Classical Spark on-air tune-in campaign

Classical Spark on-air tune-in campaign

Dear Friends of Classical Music Rising:

I often hear the lament from performing arts presenters that they need new audiences, but the real issue isn’t snaring newcomers. It’s encouraging those who have come once to come back again and again. The thinking here  which transfers seamlessly to classical radio  is that Frequency builds Familiarity, which leads to Enjoyment, which generates Loyalty, which stimulates Membership and long-tail sustainability of our services.

Enter Classical Spark, a coordinated effort through Classical Music Rising to increase and support “best practice” on-air promotion at classical public radio stations across the country. The goal for our tune-in campaign is more listeners using classical stations every day – on-air and online – and more listening overall, increasing both impact and financial support.

We are excited to share our Classical Spark promotion materials. Explore them here.

  • The project description – what, why, how, and when.
  • Our Best Practices Guide to Effective On-Air Positioning and Promotion – a new, in-depth reference.


We invite stations to join us! Targeted on-air positioning and promotion is a smart, effective, and affordable path to growing audiences. We are asking classical stations to:

  • Identify your station and its benefits consistently and constantly – i.e. your brand.
  • Develop a promotional inventory of live reads, produced spots, and liners targeted at increasing regular midday listening, our format’s most listened-to daypart.
  • Adopt a promotional schedule that approximates Optimum Effective Scheduling (OES) – about 15 live reads, spots, or liners a day, or some 100 message points per week.


The messaging centers on motivations for listening to classical music radio, such as sanctuary, inspiration, and timeless beauty that satisfies mind and heart. (Our complicated times provide an opportunity for classical radio as a welcome resource for listeners.) We are highlighting the station as a “home” and our hosts as daily companions and trusted guides. Calls to action focus on daily listening, repeat listening, and longer tune-ins.

Classical Spark is entirely locally focused, but by working together, classical stations can create multiplier effects to make the effort stronger. We will be delving deeply into this promotion together at Classical Music Rising’s retreat for station partners in Maine next week. And for those of you attending PRPD’s Content Conference in Washington, DC, please come to the Classical Spark session on August 15.

The shared goal is a strengthened public radio classical service – buoyed by greater use, powered by more resources, and more closely connected to communities. We are confident that when we look back in a year from now, we will see benefits from Classical Spark, in all these dimensions, to every station that takes these principles to heart.

We are working with Craig Curtis, who has been advising NPR on its Spark promotion campaign. Craig penned the Best Practice Guide, a deep dive into the principles of on-air positioning and promotion that we believe is a first of its kind for our format. Many thanks to Craig – and to others who have reviewed drafts of the Guide, making observations and suggestions for improvements, and offering words of encouragement. These include Matt Abramovitz, New York Public Radio; Deborah Blakeley, Blakeley & Company; Jody Evans, Public Radio Program Directors Association; Bill Lueth, USC Radio Group; Joyce MacDonald, Greater Public; Izzi Smith, NPR; John Sutton, Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting; and Monika Vischer, Colorado Public Radio. We thank them and many more of our colleagues for their knowledge, insights, and support for public radio Classical Music. And none of our ongoing work could happen without Station Resource Group’s Tom Thomas and Terry Clifford, and the support of Classical Music Rising’s Steering Committee, station partners and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Classical Spark is inspired by NPR’s “Back to Basics” Spark project focusing on radio fundamentals. At Classical Music Rising we know that the results of committed, consistent, collaborative on-air promotion know no station genre boundaries.

Download Classical Spark materials:


Scroll down to read about radio branding, catch up on station news, job opportunities, August’s Classical Datebook, and more…

Download The Classical Station as Community Connector on – and explore the items below on how the arts make our communities better places to live, work and play.


Wende Persons, Managing Director
Classical Music Rising | | cell: 917-691-1282


Key Findings from 2017 Coleman Insights Research
Two of the key takeaways from a new Coleman Insights report about listener perceptions of Public Radio align with the objectives of Classical Spark to increase station branding through constant on-air positioning and promotion: Let people know you are here and tell them who you are: “On air, stations need language that tells listeners who and what they are… Public Classical stations should own the word ‘classical,’” advises Coleman. The report, commissioned by the Public Radio Program Directors Association, also advises that image is everything – make sure you have one. “Successful stations become well known for a simple, clear concept that the listener can easily call to mind when thinking about the radio station. What we have learned is that if listeners do not have a basic idea of what a station delivers or represents, they will not remember to tune in when they have the opportunity to listen.” Download the 2017 Coleman Insights report.

