1291499Cat Thomas has become as much a fixture in Las Vegas as slot machines in the Mirage casino. He’s been a part of the market’s Rhythmic CHR powerhouse KLUC (98.5) for more than 17 years. From air talent to programmer he’s seen it all and remains steadfast in the trenches battling all competitors in a quest to create a compelling content-driven radio station that plays nothing but hits in Sin City.

e-OB presents excerpts from this week’s FMQB hard copy Rhythm-Crossover Up Close interview with KLUC/Las Vegas PD Cat Thomas

On the key to longevity in a marketplace… We’ve been pretty successful even through tough times and have been able to balance both ratings and revenue success against seven direct competitors. Currently, we’re 6-0 with one more still taking shots. We’ve been able to do great radio, attain and retain a great staff, and still be in the top two in cume book after book after book.

On how the market has changed over the last five years… The biggest difference is the explosion of the Spanish language stations. There has also been a ton of station format changes in the market. When I arrived in Vegas as the night guy we were market #74. Now we’re #32 and we are geared to be Top 25 in the next four years. The attitude of Vegas has definitely become major market. This is where L.A. and the world come to be cool.

On how to stimulate a town that’s literally buzzing every night… It’s like any other town, if you have something cool, listeners will jump in. It’s just that cool in Vegas is at a much higher bar than say in Denver . No offense to Denver , it’s a great city, but my point is they are a bigger market, but there is more events going on per month here than most major cities. So sometimes you have to stick with the “A” list stuff and leave the “B” and “C” list stuff to other stations. The key also is to do the simple community things well and make sure you are at the places that are important to the listeners.

On the strength of the KLUC brand… We’ve really stepped up the efforts over the last six months. We did “ok” for a while but we seem to be kicking on all cylinders now. The station and the vibe feel really good and our focus is back and our cume is growing monthly. We’re in the process of making some changes due to talent departures. It’s tough to replace great people, but we are also looking forward to getting new blood and fresh ideas in the building.

On satellite radio… I have a cousin who does marketing for a company that manufactures satellite radios, and the least listened to channels, according to their research, are the music channels. Over 70 percent of their voluntary subscribers, ones that don’t have it through their car lease, the ones who chose to purchase with intent, are males over 35 years old. Most have purchased it for specific content shows or sports. I also spoke with a label person who said they can’t qualify any sales when a song is added to satellite, but they can when a station in a market begins playing a record. That’s a pretty strong statement.

On radio’s biggest challenge in 2006… We have to spend more time and effort to find out what our audience wants and find ways to give it to them. We need to get back to more grassroots and spend the time and money to promote our product and give the listeners quality programming and prizes. The quicker we learn to embace (new technology) and make it part of our stations, the sooner listeners will give us credit for being leaders and cutting edge rather than playing catch up. CBS is doing a good job moving our stations forward and it’s an exciting time to be in radio. The best is yet to come. Maybe I’m a bit optimistic, but I’m into the challenge!

Also in the FMQB hard copy issue:

At Issue: Does Rhythm/Crossover Radio Sound Too Urban?
The industry’s top radio format is crossing many hits too many formats but it’s also finding its share of new hits in the Urban marketplace. R&B has never been hotter on a format that used to shy away from R&B hits because of research issues. So, we asked FMQB panel of programmers (KXJM‘sMark AdamsKUBE‘s Eric PowersB96‘s Erik Bradley and KDGS‘s Greg Willams) how does Rhythm/Crossover radio protect itself from going too Urban?   

Q&A: Hangin’ Out With B-96’s Dynamic Duo Stylz & Roman
The Windy City is home to one of the country’s hottest night shows. Stylz & Roman delivered some of Chicago’s finest radio and the women just love them.   

Artists To Watch 2006
It’s still early in 2006, and while many labels have scheduled follow-up singles from artists who emerged in the latter part of the 2005, this year’s crop of new artists are still coming together. One artist has already caught FMQB‘s ear, another one has returned from a break and still others are on the cusp of breaking well beyond one format.