Current Issue:

Current Issue

On The Cover:
Cumulus Chairman Jeff Marcus

Click here to subscribe to Radio Ink.

Radio Ink Writers

Another Body Blow For Rock Radio?


The CBS purchase of Merlin's WRXP in New York City is being called another setback for Rock radio by the New York Times. In fact, Times writer Ben Sisario says, "Rock stations around the country have been suffering for a decade, a symptom of rock’s fading popularity as well as the rise of a more dance-oriented sound on the Top 40 (Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna)." Consultant Fred Jacobs doesn't really agree with Sisario's assessment.

In the case of New York City, this had a lot less to do with the rock format as it did with CBS needing an FM frequency for WFAN. With ESPN now on FM in New York City, AM listeners growing older, and the CBS sports network launching in January, it was perfect timing to have Merlin put its FM frequency up for sale. But does Sisario have a point that Rock radio is riding off into the sunset?

Sisario writes, "In the mid-2000s, a clutch of rock stations around the country changed. Recently rock stations in Atlanta and Boston have flipped to formats that play a variety of pop and rock hits — a sound that is sometimes called adult hits, and has been likened to an iPod on shuffle." Jacobs says, "The Merlin 'double-take' in NYC says more about them and less about the state of rock (or alternative). And, Long Island got a new rock station -- the Shark -- just a few weeks ago. When I see an alternative station like KNRK (Portland, OR) score #1 25-54, it tells me that great execution still wins. It's just a little harder these days."

And in Atlanta, Atlanta Journal Constituion writer Rodney Ho says the Rock format is fading. "For several years, Atlanta has had five FM rock stations. Combined, though, they drew only a slightly bigger audience than top-rated V-103, Atlanta’s powerhouse hip-hop/R&B station. While classic rock acts from the 1970s and ’80s have sustained popularity, most current ones aren’t getting mass-appeal airplay. As a result, two stations’ rock formats have been killed and one altered because station owners felt other options could bring in more revenue."

Sisario points out that there is still classic rock, on WAXQ (known as Q104.3) in New York. "A handful of rock stations in neighboring areas, like WHDA in New Jersey, reach parts of the city. Non-commercial stations like WFUV also play some rock in addition to other music. But with the loss of WEMP, the city will have no rock station, as defined by the ratings service Arbitron — which includes playing new songs."

(10/11/2012 12:12:57 PM)
Hopefully another station picks up what was started at WRXP, no one wants to listen to Lady Gaga on every station or Listen to Fat Mike Francesa snore on FM, he should stay on AM.

(10/10/2012 1:19:55 PM)
When you've lived the life Mick Jagger has led, that's the way you look when you're 68. I suspect that the only way a publication could be sued for an illustration is if it used a doctored photo, and even then I doubt it.

- Laurence Glavin
(10/10/2012 6:41:06 AM)
Ed, thanks for "consulting" me on this piece but the theme is getting old.

Between Merlin's desperate need for cash and CBS's desire to find an FM home for WFAN, this had nothing to do with the rock format. "The new WRXP" was just a couple months old - not established enough to even be considered as a major player. And Merlin telegraphed early that the format was just a hold card until something better came along - in this case, a new owner.

Oh, and you have to lose that awful picture of Mick Jagger before he sues you.

Thanks for thinking of me.

- Fred Jacobs

Add a Comment | View All Comments


Send This Story To A Friend