OZ FM Goes Top 40

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But there are sound reasons for it

If you were a loyal listener to CHOZ FM (94.7, also known as OZ FM, The Rock of the Rock) during 2011, your new year started with a rude awakening.

On January 2, the station flipped its format, from new and classic rock to top 40. If you were a frequent listener to OZ FM, the change was immediate and profound. That interesting mix of contemporary, hard rock, alternative, and classic rock was gone.  In its place was Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, Flo Rida and a bunch of other top 40 acts.

In other words, OZ FM abandoned the rock and roll format to chase the same audience as HITS FM (99.1). 

 

It had to be a difficult decision to make. After all, their regular listeners were suddenly cut adrift. You can be sure they moved elsewhere on the dial, most likely K-ROCK (97.5), or switched off completely, leaving OZ with no listeners at all, for as long as it takes to rebuild.

Scott Stirling, the man in charge of OZ FM, had this to say about the changeover, in a recent article in “The Newfoundland Herald”: 

 

“As the only province-wide FM station, OZ had to become contemporary and get back to its roots... When we started in 1977, we were contemporary, playing the hits of the day. Now we are doing it again,” Stirling said, adding that there has been an island-wide demand for this new format.

Though I don’t listen to music radio a lot, when I did, I tuned to OZ FM. So I was one of the listeners who were disenfranchised by the change. 

 

I was not able to get a comment from the folks at OZ FM, beyond a reference to the Stirling quote. However, I have been talking to other people in the radio industry. And you know what? 

 

OZ FM did the right thing.

No, I’m not saying I like it. But if I were running the business, I’d probably go the same route.

Firstly, OZ FM’s ratings have not increased, since switching to the all-rock format two and a half years ago. In fact, they’ve gone down. You can’t run a commercial radio station without advertisers, and you can’t get advertisers without listeners.

And here’s the second thing. OZ FM is province-wide, and was going up against K-ROCK, which is also broadcast across the province. That was an uphill battle for OZ, even with their slightly different, more contemporary format.

Thirdly, HITS-FM is only heard on the northeast Avalon. There is no radio station “beyond the overpass” that caters to a top 40 audience. Surprisingly, this market segment is currently not being reached in a significant way in the rest of the province by any radio station.

It stands to reason, then, that OZ FM can grow its ratings outside St. John’s, while working within the capital to draw listeners away from HITS FM.

Finally, there is this: top 40 refers to the most popular music of the day. There was a time when rock music, even hard rock, was big on the top 40 charts. Now, it’s practically non-existent. Indeed, some music industry analysts are sounding the death knell for rock music itself.

“Don’t Fear the Reaper”, indeed.

The changeover, from rock to top 40 hits, may have been necessary from a business point of view, but it could have been better handled. Near as I could tell, OZ FM made the switch suddenly, without any communication to its readers (beyond an article in The Herald).

Contrast this with how a similar switch was handled by K-ROCK in PEI.  When fans go to the old K-ROCK web site to find out what’s going on, this is part of the message that greets them:

“To the Loyal Listeners of K-ROCK 105.5

‘We’re here for a good time, not a long time.’ Trooper said it best. Today we have some news for our friends, fans and listeners who have stuck with us over the past 6 years. 

We are changing. 

It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend, but today we are saying goodbye to K-ROCK 105.5. At exactly 1:05 pm, K-ROCK 105.5 will go off of the air. And the New Hot 105.5 will take it’s place. The New Hot 105.5 will be PEI’s Number One Hit Music Station. New Music. LMFAO, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. We know you will be upset, and feel at a loss about losing your Island rock station. However we are doing this for a reason.

Over the years, we have heard from many of our fans, why do all of the Island radio stations play music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s? How many more times do we have to hear Patio Lanterns by Kim Mitchell? Where is the new music?

Newcap Radio has listened. Just like we gave you a rock station back in 2006, we are now giving you all new music in 2012.”

There’s more, and you can read it all here: http://www.krock1055.com/

Contrast that respectful message with the OZ FM page, which has no explanatory note and still refers to itself as “The Rock of the Rock”: http://www.ozfm.com/

 Yes, the change was justified, but the change process left something to be desired.

