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Radio: WHFS Off the Air

Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; 4:30 PM

Wednesday, Washington's largest alternative rock station, WHFS 99.1, was replaced by an all-Spanish music format. WHFS, an indie favorite in the D.C.-metro area since it's inception in the 1960s, saw many changes over its lifespan. Originally a home for music that couldn't find a home elsewhere, it became an Infinity station in 1996, and found its place on the radio dial as a mainstream rock outlet, serving listeners from D.C. to Baltimore.

Washington Post staff writer Frank Ahrens was online Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 4:30 p.m. ET, to discuss the end of Washington's largest alternative rock station -- WHFS.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Frank Ahrens: Greetings all, and welcome to the discussion.
Ahhhh, it's just like 1999 again: You and me, here in this place, talking about radio. Very sentimental.
That being said, big news today: Legendary alt-rocker WHFS 99.1--owned by Infinity Broadcasting, which is owned by media giant Viacom Inc.--switched its format at noon today.
It no longer will be a so-called "alternative rock" station. Now, 'HFS is "El Zol," broadcasting "a current hit blend of Caribbean and Central American dance music," according to Infinity.
My colleague in Style, Theresa Wiltz, is hot on the story for tomorrow's paper, so I thought you and I could talk abouit 'HFS and its storied past. I'll try to answer as many questions as possible over the course of the hour. Also, why don't you share some of your memories and thoughts about 'HFS and the Festival etc.
Let's go.


Annapolis, Md.: Oh my. This would hurt more if it had happened in 1993 or even before. But we all got older and the definition of "alternative" (and many other formats) got more complicated. I stopped listening to HFS years ago when it became clear that I'd be out of place at an HFSFestival. Trouble is, oldies and adult contemporary don't work for me either. The best alternative for us now is WRNR 103.1

Frank Ahrens: Good point.
WHFS was a trend- and style-setter in the '70s and '80s. Terrific DJs such as Cerphe and Damien interviewed stars (Cerphe did Springsteen) and broke new music from cutting-edge bands before the more staid pop stations on the dial.
It was a heady time for such stations: Up until the late '60s and early '70s, music was on AM and FM was a forgotten or neglected band. About that time, stations owners began letting the alterna-kids run the FM stations--only stipulation: don't cost us our FCC license--and they began playing more sonic tunes from the late Beatles and prog-rock bands like Yes and so forth that on AM was staticky, but on FM was a revelation.
But as time moved on, the stations became less and less cutting-edge as such acts were absorbed by the mainstream. I guess it was all over at least 10 years ago when someone whose name I'm forgetting published a seminal essay called "Alternative to What?" pointing out that such much had become if not the mainstream then much more mainstream.
But I will give props to 'RNR, which is a good station with a weak signal that is hard to pick up in D.C.


Greenbelt, Md.: What are these "yahoos" at Infinity thinking? This is the only station in the D.C./Baltimore Metro area that plays this type of music... which I must say is very popular with the younger kids. Was there a huge demand for Caribbean music?

Frank Ahrens: The Spanish-speaking audience in this market has been way underserved for too long. There have been two FM stations but this will be the most powerful by far and have the most resourcs behind it, thanks to Infinity. Spanish-language radio is a growth market; alt-rock stations are not. WHFS has always occupied a thin niche of music-heads, who love new music, and the ratings have never been great.
Infinity owns four FM stations here--WPGC, WJFK, WARW and WHFS. WPGC is a ratings powerhouse, thanks to the popularity of hip-hop and deejays such as Donnie Simpson; WJFK is likewise thanks to Howard Stern and Don and Mike. WARW is a reliable performer bc there's always a market for gray-rock but I always had thought that WHFS was the most vulnerable to a format-switch, owing to its relatively low ratings and music trends against it.


