Seattle Media Spotlight: Classic Rock KZOK-FM

Seattle Classic Rock favorite Jimi Hendrix

Reeling in the Years: Classic Rock and Seattle

A life well-lived is a constant stream of “firsts,” some welcome and exhilarating, and some not so welcome and disquieting. The latter includes the first time the music of your youth is referred to as “classic rock.” Want your mind blown? The baby on the album cover of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” has graduated from college. In a recent series of posts, the data-based FiveThirtyEight blog attempts to define the Classic Rock format, takes a deep dive into “why classic rock isn’t what it used to be,” and examines the role technology plays on playlist selection.

Some key findings include:

  • If you have to put a timeline on it, it was the mid-‘60s through the mid-80s plus a trickling into the mid-90s (median year: 1977), with the decade between 1973 and 1982 producing 57 percent of the genre’s songs
  • The peak year was 1973, a very big year, with the release of Pink Floyd’s seminal “Dark Side of the Moon,” Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy,” Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ” and two from Paul McCartney and Wings: “Red Rose Speedway” and “Band on the Run.” A second peak hit in 1991 with the releases of “Nevermind” by Nirvana, Metallica’s eponymous album and U2’s “Achtung Baby.”

In author Walt Hickey‘s week of listening to the format on Classic Rock stations across the nation, Aerosmith landed in the top two spots of the top 25 most-frequently-played songs list with “Dream On” and “Sweet Emotion,” followed by Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix with “All Along the Watchtower.” Heart is the only other home-grown band to make the top-25 list, coming in 8th and 14th with “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man,” respectively. It’s a stretch, but I think we also can lay claim to the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker,” ranked 15th, since Steve made his home here for many years. (You can listen to FiveThirtyEight’s top Classic Rock songs on Spotify.) In other findings:

  • An elite core of Classic Rock artists – Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and the Rolling Stones – make up 50 percent of all the songs played. The remaining top 10 artists include:
    1. Pink Floyd
    2. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
    3. AC/DC
    4. Aerosmith
    5. ZZ Top
    6. The Beatles
    7. Queen

The Steve Miller Band comes in at #18 and Heart just makes the cut at #25.

In his data analysis, Hickey discovered that the genre isn’t only restricted to a certain era, but also is defined by the regional tastes. Seattle and Seattle’s Classic Rock station KZOK-FM (102.5) were included in his research, which uncovers some interesting local notes:

  • The Who apparently is Seattle’s favorite Classic Rock band, capturing 4% of all plays, compared to 1.7 percent among the other top 30 markets included in the research
  • YES gets played 3.5 times more often in Seattle than is typical for the other markets
  • Our market’s grunge-band contributions to Classic Rock – Pearl Jam and Nirvana – are played most often (compared to average) in Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. And our Heart belongs to Houston.
  • Portland likes Steppenwolf. ‘Nuff said.

Also noted in the article is the ever-changing definition of what constitutes Classic Rock. Boomers and Gen-Xers (now ages 38-68, though the format targets ages 30-49) have owned this format for decades. But what will happen in the next decade as these groups roll out of the key advertising demographic? Will advertisers follow them? In the “that’s-so-yesterday” Millennial world, will today’s tunes be accelerated to Classic Rock way before their time? Hickey was shocked to hear Green Day’s “American Idiot” (rel. 2004) on one station and wonders, “Should I steel myself for One Direction’s eventual air time on Classic Rock?”

It’s Still Rock and Roll

Seattle’s Classic Rock station KZOK-FM is owned by CBS Radio along with sister stations KJAQ-FM (Adult Hits 96.5), Sports Talk KFNQ-AM (1090) and Country KMPS-FM (94.1). It is one of two Classic Rock stations in the Seattle-Tacoma market, the other being KISM-FM out of Bellingham. With more than 555,000 weekly listeners, it ranks 7th among 48 measured market stations for weekly reach and accounts for 88 percent of all Classic Rock listeners in the market. While it claims to be “Seattle’s Only Classic Rock Station” that title lies more in name than in a unique format or playlist. In addition to Classic Rock enthusiasts, KZOK-FM attracts 30% or more of each of the weekly listeners of Oldies stations KJR-FM (95.7) and KMCQ-FM (104.5), Active Rock stations KISW-FM (99.9) and KKBW-FM (104.9), Hot AC KHTP-FM (103.7), as well as from sister stations KJAQ-FM and KFNQ-AM. It also shares a goodly amount of its listeners with AC stations KRWM-FM and KPLZ-FM.

