Celebrating Sacramento's most independent radio station,
KWOD 106.5 (1977-2009)

Artwork by Alex Cosper

KWOD's Relationship with Tower Records

One of KWOD's most loyal advertising clients was Tower Records. The story of how the record chain grew out of Sacramento with the Solomon family into beyond a national empire represented great success as an independent company, which was KWOD's aim as well. Tower Records stores that were connected with the ticket service BASS would be where many people would line up to buy concert tickets to big shows.

For the biggest shows, music fans camped out overnight at Tower. KWOD even did some concert festivals, selling tickets through Tower/BASS outlets. It was common for the most active music fans to listen to KWOD and other music stations to find out exactly when tickets for any show would go on sale. At the time, BASS was a ticket service out of San Francisco that had a licensing agreement with Ticketmaster. It was eventually acquired by a company called Advantix in 1997.

KWOD's programming and music department regularly called Tower Records stores all over Sacramento in the 80s and 90s to get sales reports. In the 80s when KWOD was a top 40 station, its main focus was on hit singles. But as an alternative station in the 90s, the main focus shifted to album sales by alternative artists. Staying in touch with local record sales gave KWOD an edge in the market and helped it propel as one of the top-rated alternative stations in America.

Tower Records remained a solid advertiser on KWOD throughout the 90s, even though there was plenty of music and radio industry talk that "alternative music doesn't sell." That's why it took the format years to get off the ground. But once there were adventurous stations like KWOD willing to take chances on a lot of new artists, it triggered several years of robust sales for alternative artists. KWOD's intense focus on new music helped make Sacramento a top 15 market for record sales in the United States, at least through the late nineties.

There's no question Tower Records benefitted from KWOD's airplay, which was one of a handful of powerful stations on the west coast that influenced hundreds of alternative stations in America. Program directors of alternative stations looked at what format leaders were playing on their published playlists in Billboard and Radio & Records. Meanwhile, Tower became the number two record chain in America behind Musicland throughout the nineties.

One of the reasons Tower commercials were successful at moving products via KWOD and other radio stations was because the spots often featured familiar music. KWOD catered directly to diehard music fans, not just passive followers of hits. Yet not every sponsor on the station saw a big return from their advertising. The reason it worked for Tower was that its commercials were musical and connected directly with audience tastes. Many of the Tower commercials heard on KWOD were "co-ops" with record labels. In other words, labels would split advertising costs with Tower to feature specific artists.

Both KWOD and Tower would disappear by the end of the 2000s. While KWOD was bought out by a big company, Tower was lured into giant loans from Wall Street that it couldn't repay, so it went bankrupt. Two winning independent companies are now gone because of looser regulations that favor big business. Despite the massive corporate consolidation that has taken place since the 1990s, people who grew up in Sacramento still have fond memories of both KWOD and Tower Records.

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