Frederick, Md.: I have been a listener since the early 80's, but I stopped listening a few years ago as the music was crap. I remember meeting the Weasel and Damien at a bar in Crystal city in the early 80's -- what a riot seeing those guys in person, very cool. It was a fun time when the music was fresh and varied a lot. One night around 1982 the Weasel announced on the radio that a new group called U2 was playing at Richie Coliseum, College Park and suggested to the listeners to check them out. I dropped my Calculus homework and drove from GMU to see U2 at College Park -- totally awesome -- the best concert I ever saw, and I have Weasel to thank.

Frank Ahrens: Terrific story. WHFS meant a lot to people who love new music. BTW: I saw U2 in Pittsburgh in 1984--before Joshua Tree and they really took off--and it may STILL be the best arena-sized show I've seen.


Springfield, Va.: So, the obvious question now is "what's next" for so-called alternative rock in D.C.? As for RNR, if you think D.C. is bad, don't even think about picking it up in Virginia...

Frank Ahrens: Clear Channel owned DC101 will clearly be the biggest beneficiary of this format switch. Their playlists had been aping each other for some time. Elliot Segal has a very popular morning show and now they will be the only place on the dial for new rock.


Burke, Va.: I remember good old WHFS from my college days in the mid-80s. They were the only ones that played the music that I actually listened to (Clash, Sex Pistols, etc.). I stopped being a devoted listener in the mid-90s when I found that they didn't fit my musical tastes any longer. But, I still listened from time to time. I just listened to the Sports Junkies yesterday morning. What's going to happen to them?

Frank Ahrens: Now, THAT'S a good question. I would wager--and hope--that the Junks will go back to WJFK which is their natural home, anyway. I loved the Junks when they were on WJFK--for a time, I thought they were the best thing on D.C. radio. But they were never a good fit into the morning-show template. They are at their best when rambling about being a new dad or playing one of their games.


Matt: This is the end of an era. I feel like I just lost my parents... This ihas been a unifying factor to so man people growing up in and around D.C.

Frank Ahrens: True enough. A friend of mine said to me: "The 90s just flashed before my eyes."
WHFS was one of the best-known stations of its kind in the country and its HFSFestival became THE alt-rock concert in the country.


Oakland, Calif.: I am stunned -- stunned! I remember the first thing I did when I bought a car in 1988: slapped a big 'HFS sticker on the bumper. If I recall, there was some sort of hierarchy about the color of the bumper sticker -- blue or green?! Regardless, the 'HFS sticker was such an important announcement for my teenage self to make to the rest of the world: "Madonna is not the only music out there! The Cure rules!" And when you looked for parking around the old 9:30 Club and saw tons of other cars with the same sticker you knew you were with your people.

'HFS went downhill so significantly in the mid-'90's that it became almost unlistenable, (so much so that I didn't miss it at all when I moved to California) but I've never been able to let go. The radios in both of my parents (WETA listeners, both) cars both have 'HFS presets, allowing me to feed my nostalgia whenever I visit.

Unlike when WDCU went off the air, I can't say I'm really going to miss 'HFS's programming. Still it's hard to believe its gone. I'm stunned.

Frank Ahrens: Thanks for the story. In many ways, 'HFS cultivated what radio station owners lust for--a real sense of ownership from its listeners, a passionate following. 'HFS became a currency among the hipperati, one of the stations of the cross to visit on your visit to D.C. hipitude.
In the end, though, it just wasn't making enough money for Infinity, clearly, and Spanish-language media has a huge potential upside. For instance, The Washington Post Co. bought El Tiempo Latino, the Spanish-language local paper, a number of months ago. El Zol could get significant ratings.


Severn, Md.: While the ratings may have warranted getting rid of WHFS, the apruptness and lack of notice by which it happened clearly proves that Infinity Broadcasting is a pathetic company who doesn't care about it's listeners. I will personally have NOTHING to do with any Infinity affiliated broadcast if I can help it. As a long-term loyal WHFS listener, I find this type of corporate behavior totally unacceptable and feel that Infinity should issue a statement about the demise of WHFS and the fine personnel that made the station one of the best alternative venues in the country.

