Report: San Jose's Metal Community Has Lost Its Bulletin Board

Brad Kava of San Jose Mercury News has issued the following report:

The loss of KSJO-FM, the Bay Area's only radio station that played the hard rock and heavy-metal music preferred by head bangers, has concert promoters scratching, not banging, their heads.

How do you reach the audience that would buy tickets for a hard-core concert such as SLIPKNOT and LAMB OF GOD (which went on sale Saturday for an April 12 HP Pavilion show), or Ozzfest, or NICKELBACK, if no station is playing the music?

"It's a challenge," says Rick Mueller, who books shows for Bill Graham Presents. "Advertising is all about repetition. When U2 comes to town, even though it will be sold out, stations will be promoting it all the time.

"The number of spins of U2 songs will be up. The day of the concert, you'll hear nothing but U2. It becomes an event," Mueller said. "But how do you replicate that?"

After 35 years as a rock station, KSJO changed to a Spanish-language format last fall. In the past, the station would have promoted this show heavily, giving away tickets and playing BGP's ads.

Now Mueller and his staff are looking for other ways to reach this niche market.

"We can use outlying radio stations in Sacramento, Modesto and Stockton," he says. "But that may not be best for a weeknight show. We are focused more on Internet word of mouth. Sites like www.myspace.com and www.blabbermouth.net reach the metal community.

"We also have a database of tens of thousands of names of people who have gone to other shows like this," Mueller adds. "And we will distribute cards at tattoo shops, car shops and motorcycle shops, places traditionally associated with metal music."

Harlan Fray, who handles marketing for SLIPKNOT's New York-based record label, Roadrunner Records, sees the lack of a hard rock station in the Bay Area as a handicap for this show, but as crippling for some others.

"We've got a date on Sunday as a football team and we've just lost a key offensive lineman,'' he says. "Radio is an important part of an all-encompassing marketing push, but for a band like SLIPKNOT, the street is more important. They never got much radio play, and they'll do well with or without it."

However, he adds, his label's biggest-selling band, NICKELBACK, which has sold 10 million albums, compared to about 4 million for SLIPKNOT, probably wouldn't even play the Bay Area without heavy radio support.

NICKELBACK sports a softer sound and was in heavy rotation at KSJO.

The band has "their fans, but to make it worthwhile to support the production they normally would bring, you don't want to play for just a few thousand people."

Although he is monitoring SLIPKNOT ticket sales, Mueller isn't worried and says shows such as Ozzfest will prosper even with less radio advance. SLIPKNOT has sold from 3,000 to 5,000 on the first day of sales in markets such as Hartford, Detroit and Philadelphia. The band sold fewer than 1,000 tickets opening weekend for the San Jose show.

But Mueller notes that other metal bands, such as PANTERA, received little radio support but still sold well, with many of the tickets bought close to the date of the show as word of mouth built.

Still, "in 2004, KSJO would have been the one getting the snowball rolling, building momentum," Mueller says. "The question for us now is how do we get the ball rolling?"

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