RIP FLY 92.9, you can keep your soft rock to yourself, thank you

I grew up lucky. I got to experience the greatest radio station in the nation at the pinnacle of its success in Cleveland, listening to WMMS 101 (really 100.7- the FCC made them change midway through my years as a fan) in the mid-seventies. The post I wrote about it on my business blog, got hundreds of comments- and even press releases when the music director was launching his book about “the good ole days.”

Dayton has seen its share of radio station controversy- mostly centered around WYSO and how much locally produced content should be on the air. There have been other format changes that have ticked a few people off- personalities getting let go- the normal comings and goings of radio. I doubt many people will remember this format change either- but as of today, I’m giving up on radio in my car unless it’s during “Morning edition,” “Fresh Air,” “Marketplace” – all on WYSO. The rest of the time- it will be CDs or podcasts via my cassette adapter (yes- I still have one) until I install a newer radio with a Bluetooth or a USB connection. Commercial radio- you’re dead to me.

The funny thing is- during the day from 9:15 to 4:30 I have WDPS on my office radio- and can live with it. It’s the closest thing to a “Jazz station” Dayton has- although what they call Jazz for the most part wouldn’t pass for elevator music. I love George Balog when he’s on- I can’t stand the baby talk of Joe Woodford who enunciates like a cooing mother. “The Hippie” graduated high school long ago- and unfortunately hasn’t gone away- he still sounds like a teenager, and I’ve learned to tune him out.

So why do I care that FLY 92.9 just became “Soft Rock 92.9” and why does it bother me? Because it was the “station for everyone” that parents could listen to with their kids and compromise. It had new stuff, old stuff- and a lot in between. They were making efforts to reconnect with the community- bringing back the idea of real live people on the radio- like Dan Edwards, who you might actually know and want to hang out with. Now, it’s a toned down version of Mix 107.7 that’s suitable for doctors offices and playing in prisons if you want to make the inmates miserable.

Don’t get me wrong- I didn’t think FLY 92.9 was great. It was a format change too- one that saw a whole bunch of people kicked out of their jobs at what was the white kids’ music station. The black kids at first could listen to U92- which eventually skewed older- and then 102.9 that went full urban hip-hop.When Z93 died for FLY- it was the end of an era too- and people were pissed.

The format of FLY was the “Jack” format that had already had a 5-year track record starting out on the West Coast. The idea of a radio station programmed like an iPod on shuffle- with just great hits was the antithesis of “programmed” radio- where some program director thought they had the golden ear and knew what the audience wanted. This was how Clear Channel ruined radio- by allowing a few program directors in Texas making decisions for groups of stations across the country. Didn’t matter if your local weather was rain- and they were playing “Walking on Sunshine” or it was sunny- and they were playing “Here comes the rain again”- they knew, and radio blew.

The days of DJs picking the songs and carrying on a conversation with the community with music as the language died long ago. But, the beauty of the Jack format- is that it was unpredictable and might trigger old memories- or introduce you to something new.

Granted, many people do this with Pandora- or any other streaming music service, which may be why terrestrial radio is having a hard time. I believe local radio is still an important tool in carrying on a community conversation- and I wish “Soft Rock 92.9” well on their way to mediocrity- but, when I think of Dayton- I don’t think the word “soft” ever applies- we’re too hard headed.

I can’t imagine anyone wanting to stick a “Soft Rock” bumper sticker on their car, or wear a t-shirt with it on. The one thing radio station “owners” have yet to learn- just because you pay the bills- doesn’t make you own the station- it belongs to the community. Always has, always will. And you just stole my station.

What are your thoughts on radio in Dayton? Format changes you still hate?

And one more note: if you are a commercial business- it was generally OK to play commercial radio in your establishment- since the licensee paid the fees to ASCAP etc. But, you can’t just play your personal Pandora account- even if paid, without a commercial license. Pandora has one for about $25 a month. Don’t risk ASCAP coming down on you and taking you to court. It’s a painful fine.

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