KROQ was an alt-music leader for decades. Now it faces big changes, loses listeners

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KROQ has faced programming and staffing challenges since its acquisition by media conglomerate Entercom. Credit: something.from.nancy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

For the first time in 30 years, KROQ 106.7 FM is under new management, which fired morning host Kevin Ryder of “Kevin & Bean” fame. Since then, the station has lost half its listenership.

Michael Schneider, senior editor at Variety and host of KCRW's Screengrab, talks about the station’s identity crisis.  

“This was a station that became so huge that when you become that big, and you have such a large audience, you become the victim of your own success,” he says.

Schneider says that KROQ’s image as a world-renowned alternative rock station has prevented it from experimenting, holding onto audiences and staying relevant. 

In its earlier days, the station was known for discovering new music. But streaming platforms, such as Apple Music and Spotify, have helped disrupt that process among younger audiences, Schneider says. 

In 2017, the KROQ was acquired by Entercom, a global broadcasting company that owns major stations in markets nationwide. According to Schnieder, the merger marked the beginning of trouble for the LA rock station. A new programming director came in, and host Kevin Ryder lost his job.  

During his final sign-off from the air, Ryder says that Entercom was part of the corporatization of radio, “They weren't here for the building of the world-famous KROQ. I don't think it means anything to them. It's a numbers business, and there's no family aspect to it anymore. It's only numbers. But this place was built without numbers. It was musicians, artists, music, the special relationship between the music, the station and our fans.”

According to Schneider, this type of upheaval isn't new. 

“This is an ongoing story in radio ... where one day you show up and there’s a whole new format, or there’s [sic] brand new DJs. They never explain it,” Schneider says. “There is this need to rip the band-aid off now, quickly change a format, or quickly get rid of a host without really thinking this through.”

He says that KROQ needs to win back audiences who might feel alienated after recent changes in programming.

“KROQ now has a much larger road to take before it wins back its loyal audience and even begins to attract a new audience,” he says. 

— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Rosalie Atkinson