WZTI-AM/FM introduced its third format in as many months at 5 p.m. Christmas Day. The former Martini Radio format station, which switched to Christmas music on Nov. 1, is now home to a rhythmic oldies format called “The Party.”
“Every song is familiar,” said Bill Hurwitz, vice president of the Milwaukee Radio Alliance. “Every song is something somebody can relate to. Every song is something you can sing along to”
“Basically it’s going to be a lot of Motown, with a little disco in there,” said Hurwitz.
A sampler sent to advertisers featured Aretha Franklin, Wild Cherry, Rick James, Donna Summer, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and the Bee Gees.
The first song played was “1999” by Prince.
The station will be locally programmed, by PD Stan Atkinson, and “we literally listen to every single song’s lyrics to make sure what we play fits the standard of what this station is,” said Hurwitz.
The nostalgia format is designed to appeal to an adult audience 35 to 54.
In 2013 the former African American centric talk and music station WMCS-AM (1290) switched the Martini Radio format playing Rat Pack artists and modern artists with a classic sound.
Hurwitz said the demographic for that format skewed “just too old. We loved playing the music,” but it was “not viable enough to make money” although the “65 plus audience did enjoy listening to it.”
In summer of 2014 the station added an FM translator or repeater station at 103.5 FM, which rebroadcast the AM signal. Milwaukee Radio Alliance also operates adult hits WLDB-FM (93.3) and alternative rock WLUM-FM (102.1).
In making the switch the station skipped a chance to jump onto the new nostalgia hip hop format that’s burning through the nation. When a Houston station that switched to classic hip hop last month tripled its ratings, stations in Philadelphia, Dallas, St. Louis, Jacksonville, and several in Atlanta followed suit, according to the New York Times.
The classic hip hop format “won’t be for every market, for sure,” said veteran radio newsletter editor Tom Taylor.
“It’s a niche – but it’s a welcome addition to the list of viable radio formats, because it has the power to attract and delight fans.”