bill bodkin gives the first official op-ed piece on pop-break…
New Rock 101.9 we hardly knew ye.
No seriously, what was it two months?
Today, the alternative rock fans of New York and New Jersey were punched in their musical guts again as it was announced that, New Rock 101.9 would cease airing in November and it would become the new FM home for CBS radio’s mega-popular WFAN sports-talk radio station.
And unless CBS Radio decides to move New Rock 101.9’s format to one of its other radio stations (and we know it won’t be 92.3, which is currently a pop radio format), alternative rock will officially be dead, most likely for good, in the New York/New Jersey area.
This notion baffles me quite frankly. How can rock ‘n’ roll, in its most modern of forms, not be successful in one of the biggest markets in the United States of America?
I mean you can drive through Baltimore, Maryland and listen to WHFS and hearing everything from Clutch to Flogging Molly while Philly’s Radio 104.5 plays every bit of electro synth-fueled piece of hipster alt. Alt rock can make it there, why can’t it make it in New York City?
I’ve been kicking around thoughts in my brain about why and a lot of the usual suspects popped up…
There’s no good music out there. This is completely subjective, as some people think the playlists of New Rock 101.9 were mediocre at best. And this is a valid argument — playing tracks off Stone Temple Pilot’s album Core, isn’t exactly “new rock” and it’s also stuff you can hear on any hard rock or even classic rock radio stations these days. But where else on the radio dial could you hear bands like The Lumineers, Imagine Dragons, Rise Against, Bad Religion or The Gaslight Anthem — all in a row? Nowhere. (Gaslight has gotten more play down the Jersey Shore in recent months in all honesty). Where else is the new Muse or Killers singles being played? Passion Pit? Phoenix? MGMT? Young the Giant? All pretty popular bands not getting any air play on non-college radio stations in this area.
Rock isn’t Popular Anymore. Even if you’re not into the top bands of today’s music, they’re still making money. The Killers just sold out Madison Square Garden in minutes. Gaslight Anthem has a three day sold out series at Terminal 5. Muse will undoubtedly sell out MSG. Silver Sun Pick-Ups had to add dates to their New York stand due to sell-outs. And those are just the contemporary bands. The “old-timers” like STP sold out in Atlantic City, Smashing Pumpkins are headlining the new arena in Brooklyn and let’s not be shocked when No Doubt and Green Day have ludicrously packed shows in the area. So what I’m saying is — if these bands are making money touring, people have to be listening, right?
No One Buys CD’s and No One Listens to The Radio. Yes, no one buys albums anymore, we know. Just look at vinyl sales…wait a second. See what I did there. But seriously, album sales aren’t there anymore, say like they were in alt-rock’s heyday of the mid-90s to early 00’s. Spotify, Rdio, Turntable.FM and other streaming sites have eliminated the need for the office radio. Smartphones, in all their glory, have also taken a chunk out of terrestrial radio’s market as has satellite radio. But not everyone is blessed with the fortune of having these items — people still listen to the radio, don’t they?
Maybe it’s because I’m not well-versed in the world of radio, but I just can’t put my finger on why alternative/rock radio hasn’t survived in this area. 92.3 K-Rock suffered two inglorious deaths, FM 106/G-Rock Radio fell victim to format change and now 101.9 has been silenced for the second time.
In some respects I get it, sports talk radio is big business and brings in a lot of advertising dollar. It’s appeal is much wider than alternative — with listeners of both sexes and of all ages glued to the words of WFAN’s Craig Carton and Mike Francesa or ESPN’s Michael Kay and Stephen A. Smith on a daily basis. And sports, especially in this area is more popular than alternative, with the Yankees and Giants as perennial playoff contenders and The Knicks, The Mets and The Jets always in some sort of dramatic kerfuffle.
And it’s not just sports talk that’s killing alternative, it’s the mega-popularity of pop, dance, hip-hop and country, that is holding a still strong rock scene down in this area. Their numbers and the names attached to them are exponentially more profitable than those of alternative. And let’s face it, if alternative kingpin Matt Pinfield, couldn’t be the pied piper for alternative, who really can?
So today, I lament the loss of alternative rock radio in the New York/New Jersey area. I’ll miss the days of discovering new artists or uncovering long-forgotten alt chestnuts like I did on the glory days of 101.9 or even dead and buried stations like K-Rock and G-Rock/FM 106. Here’s hoping that one day, a true savior of rock ‘n’ roll can come along and re-energize this wounded musical genre and bring it back to the heights of glory it experienced for so many decades.