Rock 93.9/101.7 Flips Format – Update

The 93.9 side of the dial has, as expected, become “The Pulse” – an all-talk format station retransmitting from WTPL in Bow/Concord.

101.7 continues with rock music, announcing themselves as “WVRR 101.7,” although an old promo for 93.9/101.7 slips in occasionally. The music side is robojock-driven, I’ve yet to hear an on-the-air host speak. Morning Buzz and Quinn & Cantara remain.

According to Upper Valley Radio staff I spoke with today, the music will continue on WVRR. Interestingly, I was told that Liz Fox may be returning to do mid-day air work. “I believe that’s under negotiation,” a station representative told me. The afternoons, she said, would be “music-driven” – in other words, robojock.

I’m still undecided about this news. Former PD Steve Smith posted a comment to my original post indicating that his days in Upper Valley radio are far from over. “I have a new radio gig in the works,” he says. “It’s not officially announced to the media yet, but when it, I will let you know!” He ends with a parting shot:

Just one note to any former listener of my former station: I was the Program Director of that radio station for almost 5 years. My goal in radio, from the get-go, was to bring a Rock radio station to 101.7, and also the Upper Valley. Running Rock 93.9 & 101.7 was a dream job for me. We started small and grew into something amazing. We did alot together with Rock The Whale, our Stuff A Bus campaign, Battle Of The Bands, Who Wants To Be A DJ….. I always wanted the station to be a heritage rock station for the Valley. And it was well on it’s way. But now, sadly, it’ll be a station that you look back on and think “man I loved that radio station.” It’s dead in the Upper Valley. I think back to when I listened to Q106. I personally use to love that radio station. It was the most listened to station in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Then it got crappy. Sadly…that’s what will happen to my former station. So, to all the listeners, I am sorry that you and I both have to live thru this. I miss the station and I miss the listeners. I do NOT, however, miss the management. I am much more happy not working for them. The flipping of 93.9 is just one of many reason I am glad to be gone.

Local Rhythms – Maybe Music Really Does Want to be Free

magic_648.jpgTime was, I found new music via the car radio, but those days are fading fast. The Point and WEQX are two local exceptions, but their signals can be hard to tune in. Now there’s news of the latest shake-up at Rock 93.9/101.7.

For the moment, the station is 100 percent outsourced. Program director Steve Smith and midmorning DJ Liz Fox are gone, and the smart money is betting that the former Clear Channel outlet will move to an all-talk format.

“I spent 10 years with Clear Channel,” Smith said in response to my blog post about his firing, “and 3 months with [new owner] Great Eastern Radio. I liked the first 10 years the best.”

When a perennial corporate radio villain becomes emblematic of the good old days, we’ve officially entered Bizarro World. Weirder still, it’s pretty much left for WFRD, a very grown up college station, to be the last best hope for new music around these parts

I can’t really blame a station for switching to talk radio. It’s all about margins, and as a business model, the format is reality television for the ears. It’s cheap, with plenty of volunteer talent waiting on hold for a chance to be the next caller.

But that means music will have to find another way to reach an audience.

Which leads to the question that’s most troubling me: who will play the new Bruce Springsteen song?

The answer is, apparently … you.

“Radio Nowhere,” an advance track from the Boss’s forthcoming “Magic” CD, hit the streets the other day – in the form of a free iTunes download. One of the biggest rock stars of all time can no longer rely on the airwaves. “This is radio nowhere,” moans Springsteen – “is there anybody alive out there?”

Prince recently gave away a million copies of his latest CD in a one-off deal with a British newspaper. And of course there’s SpiralFrog, Universal Music Group’s just-launched web site dedicated to the dissemination of free music.

What’s the world coming to?

In 7 years, we’ve gone from record companies suing Napster out of existence to the major labels being the biggest backers of free music around (with the possible exception of a few million of MySpace bands).

While they figure it all out, there’s plenty of good listening here in your own backyard:

Thursday: Sylvia Miskoe, Lebanon Farmer’s Market – As we move towards September, the nights cool down and the selection improves at farmer’s markets in Lebanon, Claremont and Bellows Falls. That’s the upside of autumn, I suppose. Miskoe plays accordion with a Scottish sensibility – she’s also a member of the Strathspey & Reel Society of New Hampshire, a Celtic music collective. Here’s a good excuse to dance a jig and sip a little cider.

