Today, Thursday, July 12, at 1:01 PM WCBS-FM in NYC will return to its “oldies” format. With the return of WCBS-FM to the oldies format, where does that put the state of rock and roll radio in New York City, and what does that mean for fans of new rock and roll?
Up until the change-over this afternoon, CBS-FM has been operating the Jack-FM format. Jack-FM is a jukebox style format, with no on air personalities, that CBS radio has implemented on radio stations all across America. The station played a wide variety of all types of rock music from the 60s through today’s hits and album cuts. One of the best things about the station was the huge number of songs in their playlist, and the fact that over the course of a day no songs were repeated. Something that no other radio station does! Brilliant. But today that all changes.
According to an article on FMQB.com, the VP/GM of CBS radio say that the “fans of the station’s format have never stopped asking for the format’s return.” While they are returning to the oldies format, the definition of oldies has changed. Gone are the girl groups (the Supreme, the Ronnettes) and the doo wop groups (the Cadillacs, the Drifters), the “new oldie” format “promises hits from the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s, beginning with The Beatles, Beach Boys and Motown and continuing up to the late ’80’s.” But unlike classic rock radio stations, which cover the same ground, minus the Mowtown music, CBS-FM’s format will concentrate only on the hits, not the deeper album tracks.
So, with the return of WCBS-FM where does that leave the state of rock stations in New York City. As far as the number of rock stations, that stays the same. There are only 3 New York City rock stations; 92.3 K-Rock, Q104.3 and WCBS-FM. There are others that play rock music, but they are the Top 40 or Top 100 stations, WPLJ or Z100. You hear a rock song wedged between Beyonce, the Black-eyed Peas and Jay Z, but only if it’s on the singles chart.
With 3 radio stations playing rock music you’d think New York City would have good exposure to new and interesting music, but we don’t. While Q104.3 and K-Rock do play new music, their playlists are heavily skewed towards older music by “established” artists.
Q104.3 is a station that “Get’s the Led Out” has “Breakfast with the Beatles” and plays blocks of the Who, Jethrul Tull and Kansas. When Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi or The Red Hot Chili Peppers has a new song they may play it for a week or two, but then it’s right back to the old songs. Q104.3 does try to introduce new bands on their weekly, 1 hour show, “Out of the Box.” The show claims to feature “bands you know, bands you should know and local undiscovered bands.” But last week’s show featured “There’s No Other Way” by Blur, “I’m Going Home” by Ten Years After, and “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis. They did introduce a few local bands, Bedlight For Blue Eyes and Headset.
K-Rock favors bands that broke in the 90s and the end of the 80s like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Linkin Park, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumkns and Pearl Jam, but throws in AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica for good measure. They don’t ignore the bands from the 2000s, they play a healthy dose of bands that were vetted on college radio. You won’t hear anything new here until college radio has had it for 6 months to a year. They are a station that also repeats bands and songs all day long. Nirvana appears 5 times in their top 100 playlist, the Red Hot Chili Peppers 3 times, Foo Fighters 5 times and Green Day 7 times! 4 bands get 20% of the airplay. The remainder of the top 100 is rounded out by Smashing Pumpkins, 311, Soundgarden, AC/DC, Guns ‘n’ Roses and White Stripes. For new music in the Top 100 they do play the Plain White Ts, Daughtry, Killers and Muse.
For such a big city, a trend-setting city, the taste-maker, there is no real evidence on commercial radio that we are setting any trends. You would think that such a progressive city is a nostalgic city. We have plenty of room for, and the desire to have innovative radio, but nobody willing to make it happen.