The Atlantic Records Low Power Radio Project
Posted on February 26, 2006
EDITOR’S NOTE – Back in July of 1994, Atlantic Records briefly entered the world of Low Power Broadcasting with its Holland Tunnel Low Power Radio Project. After almost two years of operations, the effort was suddenly shut down for reasons unknown. What follows are a few historical articles that provide a tantalizing peek at ‘what could have been.’ These articles are offered here in the hopes of rekindling interest in this unique venue.
Title: Atlantic sets up department for low-power radio.
Source: Billboard, Dec 10, 1994 v106 n50 p12(2).
Full Text COPYRIGHT BPI Communications 1994
NEW YORK–Spurred on by the success of its low-power radio promotion this summer outside New York’s Holland Tunnel, Atlantic Records has created a separate department dedicated to the burgeoning world of 100 milliwatt–1/10 of a watt–radio outposts. Atlantic’s division for low-powered radio ventures will be headed by Bob Kranes, former PD at WBCN Boston and WLIR (now WDRE) Long Island, N.Y.
The label hopes not only to move more product by exposing artists through the alternative outlet, but to bring in outside advertisers and turn the mini-stations into revenue streams. This summer, in an attempt to expose passengers stuck in traffic near the Holland Tunnel to new music, Atlantic stuck a transmitter on the roof of a nearby Texaco station and beamed out, for 500 feet, the music of B-Tribe on 1510 AM (Billboard, Aug. 6). Because the AM signal is so weak, an FCC license is not required.
According to Kranes, the Holland signal is up and running once again. This time, instead of simply hearing music (Hootie & the Blowfish are currently being featured), commuters are encouraged to call in a special number when they get to work to win prizes, such as Atlantic product (samplers, cassettes, CDs) and free tunnel tolls for a month.
The plan, though, is not to keep low-powered stations exclusive to Atlantic. For instance, Kranes describes the possibility of working in conjunction with a shopping mall. The label could hook up a transmitter to the building’s roof, make incoming shoppers aware of the signal, promote Atlantic product on the air, and sell ad time to mall retailers so they can tip off shoppers to sales.
The second Atlantic “station,” located on the Queens, N.Y., side of the Midtown Tunnel, is scheduled to go on the air by the end of the year. Kranes says there may be as many as 25 outlets dotting the city by next summer, with plans on the books to head to distant, traffic-choked towns.
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Title: Watts new in promotion; Atlantic Records signs on two low-power stations to spur sales.
Source: MEDIAWEEK, Jan 2, 1995 v5 n1 p8(2).
Author: Cheryl Heuton
Abstract: Time Warner’s Atlantic Records VP Danny Buch came up with a unique idea to promote a new dance band’s music when local radio stations did not given them air time. Buch began a weak-signal radio station, which was exempt from Federal Communications Commission regulation. The music was broadcast to commuters entering the Holland Tunnel, in New York City, NY. B-Tribe’s album sales increased 21% during the promotion, and Atlantic will establish a radio ventures department, as a result.
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Title: Radio stations show how low they’ll go to win an audience.
Source: Marketing News, April 10, 1995 v29 n8 p7(2).
Author: Chad Rubel
Full Text COPYRIGHT American Marketing Association 1995
Abstract: Low-power radio stations are now being used as a marketing tool. Before, these facilities were utilized exclusively to disseminate information on traffic, weather and services. However, Atlantic Records Corp. has found a clever application for these radio stations. It is now used to test the reaction of customers to its recordings.
At one test, a recording group experienced significant sales increase when it songs were broadcast by Atlantic’s low-power radio station to the Holland Tunnel in New York. As a result of this success, Atlantic intends to use its radio station to promote the latest from Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The radio station will be situated in a facility near the concert venues where Plant and Page will perform.
Unregulated by the FCC, low-power radio stations can also be used by car ferry service firms, government agencies, museums and grocery stores. It’s a radio station with only one-tength of a watt, with a limited broadcast radius of a half mile. Yet it may be the hottest new ad vehicle. Long a standard at airports and public facilities, low-power radio is now being expanded for commercial purposes.
Danny Buch, Atlantic Records vice president of promotion, said the firm started experimenting with low-power radio last July. The signal was aimed at commuters outside the Holland Tunnel in New York. The transmitter was on the roof of a Texaco gas station. To test the station’s viability as a promotional tool, the company played Atlantic artist B-Tribe on the low-power station. That was the group’s only airplay during the initial two-week experiment. Buch said the artist’s sales went up 21%, and the test received extensive TV and newspaper coverage.
In a three-day experiment in December, commuters were greeted by interns wearing signs that read, “You winn! Listen to 1510.” The station encouraged people to call (212) YOU-WINN from their cars or when they got m work. All callers won a prize, ranging from cassettes and compact discs of Atlantic artists to a grand prize of free tolls for a week. In one day, Atlantic received so many calls (about 700) that the phone system was blown out at Time Warner, Atlantic’s parent company.
