Yesterday, KROI and its big boss Radio One decided to abandon their gamble of an all-news-formatted FM station after three years in favor of something that's going to sell: Beyonce.
The news undoubtedly is terrible for those 47 men and women who worked at News 92 and are now out of a job. The format change is the second major shakeup on local FM radio in Houston in less than a year, after last December KKRW 93.7 changed its call letters and classic-rock format to KQBT and rebranded itself as 93.7 The Beat, a hip-hop/R&B station under the Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) umbrella.
With News92FM's rebranding into the all-Beyonce station "B92," the pop apocalypse has arrived and we've all been thrust to the front of Queen Beyonce's pearly gates. Who knows if Radio One actually spoke to Beyonce and broke the news to her; the fact is right now we're in a position where we're about to be subjected to a possible 72 Beyonce album cuts, never mind if the new station decides to include Destiny's Child tracks or her guest appearances.
It's a safe bet for Radio One, the African-American-owned, Washington, D.C.-based conglomerate that has no doubt done its homework in studying what particular artist would work in this particular market. Who other than Beyonce to take up that mantle?
The only problem behind the logic is that in tossing an all-Beyonce radio station into the mix, Radio One is now competing with an already well-established property of its own, 97.9 The Box, just a few frequencies down the FM dial. How diversified does Radio One want to be here?
Artist-specific stations aren't new, especially in Houston, but not this large in scope. For weeks in the summer of 2009, Radio One took KMJQ, the well-respected FM R&B standby Majic 102, and transformed it into MJ102.1 in honor of the June 25 death of Michael Jackson, a feat the station has repeated every year since.
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The difference between an all-Jackson station -- as he currently has posthumously on Sirius/XM satellite radio -- is how vast MJ's catalog is compared to Beyonce's. Even if you cheat and include songs from her Destiny's Child days, including remixes and unreleased tracks, we're talking a little over eight hours of music.
After it signed on, 93.7 The Beat played music from a variety of artists, both "classic" and current, for days until filling out its on-air talent roster. Unless B92 is set on running nothing but Beyonce music for weeks on end, the stunt will be just that -- a stunt.
As often as we're set to hear "Irreplacable" and the "Flawless" remix even more now, the fact that Beyonce's somewhat limited catalog may eventually hinder B92, unless it chooses to be completely inventive and become an artist-themed station every day of the week. If one day we get Beyonce, maybe a week we dig into the Temptations or Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye. If Radio One wants to spread its hip-hop and R&B market even further, it would have to capitalize on one key ingredient -- keeping people entertained beyond the standard song.
Until then, we'll wait and see what becomes of B92. We've already bowed down to Beyonce once, in "Flawless." But in giving an entire radio station over to her alone, Radio One may have already changed Houston radio as we know it.
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