Classic Rock KZOK-FM Morning Show hosts Danny and SarahKZOK’s advertised differentiator is “deeper album cuts,” focusing on the edgier bands and artists that usually are not played on oldies stations, presented by some strong, acquired-taste personalities including Danny Bonaduce and Sarah, Nate Connor, and “Crazy Mama” Stacy Ireland, as well as veteran Seattle DJs Gary Crow and Mike West (Breakfast with the Beatles).

A recent listen of KZOK programming produced a typical Classic Rock artist playlist:

Typical Classic Rock KZOK artist playlist


Smokin’ in the Boys Room

Nationally, Classic Rock listeners tend to skew male (65%), ages 35-69 (77%), have household incomes of $50,000 or more (67%), and are 38% more likely to be occupied in blue-collar occupations (27%) than are general market adults.

As noted in the FiveThirtyEight article, there can be significant regional differences and listener preferences that influence each market’s playlist. Seattle’s Classic Rock KZOK-FM definitely reflects the west coast music aesthetic but also favors the 60s a bit more than other-market stations. Like the format’s national listeners, KZOK-FM also skews male (63%), but nearly half of its listeners are ages 50-69; average age is 47.5. They also are:

  • wealthier than other market CR listeners, with half earning incomes of $75,000 or more (median household income $74,556)
  • better educated (30% with college degrees)
  • occupied slightly more in white collar jobs, at 43%, and under-represent the market’s blue-collar workers (23%) compared to the make-up of national Classic Rock listeners. Four in 10 have attended voc/tech schools. KZOK’s female listeners are more than twice as likely to be stay-at-home moms. And there is a fair representation among current and former military.
  • more likely to be small-business owners or work from home (most of the time or always) than general market adults
  • passing their love of Classic Rock onto their Millennial children – one in 10 listeners is a college or university student

Three out of four KZOK listeners own their own home, with an average market value of $373,647. Sixty-three percent reside in King or Snohomish counties, with another 20percent living in Pierce County. They show a propensity to live in suburban and rural pockets of the counties – Arlington, south Everett, Maltby, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County; Tacoma, Puyallup, Roy and Gig Harbor in Pierce County, and in south King County (Kent, Renton, Auburn, Ravensdale, Des Moines and Federal Way) – and are far less likely to live in the Seattle city limits.

Like a Rolling Stone

KZOK’s audience churn is exceptionally high, making it challenging to reach and build frequency among its listeners. With an AQH core adult audience of 15,000, KZOK obviously is more a favored 2nd or 3rd (or lower) button on the radio pre-set. In fact, it disproportionately shares its audience with more than 25 other market stations! One would have to secure ~55 spots per week to hit just a frequency of three against its audience of ages 30-69, and more than 240 over the course of a month (much to the chagrin of the core listeners) for an advertiser to manage just a sustaining schedule.

Since KZOK shares a high proportion of its audience with other radio stations, not to mention other media, it definitely needs to be matched with a strong audience anchor medium when developing a campaign. Top candidates include the Sunday Seattle Times, KING-TV weekends and prime-time, and KIRO-TV weekends.

The same stations that fight for KZOK’s audience attention also vie for its ad dollars. In addition to those mentioned previously, KZOK is knocking on the same doors as sales reps from Contemporary Hits stations KBKS-FM and KUBE-FM, SportsTalk KJR-AM and Country KKWF-FM  in pushing its predominantly male listeners. The most active advertiser on KZOK-FM is the Shane Company, averaging 269 spots per month. As noted in a previous post on the Active Rock station KISW-FM, targeting predominantly male audiences makes sense for the Shane Company. Classic Rock KZOK men buy fine jewelryIn addition to still being in the couple forming (and reforming) years, listeners also are at the intersection of multiple mid-life events – relationship renewal, graduations, weddings… or crisis. While nearly 60% are married, 14 percent are legally separated or divorced making them 49 percent more likely to be so than is true for the rest of the market’s adult population. Whatever reason, KZOK-FM listeners are 32percent more likely to shop for fine jewelry and 27 percent more likely to spend more than $500 on it than is true of the general market.