From the phone calls, Atlantic has developed a customer mailing list that would be “enticing to advertisers,” said Bob Kranes, director of low-power radio ventures for Atlantic. Buch estimated a potential daily audience of 300,000 between 1510 AM and another station outside the Lincoln Tunnel on 1410 AM.
“This is a major market concept,” Buch said. “Normally, test markets are smaller.” “Low-power radio represents the sort of direct-to-consumer marketing that can have a tremendous impact on artist awareness, as well as translate into sales,” said Atlantic Records president Vat Azzoli. Atlantic’s next major use for low-power radio will be during the spring and summer tours of former Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. With a transmitter on its roof, an 18-wheeler truck filled with memorabilia will be parked just outside the concert site.
The truck will be provided by Miller Genuine Draft, the tour’s sponsor. “With the Page/Plant tour, we’re creating an “Unledded” Zeppelin radio station,” said Buch. “It’s a groundbreaking marketing line.” Buch got the idea for a low-power radio station after hearing a broadcast from Marie Callendar’s restaurant in Los Angeles. The restaurant beamed its menu and daily specials to the surrounding area. “The Marie Callendar signal was very strong,” said Buch.
Low-power radio has been around for years, providing information about traffic, weather, and services. The Federal Communications Commission does not regulate stations with 100 milliwatts (1/10 watt) of power or less. Small and medium markets generally have AM stations with 1,000 or 5,000 watts, and most major cities have stations with 50,000 watts, the maximum level in the U.S. Buch said the amount of power is not important as “all advertising is reach and frequency.”
He noted the breakthrough in low-power radio came when “we finally found the equipment to make it work.” Andrew Milder, president of Business Broadcast Systems, said the distance the signals travel depends on the height of the transmitter. Milder, who started working with low-power stations in 1992, created the stations for Atlantic and Marie Callendar’s.
While the technology for low-power radio stations has existed for years, there were problems in making it work. “The transmitters were not as good,” said Milder. “The audio component is now more significant.” Milder said low-power stations used to run continuous loop cassettes. Now the stations use digital recording systems with solid-state equipment. Audio messages are recorded onto a chip in a computer.
For a restaurant, the computer’s built-in clock switches the menu message from breakfast to lunch at the appropriate time. Also, by being able to store different messages, the programming can be more entertaining. “It’s a dynamic as opposed to a static message,” said Milder. He said the low-power station technology means “valuable information for the customer and valuable meaning for the advertiser.”
Milder also came up with the “talking house.” Prospective buyers could park by the house and listen to a description of the home any time of the day without leaving the car. The methods for using low-power radio so far are only the beginning of the possible functions for the format. “In view of our long-term plans, which include broadcasting to additional congested locations and coordinating promotions with local malls, stadium parking lots, and existing billboards, the possibilities are truly limitless,” Kranes said.
At a shopping mall, a transmitter could be placed on the building’s roof. Incoming shoppers could be made aware of the signal, and ad time could be sold to mall retailers. Other possibilities in Atlantic’s future range from audio books to providing sound for the huge Spectra-color video screen in Times Square. In addition, the company has initiated discussions with outside advertisers and agencies for further cross-promotion, including pointing commuters to commercial stations once they’ve passed out of the low-powered signal’s limited range. Other possible uses for low-power radio include these:
A car ferry service advertising to people stuck in traffic.
Government agencies advertising rest stops and fast-food establishments that travelers will encounter on highways.
Museums, grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, and housing developments using the medium for ads.
Businesses in smaller areas could offset the cost with other advertising, especially if the arrangements are logical tie-ins.
A supplement to on-line services so that companies could send information by modem in response to inquiries.
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Title: Atlantic’s Holland Tunnel station reined in.
Source: Billboard, May 6, 1995 v107 n18 p81(1).
Author: Phyllis Stark
Full Text COPYRIGHT BPI Communications 1995
Atlantic Records had some explaining to do to the FCC when a listener complained that the label’s low-power station outside the New York/New Jersey Holland Tunnel could be heard for at least two miles.
The FCC says it contacted Atlantic and “obtained a promise to adjust the transmitter power down to a level that will comply with [FCC] rules.”
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From: Xxxxxxx (email@example.com)
Subject: ATLANTIC RECORDS SEEKS INTERNS
The Low Power Radio Ventures Department of Atlantic Records is looking for fall interns to start immediately. We are looking for several ambitious college students who live in the New York City area and have a strong desire to pursue a career in the record or radio business upon graduation. Applicants should have college level experience in one of the following fields: radio/tv, telecommunications, marketing, or advertising. Applicants must be able to obtain college credit as this is an unpaid internship program. The position involves approx. 20 hours of work per week.
Send a cover letter, resume, and 3-minute aircheck cassette tape to the following address:
Low Power Radio Dept.
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