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Local radio executive launches Lawrence Internet radio station that plays ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s pop hits

Maybe it's time for me to bring back the mullet, and for my wife to break out the legwarmers. We’ll once again have the soundtrack to fit our ultra-cool look.

A local radio executive has launched a Lawrence-based Internet radio station that plays pop hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. (I realize mullets and legwarmers are mainly from the ‘80s and ‘90s era, but I don’t know what you guys had going on in the ‘70s, and I’m not sure I want to know.)

Jay Wachs, the former general manager of Great Plains Media — which runs 105.9 KISS, 1320 KLWN and other stations — has launched lawrencehits.com.

The station certainly is a new twist for Lawrence radio — starting with that it is not on the radio. But it is available anywhere you can access the Internet — on your computer, your iPad, your smartphone or your tablet. The station also is available on the smartphone app Shoutcast, but Wachs said the station is developing its own app as well.

The programming model for the station also provides a twist. From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., it will be a constant barrage of ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s music — everything from the Bee Gees to Madonna to Mariah Carey, Wachs says. (That’s not exactly the trio that us fellows with mullets would cite, but you get the point.) The station will sell advertising, but Wachs said his plan is to have about half as many advertisements as a traditional radio station.

During the evening hours, Wachs is developing a system in which local residents can buy their own radio time by the hour to produce their own shows. It could be music-oriented, it could be business-oriented, or I suppose it could even be mullet-oriented. At the moment, Wachs said an hour of time costs about $25.

During the overnight hours — midnight to 6 a.m. — Wachs is working to develop a local music program. He said he is currently going to the various local music venues in Lawrence to start recruiting bands and musicians that can provide a cache of music for the program.

At the moment, the radio station doesn’t have any local disc jockeys, but by the time the new school year begins, Wachs expects that to change. He said providing truly locally produced shows is at the heart of his strategy.

“There is a big movement in the radio industry to move away from live and local programming and toward syndicated and network-style programming,” Wachs said. “People are getting laid off, and with fewer people at the local level, what gets lost is the local content.”

It will be interesting to watch this station venture and how it evolves. Wachs said his plan is for the station to be mainly entertainment-based — rather than news or talk-radio, for example — but he said the station may try to develop a weather department.

And get this, the station already has brought back a blast from the past: The old time and temperature telephone number. People can call 749-1200 and hear what time it is, what the temperature is and what the forecast is for the next 48 hours.

As for the idea of radio stations succeeding on the Internet, there are several national Internet radio services. Local-oriented Internet radio is less common, but Wachs thinks the industry may be ripe for a change. Wachs, who has been in the radio business for 28 years, said the model of Internet radio already works well for people who want to listen at home or at work. He said auto companies increasingly are adding options to allow people to plug their smartphones or tablets into the speaker systems of their cars, which means Internet radio will work in vehicles too.

“I don’t think terrestrial radio signals are ever really going to go away,” Wachs said. “But we are moving toward a digital world. I think more and more people will be getting their radio and television through the Internet.”

It will be interesting to watch. So will Massachusetts Street tonight. All this talk of ‘80s and ‘90s music has got me in my cruising mood. Perhaps I’ll shine up the F150 today, grow a mullet this afternoon, and dust off the old letter jacket this evening. Look for me. The F150 doesn’t have the fancy smart phone or tablet technology, so I’ll be the guy with the really long modem cord.

•••

Briefly, while we’re on the subject of radio: I’m also hearing talk that there is an effort in its early stages to bring a low-powered community radio station to Lawrence.

Local resident Steve Stemmerman confirmed to me that he and a few other residents are beginning to go through the process to apply for the appropriate FCC licensing for a low-power community-access radio station. Stemmerman, however, didn’t want to say much about the efforts at the moment. He said the group is working to find support from a local nonprofit organization. It has been a while since I’ve checked in on the effort, so I’ll get back in touch and try to provide an update in the next few days.

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