Friday, January 15, 2010

Yo G Stick A Fucking Tape In It

Looks like Minneapolis' hip-hop/R&B radio station B96 has flipped formats, and is now a Top 40 station called 96.3 Now. I was listening to it this morning, and thought something sounded different. The impetus, apparently, was "market research showing music tastes have changed in the past year." The writing on the wall doesn't look good:
At noon Wednesday B96 became the new "96.3 Now", and played it's first song of the new format, Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" (link)
And you know how we feel about that one. It seems like a bizarre move, given that KDWB seems to have the Twin Cities Top 40 market on lockdown. 96.3's Program Director notes, with no apparent irony, that KDWB "play a lot of what I like to call 'Disney pop'." Like Miley Cyrus! Perhaps that first song was an insult on the airwaves, a negative statement of purpose? He continues: "We won't play that." Oh.

I wasn't a huge B96 partisan, but whenever I was in a car (I don't own one), that was my defualt station. The Hip-Hop/R&B charts have some terrible stuff on them, obviously, but they served a niche in the Twin Cities and at least their DJs had discernible personalities. DJ Peter Parker, Tony Fly, The Queen Bee, and Zany K the Minnesota Madman were characters. Occasionally, they gave exposure to local artists for an audience that doesn't listen to The Current (our NPR-run, indieish station). Mostly, I'll miss their Back In The Day Cafe, an hour-long afternoon block of older jams. They played a lot of G-Funk. Some bite size thoughts follow.

Possibly symbolic but I'm not sure how: B96 switched formats a day after the death of Carl Pohlad, who owns the Twins, used to own the Vikings, and owns Northern Lights Broadcasting, parent company of new 96.3 Now.

My now-abandoned thesis about B96: the station was an excellent example of the workings of contemporary culture and capitalism. The line between its content and advertising was thin when in existed at all, with lyrics and banter rife with allusions to record labels, brands, and other goods, and ads, in large part for night clubs and upcoming concerts, that mimiced the vocals and production of the station's programming. Hype men don't get much work on modern rap records, but they seem to be doing gangbusters in the world of commercial voice-overs. In a weird way there was something symbiotic about it, placing a music very much about product-pushing and salesmanship (i.e. Rick Ross, Young Jeezy) in a context where it was acknowledged as the commodity it is alongside hamburgers and the club experience.

Final two thoughts of a rambling post: Ice Cube's "Turn Off The Radio" is once again vindicated (though I remember B96 dutifully spinning his new singles, and they played "It Was A Good Day" all the time), and that there is a weird racial aspect to this, that what it came down to was that the certainly not-black suits at Northern Lights Broadcasting thought that reaching a whiter audience would be more profitable.

4 comments:

  1. Northern Lights Broadcasting management is saying "the station wasn't making money anymore". Re: not making as much as they used.

    NLB mgmt also is saying that since the introduction of electronic ratings (PPM), the ratings of B96 fell from top 3 to ranking 7, 8 or worse. KDWB is #1.

    There in lies the real motivation.

    Lastly, NLB mgmt wrote me back and said this: "if this format alteration does not work, we will be forced to look at other format options such as country, rock or sports."

    There you go...my money is on it eventually going to sports, since they also own the Twins, it only makes more sense for "company synergy".

    Sam Elliot can suck it.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, anonymous. I think we share many of the same suspicions and animosities. I don't know a whole lot about the new ratings, but I've heard they've been shaking things up--apparently rock radio is doing better than anyone thought, though I can't remember if that was Active or Modern or both.

    To G: You'd have to ask Ice Cube who "G" was, but I think wanting to listen to a bangin tape instead of the radio is a universal sentiment.

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