Thursday, January 25, 2018

Making Waves with Low Power AM Radio

As most of u know; Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department worked together from the early 1990s up through the late 1990s researching and evaluating the use of broadcasting via part 15 on 1200AM as a viable alternative to the more expensive and sometimes difficult to acquire licensed TIS option.

For those of you are not already aware of it, checkout this post from back in 2014: SeaGrant explores Part 15

"This project evaluated the effectiveness of a 100 milliwatt low power radio broadcast in providing coastal resource interpretation to visitors parked at a scenic overlook. LPR is a limited broadcast range AM radio station that park visitors can tune-in on their car radio to hear pre-recorded messages.
 There are several advantages of using 100 milliwatt LPR units in coastal parks instead of a 10 Watt transmitter placed along the highway...."

Well, shortly after that, Oregon Sea Grant also produced an educational 18 minute video called "Making Waves with Low Power AM Radio".  I saw this video many years ago when I first got into the hobby, but couldn't recall if it specifically addressed part 15 or not, but it would seem so. Anyway I was curious to see this video again and was able to track down a Real Media version of it via the internet archive here: lpr.rm, but my tablet wasn't capable of playing it, maybe a regular computer can. Then I noticed offered at the ISS site...

So last August I requested the complementary CD offering:
 "Making Waves with Low Power AM".
The "Making Waves" CD was originally released on VHS in 2001 as an educational video produced by Sea Grant and funded by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, and the United States Department of Commerce. Later the National Park Service reproduced it in this CD version which was distributed to all park managers and staff to tout the benefits of using low power AM stations as a means to provide information to the visiting public.

Although the ISS website does offer that cd version here:,  I wasn't sure if it was even still a valid offer since the date on that page it over 15 years ago, but I clicked the email link and simply provided my name and mailing address and nothing else:
Later the same day I received this response:

Thank you for your request. Your cd will be mailed via the US Postal Service this week.

All the best,

Linda Folland
Information Station Specialists

In case you don't know; Information Station Specialist (ISS) has been the primary supplier of traveler information stations in the US since 1983, and provides both licensed and unlicensed options of transmitter systems; the unlicensed option being their Part15AM "InfoSpot" system.

August 9, 2017 - My copy arrived in the mail in a white manila envelope and inside contained a handsome black folder that sported an embossed ISS logo.

The folder housed a four page brochure detailing two licensed Information Station options, as well as a two page document detailing their InfoSpot unlicensed Part 15 transmitter system. Also encased in the folder was the 'Making Waves' CD which is printed in color graphics and
protected by it's plastic case which also holds a small pamphlet that describes an overview of the contents of the video.

In under 20 minutes it describes how low power information stations are being used in parks, museums, marinas, and the like. The locations featured in this video are mostly along coastal waters within the states of Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Orleans, and Florida.

 There are numerous audio samplings of the content they are broadcasting, and if you pay close attention you can pretty much determine by listening which are the licensed TIS and which ones are the stations operating under Part 15..

For example, one area in Florida has Jimmy Buffet doing the announcements as some of his music is playing, other broadcast also feature music backgrounds and others are advertising.. All these we know to be operating under part 15.

I also got the impression that every time a "Low Power AM" logo was superimposed on the screen that it indicated it to be a Part 15 broadcast, but upon watching it again I'm not so sure that's actually the case.

There are numerous interviews of officials and local staffs expressing and detailing the popularity, use, and the low maintenance that's involved with the systems. The listening public in their cars are also interviewed and they express their own opinions of the broadcast.

It's not particularly detailed, and doesn't really specify or show the transmitters or installations or anything like that (well, actually it briefly does show one transmitter but you're not able to derive much from it.), it's just an overall basic overview.

- Cost: 10 watt vs. Part 15 option -
However, it does clearly specify and spell out both the licensed TIS as well as unlicensed Part15 options of broadcast, and also the cost involved with each option..
Or at least what it cost back in 2001 anyway

Overall the video was well done and informative, without being too detailed. It's a long public service announcement type thing promoting the use of the technology..

I enjoyed it and am happy to have a copy. I suggest you request a copy for yourself as it's a nice piece of part 15 paraphilia to keep around your studio.

