The music stops for alternative station REV 105

Scott Carlson

Listeners who tuned in to REV 105 on Tuesday afternoon expecting to hear the likes of Luna, the Replacements and Luscious Jackson were instead blasted with the sounds of Tesla, Pantera and Great White.
At REV 105’s office and studio in St. Paul, long-faced programmers and disc jockeys packed up their belongings while the station’s secretary frantically tried to handle a battery of phone calls.
“We were sold,” she told one distressed listener. “No, I don’t think there’s anything you can do. Maybe write a letter.”
KQRS, Inc., a subsidiary of ABC, Inc., purchased REV 105’s three radio signals from parent company Cargill Communications after two months of negotiation behind closed doors, said KQRS spokeswoman Kim Perry. After General Manager Mark Steinmetz and Cargill Communications President John Kuehne reached an agreement, KQRS renamed the station “X105” on Tuesday and began broadcasting an “active rock” format.
The sale won’t be official until KQRS receives FCC approval, but an arrangement between the two companies allowed the format change to take place immediately.
Perry said that when KQRS purchased metal station KRXX three years ago and changed it to the alternative-rock station KEGE, the niche for metal music did not go away. Recent research, she added, indicates a metal format would succeed in the Twin Cities.
“We did not find that (metal) was on the way out. In fact, there are a number of core artists that we’re going to feature on the station that are maybe of older decades — Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and AC/DC,” she said. “However, there is a new generation of heavier rock artists out there now — the Toadies, Danzig and Metallica is still producing. There are artists that are still producing and there is an audience for it.”
The buyout leaves only two alternative rock stations in the Twin Cities — the Edge and 770 Radio K, the University’s student-run station.
“It’s a pretty sad deal, a pretty weird situation and I don’t really blame anybody like the Edge or (ABC parent company) Disney,” said Jim Musil, Radio K’s programming coach.
“It’s all those Republican congressmen who changed the rules to allow radio station companies to own a monopoly in a market,” he said, referring to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that President Clinton signed in February of last year. The law allows a company to own up to eight radio stations in a market, instead of the old limit of four.
“It’s been happening all over the country,” Musil said. “The bigger companies have just been buying up as many stations as they can because it’s more profitable.”
Employees at REV 105 heard the news at about 11 a.m. Tuesday — two hours before the format switch. Whether they will have jobs at the new station remains to be seen; they have the option of applying at X105, but nothing is guaranteed.
“It’s a sad day for everybody here. We did a lot of hard work, put a lot of sweat into it,” said John Mielke, REV 105’s chief financial officer.
Since its inception in 1994, REV 105 consistently focused on local bands, venues and issues. The station’s “Revolution in a Minute” public service announcements provided listeners with off-beat news items and urged them to get involved with the community.
“The root of revolution is evolution,” REV 105 co-founder Kevin Cole told the Daily in 1994. “We are constantly changing. We are to do an honest presentation of alternative music and community events.”
Let It Be records in downtown Minneapolis benefited from that local focus. REV 105 helped promote in-store concerts and independent records at the smaller stores. Owner Ryan Cameron said that no other station offered that kind of support.
“Not to downplay Radio K and KFAI — and the Edge is an entirely different kettle of fish which we have chosen not to be involved with,” he said. “Overall, the whole thing is obviously a big drag and it’s going to affect a lot of stuff within the local area as far as people being able to hear records that they would not normally hear.”
REV 105’s ratings were low throughout the station’s history, despite being voted midsize market station of the year by “Album Network/Virtually Alternative Magazine” this year. But low ratings meant fewer advertisers and less money for the station.
“It was definitely an experiment that was beaten by money,” said Radio K’s Musil.