The future of rock radio is currently in question in South Florida with CBS eliminating the rock format of 103.1
The Buzz to a possibly sexist playlist geared towards today's chart topping "hits" minus rap. This sudden change comes
only days after the station put on their annual Buzz Bake Sale concert.
Currently, via the stations' official website, they are encouraging people to tune in via a smart phone
app provided by radio.com or to tune into 103.1-2 on HD Radio. Though we're in different times, this
sounds a little familiar? Zeta anyone? Revolution managing partner Jeff John could definitely see it coming too.
When Clear Channel changed the format of Miami's 94.9 Zeta to Latin and Reggaeton in 2005, they encouraged
fans to head to their website where they could still listen to the style of music that was a part of their
playlist. After a while that avenue
disappeared as well because a great deal of us listen to radio stations through our car
stereo, not at our computers. Though tons of people do use their smart phones for entertainment value more than actually talking, it's
most likely only a matter of time before CBS sadly decides to end its life as well.
The other casualty to come out of this won't be quite so easy to detect at first, but the Buzz's demise will certainly take away from our local rock concert offerings -- and it has already begun. Here's why:
It has to be mentioned that shortly after Zeta was ended Cox Broadcasting changed the format of 93.1
to current popular rock somewhat in the vein of Zeta. Though it did not last, it was a very admirable
attempt on their part to bring a rock station to those too far out of the reach of the signal of The Buzz. In
their first year they even put on a Holiday concert dubbed the Christmas Khaos with quite a few big
names (Korn, Mudvayne, 10 years, Sevendust). One can't say that they didn't try.
Those who have lived in South Florida and listened to rock radio at least since '00 would have to agree
that we got a lot more concerts to our area up until around mid-2005. Though at the time many were
crying that Clear Channel was the devil, the fact is that they were most definitely a necessary evil. Clear
Channel is the biggest broadcasting company, and with that comes big money, and lots of advertisers.
As big as the, at the time Infinity Broadcasting owned Buzz was, they weren't as big as Zeta and didn't
have the kind of financial muscle behind them that they did.
If you want evidence of this, take a look at
some of the concerts that Zeta put on in a given year -- The Zeta Bonzai, Zeta Fest, The Kamanajuanaleia Luau,
The Halloweenie Roast, Nutcracker Ball. Each boasted big names, as well as up and coming acts. The Buzz
only put on one big blowout per year, The Bake Sale. Besides the radio shows Clear Channel played host
to many other touring acts, both big and small to visit the South Florida area. Zeta was, without a
doubt, the biggest rock station in our area.
I must have attended at least 30 shows per year while Zeta was around, but after
their disappearance it dwindled down to half of that. Though we have had some great shows come
through our area over the years there have been many tours that don't make the extra three hour trek
that normally would have. Tampa and Orlando have it made with two very large Clear Channel
given month and the number of concerts from artists both big and small exceeds ours
Concertgoers will soon start to notice that fewer and fewer tours will come our way. After all, why should
agents book tours to an area where there is apparently no rock market and no avenue to help in
promoting? Not everyone uses the internet to find out what concerts are coming to their area; radio has
a hand in that one, as well as bringing the sounds of new music to our ears we otherwise would not
have known about. A lot of smaller alternative artists may not have had a fan base in South Florida if not
for the Buzz giving them the necessary spins for listeners to discover them and venture out to
experience them live.
In the next few months' tours that are already skipping over us are Sevendust, Slightly Stoopid, Rise
Against, Aaron Lewis (Who never skips us on his acoustic tours), and Flogging Molly. Many of these
shows would generally hit venues such as Revolution, Culture Room, the Fillmore, and Hard Rock Live.
These are all Buzz artists that the station has been supporting for quite a while and have always let the
public know when they would be gracing South Florida with their presence.
This won't just make it difficult for smaller capacity venues such as Culture Room and Revolution
though, but will also affect the number of local production companies in our area who provide
everything from high-end intelligent lighting, backline, staging, as well as professionals skilled in
operating this equipment and labor if needed. At this past weekend's Buzz Bake Sale there were a
handful of artists, as there are every year, which had to rent specific equipment from local companies
due to the show being a one-off from their schedule.
Buzz listeners are petitioning that CBS return the station to the FM dial, and though it seems unlikely, it
wouldn't be the first time that it happened. Not too many years ago a popular jazz station was taken
away in place of a "hits" type of station. Fans did petition and boycott the station and it was eventually
brought back under a different station ID, though at this point it seems unlikely to strike twice. Cox
broadcasting made their attempt with 93 Rock which, popped up shortly after 94.9 Zeta's demise.
Perhaps it's about time that Clear Channel gave South Florida back a modern rock station.
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-- Matt Pashalian is SFL Music Magazine's managing editor
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