However... I should mention.. and I'm just speculating, I could be completely wrong, but I noticed they spent just over $2 postage to send this to me.. When I requested it, I provided no information at all other than my name and mailing address - I can't help but wonder if they would have sent it to me had they known I was nothing more than a part15 hobbyist and not some kind of organization? I mean, I wasn't trying to hide the fact, and it didn't really occur to me till later, but I presume they are giving these away as a promotional tool to encourage sales of their products, and might not be so keen about spending $2 a pop for every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or Mary, or Sue that wants a copy just for the novelty of it... Or maybe they don't mind at all, I don't know. I'm just saying it's something to consider.

Use your own judgment. The request a copy link is at the bottom of this linked page:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Atlanta Records Part 15 Escapades

Most any Part 15 hobbyist is already familiar with Atlantic Records extensive run of utilizing Part 15 during the mid 1990's... It all begin at the Holland Tunnel and took off from there. For several years Danny Buch of Atlantic Records along with the assistance of the previous decades Talking House creator, custom transmitters were designed, with which they micro-broadcasted everything from live Led Zeppelin concerts to unknown bands to entertain frustrated drivers who were often caught in congested traffic jams.. and then it inexplicably came to a sudden end.

Why? The FCC was well aware of them; occasionally keeping them in check. Their multiple tiny stations were receiving nationwide attention in magazines, newspapers and television network news. Promotions were strong and the majority of public response was positive - Everything was great, then heard no more about it. Did everything go dark?

What Happened??
That's what I wanted to know. So about a year ago I scoured around and compiled every piece of information I could find concerning Atlantic Records part15 escapades in hopes that somewhere an answer could be revealed; but found nothing. I've considered attempting to contact Atlantic Records Danny Buch himself; the main guy behind it all.

One can only speculate. Maybe they just got tired of messing with it after 9 years, after all it's not like a major record company doesn't have their hands full enough already. Or maybe it was due to their installation methods not being quite kosher per the rules.. It's interesting to note amongst the last articles mentioning their broadcast reported a complaint had been received of their signal being heard two miles or more from the transmitters... That could explain it, because as you can note in the videos the installs shown appear to have been utilizing very long grounds... Maybe they just pushed their luck too far. Maybe we'll never know for sure.

Nevertheless, it's a great story to illustrate potential uses of part15AM broadcasting. Here is a compiled dozen or so articles and some video I had stored away, chronicling the sequence of events concerning Atlantic Records Part 15 history from June 1994 until sometime in 1996 when those stations discontinued operation. Some are actual scans from the original and some are text only versions of the original articles;