Frank Ahrens: Fair enough. In the radio world, such format flips and talent firings happen abruptly like this. Typically, they tell fired on-air personnel that they're fired right after their show ends so they won't go on air and do something the company wouldn't like.
It makes no sense, really, to lead up to a format flip and let folks know in advance. Radio stations live and die on buzz and sudden moves like this create buzz.
Your point is valid, however: 'HFS was more than just another pop-station-in-a-can that flipped formats. Infinity president Joel Hollander could have said something nice about 'HFS in his statement.


Colonial Beach, Va.: Would you agree that "alternative" has become more mainstream, and many bands featured on HFS are now being played everywhere for the most part?

Frank Ahrens: Absolutely.


washingtonpost.com: Here's a Post story just posted on the site: WHFS Abrubtly Changes Format, (Post, 4:48 p.m. ET)


Atlanta, Ga.: Hi Frank,
I grew up in Arlington listening to Weasel (Manic, Maniacal Mondays...) and Damien in the late 70's and early 80's. How do you account for the changing sound of FM radio over the past 25 years? From a time when DJs with real originality and knowledge of music had a home on the dial to today where you can drive from coast to coast listening to the same "good times, great oldies" in every city.

Frank Ahrens: This is a combination of a) much more advanced audience research than was available 25 years ago and b) the rapid consolidation of radio in the late '90s and c) the incredible value of these stations today.
Stations now know a lot more about their listeners than they did back in the day when the deejay was in control playing what he or she wanted. When radio stated understanding who the audience was, and realized that FM stations could make money, they took a lot of power out of the hands of the deejay and put it into the hands of the programmer, who had access to the research and crafted playlists. Thanks to consolidation, one company could accumulate hundreds of stations. Once you start buying stations and you're a publicly traded company with Wall Street expectations to boost earnings, you look to cut costs. Chains fired local program directors and programmed 3, 4, 5 stations out of regional offices. Finally, now that FM stations got to be worth $100 million, $150 million, theyt became to valuable to futz around with, letting some deejay spin a 20-minute Yes jam, or something.


Cambridge, Mass.: Remember the time Jewel got bonked on the head with a frisbee during her set at the 'HFStival, and thankfully ended her depressing song?

Frank Ahrens: Hahahahaha!
'HFS to the rescue!


Parkland, Fla.: Lived in D.C. from '79 to '89 and HFS was the ONLY station to listen to... when you could get it. Couldn't stand Greaseman or Stern and the music and DJs on HFS were great.. they actually were "DJs"! I travel a lot and there was very little like it anywhere in the country. I still get to D.C. quite often and even though it had gone downhill, it was still the first station to hit the rental car radio! Turned my teenage kids on to it the past few years when we would travel to/through D.C. and even in its deteriorated state, they still loved it compared to anything down here. A great loss..

Frank Ahrens: Thanks for the nice story.


John from Arlington since 1980: Heck I still miss WGTB.

Begs the question of where is college radio in D.C.? Every time I visit my parents in the middle of nowhere New York I am amazed by the quality radio there. College stations from Ithaca College, Hobart College and a commercial station in Ithaca that plays true indie playlists.

Frank Ahrens: That's what I've always ranted about. One of my chief complaints about D.C. radio is the lack of good college stations with signals strong enough that you can actually hear them.


washingtonpost.com: After the chat, join other readers in our message boards to continue discussing the demise of WHFS.


Washington D.C.: This would appear to be a leading indicator as to the future influences the Spanish population will have on the shaping of marketing, PR, and consumer targeting. As if the recent television wasn't a clear window into the future of marketeers. I'm dissapointed that Infinity has made the decision to transform what has become a staple for the D.C. Metropolitan area. I remember losing 105.1 when a I was a child and being relieved to find the programming offered by 99.1. It has been more than just a radio station to hordes of residents and transplants who appreciate new and alternative music styles. It was a great medium for up and coming local artist and will be sorely missed. I guess my question is, does anyone out there feel betrayed by this move? Almost as if part of your livelihood was replaced by dollar signs?

