Monday, April 25, 2011

THE BACK PAGE: Detroit Gets a New Rock Station... Kinda

Will the new 94.3 The Bone break a one share?

For years, rock fans in Detroit have been wanting a breath of fresh air in their selections for rock radio.

When it came to new rock, Detroiters could choose between 101.1 WRIF or 88.7 CIMX - 89X out of Windsor. But, both stations have seen their fair share of shortcomings: The Riff plays an abundance of classic rock from the 60's, 70's and 80's while 89X is an alternative rocker forced to abide by the dreaded CanCon rules, forcing them to air at least 20% Canadian content to please the government.

Detroit has some big companies running their stations: WRIF is owned by Greater Media while 89X is owned by Bell Media. Clear Channel owns a lot of stations in the area, but they're not interested it seems in giving Detroiters another choice for rock, especially since 106.7 The Drive was a dud (and for absolute good reason). CBS ran 97.1 K-Rock/Extreme Radio into the ground years ago, and don't even ask Radio One for their help.

Hard to believe it, but Detroit had some great, kick-ass hard and alternative stations back in the day: 102.7 Z-Rock, K-Rock, Planet 96.3 and The Edge @105dotone. Sadly, low ratings and revenue killed these stations, and The Riff and 89X - both founded in 1971 and 1989 respectively - have been the sole survivors after all these years.

Until now.

Last week, an upstate New York-based company, Martz Communications started two small stations in the Detroit market: 104.7 The Oasis and 94.3 The Bone. While The Oasis is satellite-fed smooth jazz, The Bone is an automated modern rocker, spinning tunes that cover both active and alternative genres. Some of the artists The Bone plays include Foo Fighters, KoRn, Rise Against, Black Keys, Florence and the Machine and yes, Kid Rock.

What makes 94.3 The Bone even more special is the fact that they're not afraid to take shots against both Riff and 89X. As a matter of fact, their website is (drumroll please) exists, too, but it goes to Greater Media's Detroit cluster's website. On the air and their website, The Bone attacks 89X for the fact that they're technically a Canadian station by law. Even their website screams America, too, with pictures of young models draped in American flags and bikinis.

But there's one huge problem with The Bone: good luck getting their signal.

You see, 94.3 The Bone is by American law a translator station, relaying the signal of another station. So, Martz apparently went to the folks at WGPR and leased their HD2 and 3 subchannels to run their programming on. Apparently, WGPR, owned by the black Freemason group, is cool with having smooth jazz and alternative on their station, especially since WGPR tried a smooth jazz/R&B hybrid on their main signal a few years ago. As for modern rock, bear in mind that The Electrifyin' Mojo had Depeche Mode and The B-52's on the 1's and 2's back in the day.

Of course, I can't name a single person who has an HD radio. Why even bother having one when there's smartphones and whatever doing a better job as-is with music? As for 94.3 - whose call sign is the crazy-sounding W232CA - they broadcast with a whopping 99 watts. Plus, from what I've heard, their transmitter is not in the best area to broadcast a modern rock format in Detroit. On one side, there's the ghetto and on the other side, there's the affluent section with snobby rich folks.

Tragically, even though The Bone ain't too bad sounding and they have a nice variety, this station's gonna be another tragedy in the world of modern radio. If it gets a .3 or .4 share, it'll be damn lucky. Otherwise, the folks at Martz have thrown their money away.

Starting a new rock station in Detroit: it's a good idea... On paper.

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