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Music of Your Life has been in continuous operation since 1978 and is a satellite-delivered Radio network featuring the Adult Standards radio format. Created by record executive and jingle writer Al Ham, Music of Your Life has approximately 50 affiliates, mostly AM stations.

The format is hosted by well-known celebrity DJs including TV game show host and singer/entertainer Peter Marshall; as well as singer/entertainer Pat Boone. Other on-air personalities include Lori Hafer (a recording artist and member of the Hillside Singers who is also the daughter of the format's founder, Al Ham), Al Hardee, Johnny Magnus and singer Steve March Torme, son of legendary entertainer, Mel Torme, Telarc Records artist, Tony DeSare, Gold Label singer, Ryan DeHues and from Sydney Australia, Ben Starr. Les Brown, Jr. recently returned the the network with his own weekend show. Over the years, the Radio Network has featured a "Stars Play the Stars" on-air lineup that has included such well recognized talent as TV game show host Wink Martindale, Gary Owens from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and 1950s pop superstar Patti Page, as well as Southern California broadcasting's Chuck Southcott. A typical hour of music (see below) may include a wide variety of artists, ranging from Frank Sinatra to Dean Martin, Nat King Cole to Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald to Michael Buble.

History

Al Ham, a veteran recording executive, decided to change careers in 1978. First he took time off from actual work, moving from New York City to Huntington, Connecticut. Realizing that many of the songs he liked could not be heard on the radio, he decided to give the many fans of nostalgia/big band music what they wanted to hear.

Ham approached Dick Ferguson, general manager of the Bridgeport, Connecticut radio station, about changing the format. Ferguson agreed, and positive results followed. Ham continued to work toward improving the format, including asking listeners to submit a list of three favorite songs. With thousands of responses, Ham put together a list of 20,000 songs and "Music of Your Life" was born.

Because the target audience of this music was listeners over 50, Ham had difficulty selling the idea of syndication. Finally Jim West listened. West and Ham had both played bass—West in Las Vegas, and Ham in the orchestras of Tex Beneke and Artie Shaw. Both men wanted to see their favorite music on the radio again.

Together, they convinced Bob Lappin of WMAS in Springfield, Massachusetts (now WHLL) to play the music. After a year, the format had three stations. But the success of the format attracted many more affiliates.

Ham put the best of his music on reel-to-reel tapes and used a scheduling method called matched-flow sequencing (a concept pioneered by beautiful music radio), which made each song part of a group.

Ham's strategy worked very well. Most radio stations reported that people listened for 3 hours. Ham's stations achieved numbers four to five times this figure.

More and more stations joined the network during the 1980s. Another strategy developed by Ham was having recorded messages by the very stars being played, such as, "Hi, I'm Tony Bennett, and I hope you're enjoying the Music of Your Life". Then Ham, known for the State Farm commercials, added a theme song which the great stars also recorded.

Competing satellite networks of radio stations began—Stardust (now Timeless by ABC Radio) and AM Only (now Dial Global's "Adult Standards," a/k/a "America's Best Music"). Ham and West had to take advantage of the new technology in order to remain successful. Unistar Radio Networks, which distributed AM Only, bought a majority interest in Music of Your Life and made it a satellite format in 1990.

Unfortunately, the new distributors of Music of Your Life wanted listeners in the 25 to 54 age group (the most desired audience for advertisers), while the music had been designed for listeners over 50. Ham, who had wanted to retire, had to take over once again. He realized that as Americans aged, perhaps advertisers would take an interest in the older audience once again.

Ham redesigned the music, since someone 50 years old in the 1990s would be of a different generation than the 50-year-old he targeted in 1978. The job of finding affiliates came next.

Kerry and Tammy Fink worked at Mix 106 radio in northeast Georgia, a station whose owners had taken over management of the troubled WCGX. The area was becoming a popular place to retire, and the Finks realized they should go after older listeners. Tammy, who was younger than the average fan of adult standards, had worked at a station playing this style of music and enjoyed listening to Music of Your Life with older relatives, persuaded Kerry to play this music. Others who worked at Mix 106 also enjoyed this music, and Kerry contacted Ham.

WCGX became a test station. Record companies were taking advantage of new technology, and digitally remastered versions of the old songs became available, allowing the recordings to sound as good as when they were new. With only compact discs, the new Music of Your Life targeted older listeners as well as people like Tammy.

