Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MTV to Start Playing Music Videos

Curiously enough, they didn't publicize it themselves. I had to find *gasp* other media to tell the story!

Anyway, it was bound to happen--you can only exhaust reality shows for so long before going back to basics. The Real World: Brooklyn is old-school, early '90s edition, Unplugged will again be on the airwaves and Vh1 is bringing back Behind the Music. Now if only they can resurrect Pop Up Video...I'm telling you, it'll be gold. Gold!

The videos are early morning--starting very early, but meant to put a small dent in the GMAs of the world, perfect to wake up to or watch while you get dressed. With a 3 am start time, it's a new benchmark of insomnia.

What's more interesting is how this new video block will be exempt from ratings. Ratings for music videos as a whole are silly; it's the aggregate or the popularity of a given video/artist that's more important, similarly to this point made by Brian Stetler regarding cable news numbers. MTV plans to use the block now as an experiment in terms of advertising and marketing, possibly having one or few advertisers sponsor the whole thing, like what Hulu and other online video portals do. They'll also integrate the videos and Unplugged segments more, hoping for a greater awareness of the product (music). I hope they continue to show videos while credits run, though I can see them phasing this out now that they'll actually be able to play the whole thing.

And be on the lookout for Asher Roth. He's poised to be the Big Thing this year: a mix of Eminem and Mickey Avalon with the cheekiness of Travis McCoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I checked out the new 92.3 FM, and it didn't disappoint, which meant that it did. Every single song I heard on it, between last night and this morning, I have heard on Z100. Repeatedly. (As well as several other stations.)

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)". "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems." "Whatever You Like." "Please Don't Stop the Music."

And then, since they have no DJs yet, the canned promo outright disses Z100 and says that they play current hits.

The nerve!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

K-Rock is Dead; Long Live K-Rock

K-Rock is no more.

The legendary New York rock station—which has gone through several reincarnations in the last few years—will no longer play rock music. Now positioned to directly compete with giant Z100 (#2 in Arbitron ratings), 92.3 FM will be Top 40, Now FM.

Radio station format changes tend to be abrupt, with notice received within a day or two of the switch. Or, as what happened in 2005 with 101.1, when the longtime oldies station just suddenly switched to Jack FM, the hot format at the time. The tri-state area was pissed, and outcries continued for the next several weeks.

The same thing is happening here. Although K-Rock, or WRXK, has been sucking for several years, it was still the default rock station, despite going through several format changes in the last decade. Most trace K-Rock’s problems back to when Howard Stern left for Sirius three years ago. Recently, it has played “classic” rock and nineties alternative, but the station had little relevance in today’s music environment, and it didn’t feed on nostalgia. Classic rock in New York is Q104.3, regular rock was 92.3. That’s how it is.

To further alienate radio fans, popular and controversial morning jocks Opie and Anthony were also given a pink slip Monday, a few hours after interviewing Russell Brand (which I happened to catch, oddly enough).

Why this change of heart? While K-Rock might have only been useful for leftover grunge fans and Opie & Anthony addicts, it still served a niche. RXP, the year-old upstart indie and alternative station on 101.9, played a vastly different type of rock, and so did Q 104. Most of the other stations on the dial were some meld of adult contemporary, hip-hop, dance, or other genres. But Top 40 is antithetical to what K-Rock has always stood for, another reason why the change feels like such a sting.

According to the Times, which broke the story, K-Rock was destroyed by the same thing that has decimated many others: American Idol. iTunes downloads and American Idol have shown that basic pop music has multigenerational appeal, and those that listen tend to purchase iTunes downloads, concert tickets and the like. So, in true fashion, they will follow the money.

Opie & Anthony had good ratings (as they point out in their Twitter post), but the station itself was ranked #21 in New York City by Arbitron. The analyst quoted in the Times article also pointed out that stations traditionally aimed at adults—106.7 Lite FM, 95.5 PLJ, FRESH 102.7—were losing listeners to younger-targeting pop stations like Z100, and that hip-hop is still very much a niche.

Radio in New York’s metropolitan area has long been a joke, an embarrassment to the city. Up until last year, unless you listened to a public station, indie rock music—even by bands as mainstream as Death Cab for Cutie—was nonexistent, and country radio has been banished for practically a decade; forget about funkier genres like ska. It’s a shame, and the internet has only accelerated the movement away from radio. New music was better off found from a million other sources, including those old-fashioned media of television and magazines.

It’s a bad move. 92.3 is so synonymous with rock that someone flipping the dial and coming across Taylor Swift or Lil Wayne will just recoil in horror and change the station as soon as their brain registers the note. To go head-to-head with a powerhouse as unchallenged as Z100 requires that the station form an identity and a difference that makes Z100 look either old-fashioned or for the kiddies (the latter point could be easy to do, if done right). Besides, the vast majority of songs Z100 plays are already spun on a number of different stations, ranging from KTU to LiteFM, and some of the lucky artists, like Rihanna, get played on all of them. Why should Now FM just be another copycat?