In a surprising twist that has just about everybody scratching their heads, longtime hard-rock radio station 101.7 FM The Fox has officially been pulled off the air.
According to a source close to the station, employees of the Fox found out about the change in a meeting at 11am today. Immediately afterward, the station went off the air at noon.
The replacement station, “Hot 101.7, Sonoma County’s Hit Music Station,” is currently playing Top 40 hits (as I type this, it’s Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”). If listeners notice any resemblance to another local Top 40 station, it’s no coincidence. Maverick Media, the Fox’s parent company, recently conducted an audit through a third-party surveying company and found that among those polled, Top 40 is more appealing in this region than hard rock.
Said another source: “They hired this company that finds out what music works, and what music isn’t working, and they felt like in order to keep a competitive edge in the market, they needed to strong-arm the only station that didn’t have any competition.”
That station, Y 100.9, airs on a weaker signal in Sonoma County, and the Maverick Media executives at the meeting seemed confident that Hot 101.7 will be able to overpower the smaller station “out of business,” the source said. (Y 100.9 is owned by Sinclair Communications, which also owns 95.9 the KRSH and 96.7 BOB-FM.)
Hot 101.7’s new site declares: “We asked Sonoma County what they wanted from their favorite radio station. You told us you wanted a HOT station that played hit music with LOTS of music.” (As I type now, it’s the Black Eyed Peas, “Just Can’t Get Enough.”)
Public response so far has been predictably negative, with the new station’s Facebook page filled with “fans” who are making their voice clear: “What the HELL!!!!” writes a typical fan. “No more freaking pop stations!!! I want the old FOX back. Gimme my rock back. I am beyond sick to my stomach. UGH!!!!!!” Elsewhere on the station’s Facebook page, fans complain about having their posts removed by the administrator.
A page for “Fight Hot 101.7” has cropped up just today, along with an even bigger page called “Bring Back the Fox,” and a public protest is planned for Friday, March 25, at 4pm.
Without a doubt, this marks the end of an era for Sonoma County radio. For over 20 years, the Fox has been a Sonoma County standby, serving up classic hard rock like AC/DC and Metallica to more recent music from System of a Down, Disturbed and Velvet Revolver. About a month ago, longtime program director Scott Less left 101.7 the Fox for the Pacific Northwest, but apparently, even prior to Less’ departure, a “skeleton crew” had been running things with barely any financial support from Maverick Media.
Based in Connecticut, Maverick Media are the same people who thought it would be a good idea to fire Steve Jaxon, one of the greatest DJs in Sonoma County, and who aren’t available for comment (their website has been perpetually “under construction” for well over a year). Located over 3,000 miles from the station’s Fox Plaza, they’ve seemed perpetually out of touch with what Sonoma County actually wants, and have now killed the station that gave the building its name. (Right now, they’re playing Britney Spears, “Womanizer.”)
The employees of the Fox have been told that they’ll be able to keep their jobs, but in what capacity exactly is unclear. Currently, Hot 101.7 is broadcasting with no human DJs at all, playing canned tracks on a piped-in feed from corporate headquarters. Sad.
We here at City Sound Inertia are pretty firm that people should be allowed to believe whatever kind of crazy bullshit they feel like believing in, so in the name of Jesus Christ, we bring you the news that there’s a new “Christian Alternative Rock” station in town, Broken FM, at 105.7 in Petaluma and 107.9 FM in Santa Rosa.
Guess what? They want money.
Billy Corgan made a less-than compelling case yesterday before Congress in support of the Performance Rights Act, which would force radio stations to pay royalties not only to the songwriters of the songs they play but to the performers on those songs as well. It’s a nice thought and all, especially considering stories such as Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but not a very nice thought when considering Billy Corgan, who is a multimillionaire.
Though I myself am a music performer who has been played on the radio, I’m against the Performance Rights Act and I’ll tell you why. It should have been enacted 60 years ago, when the “hit single” came into being and when radio had the prominence to absorb such payments. Corgan states the laws on radio compensation haven’t changed for 80 years. That’s the very reason radio can’t bear the undue burden.
The business model of radio stations has evolved around the long-held and reasonable idea that it’s the record labels’ responsibility to compensate their performers. Radio advertises the record, the public buys it, and the artist gets whatever deal the artist signed with the label for.
If the artist signs a shitty deal (all major label deals are shitty deals), or if the label is stiffing the artist, or—this one’s good—if the digital age comes along and destroys music sales, why go after analog radio? Simple: because people like Corgan can. Because it’s there. He can’t demand money from “sdream75,” an anonymous user who can’t stop uploading torrents of Siamese Dream, but he can go after radio stations, who are one of the few institutions left in the music business doing the relatively right and honorable thing.
The Performance Rights Act would misdirect understandable frustration with the self-cannibalization of the music industry at large toward a valuable—and similarly struggling—friend of the performer. It would absolutely kill small local stations like the KRSH. What we’d be left with is ClearChannel stations with corporate-issued playlists, prerecorded shows streaming from a computer, and DJs who may as well be programmed robots.
Incidentally, Corgan also spoke out a few weeks ago in support of the Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger (he’s managed by Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff), which officially makes him a mouthpiece of the devil.