According to Media Monitors, KZOK’s radio property pulled in $6.3 million in ad spending for the first six months of the year. It benefits immensely from the CBS Radio affiliation and its four-station family in attracting national spot revenue; only 17 percent of its advertisers and 13 percent of KZOK’s ad revenue comes from local accounts. The top 10 most active LOCAL advertisers over the first six months of the year include:

  1. FIAT Of Tacoma
  2. Innovative Men’s Clinic
  3. Washington Gold
  4. Bellevue Rare Coins/ West Seattle Rare Coins
  5. Quil Ceda Creek Casino
  6. Sound Credit Union
  7. Seattle Parks & Recreation
  8. Michael’s Toyota Scion Of Bellevue
  9. Sound Ford
  10. Via Vascular

Ten categories make up almost half of KZOK’s spot revenue. Not surprisingly, Auto Parts/Services & Towing tops the list for all advertisers. Local Car Dealers account for 15 percent of all local ad revenue, followed by Casinos & Gambling (13%) and Diagnostic & Medical Services (11%):

  1. Auto Parts, Services & Towing
  2. Insurance Providers
  3. Cars & Trucks, Local Dealers
  4. Wireless Carrier
  5. Casinos & Gambling
  6. Quick Service Restaurants
  7. Banks-Credit Unions-Mortgage-Finance Svc
  8. Cars & Trucks, Dealer Association
  9. Live Theater, Opera, Music, Dance
  10. Telecom Bundled Services

The Sweet Mid-Life: Women and Children First

Classic Rock Boomer and Xer parents with teenager

What sets KZOK’s Gen-X and Boomer listeners apart is that they are members of established families and early empty-nesters – in other words, those who are in their highest consuming years. The station’s listeners show high concentrations in three PRIZM lifestage groups:

Accumulated Wealth, Affluent Empty Nests and Young Accumulators. All three of these groups are among the top 10 most-affluent lifestage groups. The Accumulated Wealth group includes the wealthiest families, mostly college educated, white-collar Boomers; Young Accumulators, as the name suggests, are a slightly younger and more ethnically diverse Gen-X version of the former group who, at this stage in life, are fully invested in their children. Affluent Empty Nests, with their children out of the home, have plenty of disposable cash to finance active lifestyles that are rich in travel and entertainment events. They also are politically savvy, donate to political causes and are highly engaged with their communities.

PRIZM’s secondary classification is based on affluence and urbanization (city, suburbs, second city or town/rural) categories. KZOK listeners are well represented among PRIZM’s Elite Suburbs, Second-City Society (think Issaquah and Redmond), and in the Landed Gentry social groups.

Nearly six in 10 listeners are parents or grandparents of children under the age of 18. They are 22 percent more likely to have a teenager in the house, and on the other end of the spectrum, they are 22 percent more likely to be part of the sandwiched generation that also is caring for or monitoring an elderly parent. More than half are employed full-time, which includes a high representation in the construction and production trades as well as small-business ownership and self-employment. They are among the minority of their generations who actually planned ahead; they are paying off their mortgages and are 56 percent more likely to be contemplating early retirement or simply retiring in the coming year. It’s not going to be a kick-back retirement either.

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Classic Rock perennial favorites The Rolling StonesLifetime learners and re-inventors, more than one in 10 is planning to return to school for a degree or certification. Staying active is a priority. They are 17 percent more likely than general market adults to belong to a health/fitness club or gym and they show a high propensity to play tennis, basketball, softball/baseball, golf, hike, bike, run marathons and boat. They own boats, ATVs, snowmobiles and second homes and guard their assets with home security systems. The Seattle Seahawks, University of Washington Huskies and Seattle Mariners are their favorite teams. If Chris Hansen manages to bring an NHL Hockey team to town, they’ll be first in line to buy tickets. They love their music and are 49 percent more likely to attend a Rock Concert than is true of the general population and also far more likely to attend any kind of music concert. They are active in their children’s lives and attend their high school sports events. Attending the Washington State Fair is an annual outing. Add to that an interesting factoid – they also love visiting the animals in the zoo – any zoo – but especially Point Defiance Zoo and the Woodland Park Zoo. They are not gamblers; they go to casinos primarily to watch stage shows or concerts and favor Emerald Queen Casino when they do. Perhaps surprisingly, given their upscale incomes and social wherewithal, you won’t find them attending live theater events, dance or ballet performances, museums or visiting farmers markets. Their entertainment lies clearly around sports, music, and family- and friends activities.

Least Conspicuous Consumption

Given the degree of disposable income, with few exceptions, KZOK’s predominantly male listeners index average to low for consumption of goods and services. I think it is safe to say they are not the primary purchasers for their households. Remarkably, they stand out in few shopping categories or consumer activities, looking more main-stream than their demographics indicate. Part of this is due to the fact that KZOK is one of many stations its fans listen to, thus diluting any exceptional behavior. That said, there are a few areas where their consumption exceeds the norm.

