The story behind the Top 100s

I was presented with this question several times tonight:

Q: Where did these top 100s come from?

A; The answer is different for all three.

The 1980s and before:
In the 80s, KRNU was a top 40 station, operating off vinyl 7″ singles. General Manager Rick Alloway saw the writing on the wall, and Christmas 1989’s forced transition to CDs motivated KRNU to switch to an album-based alternative rock format.

That means in the 1980s, KRNU was all about stuff like Wham, Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston. As much fun as it would’ve been to count down stuff like that, when it comes to making a Top 100 of the 80s for KRNU, it was all about inferring what, based on the 16 year history of alternative KRNU, would define the station prior to the 1990s.

The 1990s:
The 90s were the first full decade in which the alternative format dominated. As an old person, compared to the current music director staff, I only had memory of KRNU’s popular songs dating back to 1996. So I sought out as many former KRNU listeners, DJs and music directors as I could track down in the relatively short period of time before the countdown and presented them with the question of what they remember as being big songs on the station from their period of expertise.

The 2000s:
In 2000, KRNU had its first Top 100 of the year countdown, which has continued since then. So in terms of this decade, the results were weighed based upon the tangible response of the listeners, staff and other voters who weighed in over the past 6 years.

With the context of all three countdowns, the songs that were considered eligible for a Top 100 were placed into a list and sent out to all willing participants to rate as 1: worthy of the top third, 2: worthy of the middle third, 3: worthy of the bottom third or 4: not worthy of the top 100 of the decade. The votes were placed into a spreadsheet and averaged.

The composite scores were then sorted, and ties were broken based upon things like current prominence on the station, extreme endorsements by representatives of the institutional memory, or placement on established Top 100 countdowns.

People are obviously going to disagree with the results. Any Top 100 countdown is going to have a fantastic song at 101, and there has been some great music omitted from all three countdowns. But it was a process adhered to, for better or for worse, and it’s been a process that was as informed by the informed as possible.

When each countdown was completed, I looked at the list and I was satisfied. I feel like each top 100 contains a certain degree of unpredictablity, yet it makes sense.

And most of all, each Top 100 represents KRNU, and that was pretty much the point.

Leave a Reply