Published on Friday, 17 August 2012 19:59
After WIQI-FM/i101 flipped formats
two mornings ago from a mostly 90s music station to a Hot AC station playing new or newer pop songs, fans' reaction was swift and extremely angry. The station did not have a gigantic fanbase after only one month on the air, but was slowly building a happy, loyal collection of listeners who enjoyed hearing music that had not in a while and was not being played elsewhere. Flipping the station to a clone of other stations already on the Chicago radio dial upset pretty much every fan the station had.
This evening, WIQI-FM Operations Manager Jim Richards admitted they made a mistake with how the format flip happened. Instead of a full change in the playlist, he now says the change should have been more of a slow evolution. However, instead of returning i101 back to the 90s music that made the station popular, Richards only promised to try to add more 90s songs back into the mix and begged for listeners to keep listening.
The station would have to add a LOT more 90s music to please these fans. A look at yesterday's complete playlist for the radio station from the time it launched at Midnight until the end of the afternoon showed that out of well over 230 songs broadcast at that point, only five
songs released in the 1990s were played and that the average year of a song played that day was 2007 -- far removed from the previous day's playlist average song year of 1996.
Here is what Jim Richards posted up on the i101 Facebook page
Hello everyone. Before the weekend officially begins, I want to address the comments on the expanded playlist.
First, we have been reading them. While we can't respond to everyone, rest assured that they have been read and you have been heard.
The overwhelming feedback so far is that we swung the pendulum too far (and too quickly) in one direction. We take your input seriously, and hope you'll try us again tomorrow so we can show you. And the day after that. And the day after that. We're going to keep tweaking the playlist and want to hear from you on what you like and don't like. But the fact is that we need to keep growing our audience base - it's a reality we can't ignore. So, if you want more 90s in the mix (and your friends do too) - that's awesome! Please get as many as you can to listen. The more fans we have, the more successful we'll be.
Thanks to the vigorous input, I'm adding more 90s back into the playlist starting tomorrow. There will still be some newer music, but I hope you'll try us out over the weekend and let us know what you think as i101 continues to evolve.
Your comments are needed and appreciated. I know we'll never be 100% perfect for everyone and we're grateful for the support you've shown us and for helping us shape the sound of i101.
As can be expected, the many fans furious by yesterday's format flip were none to pleased with Richards' attempts at trying to keep the listeners by promising to throw them occasional 90s bones.
Almost none of the over 3,700 fans on their Facebook page (a number much smaller than what it was before the format flip that caused many upset listeners to "de-Like" the fan page) were pleased with this explanation. Within minutes, this post of Richards' received over 150 comments. Here is a random sampling of them shows the fans' frustration...
"Loved 90s! Current format is just like every other station. Bring back 90s!!!!"
"ditch the new music entirely. dont be a copy cat station. stand out and be unique!! that will bring listeners! 80s, 90s, those are kind of lost decades if you ask me."
"I had to check the station multiple times today....thought I had it on the wrong one since the playlist was the same as all the others. Changed the station as a result...bring back all 90s. That's what made people turn to you to begin with!"
"Ditch the new music. I raved about this station and talked to so many people about this 'not quite oldies station' that played music from the 90s! I even told friends out of state to stream it. There are plenty of songs to choose from with 90s pop, rap, dance, and rock. Why should people listen if you're going to play the same things as the other 5 stations in Chicago?"
"To be original and fresh, you must keep your older format from late 80s to circa 2003. You were getting a huge word of mouth which is the best type of advertising around. It takes awhile to build a station, so allow it to be build. No station after barely a month gains a huge audience. By adding new music, you just alienated that loyal base. If you want to continue that, keep playing the same 5 songs 93.9, 96.3, 100.3, 101.9, and 103.5 air and you will have Milwaukee stations beating you in the ratings. I hope this is a sincere attempt by you Jim and the higher ups including Randy Michaels to fix what was not broken in the first place. Me and many others will let you know and stop listening for good if it is not."
"With the changes I might as well listen to the mix. Don't like it. I was digging the 90s."
"Thank you for this post. I will keep checking, but I highly suggest going back to the way it was before entirely. I don't think you guys realize what a huge audience you had. It is hard that in business you usually don't hear from people unless they are complaining. However, based on all the comments and my own experience, your popularity was growing mostly through word of mouth. I told at least 15 friends to tune in and they all did. That is how good you were. You really cannot afford to play top 40 stuff, all it takes is one person tuning in the first time for 90's music and hearing "Call me Maybe" and they won't go back. they are not going to just wait for the next song. Please, Please go back to what you were doing before and only expand your playlist within that genre. Thanks for listening."
In addition to the many hundreds of complaints (and no compliments), some fans of the previous mostly-90s format on WIQI-FM have been joining a new Facebook group called i101 BRING BACK THE 90's PLAYLIST!!!
. Martha Flores-Walls, who created this page, says in her description for the group:
"So I bragged to everyone about the new radio station i101! How they played all 90's music, how I was able to listen to a
ll my favorite music from my teenage years. I was too excited for this station, no more IPod! Then, they flipped the script and became just like all the other stations!!! Please i101, bring back the 90's and become our "Oldies Station'!
There has not been this much anger over a format flip on Chicago radio and vitriol posted online since the Alternative music format known as Q101 was taken off the airwaves in July of last year. Not so coincidentally, that happened on the very same frequency, 101.1, with the very same company, Merlin Media behind the removal of a beloved music format. The company has not found any way at all to make its programming on that frequency successful, but they have been incredibly successful in finding way after way of upsetting and infuriating the Chicago radio audience. Unfortunately for Merlin Media, that is not a business model for success.