Live-blogging one more new pop station
Well, here we go again. Another radio station launch. This time, it’s U92, a pop station taking over the frequency that, as of this writing, is being held by “smooth variety” station XFM 92.3. Yup, the same station that played chillout and electronica during one of its more interesting stages, and before that, as jazz-retro station 923 Joey.
A lot’s happened to that frequency since I stopped writing about radio on the blog. The chillout format, as we all know, didn’t last, and eventually NU 107‘s Mike Pedero came in to devise a smooth jazz format. In recent months, it’s evolved into what he called a “smooth variety” format, focusing on more accessible, upbeat, yet smooth tracks targeted towards females. But financially, the station wasn’t apparently performing well, and station owners NBC were looking for new ways to generate profits. The decision was made to terminate the station and transfer programming duties to a blocktimer. Cue Francis Lumen, currently head of All Youth Networks, the company in charge of MTV Philippines. He’s taking over, with a pop format that’s obviously very much tied in to the cable channel.
The station launches tomorrow, with an interesting mix of personalities, including former MTV VJs KC Montero, Cesca Litton, Marc Abaya and Sarah Meier; current MTV VJ Sib; Wave 89.1‘s Jimmy Muna, 99.5 RT‘s Joshua Yu, and perhaps the most surprising of all, the Brewrats – Tado, Ramon Bautista and Angel Rivero, who recently headed the breakfast slot on the resurrected RT after working the late shift on three iterations of the frequency. I’ve yet to gether details – apparently a print ad came out earlier – but tomorrow, I’ll be live-blogging here, talking about the station’s first twelve hours. Surely there’ll be discussion over at PinoyExchange. Let’s see how this goes.
06.00: “What up, Manila?”
KC Montero was the first voice heard on the station, perhaps the first live DJ on the frequency since, well, I can’t remember. For most of my radio listening life this station played smooth jazz and all the related stuff, so hearing voices takes a little getting used to.
I got to listen to XFM’s final transmissions over the past hour, and it’s a subtle dig on a farewell: WKRP in Cincinnati, followed by an unusual mix of standards, ending with an Al Jarreau track that says there are “better days ahead”. And then, seven minutes of talk, which isn’t really a good impression, although I should expect that.
The morning show’s called Morning Wood, they’re talking about the postponed Katy Perry gig, and I have a feeling I’ll never be able to connect with most of the schedule. Then again, I am an RT listener.
06.15: Fifteen minutes of prattle, followed by their first song: the Ting Tings’ Shut Up And Let Me Go.
06.24: They said the old XFM/Joey format will return “in three months or so”. So far, I’ve heard two songs and a lot of prattle. The midday shifts must work better for me. I just sent a text message, but the number was so long, I thought they were reading out their studio number with the area code intact.
07.57: I’m writing this from work, like I should be. The fact that I listened to my iPod on the commute to work must mean something. But I’m sticking with these guys for, at least, the next ten hours. Could this be the station that will challenge Magic 89.9, only with a bit more variety? (Do you hear the Itchyworms on that station? I’ll admit, I shouldn’t know; I avoid that frequency like the plague.)
But reading the blurb below the print ad – “radio never looked and sounded this good” – I think it means this: you can’t do this unless you’re either on TV or a model.
They’re hinting at Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions. Oh no.
08.07: Randomly, I remembered the Brewrats always playing on them not being DJs by profession. Then again, they’ve received more than enough training with the mixers back at RT. U92’s morning show’s got dropping and spiking levels. I can barely hear the ads, and then they come on too loud.
09.25: I haven’t really been able to follow what’s going on – the stream’s glitchy in an odd sense – but more or less, they’re talking about someone who’ll attempt to drink eight bottles of hot sauce for a thousand bucks. And, next week, an interview with Ne-Yo. And Kanye West? I don’t know if it’ll an impression or not, but it’s MTV, and they can do this. That aside, the Terminator just came in, and I am not amused.
09.57: One, it’s apparently called Morning Would. Two, they’re calling DJs by their full names, which is interesting considering it’s not really done here often. Three, their sound levels are so messed up – they celebrate the end of the first morning show by shouting, and it crackles badly, and then their last song comes in and it’s sooo quiet. They better sort this out, and quick.
10.07: Reminder to self: they’re promoting Katy Perry. It’s the third song in four hours.
10.10: It’s a four-hour request show with this Eri Neeman dude. Levels still suck. Quiet burst! quiet burst! quiet burst! quiet.
11.59: Someone said it right on the forum: the first two shifts are boring, but the music mix’s quite good. (RT doesn’t play local bands, ironic considering their sponsored Homegrown Rhythms segment. U92 does.) That guy’s waiting for Joshua to come in. Same here.
It’s a curious situation, actually. This radio station only has two shifts manned by former DJs, Brewrats counted. The rest honed their craft on television. And if I get this correct, this set-up is rushed. Cesca was admitting earlier that the textline was a mobile phone attached to a monitor (which meant they were reading the area code earlier!) and then there are the problems with the sound mixing, and the lack of imaging, and the lack of a punch that you’d expect from a pop station…
13.36: Apparently Eri is also from Wave. I obviously don’t listen to Wave. And that makes my two-former-DJs figure wrong. Make that three.
14.05: These shows have odd names. The U Know Show for the four-hour request shift, followed by Count on U, which is Joshua’s countdown show. And for those who are asking why the Brewrats moved to U92: I don’t really know, but I think the Rats (as well as Josh) were pirated from RT. It was probably their decision to move, not RT’s decision to fire.
14.19: Hearing Joshua take over is like hearing a familiar voice after so long. Not to mention, the levels are fixed. The songs and the chatter now sound just fine! Which speaks a lot about the others…
Apparently Eri had Kat Aggarado of Sino Sikat? as a guest at noon. I wasn’t listening at the time – I was busy at work, watching Glee. That is, after all, the advantage of having MTV do its own radio station: it has access to the big names, access that even the Magic can (probably) only dream of.
16.31: They’re really playing a lot more local tracks. Just heard Taken by Cars. I shouldn’t be judging a station on early days, but after ten hours of on-and-off listening, I’m confused.
16.45: They’re calling the afternoon drive shift The Dollhouse, which reminds me of this.
17.12: “We’re not in charge of the music right now,” Sara says. (Is it Sara? I think so.)
17.49: So, the initial final verdict: what’s with U92? It really does feel like MTV, judging from the music policy alone. Some shifts, of course, need some getting used to, so perhaps it’ll be a month before we know whether they’ll make interesting radio or just clutter the airwaves. Personally, I’m not yet convinced, but only because I know I’m not yet hearing everything in place – and it’s very obvious that it looks like the framework plus a few muscle here or there.
Still, it’d be interesting to hear someone else take a stab at the pop station – not TRPI, not RX. It’s a reflection of how radio has been at the moment: the decision to hire former VJs is a nod to the fact that TV personalities do radio now (like Sam Oh on RT) or radio personalities jumping to television (Mo, Andi and the BNO kids at Magic). Whether this’ll attract an audience in this saturated listening world, well, we’ll see. This could be a spectacular flop, or a spectacular success. Just fill in the gaps and we’re good to go.
I’ll be listening to the Brewrats. That must be a constant.
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