I was in New York City a couple of weeks ago, meeting with a variety of different media types (none in radio) over a two-day period. One of the things that struck me was that every time the topic swung over to radio, there were non-stop complaints and questions about why the nation's #1 market only has a Classic Rock station - and nothing else.
Want to hear the new Audioslave? Forget it. In New York, you can't even find Nirvana. (Or the Beach Boys for that matter.) If you live there and you like Rock that was recorded after 1987, you're either a satellite radio subscriber, you're tethered to an iPod, or you're streaming a radio station in Boston or somewhere else.
In fact, New Yorkers ought to consider moving to Albuquerque, Seattle, Tampa, Charleston (SC) or... Madison, Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin?
Earlier this month, Madison got its fifth Rock station (and I'm not counting WOLX/Oldies or the "Variety/Jack" station, Charley). Good Karma Broadcasting (yes, Mel's son) just signed on a mainstream rocker with Bob & Brian (from Milwaukee) in the morning.
So now, the nation's 95th largest market is a Rock Mecca, with an Active Rocker, a Classic Rocker, a Classic Hits station, a Triple A, and now, an "Everything That Rocks" station. And New York City has a Classic Rocker - WAXQ - and that's it. Go figure.
Yet, the trends around the country strongly indicate that Rock radio is diminishing, and undergoing major challenges. Rock CDs aren't selling, concert halls are far from full (except for the Classic Rock shows), and the pressure hasn't let up to get higher ratings and more billing.
And now Arbitron is telling us that the ethnic composition in many markets is on the rise, making it even more difficult for multiple Rockers in many markets to hit their goals. Part of the challenge of the fall book has clearly been the changing ethnicity in most markets. And we're not just talking in obvious places like Miami or San Diego. Arbitron reports, for example, that in Atlanta, while Hispanics only make up 8.4% of the entire market, they comprise one-fourth (24%) of 18-24s and nearly 15% of 25-34s. As they are finding, the 12+ Hispanic numbers are misleading, because these new residents tend to be male and young. This is why markets as unlikely as Springfield, Massachusetts, and Charlotte, North Carolina need to be considering their new ethnic composition as a key issue in understanding their towns and the potential of formats to be successful.
But in Madison, it's a veritable "Rock Fest." You can pretty much get it all, from The Supremes to Floyd to Ozzy to Pearl Jam to Coldplay to Hinder. Of course, there's no Alternative station. Wonder who's going to go there?