They dine at all types of restaurants, but show a preference for pizza or Mexican food. Not surprising based on their spectator-sports interests, they are above-average consumers of pretzels, chips and popcorn, as well as salsa. Classic Rock KZOK listeners consume a lot of snacksIn addition to the jewelry shopping noted previously, their shopping tends to be focused around home improvement and garden stores (McLendon Hardware, Sears, Molbak’s and Swanson’s nurseries, and Lowe’s index high) and sporting goods stores (Big 5 and Cabela’s). For everything else, Costco, Fred Meyer, Walmart and hometown favorite Bartell Drug Store, in particular, cover their needs.

It should be no surprise that they also see value in owning the classics and still purchase CDs and rent/buy videos from the brick-and-mortar stores. That said, they also appreciate the convenience and selection of shopping at Amazon. Perhaps as small-business owners and telecommuters, and also as parents of students, they show a greater propensity to shop Office Supplies and Services stores than is true of the general market, especially Staples, Costco and OfficeMax.

On the Road, Again

When they are in the market for a new vehicle, they go through a dealership, but they do their research online. Four in 10 are willing to drive 20 or more miles to purchase a vehicle.

Travel preferences tend to be regional and likely tied to family. Palm Springs, Napa/Sonoma, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, the Oregon Coast, Phoenix and Alaska (possibly for the fishing?) also are favorite destinations. They are above-average for travel to Europe and Central/South America, Hawaii and the Caribbean. They are 38% more likely to stay at upscale hotels and above-average for staying at bed & breakfast accommodations.

For the Love of Money

KZOK listeners are the exception to the characteristically non-saving Boomer and resource-scarce Gen-X profiles. They have solid pensions (think Boeing workers), 401K plans and 529 plans/college savings plans, have vacation homes and are above-average investors. Family security is important; they are 23 percent more likely to have life insurance than the general population. Cash, not credit, is king in their households. It appears they rarely go out on a limb for a loan, except for their home or to make home improvements.

Media Preferences

Classic Rock listeners tend to be fans of nearly every kind of music, which makes it difficult for the station to hold onto listeners during ad breaks. In fact, KZOK listeners also are heavy listeners of 16 other formats in the market, and all the stations that comprise them. Typically, they average about 16 hours of radio listening each week – nearly twice the amount of other market adults.

The only other medium that really resonates with them is direct mail; they are 45 percent more likely to make a purchase based on direct mail received in the home than is true of the rest of the market. Due to their active lifestyles, listeners also are somewhat more likely to be exposed to outdoor media.

Classic Rock KZOK listeners are huge spectator sports fansAs television viewers, they are typical, averaging 22 hours/week, with viewing concentrated on weekends. They prefer cable over broadcast TV and anything around football (home teams or not), the U.S. and British Opens and Ryder Cup golf tourneys, the Tour de France, and the Daytona and Indianapolis 500 races are appointment viewing. They also are big fans of viewing hockey and minor-league baseball games and are 62 percent more likely to watch sports fishing shows than the general market. In addition to sports, reality adventure shows and science-fiction programming get their attention. They are fans of pay-per-view events and video on-demand (VOD) and use it for all kinds of programming, including for automobile and real-estate information, but particularly for pay and free movies, sports, TV shows and children’s programming.

They are average newspaper readers and show a preference for the Sunday Seattle Times, as well as the Sunday editions of the Everett Herald and Tacoma News Tribune in their respective markets. The papers’ websites –, and – are the source of their news and entertainment updates, along with

While connected, KZOK listeners spend less than an hour a day online. Favored online activities include:

  • buying sporting events tickets and apparel, for which they are willing to pay top price
  • keeping up with national and local news (favoring FOXNews and newspaper websites)
  • checking sports, traffic and weather updates
  • accessing financial and medical information and services
  • researching automobile information and possibly even purchasing a vehicle

They rarely/never use the Yellow Pages.

Finally, KZOK listeners like to go out to the movies and attend new movies within two weeks of opening weekend.

Rockin’ the Right

In total numbers, KZOK listeners are fairly evenly split between those who claim affiliation with the Democrat and Republican parties, but are under-represented in both parties. Four in 10 claim to be Independent voters. Among that group, they lean markedly to the Republican side in a traditional values/government skepticism/fiscally conservative kind of way. They financially support political causes (along with military/veterans, social care/welfare, and their alma mater), and vote regularly.

Rock-and-Roll conservative, you gasp? Indeed, many of the songs that get a regular spin on Classic Rock stations, whether intended or not, are the stuff that the conservative movement is made of:

  • Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
  • Taxman and Revolution – The Beatles
  • Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
  • Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Bodies – The Sex Pistols
  • Don’t Tread on Me – Metallica
  • 20th Century Man – and many more by The Kinks
  • The Trees – Rush
  • Get Over It – The Eagles

Rock on!

Data source: 2014 Nielsen Scar­bor­ough Report, Release 1

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