In 1974, the WABC Radio station out of New York City ran a contest known as the “WABC MusicRadio $25,000 Button Contest”. The “owner” or “wearer” of the button could possibly win up to $25,000 if he or she were seen around town with the button on. Rick Sklar, who is the program director credited as one of the originators of the Top 40 radio format, was also the architect of the famed button contest. While it was every program directors’ goal to continuously find new listeners, it was Sklar who made it a well-practiced success while at WABC. The station focused on young-hip teenagers, and frequently played the “hits” as it curated playlist upon playlist featuring the top songs of that day. It was played and played over and over by DJ’s who were true personalities, something most radio stations at the time couldn’t find with regularity. Under Sklar’s direction WABC was widely regarded as the most listened to radio station in North America throughout the mid 60’s and into the early 70’s.
Rick Sklar would move on to work at numerous radio stations, and later create his own consulting firm, but it was that $25,000 button that he held so close to his heart as one of his greatest accomplishments. The 14 million buttons that they passed out were seen all over New York, and WABC was at the top of the radio industry. The button and the contest were so popular when it was ran in 1974, that Sklar decided he would run it again 1982, though this time with McDonalds as a sponsor.
The button that we have here in our auction is the 2nd button of the contest, that was released in 1982, but it’s still just as awesome a piece of radio and American history. One that, with the rise of new mediums and opportunities for listening, that I hope we won’t forget for a long time.
The WABC Button is a part of lot #25 of our October 2018 Local Consignment Auction