“It’s the Worst I’ve Ever Seen It”

WFMT Executive Vice President Steve Robinson has been doing pledge drives for more than 40 years.  An article in the Chicago Sun Times quotes him as saying that this year, “it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”  Look for the entire article here.

Here’s a follow-up from Mike’s earlier post about WFME:

Classical-music host Dave Glerum didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to WFME listeners after he lost his job earlier this month. Glerum was told he was being laid off at 8:37 a.m., and he usually went on the air at 9 a.m.

What would he have liked to say?

“Even though the economy is the way it is, I thought I would survive,” he said. “My job was so intense. I was buried in my work, which I loved. I wasn’t thinking about it. It was a shock. I was devastated.”

And there’s much more from the Orlando Sentinel at this link. Glerum was replaced bythe C-24 classical programming service.


You’ve probably read by now that Sirius XM was rescued from the evil Charlie Ergen at EchoStar by DirecTV’s John Malone.  Malone is infusing cash and saving Sirius XM from bankrupty and from a hostile takeover.  DirecTV will own about half of Sirius XM when the deal is done, and there’s no telling how it will affect classical programming down the line.  Still, the bullet seems to have been dodged.


And music streamers on the web now have a deal for royalty payments with SoundExchange, but it’s not cheap.  You pay according to how many people listen, so the best deal of all is if nobody listens.  I’m not quite sure how this applies to classical yet, so I’ll keep you posted when I find out.

About Marty Ronish

Marty Ronish is an independent producer of classical music radio programs. She currently produces the Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcasts that air 52 weeks a year on more than 400 stations and online at www.cso.org. She also produces a radio series called "America's Music Festivals," which presents live music from some of the country's most dynamic festivals. She is a former Fulbright scholar and co-author of a catalogue of Handel's autograph manuscripts.

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4 thoughts on ““It’s the Worst I’ve Ever Seen It””

  1. Sadly, WFMT’s experience is, to quote a famous musician, “The Blues And The Abstract Truth”.

    In my experience in listening to pledge drives- yes, I like to listen to pledge drives- I find that the pitches generally tend to seek the numbers around the US$100 level, plus or minus.

    Yet, that is not ever the basic membership, which will be more like US$40-50. If the pitchers mention the basic member ship amount at all, it is like a passing shot. In most businesses, it is called up-selling.

    So, listeners, especially newer listeners only really hear amounts close to twice what they could be and, while not getting that baseball cap or tote bag, the lower amount does get a membership and a membership card and give the listener the feeling of having done the right and constructive thing.

    My experiences have been with WNYC, WCPE, WCNY, and KUSC, all of which I belonged to up until the advent of wnyc2.

    Now, My experiences are with WNYC, WBGO, and WPRB.

    The emotional difference between US$50 and US$100 is far greater than the money difference.

    In this difficult environment, stations should be going after the fast nickels as opposed to the slow dimes.

  2. Except there was nothing sad at all about our drive, Richard. We did lower our basic membership level, but still averaged over $130 a pledge from about 3600 callers with 850 *new* members — donations ranged from $5 to $10,000.

    See Mike Janssen’s report, above and below.

    Andrew Patner — 98.7WFMT Radio and wfmt.com

    WFMT ends record winter fund drive

    Two weeks ago Steve Robinson, g.m. of WFMT-FM in Chicago, told the Sun-Times that the fundraising environment for his commercially licensed classical station was the worst he’d seen in his career. Fortunately for the station, it looks as if it may not be so terrible after all.

    WFMT ended its membership drive Monday over its goal of $500,000 , setting a record by raising $513,221 during the 11-day drive. Its previous record for a winter drive was $440,000. One quarter of donors were new members, according to the station.

    The station did take steps to adjust for the challenging state of the economy, however. It added three days to the drive and reduced its basic membership rate by $5, to $35. WFMT notes in a press release that the first few days of the drive were indeed slower than expected.

    Station staffers: How is your station faring? Listeners: Are you changing your giving habits due to the economy? Let us know in the comments.


  3. Hey Andrew, I am delighted that you had positive results, that is just not what I read above. Keying in on the basic membership is I believe a wise step in these dim times.

    I belong to three stations, two in the US$100 range and one in the US$50.00 range. I listen to drives because I get a pulse of what’s happening at the station.

    These days, stations must reach out to internet listeners. WCPE, Winston-Salem, which when I was a member ha a huge non-local audience, always said that that audience paid its way as well as the locals, maybe even better. KCRW’s second largest audience was reported a while back in the New York Times to be New York City. I wonder if they try to translate that into membership?

    It’s now a global market for ears and dollars.

    Best of luck, WFMT has a great history.

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