Z-93 in 1979
... the Z arrives!
By late 1979, Beautiful Music WSRA found itself constrained by the direct format competitors it had attracted; there were 5 soft music stations in the market. Rates had been stagnant for a year and there appeared to be other opportunities with greater revenue potential.  A competitor, WPRM "Salsoul 98" had gotten into the top 5 with a salsa, disco and pop format and I thought that we could eliminate the disco and pop and have a winning station with higher numbers than WSRA had, which was a 4 share.

We could have been wrong...

A research project consisting of intercepts and focus groups done by a local company was inconclusive as to the viability of an all-salsa FM. A broad sample of respondents thought such a format would be too monotonous. The recommendation of the research company was to play a broad range of music.

Finally, several of us spent some time doing our own "study" of record sales by watching what people bought at several record stores and then giving a gift if those who bought salsa or merengue answered a few questions. That little informal project showed that salsa buyers seldom crossed genres and truly detested hearing anything else on a station that programmed salsa. The project was launched more on intuition than intelligence.

And we learned that research was useless unless the right people were interviewed. And we saw confirmation in real behavior of our concept, while asking "what if" questions of consumers generally yields wrong answers.

Extensive advertising was done prior to the station's launch as WZNT on December 29, 1978.
The above ad ran both on bus cards and in print ahead of the launch and said,
"Listen... listen... you can almost hear the sound of the Z"

And even before that, a teaser campaign could be "zeen" in the various
San Juan newspapers.
A day before the weekend of the launch, the final few days of 1978, I called the GSM's of the San Juan TV stations and offered to pay 20% of card for all the unsold inventory that weekend. We ended up with over 1000 GRPs for a small, small investment... and the GSM's got some extra dollars at year-end!

Launch day was officially Saturday morning, December 30, 1978. The launch was made over the New Year's weekend, when interest in salsa at parties and dances was at its peak. This ad ran in the papers on that day.

That first weekend of broadcasting was heralded by full page print adds and over a thousand GRPs of TV... the only TV ever used. The TV spot featured flashes of the best salsa singers and the station logo with an invitation to listen to the world's first all salsa station at 93.7 FM.

Salsa has its own station...

The new station logo was an attempt to capitalize on the single-letter IDs sweeping the US, but with a Spanish flavor. The original design was done with a paintbrush on a piece of wallboard, and then taken to the station's ad agency for "refinement."

The Masked Salsa Man (El Zalzero  Enmascarado)

In the station lobby with a bus card on the wall.

The "Zalzero Enmascarado" was both an ad gimmick as well as a real person. Here, Pedro Arroyo, the Zalzero, holds singer Cheo Feliciano in a "street rip" that was a daily occurrence at Z-93. The promotion person who became the official Zalzero stayed with the station and eventually became the very successful program director, and he has maintained the station in the top 5 for several decades. Congratulations to Pedro Arroyo for preserving the legacy of Z-93 and for keeping the salsa art form alive with excellent promotions such as the Día Nacional de la Salsa.

Van hits were definitely popular. Unfortunately, this van was destroyed in an appearance when it was rolled and looted! We learned to park against walls after that.

Over 1 million stickers!

The ubiquitous Z window sticker showed up all over the Island. Originally a sales promotion with Burger King, we knew something was going right when the first 100 thousand were gone in 72 hours. By the end of the contest, 1,375,000 stickers had been provided by Byron Crecelious at US Tape & Label.


Office manager Wilma Mendoza,Production Manager Saúl Maldonado and mid-day jock Victor Manuel join PD Richard Santiago (now News Director of KLVE-Los Angeles) in inspecting the first Z-93 "Camizetas". Z-93 gave away over 20,000 Z-shirts in its first year. So popular were the shirts that retail versions were designed and sold to clothing retailers. The profit from the retail shirts paid for all the ones given as prizes!

Another example of the use of the ""Masked Salsa Man" were these posters put in the Puerto Rico TV Guide publication. Above is the top of a pull-out calendar for 1980 which WZNT published. Note that there are 9 "Z" letters in the poster (even the radio dial has one)

A calendar with the Zalzero was featured in Vea's year-end issue in 1979.

New posters were regularly inserted in the magazine. Similarly, we issued new T-shirt designs nearly every month for our retail distributors. Many listeners collected them.

The Ratings Arrive.

San Juan was a Mediastat market; the first survey came 22 days after Z-93 debuted. And what a debut! 22.5 was the share after three weeks of operation. Two months later, a 33.5 was achieved. It was the highest rated top-50 market FM in the USA.

In January and March, our next closest competitor had a 10 share in the full Mediastat table for Nov-Jan-Mar 1978-1979. All FM stations had a total of 18 shares before WZNT went on the air. Within a year, the combined FM shares were nearly 50% .Click on the table above to see the entire Mediatrend book for San Juan.

"Nuestro," a magazine catering to U.S. Latinos, featured the WZNT success story. Click on article for a readable PDF version.

El Concierto Mayor

Z-93 presented many concerts. The first, honoring Ismael Rivera, "El Sonero Mayor"  presented the best salsa singers in honor of the acknowledged king of salsa song. Left to right are Ismael Miranda, Lucecita Benítez, Rivera and Ruben Blades. This concert, in Z's 4th month on the air, broke a gate and attendance record for the venue.
At the event, the Willy Colón orchestra played for Ismael Rivera, Celia Cruz, Justo Betancourt, Luigi Texidor, Rubén Blades, Ismael Miranda and Héctor Lavoe.
Concerts represented a large part of first-year revenues. At a later Fania All Stars concert presented by the station, I was made an honorary member of the All Stars for my contributions to the music and the artists.


With considerable fear, we had waited until the end of December of 1978 to change format so as not to lose the revenues from the old easy listening programming. And we kept the $33 thousand in December revenues, fully expecting to not bill a thing in January. Surprise: walk in business produced $57 thousand in gross billings in January. Five rate increases in the first year resulted in average monthly billings of over $150 thousand by the end of 1979... the highest billings in the market. Rates went from $16 for 30" spots to over $100.

The mid-1979 rate card showed the station had nearly tripled its
pre-format rates in just 6 months.

The Pueblo International annual report to shareholders featured the
success of WZNT with this picture of Z-fans dancing salsa!
Click on the picture for a PDF of the Annual Report
And here is what Pueblo Chairman Harold Toppel said about the
stations in the 1979 annual report to shareholders.

Number 1, and totally automated! The station was entirely voice tracked, with the DJs prerecording nearly everything so they could get out on the street for promotions.


Z-93 continued to be the #1 station in Puerto Rico until 1985, when they were unseated by Salsoul 98. That story is on another page of this resume.  But 30 years later, Z-93 is still among the top 5 stations in Puerto Rico and the concept of being Puerto Rico's salsa station continues.