~Musicless in D.C.

Frank Ahrens: On the other hand, don't Hispanic listeners deserve to be served? If WHFS got a, say, 2.5 rating and the new Hispanic El Zol ends up with a 4.0, isn't that a better deal not only for Infinity but for Hispanic listeners?
As Spock once said: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."


Frank Ahrens: I can't believe I just made a "Star Trek" allusion.


Sterling, Va.: Ignoring for a moment the fact that like most others writing I have found HFS pretty much unlistenable for the last few years, the HFStival was about the only consistantly good festival to hit town each summer. And HFS usually put on a good show whenever they sponsored a club act.

Maybe this will force DC101 to get their act together and actually start putting on a decent concert now and then instead of just forcing Creed and Nickleback down our throats.

Frank Ahrens: Good point. Hope the suits at DC101 are listening. They've got no excuse not to, in that their parent company Clear Channel also owns venues and promotional outlets.


Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Frank! You there?

So what happened -- did the playing of Jane Said every hour on the hour finally drive enough listeners away so that HFS was no longer making money?

There passes an era, but like the passing of an beloved elderly relative who'd been suffering from Alzheimers or the like, HFS hasn't been itself for a number of years.

Any chance another station might now leap into the void and do indie/alt-rock correctly?

Frank Ahrens: I would be surprised to see another station flip to what 'HFS was doing. First, DC101 already had a ratings advantage, which will only increase. Second--and it's been awhile since I've looked at Arbitron ratings--I can't remember another FM station that has been a vulnerable to a format flip as 'HFS bc of low ratings.
Here's something you might be able to look forward too, however: In the coming year, more and more radio stations will switch to a digital broadcast signal. DC101 owner Clear Channel is among the leaders in this. A digital signal not only sounds better, it will give broadcasters additional "side channels." So, for instance, if you buy a new digital radio, you'll continue to get DC101, but you could also get DC101.1, DC101.2 an so on. DC101 may choose to fill these side channels with more niche-oriented music that wouldn't fit on the mothership.


McLean, Va.: Hi Frank. When I was in college we had a great commercial-free alternative station -- 91.9 WNRN -- that was modeled after HFS but with much better variety. It was staffed by volunteers, and while the DJs were amateur the music was outstanding. It was hugely popular with students and covered its shoestring budgets through fundraising and NPR-style underwiting. Do you think there's a market for a low-budget, independent alt-rock station like that in D.C., now that HFS is gone? I'd love to see one spring up.

Frank Ahrens: This is a good opportunity for me to add an addendum to my previous answer: Another benefit of the conversion to digital is that AM will sound much better--more like FM. I have a pet theory that the digital conversion may open the way for the return of music to AM. Remember, up until the '70s, AM was the home of all music--pop, classical, jazz, etc. Once music moved to the no-static FM, made viable by the early underground FM deejays--AM was a wasteland. In fact, one can make the case the Rush Limbaugh saved AM, creating programming that sounded okay on AM. But if digital AM stations sound sweet, they could play music and might offer more niche programming than their FM counterparts.


Frank Ahrens: FYI, my colleague Teresa Wiltz just told me that Infinity said they'd try to keep doing the HFSfestival and try to place on-air talent at other stations.
C'mon, Junkies back to 'JFK!


Chicago, Ill.: Frank,

Great to have you back doing a radio chat. HFS's switch is big news -- the end of an era, I suppose -- but what inquiring minds really want to know about is what ever happened to frequent chatter Radio Girl (or whatever her name was?)

Any one know what was the last song played by HFS?

Peace out, Frank.