We begin with the longest article, (text only version) which is also the earliest published mentions I was able to locate...

~~~~~~~~~~~ June 29, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~
Network Forty Magazine June 29, 1994
WHY? Commentaries, Musings and More by Gerry Cagle

I was reminded of one of my favorite Blues tunes yesterday. The lyrics came to mind during a phone call from Danny Buch of Atlantic Records. Danny was sharing his excitement about an idea that had blossomed into a great promotion for his company.

After commuting into New York City for who-knows-how-many years, Danny finally had enough of the silence he endured going through the Holland Tunnel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the drive from New Jersey into the city, if you don’t go through the Holland Tunnel, you ain’t gonna get there. (Unless you go way north over the George Washington Bridge, but that another story, another promotion and another Editorial.) Anyhow, that trip through the tunnel can take anywhere from two to twenty minutes during a regular commute. More, of course, if there is an accident. And while you’re in the tube, you can’t hear anything. It’s like being underwater. You’re cut off from all communication with the outside world. Forget your radio. Forget your mobile phone. For those few minutes, you’re all alone with your thoughts. And for many people, especially New Yorkers, that can be a very scary feeling.

So Danny started playing, “What if?” and came up with some startling ideas. “What if we could somehow play music (Atlantic product, of course) to the people in the cars?” How could that happen? The tunnel shut out all forms of communication, didn’t it? Maybe…maybe not.
Danny had seen all the signs near airports instructing motorists to tune to a certain AM channel for traffic instructions. He wondered, “What if we could do the same thing in and around the Holland Tunnel? Impossible, right?

Danny checked it out and found that he could operate AM transmitters that broadcast in a very restricted area. If the transmitters operated at less than 1/10th of a watt (about ¼ of a mile in reach), the FCC had no jurisdiction. That meant no license to contend with, no rules and regulations to follow and, most important, no format restrictions.
Atlantic purchased the transmitters and produced tapes of their artists. This week, it’s B Tribe. Next week? Another artist. Sexy-voiced Sr. VP Promotion Andrea Ganis announces the song and the artist on the “station” and advises listeners where they can buy the CD at the lowest possibly price.

Atlantic promotion people swarmed the sidewalks on each side of the tunnel wearing sandwich boards advertising commuters to “Tune Your Radio To AM 1510 For Music And Money.” In the future, Atlantic plans to run contests giving away cash and prizes. Listeners will be told to go to specific retail outlets, buy the CD and possibly win thousands of dollars in cash.
Nearly two million people travel through the Holland Tunnel every day. Out of that two million, I’m sure there are many who work for companies that would benefit by some form of advertising to the rest of the moles. When the sandwich boards went up and the transmitters went on, the majority of those two million commuters said, “Holy Cow, why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s a fantastic promotion aimed at the primary, music-buying demographic sought by most advertisers. A cume-building monster. Forget quarter-hour increases, this locks your audience for tunnel time! It’s designed for radio. It’s on radio. And a radio programmer didn’t think of it. Why? That makes me want to puke.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m taking nothing away from Atlantic Records. As connected to radio as they are, Danny and Andrea could probably out program half the PDs out there anyhow.
This just points out how sometimes pointless radio can be to the listening public.

Network Forty, countless conventions, newspapers, newscasts and town criers have warned of the impending communications gridlock on the superhighway. With more and more outlets from which to choose, listeners will be tempted to abandon commercial radio. But that isn’t radio’s biggest problem. Radio’s biggest problem is radio. Why is there no creativity that used to make
our medium exciting? Why are there no great promotions designed to stimulate the audience?
They ain’t here no more. Why? Because most programmers aren’t up to the task.
Most programmers spend too much time behind a music computer making sure the flow is right. Here’s a news flash: Why not design the format, define the rules and insist that the air personalities adhere to those rules? Give them the opportunity to create their own music flow within the format. If they can’t do it, find others who can.

Most PDs spend too much time in focus groups. Why? With all due respect, f you don’t inherently know who your audience is and what music they like, find another line of work.
Why can’t you make your station exciting? Stop spending so much time researching your audience. Spend more time on developing a market through exciting promotions.

What happened to innovation? Excitement? The guts to do something so off-the-wall that it attracts listeners to your attitude…not your 10-in-a-row format that anyone and everyone can duplicate? More and more, the audience is identifying with that attitude. Music and formatics are important, but with music crossing formatic barriers with listener impunity, you have to do more to make your station stand out from the rest.
What will make the difference? Your talent.
Basically, every Top 40 plays the same hits; what should set a station apart is an aggressive and entertaining promotional presence…a presence that can only be found in the theatre-of-the-mind. Imagine WNCI packing four listeners in a “B.O. Sphere” car or KQHT’s “Turkey Bungee Jumping.” Why are stations such as KROQ, KRBE and KDWB regularly featured on our Promotions Page? Because too many Top 40s simply give away cash and concert tickets to the umpteenth caller.
Because as a program director, you’re spending too much time on other things that aren’t as important. Or because you just aren’t good enough.
Oh year. The name of the song? Delbert McClinton’s “Why? Why? Why?”
You had to ask?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ July 29, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~ September 4, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~
     September 4, 1994
Record Promoter Tunes In To Audience Stuck in Traffic  
Danny Buch, of Atlantic Records, took advantage of commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic and turned it into an advertiser's dream.
"They are all a captive audience," said Mr. Buch, vice president of promotion of the record company in New York.

During August, Mr. Buch had a low-powered AM transmitter placed on the roof
Danny Buch, of Atlantic Records
of the Texaco station across from the Holland Tunnel and began broadcasting promotions for B-Tribe, a new group.
Because the broadcast reaches only 500 feet with a power of less than 100 milliwatts, it falls under the Federal Communications Commission's limit for nonlicensed stations.
Mr. Buch had interns from the company walk around with sandwich boards that said, "Tune to 1510 AM for the next 500 Ft. Music by B-Tribe."
Sales of B-Tribe, an instrumental group, increased 21 percent after the experiment, which ended last week. "That's the only place it could come from," Mr. Buch said of the increase. He said about 92,000 people a day are stuck waiting to pay that toll. "It's a completely unused, radical new form of advertising," he said. 

