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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 31, 2002

Hawaiian music soars in latest radio ratings

 •  Table: Radio's Top 10

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Radio listeners overwhelmingly favor playlists that include laid-back Hawaiian music, if the latest Arbitron ratings are a yardstick.

Perennial leaders Michael W. Perry & Larry Price of KSSK-AM/FM take the morning drive-time crown, and KSSK-FM leads once again in the night-and-day, overall rankings, but formats featuring Hawaiian music continue to encroach on the Top 10. This time they bump rock radio off the radar.

KHUI (The Breeze), which now plays classic island music, has eked its way into a three-way tie at No. 8 on the overall Top 10, and its morning drive-time personality, Ola Souza, makes the cut at No. 10 — her first-ever showing in the elite rankings.

The rise of KHUI may have contributed to the diminishing appeal of some stalwarts from the past, including the rock of KPOI and the urban contemporary vibes of KXME and KDDB. KIKI's contemporary rap and urban format also has been somewhat invisible.

Yet Hawaiian music and its vagaries — old and traditional, new and spiked with some "island rhythms" — remain hot and fashionable.

"When you add up all the shares of stations playing local music, 26 percent of all people listening to radio are hearing some kind of local format," said Mike Kelly, general manager of KCCN and KINE-FM. "That's very encouraging for local music artists."

Kelly was pleased with his stations' performances.

"KCCN-FM has been strong for 10 years, and we're thrilled with our No. 2 finish this summer; and we're happy with KINE at No. 3," Kelly said. "It takes a long time to build a wall in Hawai'i — and even longer to tear it down."

In a reversal of fortunes, KCCN-FM's wake-up duo, Billy Van Osdol and Charly Espina, logged the biggest gain, reclaiming the No. 2 spot in morning drive, up from a tie for fourth in the last survey. KCCN also soared back to No. 2 in the overall rankings, climbing from fourth, and was less than a rating point and striking distance behind KSSK-FM.

KHUI has lived up to its "breezy" claim, adding a fresh wind to the airwaves with its every-song-is-familiar playlist that echoes the pioneering work of KCCN-AM, the all-Hawaiian station that is no more.

Stability has been a buzzword at KUMU-FM, which has been a steady No. 4 in morning drive (simulcast with KUMU-AM). According to station manager Jeff Coelho, a two-week guest stint by veteran broadcaster Tom Moffatt while regular disc jockey Lee Kirk was on vacation during the ratings period possibly helped build listenership.

Coelho, general manager at KIKI-FM (I-94) in its heyday of Top 10 power, had a take on why youth-oriented formats embracing urban contemporary and rap sounds is passé. "Those 18 to 25 don't rely on radio much anymore," he said. "This is the generation that spends time on the Internet, is into CD burning and downloading MP3 files. Compared to the 1980s, I think the (youth) market is much smaller now."

One of four tunes played by KUMU is local music, Coelho said. "There's a reason," he said. "Back in the '80s, there may have been three bins of island music in the stores; now, there are two rows of CDs."

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.

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Correction: Jessica Rich is the co-anchor with Lee Kirk on KUMU-FM/AM’s morning simulcast. Her name was incorrect in a previous version of this story because of a reporter’s error.