Beatcomber

Rock in a Hard Place

Rock was looking pretty dead for a second there, and the sound of Broward's mourning was loud and clear. Within hours of ZETA 94.9 dropping its beloved new rock alternative format and going Hurban -- "hispanic urban," for the Spanglish-impaired -- on Friday, February 11, a petition was drawn up and feverishly circulated online.

Leave it to rock radio listeners to reveal just how dumb and xenophobic South Floridians can be. In a mere two days, more than 7,000 signatures were collected in support of Clear Channel's former rock station, the last "true" rock station in Broward. By this writing, ten days after the big switcheroo, there are more than 12,000. Granted, a lot of these signers are repeats posted by the same misguided, misinformed rockist diehards, but the sheer vitriol is still appalling. Here are a few heinous highlights, all reprinted verbatim, with Beatcomber's reaction:

Number 7590. Carolyn Miller: "Miami has been taken over by the hispanics. Please don't take our music away. We were here first!" [Hello, Carolyn? It's me, Common Sense.We weren't here first. Remember the Seminoles? I'm not talkin' FSU, either. And it wasn't like Christopher Columbus took a bus down from New Jersey.]

Number 76. Chris Larrea: y aint u take off gay Y-100 or that country crap 99.9 u stupid dumb a$$ Fuks [That is a thoughtful question, Chris, because, certainly, what with all that Maroon 5 and Green Day, Y-100 is totally fukin gay. ]

Number 10548. Jessica Myers: If it wasn't for Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, or any other great *ss band, the way we are today would still be prep and square. Not rebel. Rock made the biggest revolution in the history of mankind. Rock will never die, it will always live and win.... just like ZETA!!! [There are several things wrong with this sentiment, so all I can add is BLINK 182 CHANGED THE WORLD! CREED CAN'T BE BOUGHT OR SOLD! WHERE'S MY FRAPPUCINO?]

Granted, not all the complaints were as childish or outright bigoted. Thousands of signees just wondered about the state of rock radio, understanding that all their ranting will never monkey-wrench the Clear Channel machine. The decision has been made, and now it's Daddy Yankee or nothing.

Or... something. The rock faithful were rewarded 48 hours later, when Cox Radio, an Atlanta-based broadcasting corporation, picked up the ball dropped by Clear Channel and spiked it in the new rock end zone. At 6 p.m. on Monday, February 14, the Cox-owned Party 93.1 abandoned its mediocre, oftentimes annoying Euro house and flaccid trance format and hoisted the banner of 93 Rock, "South Florida's Pure Rock." (For the record, the newly christened station's first song was our boy Marilyn's creepy version of "Personal Jesus.")

The switchover, says Derick Pitts, director of marketing for 93.1 (both before and after the switchover), was purely business.

"There's a bigger need and a bigger audience for rock than dance," he says. "We did dance for three years, and it was a risk from the beginning. The market just isn't there."

Clearly, ZETA or no, the market is there for rock. Take a look at the bands that make Broward County a regular tour stop, bands like Hoobastank, Papa Roach, and Lenny Kravitz, and you get a feeling for what's in demand in these parts. That's the "active rock" music that the new 93.1 plans on promoting.

"It's an industry term," Station Director David Israel says of the nebulous "active rock" buzzword. "Alternative and active are really best defined by the groups that each format puts to the forefront. You'd find Green Day, Slipknot, and Three Days Grace on both, but the rotations are different."

If it sounds nitpicky, that's because it is. Radio station formats cater to huge demographic targets that are only subtly distinct (18- to 25-year-old males, say, versus 21- to 35-year-old males). Along with 93.1, Cox owns three other stations in South Florida: 97.3 The Coast, 99 JAMZ, and Hot 105. According to Israel and Pitts, those stations are all influenced by trends in other U.S. markets as well as copious, localized surveying.

"We're not gonna be ZETA," Pitts says proudly. "They were up and down, with Blink 182 and Pink Floyd and Limp Biskit and AC/DC. We're not classic rock, we're not pop rock, we're not cheese rock. We're pure rock, and that's where our slogan comes from."

The petition brouhaha proved that Broward listeners are nothing if not purist (a term often interchangeable with simpleminded). Hopefully, all the attention around local radio and format juggling will show the flaks at Clear and Cox that this is a vocal, concerned market that demands higher quality, more localized content, and even a modicum of commitment from the stations they listen to. Thanks to relentless consolidation, the entire industry has been flash-homogenized in recent years. If we can continue making noise -- and do it intelligently -- maybe South Florida can actually stand out from the crowd.

 
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