Thursday, January 23, 2014

"K-LOVE Challenge" Day 3: A few thoughts on money and ads

What's the Challenge, and what are the rules? See Day 1. Why is it a bit of a challenge for me? See Day 2

K-LOVE is listener supported. No on-air ads.

Same with 91.9, my local CCM station of choice.

This is a big deal for me. The thing that turns me off of radio more than anything else, more than same-y music or bad lyrics, is ads. They drive me up the wall. Spotify has successfully bullied me into paying them for music by playing really obnoxious ads. I pay about $10 a month so that I can listen to music without ads.

The lack of ads is actually the first big thing that I noticed about K-LOVE. In fact, not only are there no ads, but there isn't really much thanking-of-sponsors a la NPR, either. I've only heard one sponsor thanked (something called Trinity Debt Management). Not only does NPR have to thank its sponsors a lot more, but some of its sponsors are somewhat problematic. Tough to report objectively in the DC Metro area if you are beholden to major defense contractors for your funding.

What's more, there is relatively little in the way of K-LOVE product promotion. The only thing that I've heard them selling is a book of stories about miracles written by K-LOVE readers. Whatever you think of that, I think it's pretty cool that the only product being pushed by the station features stories written by listeners. They do have a store on their website (as I'm sure pretty much all radio stations do) but they aren't constantly promoting it on air.

What they generally cut away from music to do on K-LOVE is to share an inspirational story or Bible verse. Cheesy? Sometimes. Better than the umpteenth million GEICO ad? Absolutely.

This is particularly remarkable to me because I just recently read Salvation on the Small Screen by Nadia Bolz Weber. The book consists of commentary by her and a group of willing (in a kamikaze sort of way) friends during a 24-hour session of watching the Christian TV channel TBN. She keeps a running total of the cost of products offered on TBN over the course of 24 hours. The total is around $8,000.

What Bolz Weber argues, and I agree, is that this is beyond absurd--it's predatory. That there are people at home for whom TBN is their main connection with the outside world and a community of faith who are being preyed upon by the channel--just send in your check and your life will be changed!

But the K-LOVE 30 Day Challenge, which promises to change my life, costs me absolutely nothing. In fact, I didn't even have to pledge to listen specifically to K-LOVE for 30 days. Just "Christian music." I was the one who came up with the rules about what that meant.

Now, I'm sure K-LOVE has to have a pledge drive, just like any other listener supported effort. And I'm sure they have some big donors that have some pull, just like in any donor based organization. But still--you gotta give them, and 91.9, and I'm assuming a lot of other CCM stations, some credit for not just being a marketing machine.

And that's a pretty important point to make, I think, in a time in which one of the accusations people aim at churches is, "They just want your money."

By the way, the second thing that drives me away from non-talk radio, at least on the ride in to the city in the morning, is horrible morning radio talk shows headed up by DJs who think they're funny.

K-LOVE and 91.9 play music in the morning.

Currently playing on "East to West" by Casting Crowns

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