WDAV-FM gaining in listeners as it becomes radio ‘oasis’

Mozart, dead 226 years, is trending in Charlotte. So is Bach, gone 267 years.

So are the other classical composers, along with contemporary artists, orchestras and symphonies engaged in creating music at its highest level.

So says Nielsen Media Research, which measures the habits of radio listeners. It has found that in the last two years, WDAV-FM (89.9) has surged to the top ranks of public classical stations nationwide.

Last August, the Davidson College-based station was No. 1 in audience share among its national peers, the best performance of its 38-year history. And it has remained in the top three nationally since then. In February, it had a 3.2 percent average-quarter-hour share among all radio stations in the Charlotte area – just behind heritage news-talk station WBT-AM (1110), which came in at 3.4.

What accounts for the rising popularity of Charlotte’s classical voice?

A key decision?

Perhaps it’s the “oasis effect”: offering a gentle, non-contentious listening experience for people whose media diet is being increasingly filled with political and social rancor.

“Part of it is probably the times we live in,” says Frank Dominguez, WDAV’s general manager, who has been at the station 23 years. “It causes people to seek an oasis that they might not have sought two years ago. Everyone needs an oasis to decompress or recharge.”

Another possibility: In January 2015, WDAV decided to drop NPR newscasts on the hour after carrying them for 20 years.

An audience study had found that most listeners were there for the music. And there was anecdotal evidence that when the newscast came on, listeners who wanted local news switched to WBT-AM or WFAE-FM (NPR, 90.7)…

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