Introducing the All Nu KWOD-ZAP
by Alex Cosper
Monday, August 17, 2015
What is the all nu KWOD-KZAP? As this video program explains, it's the merging of legendary radio stations KWOD and KZAP from Sacramento. I worked at KWOD in the 80s when it was a Prince/Madonna top 40 station then in the 90s when it was a Nirvana/REM alternative station. In other words, I was part of the heyday for both formats. Since social media is now full of radio nostalgia, I decided to merge both legends, kind of as a joke and a tribute at the same time.
So what's so funny about merging serious legendary stations together? Well, first of all, both stations already had components of humor when they were great. In the current corporate era of radio, however, apparently there's no room for humor or anything but a short list of songs that repeat over and over mixed with a long list of annoying national commercials. You can now pretty much hear the same radio content from city to city. Merging KWOD and KZAP is humorous for many reasons, which I will explain.
First of all, the legendary status of KZAP revolves around what it was in its first few decades and definitely not the boring bland corporate station it "evolved" into by the time of its death. KWOD, on the other hand, kept evolving as an exciting alternative station and helped put KZAP out of its misery, along with 93 Rock, which went on to take KZAP's old 98.5 dial position. So maybe now you can start to see the ironic goofiness of merging KWOD with KZAP.
It's important to remember (as if you'll be tested on this information) that KZAP was the number one music station in Sacramento for awhile in the 80s, as it had big biz bucks to promote it. KWOD, on the other hand, was an indie station all along (until big biz eventually snatched it up). As an indie station, it actually performed very well in the ratings, although it never made it to number one. It did, however, lead all the rock stations in the town in the ratings during the mid-90s, after KZAP was long gone.
The other hilarious element to this story (imagine laughter while you're reading this) is that between the time KZAP switched format in 1992 and until the return of "Sacramento's KZAP" at K-ZAP.org, there was quite a lot of talk and dreaming going on about bringing back the legendary station. KWOD's eventual corporate demise in 2009 has also spawned memories of its heyday, which was mainly in the 90s. All this nostalgia seems to have become the norm on Facebook, whereas last century wasn't so retro-driven as a current concern.
Thanks to corporations sucking the soul out of stations combined with the internet trying to rebuild some kind of community spirit that preserves the reasons radio was great, there's a sense now that all the old memories of last century's pop culture will live on.
Last century it was very "hip" to live in the present while visiting the past. This century seems to be the inverse: that it's cool to spend a lot of time thinking about the past while sprinkling in fashes of the present. The future simply promises more nostalgia, now that any era is an your fingertips online.
As a comedy bonus, I threw in some commentary on why playing my own original music beats the cost of paying royalties for other people's music. Radio stations pay thousands of dollars a year to BMI and ASCAP to play music of various songwriters, where I've bypassed that expense by just playing my own original music. In this case, I performed a song I've written called "Spies Around the World." Below is a link to the YouTube video of the first installment of the KWOD-ZAP series.
You can learn more about what KWOD and other alternative stations of the 90s were all about with my autobiography called "The Rise of Alternative Radio." I also did a comprehensive report called "The Legend of KZAP." Nostalgia translates into history, which is fun to study online.
Learn more about the KWODZAP series.