Saturday, November 27, 2010

Will Entercom buy 'FNX?

Does it even matter if they do?

The possibility was recently brought to my attention by a Boston Radio email list I subscribed to, but very rarely participate in. It's just my little way of keeping my radio-geek foot in the door. But the story originated, as far as I can tell, in the Weekly Dig. Just scroll down to the paragraph that appropriately begins with, "NEVER-ENDING-BLATHER."

If they keep their on-air studios in 25 Exchange Street in DTL, The LynnArts complex may find themselves with a more financially well-off tenant. If they move out of LynnArts, I hope they can find another way to earn income from the space. I'm not sure if artists can pay what Phoenix Media does, whatever that amount may be.

The rumors have a lot to do with sports talk, one of the few things keeping radio alive, and swapping with "Mike FM." I don't listen to sports talk or Mike FM, so I'm not sure if I should care. And I haven't listened to WFNX since my first couple of years in New England, before grunge took over. And I gave up completely when Leftover Lunch started playing those same grunge bands. I'm talking about corporate rock-style grunge, however.

Does it really matter? Before we get to the vastness of online options, let's focus on radio. The saviours of the Boston radio dial have always been and continue to be college stations, such as WMBR, WZBC, WHRB's overnight programming, and WERS to an extent, though the latter more restrained in its programming as it trains future industry professionals.  I should add that I was on WERS for about three years, mostly in news and public affairs. I've also had shows on Radio Free Allston, Allston-Brighton Free Radio, Cambridge Free Radio, and produced/board op'd on a syndicated call-in show, my only foray into commercial radio.

Radio got me into television and into teaching television, which I do now. It still matters to me, but only insofar as it continues to offer up new and innovative content and break new bands. And for that, corporate radio, even from small corporations like Phoenix Media, is completely useless.

I'm not sure that matters, any more. Few of my high school students, a most coveted demographic for advertisers, even care about radio. Their ipod playlists consist of more than a top-40 list of songs, more than one genre, aren't censored, and they have the gratification of fulfilling their own requests, instantly.

But in corporate radio-land, playing-it-safe turned into playing-it-stale. It's nothing than a complete failure to adapt. And what could have been a successful reinvention, such as MikeFM, decided to go the easy route and target the 30+ cubicle farm demo that remembers, even if faintly, when radio mattered. If you're going to make a last stand, how about content that attracts new listeners? Simply, radio stopped being cool.


And those of us who do remember FM radio's grand-old-days know that what made Boston stations different than Detroit, New York or LA stations were the local personalities, local nuances in playlists and the fact that they spoke with a voice that said "Boston" in so many ways, even if they didn't drop their R's. But nowadays, listening to a corporate music station in Boston is the same as listening to one in Dallas. Only the weather and traffic are different. One may as well subscribe to satellite radio because at least the playlists are larger.


So, I guess I just don't care what format WFNX changes into, because I'll have no interest in it, anyway. I just hope that LynnArts isn't somehow hurt along the way.


And I don't know about you, but I'm going to stick with college radio and the internet to expand my musical horizons. As for the rest of my mid-thirties demo, I couldn't say.. but my advice to them is let go of your old stale radio habits and you'll see there's a great big world out there in listener-land.


Radio Station: WFMU (listening on the web to this independent free-form NJ station)
Show: The Cherry Blossom Clinic with Terre T