Jonathan Brandmeier out at WLUP

For the second time in as many years, Jonathan Brandmeier is no longer calling The Loop home.

The eclectic morning radio personality and his show was canceled by Emmis-owned WLUP-FM on Monday after four years, with Friday being the last show (Pete McMurray filled in today.) Brandmeier recently signed a one-year contract extension with the Classic Rock outlet, with Emmis management betting economic conditions would improve – but they did not. Now, Brandmeier is out with three months left on its contract.

Also out are most of Brandmeier’s staff.

This was Brandmeier’s second tour of duty with the station; he was morning personality at WLUP from 1982 to 1994, then moved to a less successful stint in afternoons, where his show was voice-tracked from Los Angeles. In 1997, he jumped to Infinity’s WCKG-FM (now CBS-owned WCFS-FM), where he did shows for that station and sister KLSX-FM in L.A. until 2001.

After a four-year absence, Brandmeier returned to Chicago and the morning shift at WLUP in 2005, but was unable to generate the same kind of success he enjoyed in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In recent years, his morning show often ranked in the bottom half in the male 25-54 demo.

Some fans have criticized Brandmeier lately for “mailing it in”: i.e. starting his show late, taking numerous vacation days, and replaying bits that aired earlier in the broadcast.  There has also been reports of tension between Brandmeier and Emmis management – especially if management is running WLUP from St. Louis, where Emmis owns several stations.

As for the future of Brandmeier, there have been reports he has received overtures from Tribune’s WGN-AM and Citadel’s WLS-AM, so he is likely to remain in town.

He may also focus on some television projects – though his 2008 pilot titled Almost Live for NBC-owned WMAQ-TV was basically a one-and-done. Brandmeier of course, is best known (rather infamously) for Johnny B. On The Loose, a syndicated late-night strip from Viacom which lasted all of five weeks in the summer of 1991 (and a member of the T Dog Media Blog TV Hall of Shame.)

As for the new morning personality, Brandmeier is being replaced by “Byrd”, aka John Kempf effective on Tuesday. WLUP GM Marv Nyren said the station plans to have a music-oriented show in morning drive instead of a personality-focused one, which Brandmeier was doing. Kempf was WLUP’s morning host in 2004 and 2005 before Brandmeier returned to the station.

Thought: While yours truly never really listened to Brandmeier’s show on The Loop (but unfortunately has seen his 1991 TV show – more than once), the man is a local morning institution – back in the ’80’s he drew hoards of young adults to WLUP and to FM radio in general. But his return in 2005 saw a dramatically different radio landscape – in addition to competition from other radio stations, he also had to face competition from satellite radio, mp3 players, and other alternative options.

Reading comment boards on this story on other sites, I noticed another problem – many posters said Brandmeier was doing the exact same show today as he did in the 1980’s -those who grew up listening to him felt this revival was old hat. At the same time, Brandmeier failed to attract the younger audience he was able to do a generation ago.

As for The Loop – which has played rock for 33 years (except in 1994-95 when they mostly went all talk) – they are focusing more on the music. But what kind of mileage are they getting from playing Van Halen, Aerosmith, and Styx all the time? This is the problem with commercial radio – playing all too familiar songs listeners have heard over and over again. Once again, the management at Emmis – which is running its Chicago cluster from St. Louis (shouldn’t it be the other way around?), doesn’t have a clue what its audience – which is dissipating faster with every release of a PPM report – wants.

Given recent developments, I thought broadcast, over-the-air television had radio beat in the “medium that’s dying the fastest award.” Leave it to Marv Nyren and Emmis to prove yours truly wrong – at least for this week.

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