Frank Ahrens: Thanks for the nice words. And that was Gen-X Gurl and I miss her as much as you do. I had hoped this would pry her out of the woodwork.
"Lost Goodbye" by the late Jeff Buckley was the last song, Teresa reports. (I know you're thinking, 'Why the heck aren't we talking to HER?')


Fairfax, Va.: Do you think this will spike sales of XM and Sirius satellite radio in the D.C. area? I've been disappointed with rock stations here for a long time (even HFS became a DC 101 clone with a Pixies song here and there) and found XM's alternative and indie stations are the only way I can hear new music I actually enjoy.

Frank Ahrens: Good question. Probably a little. XM and Sirius satellite services both exist on the niche business model, i.e., there aren't enough, say, reggae fans in one city to support a local reggae commercial station, but if you aggregate all the reggae fans in the U.S. and have a national service, that will work.
I've had XM since Dec. '01 and my favorite station is "Fred," the "classic alternative" channel (boy, does that make me sound either old or pathetic or both...), which plays all the Cure, Buzzcocks, PIL, Clash, R.E.M., etc. that you'd want.


Arlington, Va.: How is it possible to keep the HFStival if they don't have the right forum to promote it? El Zol listeners will not flock to listen to Franz Ferdinand.

For those of you missing a good alternative station, try KEXP.org -- a public radio station based out of the Northwest that is always ahead of the curve on good music, and as an added bonus is not bound by corporate greed.

Frank Ahrens: Yes, that's a good station online. Have listened to it.


Woodstock Nati, ON: Frank,

Count me among the few here who thought 'HFS first started downhill when it started playing the Slickee Boys instead of the Grateful Dead.

Dude. Where's my Geritol?

Frank Ahrens: Okay, now I feel much younger.
Thank you. (Someone turn off that geezer's oxygen...)


washingtonpost.com: Remember, once Frank's done, you can continue the conversation about WHFS in washingtonpost.com's Reader Forums.


Arlington, Va.: Dave Hughes at DCRTV is reporting that Empire Broadcasting might power up WRNR to take 'HFS's place. Any thoughts on whether that might happen?

Frank Ahrens: Well, Dave knows his stuff when it comes to DC radio, no doubt. But it's not just up to WRNR, though it could make a smart business move. The FCC has oversight over how strong your signal can be to avoid interference with other stations. And 103.1 WRNR is squeezed between WGMS in Washington at 103.5 and 102.7 WQSR in Baltimore, not to mention three other 103.1's in Maryland and Virginia. So WRNR may not be ABLE to up their signal for fear of it overlapping with these other stations.


Anonymous: ''Lost Goodbye'' by the late Jeff Buckley was the last song, Teresa reports.

CORRECTION: It's ''Last Good-bye'' by Jeff Buckley.

Frank Ahrens: Thank you very much.


Frank Ahrens: Though that could have been a block on my part. Not a Buckley fan, save for his version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."


Washington, D.C.: I'm amazed to see so many folks from around the country joining the chat. If you're looking for a great station with that "wow this is a cool new sound" feeling you used to get when listening to HFS of old, check out RadioIO Eclectic. Web only broadcast. I promise I'm not a shill for the station, but they are truly fantastic. Infiniti and other mega station owners cannot compete with this kind of format for the hearts of real aficionados.

Frank Ahrens: Great tip. Thanks.


Double Oak, Tex.: The heyday of WHFS was in the early to mid-70s when Cerphe, Damien and others would transition from blue grass, to Cajun music (that was like a clarion bell on the dial then), to Mississippi John Hurt, to the Band or to "Listen to the Lion" or some other Van tune never heard on any other station. Man, that station pulled me through and gave a teenage boy with a fair amount of angst both a musical education and emotional consolation. I don't know what happened to the station after 1980, but I have never heard what it did before then duplicated anywhere. Here's to the old HFS. In the words of the Persuasions, who did one of many great station ID's.
Is the station
We like the best
We'll be rockin'
We'll be rollin'
FM, Bethesda, Maryland

P. Miller

Frank Ahrens: Great blast from the past! Thanks, Tex.