Fred Jacobs on Radio’s Emotional Thermometer
Decades of radio research reveal that many listeners turn to classical music on the radio for its emotional benefits. Part of developing and reinforcing our unique brand involves strengthening listeners’ feelings of connection with our stations. In “I Second That (Radio) Emotion” – a recent post from his informative Jacobs Media Strategies newsletter – Fred Jacobs writes, “A key element in building great radio stations is creating emotional brands. Our Techsurvey, along with a new study and infographic from Customer Thermometer, provides a paint-by-numbers kit for carving out radio brands that strike an emotional chord with audiences.” Read more

Non-branding at the BBC to court younger listeners? 
To brand or not to brand? BBC Radio 3 is considering whether to remove British Broadcasting Corporation branding from its new classical podcasts as part of an effort to entice more young people into trying them out. The Guardian reports that the BBC is weighing the rebranding effort because it is believed that young people associate the Beeb with an older, less hip demographic. Indeed, over-65 fans make up 42% of BBC Radio 3 listeners, according to a BBC report. But even BBC Radio 1, which broadcasts pop and rock, has opted for non-BBC branding on its podcasts, which are called 1xtra.


KBAQ’s billboards featured in L.A. Times
Phoenix’s Classical KBAQ has captured the attention of the Los Angeles Times. In an article on how Donald Trump’s “great again” slogan has been used in advertisements that have little or nothing to do with politics, the paper cites the classical station’s billboard campaign, launched the day after Trump’s inauguration. The billboard features the station’s “Classically Cool” J.S. Bach in sunglasses, accompanied by the tagline: “Make Your Commute Great Again.” General Manager Jim Paluzzi told the paper that the campaign has resonated like no other, and he credits it with a rise in listenership, from a 2.2% share of the crowded Phoenix radio market in February to 3.1% in June.

Jennifer Ridewood is stepping down as KING’s GM 
After 25 years at Classical KING FM and 19 as its General Manager, Jennifer Ridewood has announced she is leaving the Seattle station at the end of the year. In 2011, she led KING’s transition from a commercial radio station to a listener-supported classical station, and played a pivotal role in galvanizing community support and raising $2 million for the transition. Ridewood has been a key mover and shaker in the creation of Classical Music Rising and she serves as a founding member of the Steering Committee and leader of the Community Connector working group. She and her husband will be relocating to Southern California − and she will be missed!

Maine Public adds a new station
Maine Public Radio is adding a new midcoast signal with the $550,000 purchase of Blueberry Broadcasting’s WTQX (96.7 Boothbay Harbor), reports Scott Fybush in his Northeast Radio Watch. Under the new call letters WBQA, the station will bring classical music to many coastal Maine communities and summer residents that have been without it since the format was dropped on commercial WBach in March. “This new station helps solidify our statewide Classical presence with a sixth FM signal, and equally important, has helped strengthen the existing NPR news programming on our existing Maine Public Radio network,” says Maine Public’s President and CEO Mark Vogelzang. “It gives listeners more choice in programming, and adds new contributors to both services.”

Vermont Public Radio Completes Campaign, Debuts Performance Studio
Vermont Public Radio has surpassed the $10 million goal for its capital campaign, a three-year effort that drew donations from more than 2,000 supporters. Along with the launch of a $2 million “Innovation Fund” to develop new programming and news projects, the station spent $8 million expanding its Colchester, VT headquarters. The handsome space includes Studio One, a live performance studio with seating for 120 guests and audio/video transmission capacities. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein helped select and debut VPR’s new Steinway concert grand piano. A public open house is planned for September 9th, among the events that celebrate the campaign’s success and VPR’s 40th anniversary.

Musical Chairs
WRTI welcomes Michael Rathke as Director of Programming and Content. Rathke moved to Philadelphia last month from New Hampshire Public Radio where he was Program Director. Previously Rathke served as Director of Radio for Georgia Public Broadcasting, and as PD at WOSU in Ohio, WFCR in Massachusetts, the former WCAL in Minnesota, and Northwest Public Radio in the state of Washington.
Alert! Current may fold without more subscribers

For more than three decades, anyone who has worked in public radio or television has depended Current to keep up on our industry’s news, ideas, programs and initiatives, job opportunities, people moves and more. It is the journal of record for public broadcasting, and the only publication of its kind covering our industrySimply put, Current needs subscribers to remain financially viable, or this invaluable online and print resource may go away. Here’s the story of why Current needs you (and we need Current), as detailed by Ken Mills in his Spark blog last week. Subscribe to Current now.


