A Good Concept

One of Chicago’s “Alternative Rock” stations, Q101, has tweaked its format; their slogan is now “Everything Alternative, Now on Shuffle.”
This is interesting on a number of fronts. First and most importantly, it’s about time someone in the radio industry acknowledged that since 1994 or so, “alternative music” was actually not alternative at all. Bands like Nirvana brought the sound from the far left end of the dial straight to the center, and radio stations popped up all over the country playing loud bands with fuzzy guitars and calling it “alternative.”
In doing so, bands like XTC, New Order, OMD, the Clash, and The Smiths many of whom had roots in the New Wave/Punk movements, weren’t really considered “alternative” or for that matter, considered at all. The only Chicago station playing them was WXRT. By adding these artists to their playlist, the long-overdue acknowledgment is finally given.
Widening the playlist, or to be more precise, saying you’re widening the playlist, seems to be the thing to do in Chicago radio these days. Since Nine FM came on the air last year with their “We Play Anything” slogan, other stations have begun to copy the concept. 101.9-The Mix now has the slogan “Today’s New Music… and Whatever We Want.”
The other interesting thing is this “Shuffle” business. Further proving how narrow the thinking goes in radio marketing, I received a questionnaire from WXRT a few weeks ago where they asked listeners what they thought of a few new slogans. One of the proposed slogans was “Chicago’s Finest Rock.. on Shuffle.” Eeegh– reading that made me cringe. I realize everyone wants to jump on the iPod bandwagon, but come on– give it a rest already: the term “Shuffle” today will sound as hip as the word “Macarena” in a couple of months.
(Side note: I find it fascinating that WXRT was considering the “Shuffle” slogan, especially since those with Apple computers can’t even hear the station streaming on the internet because WXRT’s AOL streaming software only works on Windows systems.)
Q101 jumped the start on everyone though, and I have to give them credit for that: even the graphics on their web site mimic Apple’s iPod Shuffle advertising campaign.
As for what all of this means: I have no idea. I am waiting to see if anything actually changes. On Q101 yesterday I heard “Birds Fly” by The Icicle Works, which I haven’t heard since it was on MTV, and that’s a pretty good start. Let’s see if they can keep it up.


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