Music of Your Life
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Music of Your Life is a satellite-delivered radio network featuring the Adult Standards music format. Created by record executive and jingle writer Al Ham, and now under the direction of Marc Angell, Music of Your Life has more than 50 AM, FM and HD-2 radio station affiliates, and has been in continuous operation since 1978. On January 26, 2012 it was announced that starting on Feb. 1, stations owned by Multicultural Broadcasting in the Top 20 markets would be running Music Of Your Life overnights.
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 Lorri 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, singer Steve March Torme, son of legendary entertainer Mel Torme, and Telarc Records artist Tony DeSare. Les Brown Jr. recently returned to the network with his own Friday, Saturday and Sunday 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 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 Bublé, Norah Jones, Harry Connick Jr. and Jamie Cullum, to pop songs by artists like The Beatles, The Association, Petula Clark, Elvis Presley, The Carpenters and Neil Diamond.
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 Bridgeport, Connecticut radio station WDJZ, 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.
That same year, 1978, the name "Music of Your Life" was trademarked, the only radio format to do this. In fact, the original Music of Your Life jingle is one of the first sound recordings to be trademarked along with the 3-note NBC jingle.
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. The original format consisted primarily of big hits by standards artists like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, McGuire Sisters, Four Aces, Perry Como, Mel Torme, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Nat "King" Cole, Patti Page, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Mills Brothers, among others. Also, groups from the Big Band era of the 1930s and 1940s were played several times an hour, which included such artists Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, among many others. The format also played a very limited selection of baby boomer pop. Most of these artists were quazi rock and rollers such as Connie Francis, Ray Charles, Pat Boone, Bobby Vinton, Platters, Bobby Darin, Tom Jones, and others. They played only a few songs by artists like Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and Elvis Presley. More of this music would be added in the late 1990s.
Ham put the best of his music on reel-to-reel tapes and used a scheduling method called matched-flow sequencing, which arranged songs according to regular chord progressions. The scheduling worked by giving local DJs a regular formula to employ. For example, one could play a song from Tape A then follow with a song from Tape C, but not from Tapes B or D. 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 that amount. 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, this is Tony Bennett, and I'd like to thank you for making the music of my life, The Music of Your Life." Then Ham, known for the State Farm commercials, added a theme song which the great stars also recorded.
An early success came when the format began simulcasting in Atlanta in early 1983 on Joy AM/FM (WJYA). It was the first 100,000 watt FM to carry the Music of Your Life in a major U.S. market. Under the direction of veteran broadcaster Rick Ellis, the FM predominantly covered the metropolitan Atlanta and middle-Georgia market while the AM reached the northern suburbs. Featuring the legendary John Moore of WSB-AM fame in the mornings, the ratings initially reached a modest 2.1 overall share but in the key demographics of 35+ it was rated firmly in the top five. Beyond on-air success, the music was extensively promoted through weekly tea dances in large venues and live performances of the traveling big bands and artists such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and many others. The highlight was the final performance of "Woody Herman and the Traveling Heard" at the Atlanta Galleria with a crowd of more than 2,500. Eventually the format was changed when the stations were sold by the New York investment group in 2006.
By this time 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. 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.
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.
The new station depended heavily on volunteers. Station manager Tim Johnston agreed to take charge of 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, receptionist Kathy Lightfoot took the afternoon shift. WCGX asked listeners to tell others about the station and it soon became profitable.
One major development that showed promise for the format was performers such as Tony Bennett showing up on MTV. Also, younger artists such as Harry Connick, Jr. were making the music popular with young people. Films such as Sleepless in Seattle, and a number of commercials, had used the music found in the adult standards format.
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.
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 a new version of Music of Your Life. Distribution required the highest quality, and Fink knew people at Dalet Digital Media.
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. Jones Radio Network would distribute the format from Denver. The redesigned Music of Your Life made its debut from Los Angeles June 15, 1996.
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.
Within a few years, there were nearly 200 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. 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 more contemporary artists such as Beatles, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and Beach Boys, as well as swing bands such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra.
One of MYL's on-air slogans is "Where the Stars Play the Stars", featuring well-recognized personalities such as Wink Martindale, Gary Owens, Peter Marshall, Pat Boone and Patti Page serving as DJ's, and other performers featured on "Celebrity Weekend" including Steve Allen, Lou Rawls, Glen Campbell, Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels.
Music of Your Life LLC entered into a Letter of Intent with entrepreneur Marc Angell to acquire the assets of Music of Your Life - including its Music of Your Life brand and affiliates. A new distribution deal was made with Clear Channel Satellite Services, new automation equipment was purchased from Tune Tracker and Google Radio Automation (Scott Studios), with receivers coming from XDigital and Premiere. As the January 18th deadline hit, Music of Your Life emerged with just 12 affiliates.
Angell brought-in his own production and technical team, made programming and talent changes and set-out to rebuild the Music of Your Life brand. Despite a recessive economy and a faltering industry in general, Music of Your Life has quadrupled its affiliate base in just two years to more than 50 AM and FM and HD radio station affiliates in the US, with listeners on the Internet in 110 countries via the company's website http://www.musicofyourlife.com. Music of Your Life can also be found streaming on Apple's iTunes, TuneIn.com, the Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android and all smartphones with a browser.
Music of Your Life continues to add affiliates at the rate of 1-2 per month. With the advent of Arbitron's People Meter ratings system, the Adult Standards stations are actually seeing much higher ratings than previously noted. Combined with a steady stream of new recordings from singers of the Great American Songbook such as Jamie Cullum, Monica Mancini, Renee Olstead, Nikki Yanovski, Tony DeSare, Jane Monheit and a fifth installment from Rod Stewart, Music of Your Life is succeeding once again. The current on-air team is made up of entertainer Peter Marshall, best known as the former host of Hollywood Squares; Steve March-Torme, son of Mel Torme; record producer and big-band leader, Les Brown Jr.; Telarc recording sensation, Tony DeSare; Lorri Hafer, singer and daughter of MOYL founder Al Ham; radio vet Al Hardee, and Marc Angell.
- "Music of Your Life to appear on top 20-market stations of Multicultural group".
- http://www.musicofyourlife.com, Retrieved on 2007/05/24.
- Steve Knopper, Giving the Over-55 Set Its Due," Billboard, 07/19/97, Vol. 109 Issue 29, p. 93.
- Judith Gross, "Music of Your Life Gets a Second Wind," Billboard, 08/08/98, Vol. 110 Issue 32, p. 67.