My bet is that Columbus is being played by a local radio station.
And you thought it was supposed to be the other way around?
National broadcaster iHeart Media announced on Monday “one of the most dramatic and exciting new musical directions ever under-taken by a U.S. terrestrial radio station.”
What they announced was they were taking Sunny 100, a nearly 30-year musical brand in Columbus, and replacing it with “Santa 100,” Christmas music all the time, no matter the season. Never mind that they moved Sunny 100 to a low-powered option lower on the dial.
Never miss a local story.
“This might strike some as being risky in this environment of new media, but I’ve looked at the numbers and they don’t lie. There’s literally a clamoring for Christmas music 24/7/365/52,” says Jennifer Newman, local market president, in a prepared release.
What people are clamoring for, in actuality, is a little intellectual honesty and not a publicity stunt.
This is about as original as a “Jingle Bells” remake.
In March 2015, Albany, N.Y., station WQSH-FM changed its name from PopCrush 105.7 to Santa 105.7 and started playing holiday music, according to multiple media reports.
Station official Jake Demmin was quoted at the time as saying that the move “might strike some as being risky in this environment of new media, but I’ve looked at the numbers and they don't lie. There's literally a clamoring for Christmas music 24/7/365/52.”
WQSH-FM promised to play “everything from Sting to Bing.”
And guess what they say they’ll be playing on the old Sunny 100? “Everything from Sting to Bing,” whatever that means.
Cut and paste is a beautiful thing. So is Google.
Derrick Greene, who refers to himself in his email signature as “The Nick Saban of Radio,” is the senior vice president for programming for iHeart locally. And he was one cool customer Tuesday afternoon when asked about the wording of the Albany, N.Y., and Columbus news releases.
“You know, maybe I wrote the one in Albany, too,” Greene said. “We own radio stations in Albany.”
A week after WQSH-FM went all-Christmas all the time, guess what?
“Santa Claus came to town, then left pretty soon after,” according to a report on Syracuse.com. “... WQSH-FM switched its format from Christmas to ’80s/’90s music after just one week playing holiday hits 24 hours a day.”
Want to bet how long it takes Santa 100 to leave Columbus? Greene isn’t saying.
“If I told you that, I would have to shoot you,” he joked.
What about just shooting straight?
The folks at iHeart appear to be clearing the airwaves for another format. iHeart owns seven stations in the Columbus market. According to FCC rules, they can only own six.
WBFA, 98.3 and currently a hip-hop format, has been for sale for years. Last week, the FCC approved the sale of WBFA to RCG Media, which is owned by Christopher Martin, son of local radio mogul Jimbo Martin of PMB Broadcasting.
iHeart now finds itself without a hip-hop station. They own Magic 101.3, which is an urban station but different from the hip-hop format.
But Greene won’t shoot straight when asked about a new hip-hop format. Instead, he points out that WCGQ, a top 40 station owned by PMB, is the lone cross-over hits station in town.
So, 101.1 is about to take aim at WCGQ at 107.3 on the dial?
“I can’t tell you that,” Greene said.
Bottom line, you better listen to Christmas music while you can. It won’t be around long.