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Radio Round with Akiem Pt 2: Is Rock Radio Dead?

Clear channelIn case you missed the first part of the story here it is..
Pt 2: CBS Radio flipped 104.1 to Hot “Mix”. Mix, prior to the move to 104.1, was at 98.5. 98.5 became the new home of 98.5 The Sports Hub, along with Toucher & Rich from BCN. The Sports Hub became the new of the Patriots (from WBCN) & Bruins, and Toucher and Rich’s transition into sports talk has been surprisingly seamless.
They launched 98.5 to be a competitor to the WEEI Radio Network & its stations throughout New England. There was a rumor once shortly after 98.5 debuted with sports that they’d go for the jugular and acquire 96.5 WTIC- in Hartford to simulcast the Sports Hub’s format into Connecticut.
It has been a more consistent theme, as well, in the winter and spring months for The Sports Hub to be beating the incumbent WEEI. This is because of its flagship status for the Pats & B’s while EEI airs the Red Sox & Celtics. Many of its shows are also beating WEEI’s demo-wise in addition.
What must be addressed is why this is indicative of the crossroads that Rock radio is at overall. Not just Alternative Rock, but as well. Many are assuming that Modern Rock is a dying genre on the radio and is being replaced by more harder-edged Active Rockers (like what WBCN is).
WAAF is listed as an Active Rocker, but after listening to the station and looking at its playlist, AAF is closer to being Mainstream (Classic-leaning) Rock than Active. The closest thing right now to WFNX is Greater Media’s WBOS Radio 92.9. They’re formatted with Modern Rock while also sneaking in an occasional Def Leppard or AC/DC song””both bands are fixtures on Active Rock stations.
Classic Rock stations, more and more, are starting to incorporate 90’s rock in their rotations. This means phasing out, slowly, but surely, the 60’s just like many Oldies & Classic Hits stations are doing. Alternative Rock is in flux as a genre (and some Modern Rock stations are even playing more Classic Alternative/New Wave from the 80s & early 90s). Active Rockers seem to be doing well.
But, on the radio recently, Rock has been a beleaguered format. It’s not just WBCN that has seen the axe.
104.9 in Seattle: briefly changed its format from Active Rock “Funky Monkey 104.9″ to 90’s Classic Hits as Gen-X 104.9. Despite connecting Gen-X music to the Seattle music landscape, the station didn’t do well. Now, it airs Rock again with similar music as the old “Funky Monkey”, but now as “The Brew”””a more iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel)-centric brand for Rock stations that normally is used for 80’s Rockers.
Chicago’s Q101 & New York’s 101.9 RXP: Both of these stations were LMA’ed by Merlin Media after Emmis started cutting costs. Merlin flipped both of them to FM News and is not having much success at either of them. There are rumors that both could now try News/Talk instead of News.
Ironically, Merlin bought a new station at 87.7 (Low Power TV Channel 6) and placed the old Alternative format of WKQX-FM there. It may be only a short-term thing since the government may shut down these frequencies in a few years, though. Broadcast Barter Media in Chicagoland now owns the rights to the Q101 name, logo, contests, merchandise, etc. RXP has also reappeared online.
94.1″”Despite a return to Active Rock in 2007 after a stint as a “Free FM“ station, their approach did not work in a city that already had one Active Rocker in WMMR (even though calling WMMR Active Rock these days could be somewhat of a stretch). WYSP tweaked their format to 70’s 80’s 90’s Classic Rock with the brand “The Rock You Grew Up With”.
Unfortunately for CBS, that market was already cornered by both MMR and Greater Media’s 102.9 WMGK. And with the Modern Rock hole filled by iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) with WRFF Radio 104.5, WYSP no longer had a niche to fill in the City of Brotherly Love. So, CBS changed its format to a sports simulcast of 610 WIP while retaining the WYSP format online and on HD-3. WYSP‘s website has not been updated by CBS since the flip.
92.3 in Cleveland””CBS wasn’t only changing Rock stations in Philly. In Cleveland, Radio 92.3 (Modern Rock) was not competing well in a Rock market that included sister WCNX 98.5 (Classic Rock), WMMS 100.7 the Buzzard (iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Active Rock), and Variety Hits 106.5 the Lake.
With CBS having a virtual fetish for sports stations at the time, they changed 92.3 to “The Fan” and brought a former WFAN New York personality to be its program director. CBS sees an opening with the only other sports stations in Cleveland being on . They also think they have a better shot at landing the flagship rights to the Cleveland Indians who are currently on iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) News/Talk 1100 AM WTAM.
93Rock in Miami: 93.1 won’t be remembered as much as Rock station as it may be as a Dance station, but it did air Rock under this brand. It was also South Florida’s Bubba the Love Sponge affiliate. But in late 2010, Cox Communications in Miami felt it was time to pull the plug on 93Rock and debut a new format. Cox stunted with Christmas music during the holiday season, and debuted WFEZ “Easy 93.1″””a Soft AC format while, in my opinion, is a throwback to what AC is supposed to sound like. Too many ACs have fallen for the bear trap of sounding like Hot ACs. I was hoping this and others like WIOP Lite 95.9 in Charleston, South Carolina would buck that trend. Lite 95.9 flipped to Hot AC as well”¦
Channel in San Francisco: KCNL Channel 104.9 nor its rivals at Live 105 KITS-FM in the Bay Area were doing well before this flip. And briefly before it changed, iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) moved its “Channel” from 104.9 to 92.3, switching places with a “La Preciosa” station. It didn’t really matter since both 104.9 and 92.3 are more San Jose stations than Frisco stations. Shortly afterwards, 92.3 started stunting with a “Save Alternative” format made as a response to iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) selling both 104.9 and 92.3. Both are now airing international formats. 104.9 in Spanish, 92.3 in Chinese. Likely, Live 105 would flip as well if it weren’t for Channel flipping and its recent acquisition of flagship rights to the Oakland Raiders.
