At 5pm this evening, the station flipped to Christmas Music as “Christmas 103.9”. The Christmas music will remain until after the holidays at which time the station will flip to News/Talk “LI News Radio”.
On the one hand, Long Island could use a news outlet that focuses on Long Island. On the other hand, how much coverage can they have when they are originating from the east end?
It’s the end of a long run of rock music on 103.9 FM, which began in the mid-1970s. In recent years, it’s had to deal with more competition, like 94.3 The Shark. Not to mention that rock fans can turn to Spotify, Pandora, or one of many other internet outlets/streams to hear exactly what they want.
I suppose some people will miss it, but they lost me back when they went to a dull classic hits format in the late 1990s. I wish them happy holidays, and I’ll check them out again in 2014.
Rumors had been swirling that Merlin Media was (or wasn’t) for sale, so this wasn’t a complete surprise. What is a complete surprise is who bought 101.9: CBS. Yes, the same CBS who currently owns channel 2 (WCBS-TV), 92.3 (Now FM), 101.1 (CBS-FM), 102.7 (Fresh), 660 (WFAN), 880 (WCBS-AM), and 1010 (WINS-AM). Recently, they purchased Long Island’s channel 55 (WLNY-TV). CBS was already at the ownership limit of 2 TV, and 6 radio stations. Adding 101.9 puts a 7th radio station into the mix, and puts them over the ownership limit. Either one radio station or TV station will have to be sold.
Having said that, it makes me wonder why the purchase was even needed in the first place. Couldn’t they just switch off the struggling 92.3 and put WFAN on there? Is CBS to blame for RXP’s impending death? Merlin Media certainly was in debt, and $75 million will go a long way to bring that debt down. Is Merlin Media to blame for RXP’s impending death?
Regardless of where to lay the blame, the end result is still the same. RXP is going away, and rock fans (including myself) are not happy. I try to listen to the station now, but I get melancholy, knowing that it’s going to be gone in a month. Whither The Black Keys? Florence and the Machine? Foster the People? Other unhappy listeners have made their own Facebook page and group to voice their displeasure. A petition has also been created. Hopefully, all this activity will get the attention of someone, anyone, who is willing to take a chance on alternative rock on terrestrial radio.
At this point, you might be asking, “Hey, doc, what about the new stations you mentioned previously?” Yes, 94.3 The Shark and 103.9 WRCN are the newest rock options to hit Long Island, but I’ve always found myself going back to 101.9. The “everything that rocks” format has some alternative songs in it, but not enough to keep me coming back regularly. With this change in the radio landscape, there may be some format tweaking for them in the future.
Maybe the music will return somewhere, but for now I’m mourning 101.9’s impending loss. For some reason, this song seems to be appropriate. Kurt Cobain was a huge fan of Shonen Knife, and they do a pretty good cover of the Ramones.
Are you disappointed that alternative rock is disappearing from 101.9, like I am? Or are you looking forward to hearing more sports on FM?
The question I put before you is the subject of this post. It’s no secret that I enjoy many of the styles and eras of rock music. Starting in the mid-1980’s, I listened to both 92.7 WLIR (“alternative”) and 102.7 WNEW-FM (“classic rock”). This was several years before the rise of the alt nation in the 1990s. Back then, it wasn’t really cool to mix what was then “alternative” and “classic rock” on the same radio station (Beastie Boys and Led Zeppelin? Perish the thought!) Fast forward to today, and things are a bit different.
In recent months, there have been a few stations in the area that have either brought back or revamped a rock format.
July 17, 2012: “New Rock 101.9” (WRXP-FM) made it’s move to alternative after failing miserably with all-news. From 2008 to 2011, RXP was starting to make some inroads as a rock station. Then, in July 2011, they were sold to Merlin Media, and all-news was put in place. One year later, Merlin brought alternative back to 101.9, and now their ratings have risen as a result.
Songs heard on the first day (as heard on the linked aircheck above): Beastie Boys “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”, Foo Fighters “Walk”, Third Eye Blind “Graduate”, Phoenix “1901”, Of Monsters & Men “Little Talks”, Offspring “Self Esteem”, Black Keys “Tighten Up”, Rage Against The Machine “Guerrilla Radio”, Foster The People “Don’t Stop”, Green Day “Oh Love”, Group Love “Tongue Tied”
August 27, 2012: WRCN shifted to mainstream rock after 10+ years as classic rock. WRCN has been playing rock music for a long time. Before they flipped to classic rock in the late 1990s, they were mainstream rock. Time will tell how they fare with their new direction, which may be tweaked in the months to come.
