My ears began noticing something circa 2010 that was happening to Top 40/CHR radio.
I began noticing that the BPM of the songs that are played on Top 40 CHR radio began to increase…and increase…and increase.
I have always been an advocate of Dance music on American radio. This is partly because I am such a huge fan of the dance music that came out of the 90’s before it Finding such Dance stations on the radio in other countries is not hard—especially European countries. In Europe, Dance is one of the most popular musical genres there is on the radio.
Usually, because of the corporate structure of many radio stations, dance has made inroads into radio only to see those inroads reach dead ends. Whether it’s the “Energy 92.7 and 101.1” in Phoenix, “Energy 92.7 & 5” in Chicago, “Energy 92.7” in San Francisco, “Groove 103.1” in Los Angeles, “Party 93.1” in Miami, “Hot 107.1” in Denver, or “Pulse 87” in New York City, Dance has tried mightily to find permanent places on the radio only to see them either sold or flip to other formats.
The same fate that has befallen other Dance/EDM outlets recently happened to another. Add WEDX-FM “Evolution 101.7” in Boston to that long list. Clear Channel Communications flipped the EDM’er to Country “101.7 the Bull” with the moving of Pete Tong’s Evolution format (which already is available with a national feed on iHeartRadio) to the 107.9 HD-2 of WXKS-FM CHR “Kiss 108”.
There is one motivation behind the move and one motivation only—Clear Channel wants to prop up Kiss. They want to slice numbers off Greater Media’s market-leading Country 102.5 WKLB in order to move Kiss to the top place on the Boston PPM’s.
Except one can make the argument that Kiss’s sister in crime at WJMN “Jam’n 94.5” is already doing a very good job of that on its own—along with two CBS Radio stations in Hot AC WBMX “Mix 104.1” and WODS “103.3 Amp Radio”.
Evolution may have done it as well.
Typical Clear Channel move if you ask me where the PPM charts are the sole motivation for a move. In a city where there has been no Oldies/Classic Hits station since 2012 when WODS flipped from its longtime heritage Classic Hits format to Top 40. This in a city where there has been no (legitimate) Urban AC (sorry, you don’t count, Touch 106.1!) station since Radio One sold off their cluster in the City of Beans to Entercom. And in a city where, despite its huge Country audience, probably doesn’t need a second Country outlet.
But that’s beside the point…at least for now.
Just a few short years ago, most mainstream radio listeners probably wouldn’t be able to name one EDM artist.
Now, North American radio listeners know who Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5, Skrillex, Diplo, David Guetta, Zedd, Benny Benassi, Fedde Le Grand, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, DJ Tiesto, Afrojack, and countless other EDM DJ’s are. Dance music hasn’t been this popular and received this much radio airplay since the mid-1990s.
The difference between the mid-1990s and today is that radio was not as concentrated in the hands of a few owners as it is today. The difference between the mid 90’s and today is that the business climate for dance stations was much rosier than it is today, unfortunately.
These artists are getting a mountain of airtime on CHR radio stations, but why hasn’t it translated into EDM formats springing up all over the country like leaves in the springtime?
Alternative music is also experiencing a renaissance with musicians such as Lorde, Lana del Rey, and Imagine Dragons lighting up the Billboard charts. The difference is that there are already plenty of Alternative and Indie formats on the radio, even those that happen to be to the left of 92.1.
Wherefore, art thou, EDM?
I can’t quite put my finger on this one except for the obvious answer that something about full time EDM formats just doesn’t seem to fit a model for mainstream corporate radio. After all, it took Pete Tong just to twist arms enough in San Antonio for them to even do a 24-hour channel on iHeartRadio.
Also, the 93.5 in Miami doesn’t count just because of the fact that it’s near the former home of Party 93.1. 93.5 is a translator.
Other than Sirius XM Satellite Radio and a bevy of internet radio stations (like what Pulse 87 is now), there are not that many places where EDM fans can get their consistent fix of music with abnormally high BPMs. This is other than weekend “Party” mixshows at “Club CoCo” which already are basically all EDM, all the time. Now, any random daypart on your local Top 40 station sounds like a weekend mixer.
Just imagine if your favorite musical genre started to become very popular and began to receive a lot of radio airplay. Wouldn’t you want that genre to not have to rely on Top 40 stations to get airplay and would rather see it stand on its own with its own radio stations?
Because, sometimes, radio stations aren’t simply media outlets. They can (when done right) also be outlets that can exude musical culture. That’s the marketing strategy behind the Nash FM stations.
For radio conglomerates to say that EDM mixers and artists are good enough to have their music played on CHR outlets (which have gone heavily Rhythmic thanks to EDM’s rise to mainstream prominence lately) but not on their own radio stations like Evolution in Boston sounds like a subtle slap in the face. It’s like saying to a sports reporter at a radio station that she’s good enough to cover major events like basketball games, but they’ll wait to promote her to being in charge of the department simply because she’s a woman.
Look, one should not complain if you’re an EDM fan. When you’re in the position that dance has been over the past couple of decades, you have to take what you can get. And, perhaps, this could be part of the thinking of radio conglomerates that if they were to give EDM their on stations that it would take away from CHRs. After all, EDM and Alternative’s stock are both up while that of Hip-Hop is down.
But it wasn’t part of the thinking by these same radio bigwigs when people had forgot what dance was and Hip-Hop was going through a radio renaissance like it was for a good portion of the 2000’s.
Every time this back-and-forth on EDM is referenced, we cannot forget about one artist in particular—Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga.
How did Lady Gaga get her big break into the superstar she is today? This little thingy in New York called…Pulse 87.
Exactly. Z-100 wasn’t the radio station that discovered Gaga. Pulse 87 did. In fact, prior to Joel Salkowitz going bankrupt on Pulse, he had a master plan to beam in multiple “Pulse 87”’s into Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Chicago.
Again, I would not complain one bit if I am one of the millions of EDM fans in the USA. Those who probably never even knew what BPM stood for are embracing the genre. Pop culture is embracing the genre. Rappers, as evidenced by Snoop Dogg, are embracing the genre. Alternative artists like Coldplay are embracing the genre as evidenced by their work with Avicii. There’s even a such thing as EDM artists producing COUNTRY songs!
What’s next, a genre that fuses together EDM with Smooth Jazz? Oh wait—there already is a genre for that—it’s called Chill. WQCD CD 101.9 in New York once tried the Chill experiment for a while before eventually reverting to Smooth Jazz.
If everyone else is on board EDM’s bandwagon which seems to get bigger and bigger by the day, why can’t radio in the form of full time formats? After all, Zedd recently signed an endorsement deal with Bud Light.
There’s one advertiser. And we know how much you lurrrrve those, radio.