99X had been broadcasting on the web and on Top 40 sister station WWWQ’s
HD2 signal, with a promise from Cumulus to bring the legendary station
back to the air as soon as a suitable FM signal could be procured.
The first person to provide me with evidence that Cumulus promised to bring 99X back to the air, prior to January 21, 2008, and I will give them a prize: a $30 gift certificate to Front Page News, Midtown, home of the best trivia night in the city.
I had fully intended yesterday's post to be my last. Then, Sean posted this. Sean analysis of 99X's ultimate decline demands whatever modest additional exposure I can give it here:
... in the mid 90’s, upwards of 50% of the music 99X played was new based. This meant that every other song was new or no older than 3 months old. Recently 99X has been operating with a max of 19% new music. That means that you get 3 new songs an hour, and many of those were ill focused for the 99X music community. In the end, it seems that Cumulus was in fact programming 99X like an AC station with alternative rock hits, in the hopes of securing a 25 – 54 year old add buys. Focusing on 25-54 with a station that was built to accrue 18 -34 year old is like putting a bicycle on the track in a stock car race. Peddle as hard as you want… you lose the race… by miles.
Looking from a music stand point it seems like Cumulus couldn’t understand the fact that Bush, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and their ilk were the bands of yester year, and were not the building blocks for the current music generation. It felt like that they were trying to recreate the 90’s. The 90’s are gone. They couldn’t understand what bands like the Shins, Silversun Pickups, Band of Horses, Arcade Fire, The Bravery, Interpol, Spoon, Against Me, Rise Against, etc had to do with 99X. These are bands that sell out medium sized venues in Atlanta with little or no airplay; they have massive internet and magazine prominence. These are the same types of building blocks we used in 1992; these are today’s building blocks for this music generation.
This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper. -- T. S. Elliot, The Hollow Men
I'm not sad that 99X is gone. Jimmy Baron said it best, "I mourned the loss of my 'friend' two years ago." I'm sad that good people lost their jobs, but the radio station today bears little resemblance to the radio station that gave me so much enjoyment over the years. I've replaced that loss with Sirius at home and XM in my car. At this point the only thing that a radio station can offer me that I can't get on satellite, (with better programming and fewer commercials,) is Atlanta-centric talk aimed at adults with the proper number of chromosomes. Unfortunately, the prospects for that don't look too good.
January 27th, would have made three years blogging about 99X. I enjoyed getting to play media critic and later gossip reporter. I want to thank all of the people who trusted me enough be sources. I'm proud that I was able to break a few big stories. I also want to thank all of my readers. I'm far too egotistical to do something like this if no one's paying attention. With almost half a million page views, it's clear that people were. Finally, I want to thank the people that made 99X--99x.
I'm giving Allen Singer the penultimate word on 99X, because, he, like me, devoted a good amount of his time and energy (and money) to a website devoted to 99X. I've always considered AllensEdge.com to be a different side of the same coin as 99XWatch.org. His site was devoted what was good about 99X, mine was devoted to what was not so good. If you long for the days of Toucher, Jimmy, and Leslie, Allen maintains a large catalog of some of their choice bits. Here's what he had to say:
This latest move by Cumulus has proven yet again
that the large corporation does not care about the individual radio listener,
which I have stated in the past. The dissolving of 99X does not surprise
me that much, but I believe it is a great mistake. 99X is a "heritage"
station and has been in Atlanta for a long time. Tens of thousands of
dedicated listeners have devoted themselves to being dedicated fans, not only
supporting the many events 99X has hosted, but supporting the advertisers as
It looks like 99X will continue local promotion,
sponsoring local shows and such according to the website. Will listeners
care? How long will they remember the station they can't get in their cars
and homes any longer? How long will 99X even make the attempt before it
disappears without a whisper?
