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RIP, the Buzz 103.1 -- Long Live Sexist Radio Formats?

There was a huge online response yesterday that continues today with the news of the Buzz 103.1's sudden exit from FM on Monday and the subsequent switch to Now 103.1 in West Palm Beach. 

With another South Florida rock station erased from the airwaves, there is a petition and a Facebook boycott page and a threat of an occupation. And there are a few who just repeat the familiar mantra "corporate radio still suuuucks!" Someone even quoted Korn.

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."

I've never taken a feminist theory class, and I've been heavily scolded for never reading The Feminine Mystique, but there's definitely some wonky gender (and race?) politics mixed in with this market-research-motivated shift. "Im 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 not alone.


"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: "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 PR 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 about the shift on Facebook 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 men.

As it turns out, Barone, who has children too young for 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 used the phrase "a compromise" a few times to describe this format.

"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 has 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" have each gotten four plays between 5 and 11:30 a.m. alone.

Here's another one that we'd recommend:


 


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 our commenter Maciekowich.

"The ones who want to listen will find a way," says Barone, in reference to smartphone, online, and HD radio options that remain for the Buzz, who has known about the format change for the "a couple of weeks." "Hopefully over time, people are going to embrace it. It's not gone; it's just changing."

One for the road, here's Material Issue with another version of what the rock-loving females of South Florida might be after. But hey, I'm not prepared to say what they want -- aside from perhaps a choice on their FM dial.

Also: RIP The Buzz 103.1 -- Goodbye South Florida Rock Shows?




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