Friday: Billy Rosen Quartet, Sophie & Zeke’s – Of all the jazz combos to play in downtown Claremont, this is my favorite. One of the genre’s best elements is its spontaneity, which can make a song you’re heard a hundred time sound completely new. It takes seasoned talent and musical telepathy; this band has both. They can be both smooth and spirited, and always scintillating

Saturday: Chad Gibbs, Salt hill 2 – An area mainstay with a loping style reminiscent of Dave Matthews. He can make an acoustic guitar sound more plugged in than a Stratocaster. Tucked in the corner of downtown Newport’s upstairs room, he’ll mix blues, rock and funky folk, and make all of it sound bigger. I really like his original stuff, too. You can listen to it on Chad’s MySpace page.

Sunday: Bow Thayer with Dave Clark & Jukejoynt, Lyman Point Park – Check out mountain man Thayer on Middle Earth’s YouTube space to get a sense of his burly sound. It’s a treat. Jukejoynt is the most original of Dave Clark’s many musical manifestations. With help from Rich Meijer, Terry Diers, Jed Dickinson and Bobbie Gagnier, the joynt will be rockin’.

Monday: Bread & Roses Festival – Labor Day is about working people, and every year this festival commemorates one of the most significant labor actions in American history with music and history where it happened – Lawrence, Massachusetts. There’s Zydeco from the Pine Top Boys, folk from Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters, along with traditional music, poetry and living history. Go – you might learn something.

Wednesday: Meat Puppets, Pearl Street – Punk was growing more intelligent in the early 1980s, but this Phoenix band was having none of it. Making records for the SST label, they never succumbed to self-importance, even after backing Nirvana during their MTV Unplugged performance. They did, however, give punk a much-needed twang, and made some pretty good psychedelic music besides. This is the first re-grouping of the original lineup in 11 years.


Local Radio Heads Back to the Future

rock939.jpgThree years after selling a group of stations, including Claremont’s WHDQ, to Nassau Broadcasting, Jeff Shapiro has returned to local radio. Last Friday, media giant Clear Channel Communications announced the sale of all six of their area stations to Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio LLC.

Shapiro characterized the purchase as “an aggressive, wise and well thought-out” move into the local market.

Great Eastern acquired the AM/FM talk radio tandem of WTSL and WTSM, along with FM stations featuring country (WXXK), adult contemporary (WGXL) and rock (WMXR & WVRR) formats. The sale, which awaits FCC approval, is expected to close in the spring.

Their deal with Clear Channel is part of a larger sell-off of 448 stations nationwide, carried out under a buyout by Bain Capital, a private equity firm.

Shapiro said in a phone interview Tuesday that he doesn’t expect disruptions at any of the stations. “They’re not in need of major fixes or changes,” Shapiro said, adding that he hopes “to put our imprint on the stations – a little more promotion, aggressiveness and excitement.”

Shapiro praised WTSL as “the heritage talk station in the area,” but also indicated that it may feel more immediate changes. It currently features a lineup of national hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. “If anything, we’d like to add a dose of local talk,” says Shapiro. “That makes a difference in radio, having that locality and local callers.”

As an undergraduate in the early 1980s, Shapiro was General Manager of Dartmouth College’s AM and FM stations. Yesterday, a local radio programmer welcomed him back to the Upper Valley.

“I think it’s a great move, and I wish Jeff much success with those properties,” said the industry veteran, who asked that his name not be used. “Anytime a local owner buys radio properties and takes away control from a giant media conglomerate – only good comes from that.”

“If it means more competition, only good can come from that because that means we all have to get better and serve the listeners better,” he said.

Shapiro said he looks forward to competing with his former stations. “It’ll be fun,” he said.

When it comes to programming that spotlights area bands, Shapiro says he’ll try to strike a balance. “I think radio should be involved with the local music scene and use its’ airwaves to promote and develop it,” says Shapiro, but cautions that, “on the other hand, stations are sensitized to playing music that people like. You can’t be all over the road – people want some consistency. “

Shapiro’s partner Courtney Galluzzo was, says Shapiro, a “local yokel” during his days as WNNE-TV general sales manager, known for “sticking the Jiffy Mart logo on the satellite truck.” Galluzzo and Shapiro have worked together for the past 10 years, and share a spirit of using the media to spur community activism.

“When you can drive people to action to do good things, nothing does a better job,” says Shapiro. “I mean this – by owning five FMs in one market, you cannot get away from it. Local radio proves itself over and over again.”

“As long as we’re strong locally, we’ll always do extremely well,” he says. “That’s why these stations had such incredible appeal to me. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for CHAD and David’s House. That tells you that people are listening to and liking their products.”

“This sounds very philosophical,” says Shapiro. “But we have an opportunity to do right and do well at the same time.”