“Somebody is going to blink; someone is going to switch to talk.” That’s what one local rock DJ says about the inevitability of one of the four modern-rock stations in town dropping music for news, sports, or talk.
That DJ is employed in local radio and did not want to be quoted by name. But, he admits he’s working in a doomed industry. FM stations are increasingly dropping music for talk as new music hipsters embrace Pandora or Slacker. “They pretty much made FM radio irrelevant for music,” says the DJ.
“As music moves to the iPod, it’s time for spoken word to move to FM,” says Randy Michaels, the CEO of New York and Chicago stations that shelved the Foos for news.
Some major markets have just one or two stations that play modern rock. San Diego has four, and they are fighting over a shrinking market.
According to the Arbitron ratings, the least likely station to switch would be 91X, which is in 15th place among all listeners, compared to Rock 105.3 (19th) or FM 94/9 and KPRI (tied for 20th). FM 94/9 recently fired two of its three full-time DJs, including Tommy Hough (who will continue to host 94/9’s Sunday reggae show) and Amanda Thorne (host of “Big Sonic Chill”), and two part-time DJs, including Bad Credit frontman Dallas McLaughlin. For the past 18 months, 94/9 has aired the all-talk Mikey Show in the mornings.
FM 94/9 general manager Rick Jackson and Clear Channel operations director Jimmy Steele (who oversees Rock 105.3) both gave lukewarm forecasts for their stations sticking with rock. Steele says that modern-rock is “in the doldrums” nationally because of a lack of major, compelling artists in that format. Both Jackson and Steele say there are no immediate plans to switch their stations from rock to talk.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” says Jackson. “I didn’t think we’d have to fire 13 people but we just did.” Those layoffs affected 94/9 and sister stations KSON and KIFM. “We have no plans [to drop rock] but that means nothing with the economy being what it is.”