November 27, 2010

Why No One Noticed When 93 Rock Died

When was the last time you talked about listening to music on the radio with a friend? 


93 Rock died because it had no soul. Or Soul, for that matter.  It was
just a bunch of songs played through out the day.  It was a wireless
jukebox of songs someone else selected from a limited catalogue at random.  Bland.  And frankly,
102.7 and 105.9 are not one whit better.  But their audiences are not so
adept at technology as the younger tech-savvy fans of new music, people a little too set in their ways to replace their radios.

Hell, I was barely aware that there even was a 93 Rock until the announcements came that it was now the fabulously stupid Home of South Florida's Holiday Music.  (Yeah, that'll work, up until about December 26).  There was mention of a "Bubba the Love Sponge," which sounds like someone was desperately trying to grab the coattails of Sponge Bob Square Pants.  I vaguely remember hearing the name and thinking it was someone who cleaned up porno sets.

Management thinks there's no audience for modern rock in South Florida; although classic rock still seems to be going strong.  They also thought there was no audience for Jazz; but the first Sunday of every month, the Fort Lauderdale Jazz Brunch attracts throngs of people.  With no jazz radio, we've turned to the internet.  Which is great for listening choices, but horrible for music promoters who no longer have a local media outlet.

But it's not the music that's the problem; it's the way radios stations are presenting it that sucks, not the music.

Every day, around noon, Big 106 (or more accurately, 105.9) plays Billy Joel, like he's Big Ben or something.  Listen for a day, and you will here some songs several times, and a limited number of artists.  Listen for a week, and you will not be exposed to a new song by the end of it; or even an artist you haven't heard before.

It's boring.  I am so bored with the dreck that ALL the South Florida stations are broadcasting that I've started listening to National Public Radio almost exclusively.  It ain't exciting, but at least I don't know what they're going to say next.

So music lovers invest in satellite radio for our cars, or download MP3s of stuff we like, or stream Pandora to our computers.  Which gives us a greater variety of choices, but even there, the listening leads us to hunt and gather amongst the selections; for an hour, it's "adult rock," followed by "classic rock," shake it loose with some "heavy metal," then who knows?

If radio wants to survive in the 21st century, it has got to unlearn all the poor habits it's picked up in the last thirty years.   Radio started to suck when they stopped letting human beings program in favor of letting spreadsheets and statistics do the programming.  And now, it's given us a sterile, bland, playlist that is reduced to background noise, like Muzak.

If radio wants to succeed, it has to throw away the labels; in truth, there are no such things as "rock and roll" fans, or "heavy metal" fans, or "country" fans, or "jazz" fans, that's all bullshit.  Are there people who lean one way or the other? Sure.  Are there people who cling to labels?  Sure.  But they don't matter.  The market to appeal to is MUSIC FANS.  People who like MUSIC.

If radio is to succeed, it has to embrace the concept that people simply like music.  All kinds of music.  When we were children, we were exposed to all of it.  How much rock'n'roll was played in Bugs Bunny?  None.  But even now, if you gather any group of people and start talking about Bugs Bunny at the opera, they'll all start cracking up and telling their favorite parts.  People say that theater is dying, but those old musicals still bring people in in droves.  You can argue that WICKED has rock'n'roll influences, but WEST SIDE STORY?

People want to listen to good music, any kind of good music.  Labels don't matter, quality matters.  The ability to touch us matters.

Back in the early 70's, I remember stations played Sammy Davis, JR, followed by Glenn Campbell, followed by ABBA, followed by Kiss.  Broadway show tunes made the charts; it was a brilliant free-for-all.

And that's what radio needs to do to survive.  Throw away the labels.  Throw away the playlists.  DJs should be recruited from those people we find at every party, the men and women we snag as they come into the door and stand them by our stereos, because they'll pick cools songs.

The best mixes aren't the ones where you know what the next song is going to be; the best mix is when the song segues into something you never, ever would have thought to put there, and it works because it's a surprise.

If radio is to survive, and even thrive, it will need to invest in fabulous Disc Jockeys again.  Not simply engineers who know what switches to flip at the station break, but men and women who simply love music, and who live music, and who live to share their love of music with others.  People whose passions will engage us, and draw us in.  People who will throw in random shit simply because they thought it was cool, and maybe we'd get a kick out of it.


  1. Clearchannel killed radio years ago - RIP radio, I hardly knew ye.

  2. well thought out. It's a shame that these same thoughts are repeated, ad nauseam, across the United States and the corporate clowns who program the stations just don't care. It's all about the bottom line. Rock music in South Florida isn't profitable. Why isn't it profitable? Because no one listens. Why don't they listen? Because you program shite. It's a vicious circle that I hope ends with the demise of commercial radio. I switched to satellite and/or internet radio years ago and would never go back. HD Radio? hahahaha....

  3. As you know, I worked for Clear Channel (and back in 2008, was offered a weekend gig at 93 Rock). You think you hear the same songs a lot on Big 106? It's because you do. The on-air library, which spans nearly 30 years of classic rock, consists of 250 songs. The 250 songs are chosen through thousands of dollars in research to find the songs people would want to hear over and over. This is a horrific way to program music for two reasons. First, if a song does not rate a 90% "would listen" rating, it simply does not get played. This is a ridiculous system. It's why 94.9 Zeta would play a Nickelback song every other hour, but never play U2 (who, historically, has never tested well.) Meanwhile, Nickelback would come to South Florida and play to empty seats in small venues, while U2 would sell out multiple nights at the AAA. So, who does South Florida really want to hear? Which explains problem number 2. The music testing isn't done in South Florida. Nor is the testing done with the target demographic. It's done with randomly selected people in order to appeal to the broadest audience. And when you try to appeal to everyone, especially with music, you please no one. I remember during the summer of 2002, the song "Hero" from the first Spider-Man movie scored a 96 in testing, which is extraordinarily high. Zeta played the song every 90 minutes that summer. Since most people don't listen to the radio that long, the audience didn't really notice, but for those of us in the booth, it was painful.

    By the way, Bubba the Love Sponge is a syndicated morning show and has been around FAR longer than SpongeBob, just not as funny.