Jerry Coyne was bored with classic rock on the radio. As a teenager in the 1970s, he saw bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones when they were in their prime and he listened to WABX, a rock station in Detroit that introduced a lot of the music that came to define his generation.
Jerry says it changed the entire culture in the U.S.
“Rock ’n’ roll was revolutionary,” he says. “It stopped the Vietnam War.”
So to Jerry, it’s worse than ironic that rock stations today play a limited number of songs over and over to keep ratings up and turn profits for corporate owners.
“How screwed up is that?” he asks.
Since 2012, he and his wife Sheryl have owned a group of radio stations in Grayling that includes Q 100.3 and Jerry directs the music. The playlist for his station is built from his own music collection and constant interaction with listeners over the telephone.
They don’t subscribe to audience ratings, the information that drives so much of the radio business these days. In fact, real precise audience data that is important in large markets isn’t even available in northern Michigan.
But the Coynes do have a business strategy: build a loyal audience, that is people who turn their station on and leave it on even through commercials.
Sheryl—who had a long career at CBS Detroit—says the problem with chasing ratings is you cater to an audience looking for particular songs. But when you play a commercial, they push a button and are gone.
“Because they want to hear the song, they don’t want to hear a commercial,” Cheryl explains. “And if you keep pushing buttons the advertising message isn’t coming through, and if the advertising message isn’t coming through, the results aren’t there and the advertiser won’t come back.”
This approach appears to work because when they bought the station one employee worked there. Now the rock revolution in Grayling employs 12 people full time plus the Coynes.