Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So long, MOJO, it was good to know you.

It's always a shame when your favorite radio station disappears one day. That station you enjoyed listening to for your years is suddenly gone, replaced with something else, playing music you don't want to listen to and staffed by DJs you have never heard before.

It's happening in Cincinnati again. WMOJ is changing frequencies and formats as of Thursday, September 21. See the Enquirer article for more information.

MOJO wasn't my favorite station, but I enjoyed it. I also felt a close connection to it many listeners wouldn't: I built the place and used to work with most of the remaining staff.

MOJO has been on the air for seven and a half years, and is I believe the last of the MOJO stations in the country. MOJO played "urban gold," or Jammin' Oldies, as it is better known. It was also the only station in town you could hear disco every day. It played a lot of great music and had a solid listenership and a lot of fans.

A few months ago, Cumulus Media bought Susquehanna Radio Corporation (who owned WMOJ, WRRM, and WYGY in Cincinnati). As is usual in the wise, great, and powerful radio companies, Cumulus found it necessary to fire a third of its staff, not just in Cincinnati, but in its former Susquehanna stations nationwide. I should point out that the Cincinnati stations were already operating with almost a skeleton crew. Now, it's even fewer, and remaining employees have had to take on double or even triple duties, most for the same pay. If they don't like it, corporate says, there's the door. It's a harsh business.

Anyway, Cumulus decided to sell off MOJO to Radio One, who is changing the format and frequency, and will replace the 94.9 frequency with WYGY, which, of course, will cost a fortune in changed billboard advertising, tv commercials, and anything else with the logo. Yup, money truly well spent. Better let go more staff so they can save even more money.

96.5 will now have a new station on its frequency, one that has not been announced, but we will learn about Thursday.

Meanwhile, MOJO is running promos advertising its frequency and format change. Now, this is where it gets interesting. Normally, when a station changes formats, what happens is this: new company buys station. Everything normal, but staff is nervous. Friday, everything normal. Monday, whole staff is fired and replaced with new staff. Confused listeners tune in on Monday and hear a new station. Station gets flooded with thousands of phone calls.

That's what normally happens, but this time Radio One advertised the change, I suppose so listeners could find the new station.

But, no more Jammin' Oldies will be heard in Cincinnati.

I know one big problem that MOJO had was that it played the same exact music heard on its airwaves seven years ago. Every single day brought the same exact music. But nobody seemed to mind. At least they added music periodically and were slowly inching through the '80s. I was waiting to see if they would eventually play music of the 1990s. Many non-urban groups were heard too, including Queen (Another One Bites the Dust) and even the Rolling Stones. I suppose these were added because of their "disco sound" but I always found it odd.

It doesn't matter. The Jammin' Oldies format has been retired and the Cincinnati listeners will surely miss it. However, radio is first and foremost a business. Modern commercial radio's main purpose is to sell advertising, period. It's not to entertain or educate. It's to sell commercials. What is sandwiched between the 60 second spots doesn't matter, as long as the time is sold. Corporate radio does not care about the individual listener. They care only about big numbers and the bottom line. If the format doesn't bring in good numbers, the format is changed.

Never mind what the listeners want; that doesn't matter.

As an alternative to this, you can listen to the noncommercial stations, such as WAIF as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, or you can purchase satellite radio and listen to whatever commercial-free format you desire. Online too, we have live365 and a host of other online radio venues.

As for MOJO, I guess most of the air staff will probably be let go, if not all of them. That's what happens in radio. It's a shame. The on-air personality has a family, kids in school, and has planted roots. Then suddenly he's fired and will have seek work elsewhere, most likely in a different station across the country.

But that's what happens, and is one big reason why I didn't pursue an on-air career and chose engineering instead. Why I don't do that anymore is a different story.

We'll miss you, MOJO. My best wishes go out to any employees displaced by the new company, most of whom I trained on technical studio procedures and I've been able to call my friends, inlcuding Keith Mitchell, Tori Turner, Dwayne Luna, Quincy Watkins, and the part time staff who were always there on evenings, weekends, and holidays. I hope you all find new jobs as rewarding as MOJO was for you.

To learn about radio and its early days, please check out my book, Stepping Out in Cincinnati.

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