WCLK-FM changes format, replaces ‘S.O.U.L.’ with smooth jazz in ‘survival’ move

OTL-Jamal Ahmad

WCLK-FM (91.9) adjusted the formatting of just about all of its shows starting Monday, Aug. 26, in an effort to save the station, according to assistant general manager Tammy Nobles. The most painful of these adjustments is to Jamal Ahmad’s “S.O.U.L. of Jazz” show. It seems the soul has been sucked out of the 2-6 p.m. weekday time slot and replaced with smooth jazz.

Ahmad has consistently offered quality soul music to WCLK listeners and beyond. He’s known for playing rare grooves — you probably know the hip-hop track featuring a sample from one of these gems — and breaking new music from local and international artists.

His show provided a welcome reprieve from the nationally syndicated talk fests occasionally interrupted by your uncle’s favorite song from back in the day, or your little niece’s latest R&B infatuation.

Ahmad was voted Best Drive Time DJ by Creative Loafing for a couple of years, and his show on WCLK was one of the legs upon which the table of Atlanta’s music scene has been built — the others being our venues, retail outlets such as Moods Music, and the people (both artists and patrons).

Nobles acknowledged Ahmad’s strong following, but insisted that the Arbitron ratings for his show — and the overall decrease in station listenership — justified a change. She said that focus groups were conducted, including a 900-song survey with many tunes and artists listeners said they weren’t familiar with.

In short, the station needs more money. Over the past year, the station went from having two fund drives to three, but still fell short of its fundraising goals. This is amid less support from the Clark Atlanta University, the station’s primary source of funding and where it is housed. In 2012, the station pulled in $250,000 less from CAU than it did in 2011, according to its 2012 financial statement.

If the station has about 100,000 listeners, as is often announced on air, and not even 2 percent are members — Nobles said membership clocks in at about 1,900 — the thought is that more familiar tunes will broaden the audience, and that will result in greater membership, i.e., cash.

What’s so frustrating is that folks may find it hard to support the station now that it’s taken away one of its best programs. I’m certainly in that number. Yet, greater membership — and the money it generates — is what the station needs.

Worse still, it’s not as though there are other radio stations in Atlanta that could play home to a show like “Sounds of Universal Love.” The commercial stations are locked into conglomerate-driven playlists, and the few non-commercial stations in town are either college-student run, lack a suitable time slot or reach, or all of the above.

Although the station is taking into consideration listener calls and comments, this adjustment period will likely last for more than six months, Nobles said.

The changes aren’t aimed at any one announcer, Nobles said, and mine certainly wasn’t the first angry and disappointed call she’d received about them.

Station leadership may also want to consider the comments on the Save our S.O.U.L. Facebook page, a Change.org petition that comes out against the changes, and the station’s own Facebook page with comments of a similar sentiment.

1 comment

  1. What’s interesting about this article and all articles that are dealing with this issue is that WCLK’s management has not once addressed the fact that the past few pledge drives have been immense successes. The station has gone over it’s goal by 50% yet you want to change the music? Something is not right with this. It seems like this move was personal and not a good business decision.

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