Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

If Pearl Jam?s “Alive” was the air raid siren, then the silence that followed the final Y-100 station ID at midnight last Thursday signaled the deafening blast of the atom bomb.The FM apocalypse hit the modern rock demographic hard last week, as The Power 99 wannabes, 103.9 The Beat, took over the 100.3 WPLY frequency. If the last few years? slow descent into generic programming and advertising overload wasn?t enough, then the sudden format change raised a warning flag concerning the future of traditional terrestrial radio in this country. Alternative rock in Philadelphia was hung with its own guitar string, and those of us that grew up with WPLY and its DJs can distribute the blame for its disappearance liberally among the fools that staged this coup.

Radio One, “The Urban Radio Specialist,” saw fit to axe the entire Y-100 staff on Feb. 24, in much the same way they had with Philadelphia cult favorite WDRE in 1996. This outfit, which gears itself mainly towards African-American audiences, informed the staff which had built WPLY up since 1993 that they were being replaced by a computer looping the top 10 songs from a genre that haven?t been listenable for the past five years. If the ?80s were the rap renaissance, and the ?90s its heyday, does that mean we?re suffering through hip-hop?s “disco” phase now?

WPHI?s new 17,000-watt signal now blasts a playlist so generic

and repetitive that even a Linkin Park concert for grounded teenagers would be more audibly appealing.

DJs like Matt Cord and Bret Hamilton, both WDRE alums and longtime Philadelphia radio staples, were let go by the same

company for the second time in a decade so Lil Jon and G-Unit could come in and clean house. Radio One essentially replaced a 12-yearold alternative rock mainstay with Fat Joe, even though there are two other stations in Philly playing the exact same thing already. Welcome to the world of corporate radio, where mediocrity is king.

If you were considering a career move in the direction of this industry, I?d recommend you now think twice before doing so. This activity is becoming quite routine across the country, as even a 25-year run wasn?t enough to prevent Washington D.C.?s legendary WHFS from getting kicked off the air in favor of Spanish Radio, “El-Zol!” last month. In trade magazines such as RadioInk, the soulless suits-and-ties pat themselves on the back for doing whatever necessary to increase advertising revenue in a medium that, seemingly unbeknownst to them, is dying from the radiation leftover from the Telecommunications Act meltdown nearly 10 years ago.

Their answers are to dedicate a third of every hour to pushy advertisers, another third to the Howard Stern-patented air studio circuses, and the last third to focus groupapproved, homogenized playlists largely devoid of any real musical talent. Whenever possible, disc jockeys that actually care about the music they play are replaced by fart jokes, prank phone calls, or a computer cycling through preset mp3 playlists without any program staff present. Program directors are often powerless under the sweaty thumb of the sales executives and the cold stare of cartel administration in their faraway company headquarters.

To be fair, orphaned Y-100 listeners have two other choices on the FM dial when looking for modern rock music. 94.1 WYSP and 93.3 WMMR have both been surprisingly gracious to a station they had considered to be their little cousin on the Philly rock scene when the format debuted in 1993.

WMMR veteran Pierre Robert welcomed former WPLY morning hosts Preston Elliott and Steve Morrison as well as their listeners, to the 93.3 airwaves on Monday.

On FMBQ Radio Industry News, rumors swirled about a possible format adjustment at that station, as well as Mix 95.7, which could become a second version of Y-100 later this year, and would most likely hire back all former WDRE/WPLY staffers. If that happens, it would be the fourth different format on 95.7 FM in eight years.

A petition Web site at www.Y100rocks.com is fighting for a resurrection, asking visitors, “Are you ready for Philadelphia to be the biggest town in America without an alternative rock station?”

An online radio station at the site has been broadcasting since before WPLY left the airwaves on Thursday, playing vintage Sonic Sessions and station sweepers in order to drum up support for the ex-DJs. Citing the WHFS example, in which the station was put back on

the air in Baltimore and on the Web after fan outcry, the site has served as a rallying point for a rebirth of Y-100.

However, none of this changes what we all know deep down in the sub-cockles of our hearts: the energy and talent that created Y-100 will never gather in the same place again, and 12 years of consistent ratings and innovative programming weren?t enough to prevent its demise. Even if it is brought back in another form, it will still be a tiny fish swimming against a current of automation and marketing that have sucked the life out of mainstream music.

In 1996, the staff of WDRE had a chance to warn their listeners of the programming change, and organized a concert to send them off in style. As the clock struck midnight, fans chanted the call letters, DJs cursed the management over the air, and Pearl Jam?s “Alive” was the last song before the “new” 103.9 took over the signal.

The sense of community was still there on Thursday when the WPLY staff gathered on air in the studio, thanking fans and broadcasting cryptic farewell messages that only hinted at the station shutdown at midnight. If WDRE went out with a bang, then WPLY was whisked away in the dead of night; their departures had only Eddie Vedder?s haunting lyrics in common. The future of punk rock and local music in Philadelphia, as well as the careers of many FM radio veterans is uncertain now. Radio One, “The Urban Radio Specialist,” has killed modern rock in Philadelphia for the second time in a decade, dropping a bomb on the music landscape once again. Will radio be able to survive the fallout?

T.J. Nicolaides is a communications studies major and General Manager of WCUR 91.7FM.

Author profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *