The microphones have gone silent, and the last light has dimmed inside the Smooth Rock 93.5 studio in Palestine's Redlands Hotel. Local broadcast of smooth rock hits from the '90s through the early 2000's will be heard no more.
The banter of DJ's Kevin Harris and Alan Wade during their morning show has ceased.
The station, managed by Harris, a local businessman and musician, was taken off the air Thursday. Those tuning in will soon hear Christian radio broadcasts.
Harris, 60, a Palestine native, brought Smooth Rock to town in late 2018. Having worked in radio his entire life – as did his father before him – he was certain his business model would work for both his station and the city.
“Our vision was to help reinvigorate art and business in East Texas,” Harris told the Herald-Press Thursday. “To bring in business through advertising, and to feature local talent on the show.”
With a broadcast area that reached 15 counties, Harris said he tried to treat East Texas as one large hometown in which residents could be proud.
Using live radio personalities and bringing in local talent, including Herald-Press reporters, set 93.5 apart from the syndicated and amorphous sounds of media conglomerates, such as Clear Channel.
The venture, however, proved too expensive. Smooth Rock's parent corporation, Weston Entertainment of San Antonio, changed the station's format last summer to pop-music from the 70's and 80's.
Harris knew then his vision for the station, and for the town, was in jeopardy.
Some experts say the inevitable death of FM radio, as seen by Smooth Rock's departure, is rapidly approaching. Advertisers are turning to new technologies and streaming services and investing less of their advertising dollars in old-school radio.
Harris told the Herald-Press Thursday FM radio's demise has been greatly exaggerated. Advertisers are jumping ship too soon, and it is costing them plenty.
“Radio still reaches 91 percent of American households,” he said. “Advertisers are missing an opportunity. Streaming technology isn't yet as viable as they had hoped in moving cars, on boats, in the woods, and such. Radio, particularly small and medium-market radio, is still profitable.”
Millennials, Harris said, who were the first to turn their back on radio, have also been returning.
“They have more of an eclectic, tolerant taste in music than we Boomers ever did,” he said. “Plus, in a survey, they also noted they loved the local content, along with sounds of local bands. That's local radio in a nutshell.”
With radio in his blood, Harris refuses to be deterred by Smooth Rock losing the 93.5 frequency. Embracing technology, rather than cursing it, he intends to start a podcast where he can continue to pursue his creative vision.
“I have my microphone, and I have my earphones,” he said. “There's always going to be a need for content. I'm going to find a way to make it work.”