KWJZ 98.9 Switches to "Modern Music" as The Click After Two Decades of Smooth Jazz

Yesterday, after 19 years of pumping smooth jazz onto the airwaves, KWJZ 98.9 switched formats to the "Seattle Sound" of modern music as The Click, featuring the likes of the Kings of Leon, the Black Keys, and Alien Ant Farm, and sounds a lot like a mashup of 103.7 The Mountain and 107.7 The End.

"Yeah, if you're going to try to compare it to something that already exists, you probably would probably put it in the End and the Mountain world," says Marc Kaye, the vice president and general manager of Click's parent, Sandusky Seattle, which also oversees Movin 92.5, Warm 106.9, KIXI AM 880, and 1150 AM KKNW. "But we feel with this target, with the music that we're doing ... that there certainly is a huge hole for it."

Kaye says that in 2008, when Arbitron starting tracking Seattle radio listeners in a new format - sample audiences carried a pager-like device that detected stations, rather than recording their radio consumption in a diary - that their ratings tanked. After two years of trying to keep the format alive, the station caved.

"It was a sad day yesterday," says Kaye, who has been with the station for 15 years. "At the end of the day, when you put 15 years of your life into a radio station and then turn it off, it's not the happiest moment."

Click is in the midst of playing 10,000 consecutive songs, a strategy that Kaye says is designed to introduce audiences to the station's format. But instead of being a jukebox, Kaye says Click is going to hire a full-time staff to program and host shows all week. He also says the station will be adding new music constantly, and won't wait for a song for a hit to add it to their rotation.

"We actually believe there is a huge place to take the new music risk," he says, "as long as it fits with the sound you're trying to create."

Kaye says that he's in the process of scouting out a program director, who will then spend the next month assembling a new team. He says KWJZ's smooth jazz program director, Carol Handley, will be a strong candidate to head up the station in its new format.

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