Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Jack, Bob, Simon, Hank - coming to YOUR town

The newest niche in radio programming is to have no niche at all. Instead of being fenced in by traditional formats of pop or rock, numerous stations beginning in Canada and now in the U.S. are flipping to a format that bills itself as playing anything and originally was billed as Jack as opposed the the popular U.S. KISS moniker or the popular way to tack Z or X onto the frequency of the station.

The format is making its way across the country as many well-known stations are taking the dive into JACK territory. But to change things up, they have also changed the name. Sure, there are still plenty of stations out there JACKing but other names such as BEN, BOB, SIMON and HANK.

The music chosen tends to appeal to 30-somethings who grew up with the popular music, not just the typical classic rock fare, of the mid to late seventies through the 80s and into the early nineties. It is the type of music that isn't heard on classic rock station is too new for oldies. It seems to me that it is a rather forgotten era of music. Even our little crap thrower of an eighties station in the Twin Cities seems the likely candidate to evolve into this format as they are stuck playing the same 100 or so songs from the big-hair decade.

While the new approach is most evident as an adult top 40/classic hits hybrid, it is also being felt at formats as disparate as modern rock and country. Don McLean's "American Pie" into the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls?" No problem. Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" into Lipps, Inc.'s "Funkytown?" You bet. U2's "Desire" into the Spinners' "Rubberband Man?" Bring it on.

Having only read of the songs played on some of these stations, it does truly sound like a typical 30-40 year old's iPod on shuffle. It also seems to be a format that has the distinct possibility of evolving and growing, encompassing music from up to 7-10 years ago as time passes. A sort of time machine that just throws you back a decade or so musically speaking.

If the people behind these stations put ther fingers to work in collecting and remembering the music that was hot over the past 20-25 years, it can definitely work. It would also be a welcome change to one of two stations in our fair Twin Cities. The two stations I can think of are Mix 104.1 and Smooth Jazz 100.3. They are also the most musically changing stations. Those two stations combined have played country (once each), rock (once each), modern rock, active rock, alternative (twice for 104), disco, smooth jazz (once each) and classic hits. I say they definitely have the record to change again.

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