The subject doesn't say it all, but it says a lot. Alternative Rock Radio will not ever happen in NYC...at least, not the way anyone who likes challenging rock would like it to.
Sure, there are encouraging signs. Each of the big-three broadcasting hegemonies (Clear Channel, CBS and Cumulus) have opened "alternative" outlets in far-flung cities and one of them (the outlet Clear Channel opened in Austin, TX during SXSW) seems to be winning accolades as well it should - with the exception of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, it seems to be playing more or less what I play as "current"
at Altrok 90.5 HD2, though with a lot fewer classics.
But New York is Market Number One. And that means that even though it's a market that has fostered more brilliant music than any other city, nobody will ever cut an incoming money supply long enough to dip their toe in waters that have previously proven so advertiser-hostile.
That's the conventional wisdom, anyway. "People who like alternative rock are anti-establishment, anti-consumerist, and anti-selling-out. They hate success, and they view all advertisers with disdain, to a greater degree than those who listen to any other genre."
Which doesn't sound like a bad thing, actually. Except when you're a radio station. When you're a radio station with more income than debts, you tend to like to keep that income coming in. If you've got more debts than income, Alternative's not the thing you think of when you think "what's going to make me money the fastest?" And if you're the lucky purchaser of a station whose owner had to sell short, you're still looking to make money as fast as possible to cover your debt load and your startup costs. In the two recent situations where that happened, the new owners looked to (a.) super-serve with an already-successful iPod-proof format (sports radio on WFAN-FM), and (b.) fill the glaring market hole whose fans have no problem with commerce (country on WNSH.)
The only way Alternative hits in the big city is with an owner who eats, sleeps and breathes Alternative. That owner doesn't exist.
Which leaves non-commercial radio. You might suggest I'm biased in this regard (and you'd be right) but logically, with a commercial band, especially in Market One, run entirely by people whose love for radio and music extends only as far as the money it can make them, the only hope for refuge is the noncommercial band. (This goes doubly for our own local Market 53, which has the same mindset as Market One, but without the management talent. How else can you explain one broadcaster burning bridges and salting the earth when they finally had to pull the plug on their largely inept stewardship of a legacy modern rock station? Yes, they blamed the listeners, publicly, in an open letter. As their shiny new country station loses market share to the aforementioned WNSH, can public castigation of the loyalty of their listeners be far behind?)
So to those whose dearest wish is to see a commercial alternative rock station, I can only ask two things:
1. Does the aphorism, "Be careful what you wish for", mean anything to you?
2. Why treat the rather outstanding non-commercial alternatives like so much chopped liver?
(Full disclosure: the author obviously has rather strong ties to Altrok 90.5 HD2
, a non-commercial Modern Rock station that serves the best chopped liver around.)