different today.

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Posted on December 30, 2012, in Bygone Eras and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post, keep up with the hard work, you’re doing it right!

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