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.