I’m not the first person to make the proclamation, but terrestrial radio is dying, if not already dead. It was announced today that “the rock of Boston,” WBCN would be shutting down and flipped after 41 years on the air in favor of an FM sports talk station (with a pop hits format taking over the 104.1 frequency in August). I can’t say I’m surprised.
WBCN wasn’t my favorite radio station in the world, but it was the preset that got the most play on my car stereo. I liked listening to Toucher & Rich on afternoon drive-time and (less so) when they switched to mornings. While the station had a playlist straight from 1993 (Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice in Chains every hour), they sprinkled some Green Day and 311 in every once in a blue moon to keep me on the dial. The decision just seems odd to me with the history of the station and the fact that, once BCN shuts down, their will only be one station in the metro Boston area that will continue to play what has become known as “modern rock.” Like all things, I assume it comes down to money, advertising and ratings. Obviously, WBCN wasn’t cutting it.
The bigger question though, is do we really need another top-40 format, let alone an FM sports talk channel? The easy answer is yes, if the money and ratings are good. The world could certainly use more Lady Gaga. People are dumb and need to be spoon fed what is familiar and easily digested. Don’t think, just follow. KISS must be doing something right, right?
I don’t know much, but I am positive that the last thing the city of Boston needs is an FM sports talk radio station. Boston has the most pompous, arrogant, selfish, wrongly-entitled, dickhead fans. Do we really need another outlet for Sully and Bobby and Patty to play armchair quarterback and indulge themselves in more masturbatory sports talk? What’s wrong with WEEI? Do people not trust ESPN radio? Do the managers of the new station, dubbed “The Sports Hub,” really think they’re going to compete? Boston fans love the smell of their own shit so they must not be too concerned with over saturating the market. Can never get enough SAWX talk! Who even listens to live game broadcasts anymore (besides those losers who where the head sets TO THE GAME)? It’s called television.
It was also announced that Toucher & Rich would be staying on board and continuing their morning show on “the hub.” I’m happy for them that they’re not getting fired, but I think this is going to be a tough transition for them to make. Their current show is based around bits, audio and the personalities of the show members (mainly Crash and Adolfo). Sports talk is a whole different beast where listeners want sports all the time, no humor and only opinions that jive with their own. One of T&R’s best bits is the “Drunken Red Sox Recap,” which I imagine they will continue to do on their new show. The problem is that the bit isn’t about the Red Sox or any factual recap of the game. The bit is designed to laugh at how ridiculously drunk fans get at Fenway and how stupid they are to talk on the radio after the game. And having listened to T&R for two years, I can tell that they are sports fans, but extremely casual and everyone has allegiance to teams outside the city. Fred likes the Jets, Crash likes the Dolphins, Rich likes the Mavericks. I wish them luck but it’s going to be hard to pull off.
Also buried in the press release was the technicality that “WBCN” wouldn’t actually be dying as a brand, but rather the station would still exist online! Again, this doesn’t seem like the best plans. Those die-hards that need their grunge fixes will more than likely just pop on their iPods rather than stream the station.
This sort of brings us to the future though. The Internet has already destroyed the music business, terrestrial radio is just the next casualty. There are just so many more options today than ten years ago. You have your mp3 players that can be listened to everywhere (including your car), iTunes on your work computer, podcasts and even satellite (which will also probably be dead in 5 years). If you have specific tastes, a brain or any standards of what goes into your head, the radio is the last place your going to turn to these days. In the same vein, “Internet radio” on sites like MySpace or Pure Volume will continue to grow and be the place musicians turn to first for exposure. No longer does radio play matter in whether an artist becomes popular, sells records and maintains a career. Look for sites like Last.Fm and Pandora to explode, especially since a court ruled to change the Internet Royalty Act on July 7, drastically decreasing fees the company would have to pay for it’s songs.
We’re now in a time where technology rules and people only want to consume what they choose to consume. The days of a program director on a terrestrial radio station determining what the public listens to is over. Unless you like autotune and Katy Perry, radio will become irrelevant. Advertisers are already looking elsewhere. So should you.