Thursday, January 15, 2009

Goodbye Indie 103.1 FM

Today is a sad day for LA's Indie 103.1 FM. The only radio station I've truly ever loved is going off air. I'm lucky enough to now have Sirius/XM, but 103.1 was always my go to.

Local rock station Indie 103.1 is going off the air. Upon hearing the news, Pop & Hiss gave a shout-out to journalist/DJ Chris Morris, who, until a few weeks ago, hosted roots/Americana specialty show Watusi Radio on the station. He recently wrote about the cancellation of his show in City Beat, and below is his reaction to this morning's news that Indie 103.1 is going online only.

I tuned in the station just before 10 this morning to find its cast of announcers and regulars -- T.K., Mr. Shovel, Darren Revell, Party Girl Stacey, Surf Junkie Jeff, Full Metal Jackie -- saying farewell.

Then, after airing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” the station began cycling a prerecorded announcement, between rotating attitude-packed tracks by X, the Clash, Buzzcocks, Black Flag, and the Sex Pistols (“Anarchy in the U.K.” and Sid Vicious’ “My Way”). Indie, L.A.’s much-beloved independent rock station, was leaving the terrestrial airwaves, effective immediately, and migrating to the Internet.

Indie’s on-air adieu blamed “the way radio audiences are measured” -- i.e., last fall’s institution by Arbitron of the controversial portable people meters, or PPMs, which replaced diaries as ratings devices in the Los Angeles market and measured an even smaller percentage of the station’s tiny but loyal audience. In what amounted to a bleakly amusing mea culpa on the part of chain owner Entravision, it admitted that the station had been forced “to play the corporate radio game,” and that the retooled station of recent months -- shorn of several specialty shows (including mine) and pumped up with KROQ-style ’90s hits -- was little more than a “version of Indie 103.1 [that] we are now removing from the broadcast airwaves.”

Apparently, some new edition of Indie is set to broadcast on the Web at Its frequency will now likely be filled by the Spanish-language programming I’d anticipated last month.

All very sad, and quite predictable.

For most of its existence, Indie 103.1 advanced a style of radio in its specialty programming that hadn’t been seen in a major radio market for eons. What was heard on the air was a reflection of the individual jocks’ tastes and passions. The amount of liberty I enjoyed was unbelievable. It was a throwback to the free-form style I grew up with, which held sway briefly in pre-“album oriented” radio in the ’70s; the maverick early KROQ flashed the same gunslinging approach.

And, until desperation set in during the late going, the station’s regular rotation sported some provocative tracks and off-the-wall features that Indie’s crosstown rivals wouldn’t touch. (The choice of “My Way” as a farewell track recalled the era of Indie’s “Furious Frank at Five” -- a daily afternoon dose of Sinatra.) But, as station management learned the hard way, cool programming alone can’t trump 30 years of listener loyalty, marketing money and a strong signal.

So now Indie hopes to flourish on the Web -- “a place where rules do not apply and where new music thrives,” in the station’s words -- by returning to the style it had sloughed off in pursuit of terrestrial ratings that never arrived. I wish my old colleagues luck in their renewed endeavors. (We’ll be working the same turf: My own post-Indie show “Hillbilly Deluxe” debuts on Scion Radio 17, the Web station operated by Toyota’s Scion car line, in February.)

It remains to be seen what form Indie 2.0 will take, and whether its star jocks like Steve Jones -- who won’t be able to command the same kind of bucks in cyberspace -– will remain on board. But it’s apparent that in the cutthroat world of radio, going to the Internet may be the only way to go for programmers with an edge to them.

-- Chris Morris, Special to Pop & Hiss

via: LA Times Music Blog