Updated 7:20pm - UTICA-ROME -- After a full weekend of saying goodbye to Kiss FM (WSKS/WSKU), the station is back to normal -- with a new morning show host -- much to the relief of loyal listeners who started calling to vent their frustrations after a fake launch of "Beautiful Music" hit the air this morning.
We didn't want to pass judgement too soon, but we had a feeling it was a stunt to begin with -- after all, why would the solo station in a popular format suddenly end? We felt a little more confident in our suspicions when new morning host Eric Thomas started calling the "beautiful music" things like "nifty music" and "Whatever FM." (Which, by the way, we did think was funny, though our original article was written in a hurry and apparently came off as a criticism. Our apologies.)
The stunting became more apparent after about an hour, when Thomas ditched beautiful music to play Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" and other classic rock selections. He eventually hinted that "we'll have something in place" by 10:00 am. In the meantime, listeners called to express their frustration with what they thought was the end of Top 40 radio in the Utica-Rome market.
Updated 7:20pm: Despite the gag's growing obviousness, the Utica Observer-Dispatch took the bait hook, line and sinker, publishing an article on its website by 8:00am, declaring Beautiful Music had taken over. The front page link to that article was since removed, but the article itself remains online as of 7:15pm. (Thanks to Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch for finding that link.)
Aside from Thomas, who will also serve as webmaster, the station announced some other changes to its lineup. Promotions director Jesse Jordan, who had been filling in on mornings since mid-March, returns to middays, remarking, "I can’t wait to sleep in again."
Program director Shaun Andrews will return to his afternoon slot -- and expressed his own relief with getting back to business as usual: "After two hours of playing Sinatra, some 'Stairway,' Gloria Estefan and The Proclaimers, I’ve come to realize it all pales in comparison to the artistic integrity of T-Pain."
And finally, a promotion for nighttime jock "Intern Dave" - the station adds promotions and production duties to his airshift. As announced previously, all other Kiss-FM air talent have retained their positions.
We don't normally get into opinions, but overall, a very clever gag, and we'll give the station credit for generating plenty of attention to welcome its new morning host. We can't recall a prank this big in the market since Bill Keeler tricked the local news media into reporting former mayor Ed Hanna had resigned in the 90s... causing the media to be extra cautious when the Hanna really did resign in 2000.
Technically "nobody" was right in predicting the "new format" since we never had this outcome in our weekend poll -- but 35% of you chose the closest answer, by guessing the core musical format wouldn't change at all. Another 5% were correct for the hour or so of Beautiful Music (a choice we threw in there as a joke, not actually expecting it to happen, even for just an hour). Here's the full breakdown of the poll results:
- WKTV: Just a publicity stunt - KISS FM remains on air despite weekend claims
- Utica O-D: Kiss FM signs off, replaced by 'Beautiful Music' (link to article since removed from OD's front page, but article still remains as of 7:15pm... and in case they remove it: screenshot)