Washington, D.C.: I guess not too surprising. This happened a few years ago with WNEW, one of the great original Rock stations in NYC, which went to an all-talk format.

Frank Ahrens: Yes, that is the correct analogy. WNEW was perhaps the Ur prob/alt rock station. Many great personalities moved through there.


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Frank,

I suppose it was inevitable that 'HFS would finally sign off for good. It had changed so much since the 80's when I listened to it all the time. I think that back then they could have played a few hours of Caribbean and Central American dance music without anyone wondering if they had changed formats. It would have simply been the DJ's preference at that moment.

Is there an FCC mandate that will force stations into digital broadcasts (and if so when)? When do you think the changes you mentioned above might actually happen?

Frank Ahrens: Just talked to David Field, CEO of Entercom, which owns 100 radio stations, on Monday and he said he thought people would be able to start listening to digital radio--the improved sound, the side channels--this year. Said he saw a digital radio receiver at last weeks's Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas that went for about $250, a price-point many folks would find agreeable.


From DCRTV: Empire Scrambling To Replace HFS -- 1/12 -- A well-placed source tells DCRTV that Steve Kingston, head of Empire Broadcasting, is looking to snatch up Mega's Spanish 94.3 FM, WBPS, in Warrenton and pair it with the 94.3, currently country WINX, in the Annapolis area for a relaunched alternative rock WRNR, now that WHFS has bit the dust. WINX would move to WRNR's current 103.1 FM Annapolis area frequency.

Frank Ahrens: Good stuff, Dave. Thanks.


Philadelphia, Pa.: I just heard about this from a friend of mine I work with up here in Philadelphia, who is also a transplant from the D.C. area. While we were both shocked to find this out, we agree that the "real 'HFS" died when Damien left the station. Besides being an anomaly as a radio personality, he was someone musicians really loved because of his depth of musical knowlege, his interest in promoting local talent, as well as his sincere personality. I can't think of anyone else on the radio in D.C. that fought harder for the relatively obscure musician.

I played the '91 HFStival with my band, Y-Not?!, not long after Damien left 'HFS. I remember trying to strike up a conversation with Weasel backstage and basically thanked him for the opportunity. He completely blew me off. It felt good when we were finished playing our set and Peter Himmelman, who was playing later that day, told us, in front of Weasel, he loved our music and asked us to come back and hang out with him in his trailer.

Frank Ahrens: Thanks for the story.
Damien Einstein was a big figure in the local radio/music scene and knew his stuff inside and out and CARED about it deeply. Had a tragic auto accident that caused a permanent speech impediment but you could still hear him from time to time.


Washington, D.C.: Is this a testament to the dearth of good "alternative rock" music played on commercial radio or is it a reflection of the fact that the alternative rock audience has turned inward, preferring to plug into their own iPods rather than listen to radio?

Frank Ahrens: Not a bad theory.
But here's another theory: Alt-rock as perhaps you and I think of it, is pretty dead. Here's some sobering stats:
R.E.M. was one of, if not the defining band of alt-rock.
I asked Nielsen Soundscan which tracks album sales, how many copies of "Around the Sun", R.E.M.'s most recent album, released in October, had sold in its first month, compared to "Reveal," it's previous studio album. Here's the fist-month numbers for both:
"Reveal:" 412,000
"Around the Sun:" 127,000
In many ways, it's over.


Annapolis, Md.: Damien Einstein is on evenings at WRNR. I'm a newcomer to the area -- from Michigan -- and was excited to discover his show. His mix of music is great.

Frank Ahrens: Thanks for this.


Washington, D.C.: Sorry folks, D.C. radio is going to be better off for the change. Those of us who grew up outside of DC know what good radio is. D.C. has always been a wasteland for good radio -- not to be a snob, you just don't know any better. Kind of like someone who's never been to Chicago raving about great architecture. HFS was boil-in-a-bag leftovers for the past 8-10 years. Perhaps now the niche which is (ironically as of three hours ago) underserved will get something truly alternative at the edge of the dial.