~~~~~~~~~~~ October 14, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~ 
Here's the video the above magazine quip refers to:
 ~~~~~~~~~~~ November 11, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1994 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Another network news report from the time:
~~~~~~~~~~~ December 10, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~ December 24, 1994: ~~~~~~~~~~~
 ~~~~~~~~~~~ January 2, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~

Mediaweek | January 2, 1995
Watts New in Promotion
Atlantic Records signs on two low-power stations to spur sales
Say your a record label having trouble getting radio airplay to promote a new group that plays alternative music, What to do? If you're a major label like Time Warner's Atlantic Records, you start up your own low-power radio station. 
Last summer, Atlantic executives were looking for ways to promote B-Tribe, a dance band that plays flamenco-inspired house music.
Danny Buch, Atlantic vice president/promotions, decided to try something new: He created a so-called microradio AM station in New York City. 
Of course, with the plethora of stations clogging the radio band in New York and
the specter of FCC regulations, you can't just start up a standard radio station. But if the station broadcasts a very weak signal, it is not subject to FCC regulations.
Atlantic interns dressed as Santa's were outside the Holland Tunnel and at a second low-power site, outside the Midtown Tunnel, urging commuters to tune their radios to 1510 and 1410 AM, respectively. The stations repeated a five-minute program that featured ... 
(partial content is missing here)
Atlantic Records is the first major advertiser to use the medium to promote products. Buch says he got the idea for Atlantic after hearing a low-power broadcast by Marie Callendar's restaurant in Los Angeles.. ..If you are any kind of media expert, or you....
~~~~~~~~~~~ April 10, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~ 
Marketing News April 10, 1995 Vol. 29 No. 8 Page 7:
Radio Stations Show How Low They'll Go
To Win An Audience 
Low-power radio stations are now being used as a marketing tool. Before, these facilities were utilized exclusively to disseminate information on traffic, weather and services. However, Atlantic Records Corp. has found a clever application for these radio stations. It is now used to test the reaction of customers to its recordings.

