Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's the real deal with B96?

When B96 (formerly KTTB 96.3 FM) seemed like its demise was imminent, I hoped for a music format not currently being done in the Twin Cities. We already have Top 40 which leans heavily towards hip-hop, we have rock, classic rock, Hot A/C, A/C, oldies, a watered down A/C that thinks it's a hip and cool AAA station known as Cities 97 and we have FM talk for white guys and and another FM Talker for white women. The Rap/Hip-Hop format that lived on B96 since 2000 was unique. They played DJ mixes, old school hip-hop and even brought in newcomers and local artists on a regular basis.

But it catered to a somewhat niche audience. B96 suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, too. They were more urban sounding than that of the very similar KDWB and that's a hard sell to advertisers because as stereotypes go the format appealed to clud-goers and pawn shops. Sorry, that's just the way stereotypes work. But as David Brauer of MinnPost points out (with help from his commenters), the music played appealed to teens in the burbs, too.

The only problem there is that these kids don't buy much and having ads for pawn shops and downtown Minneapolis clubs next to ads for suburban mall stores is the worst clash of styles you could ever imagine. So the club-goers and the suburban (and inner city) teens lost out. But does the station really matter? For the most part, the same music formerly played on B96 was already being played on KDWB. Sure, B96 did a far better job of connecting with the community and thus the fans of the music but in all actuality that wasn't the station doing that, it was one personality. While his grating voice bothered me deeply, Peter Parker (night DJ on B96) did a hell of a great job connecting with the local hip-hop community.

Parker regularly had guests in the studio either for interviews or performances. He obviously had rather free reign over his show but he didn't abuse that freedom. Instead, he got creative with it and built a community around himself and the music. I won't say he was the most popular radio personality in the Twin Cities but it's been a very long time since radio connected with the listeners and that kind of ethic will take him quite far even with the current terrible state of radio where bland, safe, cheap and distant trumps all else.

Who knows what the future holds for the new 96-3 Now? It will definitely be more safe than its predecessor but safe doesn't always mean abandoning the community but unfortunately safe does pay the bills and music on the radio today is a direct reflection of what advertisers dictate by way of purchasing ad time. The most critically-acclaimed execution of a music format can tank horribly with advertisers but the worst idea ever to those same critics can cast the widest net and thus the most fans and most advertisers. In a way, that's one reason why Jack-FM still occupies 104.1 - it hasn't lasted five (or so) years because it's adventurous. It's lasted because it's cheap to run and that wide variety of safe music appeals to plenty.

Now it's prediction time. Will 96-3 Now (and their shitty logo) last more than a year or two? How long until it's the home to Twins Baseball?

Will MinnPics outlast it? Maybe. It all depends on how much love the internet gives the awesome photos of Minnesota featured daily!


Anonymous said...

Try 89.3 FM if you want really interesting variety....

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Try 89.3 if you want local hip hop only at Sunday at 3am