Frank Ahrens: Thanks for the alt point of view on the alt-rock station.


Derwood, Md.: Even though I'm 57, my daughter and I went to the Festivals pretty regularly. It's a great bonding experience to share live music with your kids. I always enjoyed telling my daughter about how much better the "old" HFS was but much of the live music was wonderful. She listened to me tout the old station but she loved the new one.

Frank Ahrens: Nice story. Thanks.


Arlington, Va.: I was never cool enough to "get" WHFS when I was in high school in the 80's. Now that I finally appreciate the WHFS sound, it's gone!Good thing I got XM for Christmas...

Frank Ahrens: Hahahaha!
Maybe you're just a step ahead of all the rest of us.


Takoma Park, Md.: Hi-

I worked at WHFS in the days of 102.3 FM coming to from high atop the Triangle Towers in Bethesda, Maryland.

No one has mentioned JAKE Einstein who was really the driving force behind Home Grown Radio. He was the General Manager who got the money behind the station so that it could literally stay on the air. What has happened to Jake?

Beth Miller

P.S. What other station ever dared do a regular "Vegetarian News" slot?

Frank Ahrens: Thanks, Beth. Good point. Jake fought like crazy for his station.


Frank Ahrens: Here's the last moments of 'HFS:


Herndon, Va.: Hi Frank!

Too true about Damien; he really truly cared about music. (and apparently people. and animals!)

Once, I called HFS to ask about a band they were airing -- they put me through directly to Damien when they couldn't answer the question. He was affable and a good conversationalist! We talked for about an hour!

Caring is contagious; Big Business doesn't leave room for it.

Frank Ahrens: Nice story.
One of the things I like about satellite is the deejays are given a little more room to run than their counterparts on FM. What I mean by this is that, as a music fan, I love when I hear a song and the deejay will say, "The bass player on that song helped produced so-and-so album..." that sort of thing, or will tell stories of the people they'd met, etc. For instance, XM's "Fred" employes Stabwalt from the '80s altband "Stabbing Westward" and he's got tons of good stories from the road. They also had Pat DiNizio of the "Smithereens" who did the same.


Boulder, Colo.: Why radio is dead.

I just read this afternoon of the demise of a grand old alternative rock station, WHFS in Washington. As it stands, almost nobody cares that it's gone.

Why is that? Because, that once great alternative radio station eventually morphed into just another vehicle for the promotion of future sneaker commercial soundtracks. The same has happened in Colorado as well with KBCO and KTCL both becoming mere shells of their former selves. What has happened is that "alternative radio" has been taken and crushed by corporatism. It is all mindless crap that the stations are playing now. All formula, payola crap.

Think about this: people are switching to listen to Christian radio since they like the music better. Yes, Christian radio is now playing better music than the staid tired regurgitated crap that the corporate masters allow to be played on the airwaves.

You'd think that the decision makers at these media giants were all members of the Democratic National Committee they way they are afraid to take chances and be real. There ARE alternatives out there though, great music that is fresh.

But you won't find it on your radio (well ok, there are STILL some alternative radio stations out there. Radio1190 (http://www.radio1190.org/) here in Boulder is one, but AM sucks! At least they have a live feed.)

For new music check out



and the links listed therein


Check out podcaster or search the word podcast on google.

Frank Ahrens: Good stuff. Thanks for the comments and the links.


Frank Ahrens: Hey, folks, time for me to sign off. Actually, I'm a little over time but there were so many questions and good stories, I wanted to get as many as I could.
This is the end of an era, not just for D.C. radio but it sends a signal about the state of what has happened to alternative music. Also, it tells tons about demographic change.
It was a lot of fun to come back and talk to you about radio and I appreciate seeing the familiar folks in our discussion.
See you when DC101 switches to bagpipe music.


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