PRPD preview for music stations 
See you at the Public Radio Program Directors Content Conference? Classical Music Rising is involved in three sessions of interest to music stations at PRPD, August 14 – 17 in Washington, DC. View the conference agenda, which includes Classical Spark with Craig Curtis; The 21st-century Host Connection where Bill Lueth will play comparative air checks; and a Digital Impact panel moderated by WQXR’s Matt Abramovitz, with Tom Huizenga, NPR Music; Kim Nowacki, New York Public Radio; and Seth Resler, Jacobs Media Strategies.

Plus, bring your stories − new initiatives and what you’ve learned this year − to PRPD’s Classical format breakout session on August 16. What new things have you tried at your station? Have you seen measurable results? For example, MPR’s Julie Amacher reports that they saw a bump in the ratings during Classical MPR’s recent member drive when they aired the Top 50 Countdown. She said listeners were invested in hearing the music during Pledge that they had selected. Bring more good ideas to share in the breakout!


ASCAP & BMI creating database of rights, licensing information
The performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI have announced a collaboration to create a single comprehensive database of musical works from their libraries. As reported by Radio & Internet Newsthe database will contain information for much of the music licensed in the U.S., offering more clarity around music ownership. It is expected to launch in late 2018, and will be publicly available on both organizations’ websites. Mike O’Neill, BMI’s president and CEO told RAIN, “While BMI and ASCAP remain fierce competitors in all other regards, we recognize that our combined expertise allows us to create the best solution for our members and the marketplace.” Digital Music News offers a contrasting view, with a U.S. Senator calling it “a scam.”


August 25th marks the 99th birthday of composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and humanitarian Leonard Bernstein. Look for a multitude of performances of his music in the coming centenary year. Here is a unique take by the Melodica Men on Bernstein’s virtuoso showpiece, the Overture to Candide. The YouTube video is making the rounds on social media, shared by none other than the composer’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein.

What classical music videos are you posting that are getting lots of shares?
Who Ever Said C Major is Bland?
Classical KDFC in San Francisco has created this audio module on C Major, showing why the key is decidedly not “bland” through a medley of classic examples, including Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Ravel’s Bolero and Terry Riley’s In CPlay along and name those tunes.


General Manager – KING, Seattle
KING FM seeks a dynamic individual with the highest ethical standards to become the next GM. The successful candidate will have a record of leadership in managing staff and working with governing or advisory boards of directors, a firm grasp of today’s media landscape and the regulatory framework for public radio, knowledge of classical music, demonstrated success in fundraising and budget management, the ability to represent KING FM in the local community, a sense of humor and a passion for the work. Learn more/apply

Broadcast and Content Coordinator – KMFA, Austin
Classical 89.5 KMFA is dedicated to the production of quality classical music radio programming. The Broadcasting and Content Coordinator assists the Director of Broadcasting and Content, is responsible for radio scheduling and automation functions, and helps manage workflow in the day-to-day operation of the station. Learn more/apply

Chief Development Officer, Program Hosts – USC Radio Group, Los Angeles & San Francisco
The USC Radio Group of KUSC Los Angeles and KDFC San Francisco continue to grow and have openings. There is a newly created position of Chief Development Officer for the entire USC Radio Group, as well as on-air host openings in LA and SF. Together this network of stations reaches 1.3 million listeners per week. Come to beautiful California and celebrate classical music! Learn more/apply

Chief Engineer – WFMT, Chicago       
WFMT in Chicago seeks a Chief Engineer to maintain and improve broadcast and production facilities and processes for WFMT, the WFMT Radio Network and related digital initiatives. The Chief Engineer will set long-term strategic plans and will oversee the Operations Manager, Production Assistants and other staff. Learn more/apply


Where do you find classical music trivia and “on this day” items for programming tie-ins? Here are our offerings for August, contributed by radio producer and writer Brian Wise.

August 3
On this day in 1918, scientists in Germany named a minor planet 898 Hildegard after Hildegard of Bingen. The medieval composer and Benedictine abbess is also believed to be Germany’s first female scientist. Hildegard is also recognized with Hildegardia, a genus of tree.

