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A Tangled Web

Radio finds new life on the Web.

The wild, wide-open medium known as Internet radio is booming in these parts, which is good news for Sam Stock. After all, his colorful departure from the Peak earlier this year demonstrates that he's better off in a job without too many rules.

Stock's dismissal, previously recounted in these pages (Feedback, March 4), came after his February 23 attempt to give away a $300, Coors-provided snowboard to the first person willing to engage in a sardonic act of road rage. Listener Tom Teehan bit, stalling his thirty-foot truck in the right-hand lane of eastbound Hampden Avenue at half past eight that evening. But any giggles Teehan's action generated soured when unamused representatives of the Cherry Hills Village Police Department arrived on the scene and told him that the stunt had nearly caused a three-car pileup. Teehan eventually came out of the situation in decent shape; he got his snowboard, at least. But for cooking up the scheme, Stock was sacked by Peak program director Mike Stern, who learned of the incident during his first day at the station, and he later was sentenced to a year's probation and forty hours of community service after being convicted of making a false report to authorities. "Nothing ever happened to the Peak," Stock notes. "They just sort of snuck away, and I took the blame for them; I even had to get my own lawyer. But enough time has passed that I can almost laugh about it."

No doubt Stock's sense of humor has been enhanced by his new gig as program director of the alternative format of Lycos Radio, a musical appendix to Lycos, one of the cyberworld's most popular search engines. Although Lycos's corporate headquarters is in Boston, its radio component is provided by Westwind Media.Com, based in downtown Denver -- and as such, the service's five branches ("Adult Contemporary," "Country Now," "Smooth Jazz" and "Hip-Hop/R&B" are the others) have a distinctly Colorado flavor. Marty Lenz, an afternoon jock at KHIH, is the program director of the smooth-jazz format, and since he started in April, Stock has built the alternative wing around the likes of Dave Granger, a onetime KTCL star whose pirate radio station was recently shut down by the FCC ("End Transmission," July 29), and Mike Makkay, KTCL's longtime morning man. Stock believes that Makkay, Granger and other former mainstreamers are attracted to the Web by the freedom it offers. "All of us take what we learned in traditional radio, throw it out the window and do things our way," he says. "Which way that is, we don't know yet. We're still experimenting. But that's the fun of Internet radio."

Under Stock, Lycos Alternative (accessible at www.radio.lycos.com) is offering a number of specialty shows, many of them focused on punk rock, a particular favorite of international listeners: "We hear from a lot of people in Sweden and the U.K. about that," he points out. As for the majority of the other programming, Stock says he's shooting for a more challenging blend of sounds than is commonplace on local broadcast radio. "I take a look at what the current hits are, but mostly to see what I won't play. You won't hear Sugar Ray on our station, and if you hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you won't hear the songs that everyone else is hammering at. We like to mix familiar bands with indie rock and other stuff so it won't seem totally obscure, and it works great. On normal radio, I've never understood why bands like Fugazi couldn't be played with the Chili Peppers, or how a band like Collective Soul could be considered alternative at all."

The public seems to be responding well to the Lycos way; the radio site as a whole generally receives between 65,000 and 90,000 hits a day. But Stock concedes that these numbers have not yet translated into a financial bonanza. "We're going through growing pains, and we're not seeing a whole lot of revenue yet. But the potential is definitely there for making a great deal of money."

Mike O'Connor, the program director for classic-rock outlet the Fox and alternative-minded KTCL, couldn't agree more; he's the driving force behind new Internet-only spinoffs from the two stations -- The Adventure 2, at www.ktcl.com, and Fox 2 Deep Cuts, at www.thefox.com. But thus far, these creations are minor variations on familiar themes done on a relatively small scale. The Adventure 2 essentially consists of one hour of programming per week, with many of the songs coming from releases by artists who are being pushed by major imprints or acts getting airplay on KTCL with other current songs. Last week, for instance, a Chemical Brothers tune, "Out of Control," was the spotlighted Web item, with big-label groups such as Dangerman, Stereophonics and the Bloodhound Gang also getting exposure. Likewise, Fox 2 Deep Cuts (also an hour a week) mainly sticks with the tried and true. "It's designed for the older half of the audience that misses some of the late-Sixties/early-Seventies classics that we don't play as much as we used to," O'Connor says. "But that doesn't mean we won't also throw on something like a less familiar song by Stevie Ray Vaughan."

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1 comments
MIKEYBOY
MIKEYBOY

Remember meeting Soundgarden Sam?  They laughed at you behind your back!  The things they were saying about you had me rolling you poser!  They tossed your demo in the trash right outside your studio door! LOL!  They were rippin on you all the way out the office! LOL!

 
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