The new station depended heavily on volunteers. Station manager Tim Johnston enjoyed the music and agreed to take charge sales. Frank King, a member of the Mix 106 sales staff, had worked for Music of Your Life in St. Louis and took the morning shift. WCGX asked listeners to tell others about the station, and the station soon became profitable. Receptionist Kathy Lightfoot took the afternoon shift, and Kerry told Ham this format could be a success if he resumed satellite delivery to stations around the country.

Kerry Fink started Music of Your Life Radio services Inc., which marketed Al Ham Productions' Music of Your Life. Later their company became Music of Your Life LLC.

Ham knew Chuck Southcott, who had worked at Music of Your Life affiliates KPRZ and KMPC in Los Angeles. Southcott was working at KJQI, a successful adult standards station when Kerry and Ham asked him to develop the new version of Music of Your Life.

Fink and Ham decided not to use the term "nostalgia", which had a negative meaning. These songs were not old, but good. They did not necessarily remind listeners of another time. Instead, they just sounded good. The new format had to promote this idea, comparing the great pop songs to classical music. The answer to those who wondered about listeners getting too old or no longer being alive to hear the music: classical works had existed for hundreds of years, and people still enjoyed them. Perhaps, according to this logic, high school bands will still be playing "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller in 2050, and "New York, New York" will still be the theme song of that city.

One major development that showed promise for the format--performers such as Bennett showing up on MTV. Also, younger artists such as Harry Connick, Jr. were making the music popular with young people. [1] Films such as "Sleepless in Seattle," and a number of commercials, had used the music found in the adult standards format.[2]

And if the music was not supposed to be "old", neither were the announcers. Ham wanted DJs who had the attitude of radio personalities playing today's music. Ham and Southcott contacted two friends who were also radio veterans: Gary Owens and Wink Martindale.

To overcome advertiser reluctance to go after the 50-plus audience, Ham and Fink studied successful adult standards stations from around the country, as well as the problems of those stations that were not doing well. They asked WBYU New Orleans general manager David Smith to develop a training program for affiliates. WSAI Cincinnati general manager Peter Zolnowski created a newsletter. Affiliates would be given whatever help they needed.

Distribution required the highest quality, and Fink knew people at Dalet Digital Media. Jones Radio Network would distribute the format from Denver. The redesigned Music of Your Life made its debut from Los Angeles June 15, 1996. [1]

One year later, there were 70 stations, including WGUL in the Tampa market, whose chairman Carl Marcocci held the same position with Music of Your Life. Affiliates were learning that going after over-50 listeners was nothing to be ashamed of; these people were active and had lots of money to spend, and advertisers could reach them if they just made the effort.[2] Two years later, the format had increased its number of affiliates from 4 to 114. One of the most successful was KGIL in Los Angeles. Other success stories included WLUX in Long Island. Part of the format's success was adding newer artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Rita Coolidge and The Association, as well as swing bands such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra. The name "Music of Your Life" was trademarked, the only radio format to do this. One of its slogans was "Where the stars play the stars" -- this was because Pat Boone and Patti Page served as weekend DJs, and other performers featured on "Celebrity Weekend" included Steve Allen, Lou Rawls, Glen Campbell, Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels.

When Frank Sinatra died in 1998, Music of Your Life played 36 straight hours of his music. Since more people listened to this special programming than to what the format usually aired, the popularity of the music with a new audience was reinforced.[3]

In January 2008, Fink defaulted on his payments to the Jones Radio Network for satellite services and as a result, many affiliates left Music of Your Life. Marc Angell, then President of Planet Halo, Inc., acquired the Music of Your Life trademark through a series of transactions. Today, Global Radio Network, under the direction of Angell, delivers the Music of Your Life format to a number of AM, FM and HD2 radio stations across the US and to more than 90 countries worldwide via the Internet at http://www.musicofyourlife.com/ .

References

  1. ^ a b http://www.musicofyourlife.com, Retrieved on 2007/05/24.
  2. ^ a b Steve Knopper, Giving the Over-55 Set Its Due," Billboard, 07/19/97, Vol. 109 Issue 29, p. 93.
  3. ^ Judith Gross, "Music of Your Life Gets a Second Wind," Billboard, 08/08/98, Vol. 110 Issue 32, p. 67.
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