August 4
In 1782, Mozart married Constanze Weber at a ceremony in Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Their courtship was not entirely smooth sailing: they briefly broke up in April of that year, and Mozart had a difficult task getting permission from his demanding father, Leopold. In spite of occasional setbacks, their marriage was by all accounts a successful one. Any coincidence that the name of the heroine in Mozart’s 1781 opera The Abduction from the Seraglio is Constanze?

August 9
In 1942, Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony (“Leningrad”) premiered in a besieged Leningrad. Despite the fact that the city was continuously bombed and many residents (including some musicians) were starving, the venue was packed and lights remained on for the concert. Organizers set up loudspeakers throughout Leningrad to broadcast the performance to both local citizens and occupying German troops.

August 10
In 1965 the New York Philharmonic gave its first concert in Central Park, launching a summer parks concert series that continues to this day. William Steinberg conducted Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, William Schuman’s Philharmonic Fanfare and Wagner’s Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

August 11
Anton Arensky was born in Novgorod, Russia in 1861. In a short career (he died of tuberculosis in 1905) he composed in a variety of forms and was a sought-after teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. The Arensky Glacier in Antarctica is named after him.

August 13
In 1899, Alfred Hitchcock was born. The filmmaker had fruitful, if sometimes volatile, relationships with the composers Bernard Herrmann and Miklos Rozsa. Hitchcock also featured classical music in such films as the 1934 Johann Strauss biopic “Strauss’s Great Waltz” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” which included a climactic scene in London’s Royal Albert Hall.

August 14
In 1949, composer Aaron Copland was driving his Studebaker near the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts when he got involved in a car crash, killing a cow. He was arrested and fined $35 for the unfortunate animal’s death. A local paper ran the headline, “Copland Kills Cow.”

August 15
On this date in 1979 and with its infamous scene featuring Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” opened in U.S. theaters. The Vietnam War film stars Martin Sheen as an Army captain who leads a crew of men into a Cambodian jungle to kill a U.S. Special Forces colonel (Marlon Brando) who has gone AWOL.

August 20
On this day in 1882 in Moscow, the1812 Overture, “the hit that Tchaikovsky hated,” received its premiere. The work commemorated Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s French army at the Battle of Borodino in 1812. The composer also conducted the 1812 Overture at the 1891 dedication of Carnegie Hall, although he reportedly found it “noisy and completely without artistic merit.”

August 22
Claude Debussy was born in 1862 in St. Germain-en-Laye, France, the oldest of five children. Though his family wasn’t musical — his father owned a china shop, and his mother was a seamstress — at age 10 he entered the Paris Conservatory, and soon began composing. On the composer’s 150th anniversary year in 2012, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote that “the alluring surfaces of Debussy’s works can mask the utter daring of the music, just as the surface beauties of Impressionist paintings can hide the shocking experiments the works represent.”

August 25
Leonard Bernstein was born in 1918 into a family of Russian-Ukrainian Jewish immigrants in Lawrence, MA. The composer’s estate is currently gearing up for his centenary year. Of particular note for researchers and broadcasters is a new digitization project at the Library of Congress’s Leonard Bernstein Collection (which includes letters, manuscripts and photos) and the release of a 25-CD box set on Sony Classical.

August 26
“An American in Paris,” directed by Vincente Minnelli, and starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, premiered in London on this date in 1951. A kind of early jukebox musical, it features many of Gershwin’s signature songs, capped by a 17-minute ballet sequence featuring Kelly and Caron and set to the title piece.

August 29 
In 1952, John Cage’s controversial 4’33” premiered at Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, NY. Each of three movements begins with the pianist opening the keyboard lid, sitting silently, then closing it — and that’s it. It became one of the most influential works of the 20th century, suggesting that there is never pure silence. No matter where you are, you always end up listening to something.

August 31
The Threepenny Opera received its premiere in Berlin on this date in 1928. With lyrics by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill, it was based on John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, a work that premiered almost exactly 200 years earlier. Weill’s opening song, “The Ballad of Mack the Knife,” has become one of the biggest hits of all time.


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About Classical Music Rising

Classical Music Rising aims to shape the future of classical music radio against a backdrop of multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry. The initiative centers on strategy, innovative tactics, and collective action – all informed by ongoing research and analysis. Classical Music Rising is a project of the Station Resource Group and is supported by participating stations and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Visit