By all accounts, San Diego radio has undergone a sparkling resurrection in the last two years. A competitive spirit, fostered by the insurgence of Jefferson Pilot's 94.9 into a largely Clear Channel-dominated San Diego pool, has turned every time slot into an intriguing dogfight.
Enter local music. With competition, a hospitable new environment has emerged.
Just a few months ago 91X held one of the only popular local radio shows on the FM dial. "Loudspeaker" was relegated to an abhorrent midnight-to-2 a.m. timeslot every Sunday night. People tuned in, and then people fell asleep.
Now there are more than eight different local music outlets on the San Diego radio dial. Credit can be doled to a new competitive ladder: When former 94.9 local show host Al Guerra left the station and moved over to co-host 91X's Loudspeaker with Tim Pyles, 91X moved the show from snore-time to a prime 6-8 p.m. timeslot.
Then 94.9 handed over the reigns to ingénue jock Anya Marina who hosts The Local 94.9 from 8-10 p.m. Former 92.1 jock Scott Riggs even picked up the local lead at Rock 105.3. It's a whole new radio world at this point, and the possibilities are endless.
"San Diego gets a lot of slack for being apathetic, but I don't see it," Marina says. "I see a lot of people going out and supporting local music. The audience has been so committed."
Marina's biggest impact, however, is relatively unintentional-she is the first female host of a local rock show since god knows when. San Diego rock is a virtual snake pit if you are cute and blonde and energetic about the music you cover, but Marina seems to navigate just fine.
"San Diego is embracing a girl host when traditionally they've had two guy hosts for as long as I can remember. I've gotten to know and see and hear about so many wonderful bands since I started this show, which is really the point, isn't it?"
And 94.9 isn't alone. With breakthrough artists like Louis XIV, Scarlet Symphony, Operatic, Waterline Drift, Tristan Prettyman, Via Satellite, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and other up-and-comers (the list never ends), "Loudspeaker" isn't finding it hard to find local tunes either.
"Although Sunday night radio tends to be slow, we get support from the local bands," Pyles says. "San Diego is back to where it was in the early '90s where they were saying it's the next Seattle.... The music is so diverse. My mom and dad, they grew up here, and they were saying that it's always been that way. I love that."
As the longest running local show in San Diego, "Loudspeaker" has a true local foundation-it's difficult to pick a night when either Pyles or Guerra isn't out painting the town red.
"I feel the heart and soul of San Diego lies somewhere within the walls of our beloved Casbah, so I go to shows there quite a bit," Pyles says. "I go to shows 5 nights a week, at least, if not more."
"I think this [radio] competition is good for the listener," says 91X program director Jim Richards. "If it weren't for the competition, our local show would still be stuck at midnight on 91X."
San Diego State University's college radio station, KCR, takes the biggest strides to include local music-their current policy is to add every EP-length or longer local disc to heavy rotation the minute it arrives at the station.
"We don't have a local music show, specifically," KCR music director Michael Buchmiller explains, "but a lot of DJs, including myself, have done their show entirely on local music from time to time."
Over at 105.3, Scott Riggs is redefining his "Inside Track" show to include more local material.
"Coming from doing local shows all the time, it's difficult to move away from that, but I try to include as much local music as I receive," he says. "I just got another hour for my program to highlight more local bands."
Other stations are doing the same. Jazz 88.3 airs their "Local Jazz Corner" from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. KSON (97.3) showcases local bluegrass tunes on Sundays at 10 p.m. and KPRI (102.1) continues to use their "Sunday Mornings Unplugged" as a local music platform from 7 to 11 a.m.
You could say that it's all coming together for local musicians on the dial.
"I've been doing stuff with the local scene since '91 and I can't remember a time when there were two local music shows before 10 p.m., ever," says an amazed Riggs. "I can't think of a time when radio has been more supportive."