By David Rolland
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There was a huge online response following the news of the West Palm rock station Buzz 103.1's sudden ouster from FM radio on Monday, December 5. With its departure — it will continue as an online and HD radio station — the spot on the dial is occupied by Now 103.1, a new format focusing on Top 40 fare — minus hip-hop.
Following another South Florida rock station erased from the airwaves, less than 48 hours after its yearly Buzz Bake Sale concert at Cruzan Amphitheatre, there is an online petition, a Facebook boycott page, and even a threat of an "occupation" of the station's parking lot. And there are a few who just repeat the familiar mantra that "corporate radio still sucks!" One commenter on our blog was even angry enough to quote Korn: "Y'all wanna single? Say F@#k that."
But there's another strong strain of discontent coming from female Buzz listeners. The news release announcing the format switch includes this language: "Women in West Palm Beach have been searching for an alternative to cluttered, talky radio stations. NOW promises to deliver on this need. Finally, there is a choice that both mothers and daughters can agree on."
601-7 Sansbury's Way
West Palm Beach, FL 33411
Category: Music Venues
Region: West Palm Beach
I've never taken a feminist theory class, and I've been heavily scolded for having never read The Feminine Mystique, but there's definitely some wonky gender politics mixed in with this market-research-motivated shift. "I'm sorry, but both my mother and I will not be listening to this new 'NOW'!!!" writes a commenter named Megan. "We are both equally very mad about this! Bad move for CBS." And she's far from alone.
Yet "this is a natural fit for our station mix," operations director John O'Connell says in the news release. "We are confident that after listening once that today's women will make the switch to NOW 103.1." (No word on whether O'Connell has gender-specific ESP after getting shocked in his bathtub.)
Not according to this female commenter, anyhow: "John O and [Senior Vice President] Ben Hill are out of their minds! My daughter and I loved the Buzz and hate your new station! Way to screw up!"
According to CBS Radio's local P.R. person, Karyn Barone, who wrote the news release, this sort of confidence by the company comes from a range of market-research sources on a corporate level, including listener data collected by Arbitron.
But even she has noticed that a lot of the people leaving negative comments on Facebook about the shift are women. "Why is that?" she says. "I thought about it, and I think that it would be interesting to look at some of the statistics there. I think there are just more women who are actively commenting online on Facebook." She adds that most of the phone calls she has received since Monday afternoon complaining about the Buzz changing to just an online format have been from men.
As it turns out, Barone, who has children too young for sometimes-suggestive hip-hop lyrics, is the only woman we've heard from thus far who happens to be looking forward to a "diverse" playlist of hit music aimed at a female demographic "ranging from: Lady Gaga to Lady Antebellum." How convenient that both artists have "Lady" in their name! And even she uses the phrase "a compromise" a few times to describe this format during our conversation.
"I actually get actively offended by what marketers perceive as being 'for women' because it is often watered-down and bland," says Village Voice music editor Maura Johnston, a colleague who digs her fair share of pop and rock — in spite of many misogynist leanings of so-called "active" rock superstars like Axl Rose.
Johnston's concern certainly applies to Now 103.1's "today's best hits without the rap" format, which had already fallen into the familiar commercial-radio pattern of a tiny playlist repeating songs ad nauseam on its first full day on the air. Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks," Adele's "Someone Like You," and Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" each received four plays between 5 and 11:30 a.m. alone.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but corporate-radio critics levy the same charge against the Buzz of earlier this week — plug Bake Sale bands Seether and Chevelle into the equation instead, though. Any sort of true music fan hates the feeling that they're being "marketed" at, but it's certain that South Florida males are getting fewer choices moving forward.
"They spoke of the 'mothers and daughters' audience, but what now is to become of the 'fathers and sons' audience," writes commenter Maciekowich.
"The ones who want to listen will find a way," says Barone, who has known about the format change for the "a couple of weeks," in reference to smartphone, online, and HD radio options that remain for the Buzz. "Hopefully over time, people are going to embrace it. It's not gone; it's just changing."
Judging by the dialogue that has erupted online, there is a noisy faction of folks who are just as happy to see the Buzz die as its supporters are angry. Without any further Arbitron research, we're hard-pressed to say what South Florida wants on its FM dial — aside from a choice.
I FUCKING HATE WOMEN...... and I AM a chick. I should just get a mother fucking sex change. BUZZ WILL NEVER DIE STUPID BITCHES!!!!! BUZZ 103.1 FOREVER!!!!!
i for one am one of the ones boycotting cbs from my radio and tv the buzz was the only thing i could listen to on the radio when they changed formats i felt like taking a baseball bat to my radio and putting it on now while lady gaga was talkin about her goddamn poker face . but ive calmed down since last week . and went out and got xm radio . octane rules . hey cbs i dare u to do something about that . having said that im still boycotting u . who r u to tell us what to listen to ? and as for older women and girls sounds more like a cop out i hope ur radio station fails miserably
Once you have water, it will need somewhere to go and there usually aren't sewers in the country, so then the health department or engineers will come out to ascertain if and where a septic tank can be located. And that's not all - you still need to determine how you'll get hooked up to electricity and phone lines, since cell phone towers are few and far between in the country. Ever since the price of fuel skyrocketed, it is more expensive to transport building materials as you get farther away from more populated areas.
Once again, South Florida has been dealt a blow. Why is it so impossible to find a radio station that plays INTERESTING music?!! Why are we subjected to "Classic Rock"? C'mon, people!! We have such a diverse population! We have the opportunity to really have innovative music played over the airwaves and yet, time and again, any station that plays something other than mainstream is thwarted for their efforts!! We all know that Arbitron doesn't give a true reading of what people want to listen to. Mixing the reading from shopping mall "ambiance" with what someone CHOOSES to hear doesn't give programmers/station owners a true basis for their actions. Why won't someone listen? Give us something that makes us WANT to tune in. Just to see what you're up to. We're waiting. We've been waiting.
Doesn't matter what fans do or petition. I've worked in radio and been there for too many station flips. It sucks that corporate rules and rolls that way. Sadly, the audience is the root of the problem. The buzz is a rock format with a predominant young adult male audience whom don't take the time to fill out radio diaries so that the station can get ratings so that they can sell advertisement to remain profitable/successful. Another great station RIP.
Wow is all I thought, im still in awe. I've listened to the buzz ever since I was a kid, its like they just took a small pice of me with no warning. Its like the listener has no saying what so ever. I just don't understand it!!
My first call on Monday will be to Karyn. I want her to know how many women are unhappy with her new station. My husband and son are not very happy either! All they did was sell more satilite radio.