KEXX X103.9 in Phoenix: Riviera Broadcasting’s Alternative station also bit desert dust earlier this year. Everyone was fired, except the morning show hosted by Dave Pratt. Pratt has had stints at KMLE 108 (Country) and KUPD 97.9 (Active Rock) before arriving at KEXX. In my opinion, Pratt engineered the change since he wanted to be heard on an older-leaning station. Formerly as “The Edge”, it was once the Valley’s station for Stern. Pratt got his wish as Riviera changed 103.9 to 80’s Rock centric “My 103.9″. The format change was targeted at Bonneville’s Variety Hits “98.7 the Peak” as well as Sandusky Mainstream Rock 93.3 KDKB.
KRZQ in Reno: While I’ve predominantly had an eye on Wilks Broadcasting for their questionable moves in Kansas City, they also changed the longtime Alternative format of 100.9 KRZQ in Reno to Hot AC. They’re now Mix 100.9 and its calls are now KMXW and Reno’s affiliate for Kidd Kraddick in the Morning.
102.5 the Bone in Tampa: For some reason, Cox Communications is able to escape with owning 6 FM stations in Tampa when the market limit is supposed to be 5 FMs. 3 of those stations are Rockers””Classic Hits WXGL 107.3 the Eagle, Alternative WSUN 97X, and Mainstream Rock WHPT 102.5 the Bone. The Bone is the flagship for Bubba the Love Sponge and also airs Bubba protégé, Mike “Cowhead” Calta in afternoon drive. With Cox not having as much success with Rock on 102.5 as they are on 107.3, Cox thought it would be a good idea to give their own take on the dead “Free FM“ brand with a male-centric “Hot Talker” on 102.5. WHPT would keep the same “Bone” brand, but it would add Drew Garabo from 97X as well as the syndicated sports comedy show hosted by Nick DiPaolo and Artie Lange. Former “Bubba” staffer, Matt “SpiceBoy” Lloyd also hosts a show as well. Before this, I thought 97X was losing to its Active Rock competition at WXTB 98 Rock. After TAMA Broadcasting sold Urban AC simulcast of WTMP AM/FM 1150/96.1 to Davidson Media (who flipped it to Spanish Tropical), reports had Tom Joyner & Michael Baisden talking with Cox to have their shows return to Tampa on a Cox station. I guessed the station would be WSUN 97.1, which of course, would have to flip to an Urban AC.
KUFO 101 in Portland: This is a case of an Active Rock station that was not faring well vs. its Modern Rock competition at KNRK 94.7. When it was announced that Alpha Broadcasting was changing the format at KUFO, the announcement came virtually without warning. A brief splash message was displayed on the 20+ year heritage Rock station’s website thanking fans for their loyal listenership. Fans in PDX didn’t take it lying down with the organization of many rallies denouncing Alpha’s decision. The move by Alpha was actually part of a larger plan going on at Alpha. Sports station the Game would move to 750. News/Talk station KXL on 750 was moving to the former frequency of KUFO””101.1. KXL features Lars Larson and Glenn Beck.
95.5 would become Hot AC “Live 95.5“ and has debuted to impressive numbers.
Here’s the thing: this recent purging of Rock stations (Classic, Alternative, and Active) is just that””recent. I didn’t even mention the changes of:
WNEW in 1999
The first WYSP flip to Free FM
The first K-Rock flip to Free FM
WHFS 105.7 in Baltimore
Zeta 94.9 in Miami
Rock 101 in Houston
94.7 the Zone in Chicago
The first 97.1 the Eagle flip in Dallas
97 FM The Rock in St. Louis
 96 Wave in Charleston
 99X in Atlanta
 Z93 in Atlanta”¦
The list goes on and on. Or, I should say the beat goes on and on”¦.
The reasons for this mass drop in Rock stations are plenty. There aren’t anywhere near the amount of Rock stations as there once were. Even CHRs in the 70s and 80s counted as Rock stations since Rock, of course, was in heavy rotation on these stations back in the day. It can perhaps be said that with the music industry’s mass shift over to dance, pop, and that rock in all forms has become close to obsolete.
Or it can be a simple case of “Where are the ”? The shift over to more Rhythmic forms of music didn’t occur overnight. Rock, generally, attracts an older audience. Rhythmic music attracts younger audiences. are gearing towards a younger market, specifically, 18-34s. The problem is, now, these 18-34s aren’t even getting music through their radios anymore.
So, while this loss of a heritage Alternative Rock station hurts in the Boston/New England area, it especially hurts here because they’ve seen how corporate radio at work has already claimed BCN. BCN is still around, though, in two streams of music (Freeform and Rock) online and is advertised on the website of Classic Rock 100.7 WZLX.
To WMBR 88.1, WERS 88.9, & WZBC 90.3″¦something should tell you it’s time to pick up where WFNX left off. All of these are college radio stations to the left of 92.1. WFNX most likely was a well-listened to station on many of Boston’s huge colleges and universities.
Other than the new online WFNX, Boston’s New Alternative may be a “campus alternative”.

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