Local 99X is gone, but still exists online in a
"lite" version. It must stand out somehow to keep its already upset
fanbase. But it will likely be on the cheap side: no interesting
jocks, no good morning show, nothing of any real interest. Just music and
promos, exactly what you can get online already. Any jocks you will hear
will be dull, probably voicetracked by out of town "talent."
And why do I care? Well, I'm kind of a radio
junkie and ex-engineer. I worked in Atlanta from 1996 to 1997 and
discovered 99X. I loved it. It was the best radio station I had ever
heard. I listened to the Morning X every day. When I got a job in
radio in Cincinnati in 1997, I found out that the company I worked for also
owned 99X. When it came time to upgrade 99X/Q100, I was sent to Atlanta to
wire the new studios. Since then, I've always felt like I was a small part
of the station as I listened in Cincinnati online. Then, in 2004 I
discovered TJ&L and started listening again. I started recording
bits from the morning show, and thus the fansite was born.
The fansite stays. All broken audio links
will be restored in the very near future. I appreciate everyone who has
stopped by and enjoyed the clips from TJ&L and maybe even bought a book or
two. If there's ever anything you think should be added, please let me
Additionally, WNNX's Alternative format is moving from 99.7 to the
Internet only as a stream, and a new Rock format featuring former
crosstown WKLS (96 ROCK) morning duo REGULAR GUYS are coming to 100.5.
Thanks to Joseph Mills for his help with the last few posts.
Rodney Ho reports that Regular Guys story is false...not that Larry Wachs lying to people is news. Rodney does convey an interesting tidbit from Cumulus EVP John Dickey.
[Dickey] likes former Star
94 morning hosts Steve & Vikki and is possibly going to bring them
back once their noncompete is over to place them on 100.5, which will
probably take the soft rock banner left by Lite in late 2006.
Sources now tell me that the Regular Guys return is true, that
Dickey was using the Steve & Vikki gambit to make people think
they’re going the female-friendly soft rock route instead of sticking
with male-oriented rock.
With 285,000 listeners a week over the summer, 99X brings in about half the ratings from its peak and “time spent listening” ranks just 28th, among the worst in town. It lags way behind Project 9-6-1, an active rock station with 18 to 34 year olds. And for all listeners, it’s fourth among four rock stations behind Project, the River and Dave FM. Bottom line: the alternative rock format is not nearly as popular as it used to be and the station has struggled to adjust to the competition and crummy circumstances. (Revenue hasn’t dropped off as quickly as ratings but the trendline can’t be good for the sales folks.) ... Unfortunately, this path hasn’t worked well as viewers continued to go elsewhere. The station changed ownership last year and has attempted to tap its past glory of the 1990s by bringing back Sean Demery and creating the “New Morning X.”. So far, the show has not gained much traction. It ranked 20th among 25-54, 14th among 18 to 34 year olds and 20th overall.
In the 90s ATL radio was underserved. 99X was a lot of thing to a lot of people. With the sign on of more signals and more stations targeting 18-34 year olds everyone’s cume and shares diminished. Do you realize that Arbitron’s methodology is archaic? For us any qualitative audience worth attracting is lessened because Arbitron only contacts those with home phones. A huge percentage of “Alternative” listeners are cell phone only users. This station has always based our success on results not numbers. This was even true in the 90s. This is not mean to say but the psychographic of an Active rock listener makes them much easier to find and measure.
I''m a bit skeptical of the idea that Alt Rock 18-34 year olds are cell phone only in greater proportion to say Q100's 18-34 year old listeners, who seem to have little trouble becoming Arbitron diarists.
It's interesting to me how Ho's criticism of 99X is interpreted by Sean as an "affront to Leslie’s relevance" and "bashing." I don't think that Leslie deserves most of the ridicule heaped on her by Chris Williams, but I also don't think that suggesting that Wiliams has made better programming decisions than Leslie over the last seven years is equivalent to bashing either (or for that matter an endorsement of Williams.)
Thanks to a reader for pointing this exchange out to me.