Sunday, October 30, 2005


The stepping down of Howard Stern from his networked US show to disappear into the world of satelitte radio seemed to be one of those things that would only be of any interest to his fans. But as Stern says goodbye to FM radio on December 16th, Infinity Broadcasting is going to dump rock formats from some of its stations in favour of constantly rotating classic hits or "personality-led" talk networks.

There's an irony that Howard Stern, king of gibbering talk radio, sustained new rock on the radio, while one of his replacements, Dave Lee Roth, is ushering in a format which doesn't feature the sort of band upon which Roth built what we must learn to call his reputation.

It's especially bad news for New Yorkers who like music less than twenty years old. After December, the largest radio market in the UK will not have a single radio station playing current rock hits.

"What Infinity is signaling is that a combination of celebrity talk and comedy appeals to its target market more than music in general and rock in particular," says Barry Sosnick, consultant and president of "When you have Infinity, a major player in broadcasting, indicating that music isn't a powerful draw for listeners, (that is) the most frightening implication."

Of course, the sort of formats we're talking about here are drawn up by companies which understand statistics more than entertainment and passion, so it's probably not to be taken as an indication that rock is dying in the US. Just that the sort of people who are happy to spend time talking to market researchers aren't the same people who are buying more rock albums than ever in the US (20.8% market share so far this year, up nearly a percentage point.) The question is, though, with less radio space for loud guitars, will the next generation learn to love the amp?

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