 

 

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Recent comments

  • Jason
    February 04, 2012 - 13:03

    The new OZFM top 40 format is awful. OZFM was definitely my favorite radio station for the last year or so when they actually played decent music. Now it's just a carbon copy of HITS 99.1. K-Rock is a great station but it doesn't play any new rock songs. Coast 101.1 is rather boring. There are no real good radio stations on the Avalon anymore.

    • Paul Kardas
      February 04, 2012 - 15:47

      I was a OZ fm listener fron New York City......... also a radio fanatic........ listens to different stations world wide.......... I thought the rock of the rock concept was great & the format flowed well with new & old rock I think if there was a problem with ratings & advertising dollars....... I felt there would be a better way to tweak & remarket the format............. I know OZ had exposure around the island, internet radio & Bell canada TV..........there are plenty of places to get 20 songs played over & over on a playlist..........OZ FM was unique....... & management discarded it like trash............. soooo NEW OZ SUCKS...... return old OZ....... want to hear Bruno Mars???...... turn on MUCH MUSIC they suck now too!!!!.......Paul from New York City NY......

  • SC
    January 28, 2012 - 21:58

    In my opinion, OZ-FM made a good decision. I myself live in Central Newfoundland, and since the day oz made the switch in the summer of 2009...the radio around here has been udder garage. We had oz-fm, which played classic rock, and new rock, 102.3 K-ROCK that played the same format...and some CBC station that played news and classical music. There have been many times I'd be listening too the radio, too hear the same song on both stations, and not too mention how repetive it got. With the new format, the top 40 void is filled in Central and Western Newfoundland. But of course, no matter what they done, people will complain about this, and that...but thats it.

  • Chris Chaulk
    January 27, 2012 - 12:35

    A nice piece. So people pass the overpass can put their mobile devices away while townies must take them out. To be honest, I wish OZ FM the best of luck with the format change, but I've yet to find anyone (in St. John's), who is impressed with the change. Mention it and a conversation will break out. So it's doubtful that they can count on their existing fan-base as a market. It is a business, but with satellite radio, mobile devices and existing radio channels, it’s going to be hard to grow a new fan-base. As you state, the fact it was done without fanfare is probably the most annoying point. Maybe they thought we wouldn't notice, but I find myself with no radio channel to listen to. I could go satellite radio, but you still need a local channel for weather and traffic. Thankfully, the only constant is change, so six months from now The Rock of the Rock may be back.

  • JT
    January 20, 2012 - 08:50

    I have not tuned in to OZ much since their previous format change, the tunes being played simply were not my type of music, and safe to say that I am done with OZ now. I pretty much only listen to K-Rock or Coast these days. 590 VOCM went off my pre-programed selections when they went to a country music format. To be honest, I assumed that most teens these days gravitated towards downloading tunes to their Ipods rather than listen to AM or FM radio.

  • Geoff Meeker
    January 20, 2012 - 06:46

    That's a fair point, Sheldon. island-wide it is. And, come to think of it, the reception is spotty when you get out on the open highway - as it is with all broadcast radio stations.

  • Sheldon Walsh
    January 19, 2012 - 20:14

    OZ FM is not "province wide". Neither is K-Rock for that Matter. They don't broadcast in Labrador, and the closest transmitter to the Great Northern Peninsula is Corner Brook if I'm not mistaken. "Island wide" and "Province wide" are two different things. I'm sure you know that Geoff. Can't say the same for Mr. Stirling though.

    • McLovin
      January 25, 2012 - 13:18

      Sheldon and Geoff, If you were able to post those comments online, you have access to OZFM as well as thousands of other radio stations around the world. Ever hear of listening in online? You can even access it while driving if you have the proper mobile device.

  • hb
    January 19, 2012 - 19:30

    WTF. did a 19 year old take over your station?i thought this was ROCK OF THE ROCK,,,, i have been listening to this station since Led Zepplin sang Been a long time since i rock and rolled,,,,the first song played!!!!!!!, i have listened to OZ through the ups and downs, but this takes the cake,i am 40 something,listened to hard rock, hair bands,metal,monsters of rock and roll,alternative and classic rock and roll,,if i wanted to listen to this i would set my radio to 99.something but its not even programmed and neither is OZ sense the format change.if you need some tips on good music how about listening to the BEAR out of Edmonton or even the GALAXY rock station on the tube,I am sorry if i am coming on to strong but this station has been a part of my life for a lot of years, bring it back ROCK OF THE ROCK ,