Songs heard on the first day (as heard on the linked aircheck above): Metallica “Master of Puppets”, Sponge “Plowed”, Guns N’ Roses “You Could Be Mine”
Songs heard on the first day (as posted by RadioInsight): Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away”, Linkin Park “What I’ve Done”, Foo Fighters “My Hero”, Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Beastie Boys “Sure Shot”, 3 Doors Down “Kryptonite”, Stone Temple Pilots “Sex Type Thing”, Led Zeppelin “Black Dog”, Cypress Hill “Insane In The Brain”, Pearl Jam “Yellow Ledbetter”, Metallica “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, Live “I Alone”
These stations are not alone in playing new(er) rock music. 102.3 WBAB plays a lot of Boston and Led Zeppelin, but there are some rare occasions when newer music gets featured, such as the new Van Halen from earlier this year (you forgot about that one, didn’t you?). Stations like 92.9/96.9 WEHM and 90.7 WFUV cannot be forgotten, either, as new music gets does get added to their playlists, including Coldplay, Dave Matthews, and the new Bob Dylan (yes, he’s alive and kicking).
While the format flip of three radio stations isn’t exactly a “rock revolution,” it may be a sign of things to come. I’ve made reference to Alan Cross’ post about the 13-year music cycle theory before. I’ll make reference to it again, with what he has to say about the current cycle, which he calls Cycle 5:
By the spring of 2002 […] the Backstreet Boys/N’Sync phenonmenon had grown so big that the backlash was catastrophic. Happy, opitimistic, danceable pop seemed inappropriate in a post-9/11 era. Rock began to once again reassert itself.
After peaking in the July of 2005 (when it seem that ever single rock band that mattered had a hit record out at the same time), rock once again slowly slipped in strength, losing ground to pop. The era of Bieber and Susan Boyle was ushered in to end off the first decade of the 21st century.
If Cycle 5 began in 2002, then, according to the theory, Cycle 6 should be starting up sometime in 2014. * We won’t actually know we’re in the new cycle until after the fact, but we can look for signs now.
Let me leave you with what I think may be one of those signs. In March 2012, The Black Keys performed to sold-out shows in Madison Square Garden. The Black Keys started out in the early 2000s as an indie band, playing smaller venues and performing as an opening act. The Madison Square Garden shows are part of their first headlining tour, and those tickets sold out in minutes. A testament to ticketing technology, or another harbinger of things to come?
* It’s possible that the effects of online file sharing, the decline of CD sales, and/or the rise of iTunes that may sway the cycle plus or minus one year, but let’s use 2014 for now.
For the last four decades or so, 103.9 WRCN has been playing rock music. In that time, there hasn’t been much variation in their formula. In the mid-1980’s, they tried adding alternative songs into the mix, but the audience wouldn’t have Depeche Mode next to Led Zeppelin. They might not have been aware that they were being a little ahead of their time. When Nirvana exploded in 1991, it was okay to follow Led Zeppelin with Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. The ratio of new and classic rock favored the newer side for pretty much most of the 90’s. Then, one day, in either 1998 or 1999, someone (who shall remain nameless, because I don’t know their name) had the big idea of switching the format to classic rock. No new music, whatsoever. Essentially, they became a clone of WBAB. Was this a good idea? Why would they do such a thing? Well, they must have had some success with it, as they kept the classic rock format all through the 2000s.
Update 8/27: WRCN has shifted from Classic Rock to Mainstream Rock focusing on music from the past 25 years. New branding of “Everything That Rocks” in place. The first song after change was Metallica’s Master of Puppets.
The question “why” comes up again. Was classic rock music becoming too old? They’ve been playing a lot of 90’s tunes today, which aren’t exactly new, but not exactly old, either. Tool, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Everclear… but there’s also been the occasional Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, and Who cuts. Oh, and there’s Kings of Leon (which got played twice in a three-hour span… darn that automation computer). So, yes, it looks like their trying to draw in a younger demographic. Another reason may have to do with their current ownership. Previously, they were owned by Barnstable, a Massachusetts-based company who recently sold off the last of their radio stations. Current owners, JVC, are Long Island based and focused. Fresh minds, fresh ideas? Or did they remember how much better the station did in the 90’s? Time will tell how “everything that rocks” will do.
Haven’t you heard? Dee is waiting in line for tickets to see the movie Rock of Ages. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Seriously, though, you might remember a while back when I mentioned that Dee Snider’s House of Hair could be heard Saturday nights on WRCN. Well, I tuned in one Saturday night, and Dee wasn’t on. Even the WRCN web site has no remnants of Dee Snider on it. The station list at the official HOH web site is not updated very often, which is why RCN is still listed as an affiliate.
If you must have your weekly dose of hair metal hosted by Mr. Snider, try tuning in to 95.1 WRKI-FM (Brookfield, CT) on Saturday nights.