Legendary Country Programmer Ed Salamon: ‘The Time is Always Right’ for Country in NYC

It’s official: New York’s Country station is now WNSH/NASH FM 94.7. The temporary WRXP call letters now belong to a station in Minnesota.

The newly acquired Cumulus station made the historic move to Country last week. Now, the nationwide search begins for an air staff and a combination program director/air personality.

Ed Salamon knows all about programming Country in New York. During the latter half of the 1970s Salamon was in charge at WHN, the most successful Country station New York has ever heard.

The timing was right for a Country return, and also for Salamon to write a book detailing his memories from the WHN days. While he puts the finishing touches on the book, due out next month, it’s a perfect opportunity to pick Salamon’s brain about NASH.

Salamon, who lives in Nashville, took advantage of the Web site’s streaming live feature. Waiting another month or two before NASH starts to use live jocks, Salamon cautions anyone from being critical as this isn’t the final product.

“I can’t be listening and commenting on it, because it’s going to be something different,” Salamon says.

But he does speak fondly about the end of Country’s drought in the city.

“There are just so many Country fans in New York,” Salamon says. “It’s so great to have music that they love the most, available to them on broadcast radio.”

As we’ve well documented, the last hurrah for Country within the five boroughs was on WYNY in 1996.

“With so many signals available in the New York market, it only seems right that country music should be one of the choices available to New Yorkers.

He challenges the fact that Country is cooking with like artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

“To me the time is always right,” Salamon admits. “Country has always been an immensely popular music form…I just think that companies that own radio stations in New York always felt that there was a better opportunity.”

Having said that, WHN’s multiple Programmer of the Year, adds sound reasoning for what took Country so long to resurface.

“Since deregulation the business of radio has changed in some very important ways,” Salamon says. “Ways that probably affect the strategy of those who own radio stations.”

But make no mistake about it, Salamon says today’s format flip is all about the bottom line.

“It’s much more of a business, and these things are business decisions rather than decisions of music preference.”

While Salamon doesn’t address specific companies for failing to find Country, he does put himself in their shoes, comparing radio from the WHN era to the present.

“Back in the WHN days, it was like one AM and one FM [ownership] in a market,” Salamon says. “When you own a number of AMs and FMs in a market, I would think that your focus might not be on any individual station, but perhaps competing as a cluster against other owners’ clusters.”

He says that could ultimately lead to a change in the decision-making.

Another difference since the halcyon 1970s, the technology has advanced at breakneck speed. The larger media companies have dozens, if not hundreds, of affiliates.

“If you own a lot of stations nationwide, you may well think of your station in New York City as an opportunity for syndication and networking,” Salamon says.

Cumulus, the second largest owner of radio stations in this country, is branding NASH for its entire stable of Country stations. Cumulus New York VP Kim Bryant, however, told FishbowlNY last week that each market “is going to have its own needs.”

All those factors at play, Salamon says makes the planning more complex than during his WHN tenure 40 years ago.

‘The business of radio is different than it used to be, and because of that there are strategies in terms of what stations do in a market, and there are considerations about national applications that station owners wouldn’t have had back then.”