(This is not the 1995 issue cover)
At one test, a recording group experienced significant sales increase when it songs were broadcast by Atlantic's low-power radio station to the Holland Tunnel in New York. As a result of this success, Atlantic intends to use its radio station to promote the latest from Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The radio station will be situated in a facility near the concert venues where Plant and Page will perform. Unregulated by the FCC, low-power radio stations can also be used by car ferry service firms, government agencies, museums and grocery stores. It's a radio station with only one-tength of a watt, with a limited broadcast radius of a half mile. Yet it may be the hottest new ad vehicle. Long a standard at airports and public facilities, low-power radio is now being expanded for commercial purposes.
Danny Buch, Atlantic Records vice president of promotion, said the firm started experimenting with low-power radio last July. The signal was aimed at commuters outside the Holland Tunnel in New York. The transmitter was on the roof of a Texaco gas station. To test the station's viability as a promotional tool, the company played Atlantic artist B-Tribe on the low-power station. That was the group's only airplay during the initial two-week experiment. Buch said the artist's sales went up 21%, and the test received extensive TV and newspaper coverage.
In a three-day experiment in December, commuters were greeted by interns wearing signs that read, "You winn! Listen to 1510." The station encouraged people to call (212) YOU-WINN from their cars or when they got m work. All callers won a prize, ranging from cassettes and compact discs of Atlantic artists to a grand prize of free tolls for a week. In one day, Atlantic received so many calls (about 700) that the phone system was blown out at Time Warner, Atlantic's parent company.
From the phone calls, Atlantic has developed a customer mailing list that would be "enticing to advertisers," said Bob Kranes, director of low-power radio ventures for Atlantic. Buch estimated a potential daily audience of 300,000 between 1510 AM and another station outside the Lincoln Tunnel on 1410 AM.
"This is a major market concept," Buch said. "Normally, test markets are smaller." "Low-power radio represents the sort of direct-to-consumer marketing that can have a tremendous impact on artist awareness, as well as translate into sales," said Atlantic Records president Vat Azzoli. Atlantic's next major use for low-power radio will be during the spring and summer tours of former Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. With a transmitter on its roof, an 18-wheeler truck filled with memorabilia will be parked just outside the concert site.
The truck will be provided by Miller Genuine Draft, the tour's sponsor. "With the Page/Plant tour, we're creating an "Unledded" Zeppelin radio station," said Buch. "It's a groundbreaking marketing line." Buch got the idea for a low-power radio station after hearing a broadcast from Marie Callendar's restaurant in Los Angeles. The restaurant beamed its menu and daily specials to the surrounding area. "The Marie Callendar signal was very strong," said Buch.
Low-power radio has been around for years, providing information about traffic, weather, and services. The Federal Communications Commission does not regulate stations with 100 milliwatts (1/10 watt) of power or less. Small and medium markets generally have AM stations with 1,000 or 5,000 watts, and most major cities have stations with 50,000 watts, the maximum level in the U.S. Buch said the amount of power is not important as "all advertising is reach and frequency."
He noted the breakthrough in low-power radio came when "we finally found the equipment to make it work." Andrew Milder, president of Business Broadcast Systems, said the distance the signals travel depends on the height of the transmitter. Milder, who started working with low-power stations in 1992, created the stations for Atlantic and Marie Callendar's.
While the technology for low-power radio stations has existed for years, there were problems in making it work. "The transmitters were not as good," said Milder. "The audio component is now more significant." Milder said low-power stations used to run continuous loop cassettes. Now the stations use digital recording systems with solid-state equipment. Audio messages are recorded onto a chip in a computer.
For a restaurant, the computer's built-in clock switches the menu message from breakfast to lunch at the appropriate time. Also, by being able to store different messages, the programming can be more entertaining. "It's a dynamic as opposed to a static message," said Milder. He said the low-power station technology means "valuable information for the customer and valuable meaning for the advertiser."
Milder also came up with the "talking house." Prospective buyers could park by the house and listen to a description of the home any time of the day without leaving the car. The methods for using low-power radio so far are only the beginning of the possible functions for the format. "In view of our long-term plans, which include broadcasting to additional congested locations and coordinating promotions with local malls, stadium parking lots, and existing billboards, the possibilities are truly limitless," Kranes said.
At a shopping mall, a transmitter could be placed on the building's roof. Incoming shoppers could be made aware of the signal, and ad time could be sold to mall retailers. Other possibilities in Atlantic's future range from audio books to providing sound for the huge Spectra-color video screen in Times Square. In addition, the company has initiated discussions with outside advertisers and agencies for further cross-promotion, including pointing commuters to commercial stations once they've passed out of the low-powered signal's limited range.
Other possible uses for low-power radio include these:
  • A car ferry service advertising to people stuck in traffic.
  • Government agencies advertising rest stops and fast-food establishments that travelers will encounter on highways.
  • Museums, grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, and housing developments using the medium for ads.
  • Businesses in smaller areas could offset the cost with other advertising, especially if the arrangements are logical tie-ins.
  • A supplement to on-line services so that companies could send information by modem in response to inquiries.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~ April  28, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~




~~~~~~~~~~~ April 29, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~ 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~ May 6, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ June 2, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~ June 3, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~ July 28, 1995: ~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~ Early 1996: ~~~~~~~~~~~

Mediaweek | Volume 6 -1996 - ‎
(Google Snippet Veiw excerpts only, full article not available) -

Milder in 1994 convinced Atlantic Records that his micro-radio broadcast systems could be used to promote albums to commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic. ... Atlantic's segment can be heard by an estimated 250,000 commuters per day at the Lincoln, Holland and Queens Mid town tunnels. ... "What I hope to do is set up cross-promotions with radio stations so that our message includes a prompt for the listener to tune to the station when they're out of our broadcast area," Milder says.
~~~~~~~~~~~ Sometime in 1998: ~~~~~~~~~~~
This Week In FMQB History: 
Atlantic’s Danny Buch and Monte Lipman are spotted outside a New York City tunnel trying out a new promotion campaign in 1998.
~~~~~~~~~~~ That's all I could find! ~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Thanks to 'The Low Power Radio Archives' for previously doing most of the legwork of this history at:, but I was able to expand on it a fair bit. If anyone has something to add to this compilation, please let me know!

By the way, and this has nothing to do with part 15, but here's a very cool 30 minute documentary that's well worth the watch:  25 Years: A History of Atlantic Records, 1948-1973: