Does New Times Hate 103.1 the Buzz?

Categories: Talking Shit
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Revered or reviled by New Times?
Last week, a perhaps well-meaning commenter using the handle "Chris R" leveled the complaint that New Times is a bunch of "indie kids" who "only like indie rock and talk down on anything mainstream or successful," and eventually got to what seems to be the root of his argument: "Writers at New Times seem to hate The Buzz and pretty much every band they have on their annual Bake Sale, and a great deal of the artists on regular rotation."

In the interest of responding fully to the long-developing comment thread on the subject of West Palm Beach rock station WPBZ found at 103.1 on the FM dial, and called The Buzz by most -- found under the recent blog "Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion Created Appetite for Nirvana 20 Years Ago" -- County Grind has decided decided to extend the remarks here.

Maybe Chris R is using a roundabout way of telling us that he'd like to be the new mainstream rock correspondent, or maybe he has a point. Instead of providing a blanket statement for every New Times writer who contributes to the music section, I decided to ask 12 of them point blank how they felt about the station.  

So, New Times writers, do you hate 103.1 the Buzz?

A few actually do.
Erica Landau: "Yes."

Ryan Burk: "Yes, emphatically."

David Von Bader: "Yes. Especially in contrast to satellite radio."

Several more do not.
Jose Flores: "Don't hate it."

Lee Zimmerman: "No -- don't hate."

Monica Uszerowicz: "I don't even listen to the radio! So count me in on the 'no.'"

Stefan Kamph: "I don't think I've ever heard it, so I guess that would be a no."

Christine Borges: "Hate is a really strong word, isn't it? I'd think indifferent would be a bit more fitting. I recognize that they're there and I'll listen to them occasionally, but overall I'll stick with my iPod."

Arielle Castillo: "Absolutely not. Not sure if I count in this argument since I live in Miami and only get to hear it when driving into North Broward/West Palm Beach, and I've never specifically written about it. I always enjoy catching it, especially during the blocks (Sunday nights?) when they play new and/or local music. It's definitely the only area radio station that plays either and the Bake Sale is pretty decent at introducing a mainstream audience to newish acts (even if the lineup always seems kind of random). In any event, it's wayyyyy better than 93 Rock was in its final throes."

For others, it's complicated.

Travis Newbill: "Growing up down here I only hated that we couldn't pick up on the Buzz this far south. They were always way better then 94.9 Zeta. These days I am indifferent as I still can't pick the station up, and I probably wouldn't listen much anyway as I don't listen to much commercial radio because there are too many commercials and not enough music that I enjoy."

Adam Smith: "
I do NOT hate the Buzz. They serve a purpose and do a lot of their target music community. It is rare that I listen to the radio, and even more rare that I will find my self dialed into the Buzz, but the times it does happen I welcome a dose of whatever "new" alternative is out there -- mostly for curiosity's sake. I am also a huge fan of their promotions program and have been lucky enough to win tickets and things like a Captain Morgan booze cruise during SunFest.

I will say that the station used to be what determined the climate of the South Florida alt rock scene, but now the inverse seems to be true, with the South Florida youth's affinity for cheap indie rock and revamped nu-Metal bands reliving their heyday being what the Buzz caters to in order to keep their listenership happy."

New Times Editor Eric Barton even wanted to weigh in: "When 103.1 first went on the air back in the mid-'90s, it was true alt rock -- stuff you couldn't hear anywhere else on the radio. They played grunge and ska and big-band before it became a trend. You could listen all day and not hear the same song, and you got the impression that the DJs made the call on what they spun. Over time, there's no doubt it has become more and more corporate, playing the same Incubus-to-Nirvana playlist hourly and recycling "alt-rock" from the '90s over new music. But there's also no doubt it's still South Florida's best radio station."
 
My own thoughts.
Echoing many of the writers above, we can all remember a pre-internet era when radio was the prime source of new music, and loyalty ran deep for the station that best matched and enhanced a person's personal music taste. As I said last year when 93 Rock hit the skids, South Florida (and the world) is an increasingly tough market for mainstream rock radio.

Bader's comparison to satellite is always worth considering. For those who subscribe to SiriusXM, it's more than 100 channels of radio service that is commercial free, and is never out of range. What listeners give up is a direct tie to local South Florida and what can be a prohibitive $13-17 per month. It's a different type of model than a radio station that everyone can hear for free, but it is the preferred model for many. "People want radio tailored to what they already like -- which is why you don't hear the next Korn or Smashing Pumpkins," Smith says. "We can blame my generation for that." According to Castillo and Newbill, we can also blame the signal range, because no one wants to listen to fuzzy songs when they can pull out an iPod.

So, taking a look at the Buzz 103.1 playlist for the weekend, the vast majority of the songs listed are by established artists like Green Day, Seether ("Tonight" was played several times), Red Hot Chili Peppers, and yes, the two artists that got this discussion going in the first place, Nirvana and Guns N' Roses. There are some newer artists mixed in, but you're looking at a crop of musicians that have been around for a decade or more, in many cases. I was excited to see Cracker in there, but it would always be nice to hear deeper tracks than just "Low."

If there's anything to hate (it is a strong word) about the Buzz -- and I bet that the people who work there would agree privately -- it's the change that Barton points out about moving away from "never hearing the same song." The pressures of corporate radio mean that every song is meant to be an obvious access point for a listener to keep them situated -- part of a "core" of tracks that signify what the station is about and work listeners into a happy trance so that they'll wait until the end of a commercial break for the promise of more of what they want.

"Hell, it's our only station playing new rock music," Barton says. "And for that, it's worth ignoring the many flaws of corporate radio for a hint of that old Buzz from the early days."


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17 comments
ErinHilburn
ErinHilburn

As both a New Times freelance writer *AND* former rock radio personality, I am empathetic to both sides of this debate. I grew up listening to the radio. I've wanted to be a dj since I was in elementary school. I love mainstream rock, from the 60s to current. But I also love "indie bands", music from non-rock genres, and I've been supporting our local scene since I was a teenager. As Eric pointed out, most people in corporate radio feel the same way as listeners do about repetitive playlists. Would we love to see these bands get radio airplay and more widespread recognition? Of course. Unfortunately, the probability of this happening is highly unlikely. Corporate radio plays it safe in an attempt to appeal to the masses. The bottom line is sell advertising at any cost, compromising quality and variety in many cases. But sometimes, a little left of center draws a bigger appeal than expected. 

Fernando Perdomo
Fernando Perdomo

Ok... 10 points to buzz for having "BUZZ JR." which is a local show..... negative 1000 points for the fact that they have one rule.. "IT NEEDS TO BE HEAVY"

FUCK THAT!!!!!   

ghost that never lies...
ghost that never lies...

It's not that I hate 103.1, but they are outdated and behind the times.  By playing a mix of the 90's and early 2000 rock (mixed with some new stuff and a few classic rock songs), they are not really helping the music scene down here.  Bands that are no longer indie, and on the cusp of being big like the Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Muse, Bon Iver, Wilco, F'ed Up, Young the Giant, The Joy Formidable,  and Arcade Fire are rarely played.  Also where is the support for local bands like Surfer Blood and Jacuzzi Boys?

Public Radio was once used to develop talent and introduce new bands to fans.  Now, they have taken a "one-size fits all" format and applied it to rock.  What do we get?  A similar sounding 40 minutes that leaves one unimpressed and uninspired. 

One final bit of data to prove my point why Buzz is outdated and a waste.  Here is a list of the "Top 20" Alt. Rock songs courtesy of Billboard magazine.  I reviewed Buzz 103.1's playlist for 48 hours from Thursday 9/22 to Friday 9/23.  Over this time frame an estimated 360 to 375 songs were spun.  Next to each song you will see a number, which represents the number of times this song was played on the station.  

Out of these estimated 360 songs, only 40 were dedicated to the Top 20.  Thats a paltry 11%. So the "buzz" rock station is introducing fans to the top 20 songs in the country with 11% of their playlist.  

Billboard's Alt Song Chart (week of 10/1)1.  Walk by Foo Fighters (9)2. The Adventures of Rain Dance by RHCP (3)3. Up All Night by Blink 182 (0)4. Pumped up Kicks by Foster the People (0)5. The Sound of Winter by Bush (0)6. Sail by AWOL Nation (0)7. Make it Stop by Rise Against (2)8. Whirring by The Joy Formidable (0)9.  Irresistable Force by Jane's Addiction (5)10. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons (0)11. Cough Syrup by Young the Giant (0)12. Sunset in July by 311 (0)13. Helena Beat by Foster the People (0)14. Changing by Airborne Toxic Event (0)15. Promises, Promises by Incubus (0)16. Not Again by Staind (4)17. Tonight by Seether (9)18. Dark Horses by Switchfoot (0)19. What You Want by Evanescence (8)20. Panic by Sublime with Rome (0)

So, if you want to find new bands, use the internet or satellite radio. Even fans of the hard-rock genre (i.e. Staind, Chevelle, 3 Doors Down, etc.) will find that new band that often emulates their favorites (and often bests them).

Bclifton
Bclifton

Everyone should be careful what they wish for.....bash corporate radio all you want.....they are a vital part of the entertainment industry, provide jobs and opportunity for many people who end up working in other areas of the media...including publications like this.

Everyone likes to be a critic....but when all eyes are on you someday, you may feel differently.

If commercial radio stations attempted be a "jukebox" for individual tastes....they would die a rapid ugly death. That is what the buttons on the dial are for...

Anne O.

  

Chris R
Chris R

Aww, I have to say, I'm touched. I got under your skin. So about half of the staff aren't really very fond of the Buzz. Three hate it, and three who aren't really too fond of it or think 'hate' is too strong a word to use. Maybe dislike or, eh, not our thing, rather not waste the time. Somewhat similar to the saying of 'if you don't have something nice to say...'

A comment from Barton I have to comment on though, "...They played grunge and ska and big-band before it became a trend." So is this implying that once it becomes the mainstream it's no longer worth listening to? Obviously some Buzz bands such as Staind, Our Lady Peace, Sick Puppies, and Chevelle are pretty good at what they do because they have been able to keep a shelf life longer than the supposed 'trend' of the style of music that they are lumped into. Because they have become successful and been invited back to numerous Bake Sales and continue to get good airplay these bands get wrote off and trashed. Why?

I think I recently read, and correct me if I'm wrong, but Staind's "It's Been Awhile" was the rock song with the most plays in the US for the '00's? I don't know about you, but that's a pretty cool feet, especially in a climate of music where rock music isn't doing as well as it used to.

Now I will admit, I do enjoy very much the 'Recycled Buzz Weekends' when the Buzz does have them. You get to hear tracks from the 90's that don't seem to get as much play as they used to, like Siouxsie Sioux and The Banshees for example. The Buzz is called the 'New Rock Alternative,' and though you made a point that The Buzz this past weekend had a fairly repetitive playlist they do call themselves the 'New Rock Alternative,' and they do seem to be sticking to playing new tracks from artists new and old which is great. They played Seether's new song quite a few times this weekend as you pointed out. A band that released their debut in 2002 is still going fairly strong almost ten years later with radio still playing their latest. Obviously people like them. -Faithful Buzz ListenerChris R

ChuckS.
ChuckS.

Put me in the Hate column. Ever since The Buzz (and I really don't like even calling them that anymore) changed their format from new/alt rock to mainstream and classic rock, they lost me as a listener.  They used to be a station that was all about "the buzz" and what's new and modern.  Now they are just stale and corporate...   My prediction is that they become a Spanish language station within a year.

Danny Burress
Danny Burress

Unfortunately, West Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast isn't ready for a station like that. The Buzz was playing Phoenix, Mumford & Sons, Temper Trap, Foster The People and MGMT before it changed directions. The people that like those bands don't listen to terrestrial radio to get it. They are internet savy and go get what they like. In fact, alot of them are snobby music editors...no offense! When the Buzz was a true alternative station, they got their asses kicked in the ratings. Not for putting out a poor product, except maybe for their morning show, but because this is not the market to be "left of center". Obviously, places like Seattle, Austin, and Portland or most college towns those stations work better.

Danny Burress
Danny Burress

Those are the top 20 Alternative songs. The Buzz is considered Active Rock. They are playing new Evanescence, Jane's Addiction, Volbeat, Staind, Awolnation, Seether, Middle Class Rut, All That Remains, and Redlight King as well as a great mix of 90's and some classic tracks too.The Buzz went from Alternative to Active Rock in April. The reason you hear those Foo Fighter's tracks are because those are the current songs being pushed. I still hear My Hero, Everlong, Learn To Fly, The Pretender, Times Like These and All My Life. Bands that you mention like Young The Giant, Foster The People, Wilco, Surfer Blood, Arcade Fire and Arcade Fire are all Alternative bands. There aren't any Active Rock Stations in the country that play those bands.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

This is not "bashing" corporate radio. There's a wide spectrum of ideas about it, and we're aiming to capture as many of them as we can. The whole point of this article is to respond to someone throwing stereotypes at our "corporate press."

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

Fair enough, Chris, I wasn't specific in what I don't like about the new format. So I went to the Buzz website and looked at the current playlist. There are a couple newish bands, like Rise Against and Shinedown. But the majority of them are recycled hits from bands you've heard thousands of times -- The Offspring, Tool, Foo Fighters, Evanescence, U2, Soundgarden, Linkin Park, Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Bush, Green Day.

OK, so many of those bands really used to rock, maybe still do. But then you notice a pattern. Three of the bands -- Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, and Tool -- are played twice within a few hours. There's a lot of good, solid rock music being made these days. And the Buzz would be a better station if they were playing more of it.

Chris R
Chris R

Been listening to Nickelback since '99 man, they never sold out. They just concentrated on writing songs. Listen to the rest of their albums, the songs don't all 'sound the same,' like people think. Tell me how "If Everyone Cared" Sounds like "Just To Get High," or "Side Of A Bullet." It's actually rare that I hear Nickelback on The Buzz too.

Ghost that never lies...
Ghost that never lies...

And that is exactly why the buzz isn't a great radio station....thank you for further clarifying my point...... "Active" rock is a bull shit moniker for why rock stations around the country have become a detriment to the rock scene. 103.1 is a nonexistent player in the music scene down here and sadly has failed to take advantage of being the only player in the tri-county area. I'll stick to satellite radio where I can get my fill of 90s, 00s, while still hearing new bands.

You keep jamming out to 89% past and a smattering of a few selected new songs.

Chris
Chris

Rise Against and Shinedown? Come now Eric, Rise Against and Shinedown, like Seether, Evanescence, Theory of A Deadman, and Stone Sour were getting played in 2002 on The Buzz. New bands that The Buzz definitely has been playing, by looking at the Shazam app on my phone, have been Adelita's Way, Volbeat, Art of Dying, Red Light King, and Pop Evil to name a few.

Both Jane's Addiction and Evanescence are both releasing new albums this coming month by the way, so I would expect to hear their new singles. As I type this response actually I heard the new Evanescence song, which I happen to love. Bush by the way just released a brand new album a few weeks ago which I found only had two songs that were just ok, the rest of the disc pretty good.

It would be nice if The Buzz would play some other Foo Fighters songs besides their current two singles, but than again New Times writers would still complain that the band gets played too much, as well as other bands who get a lot of play.

New Times is not an indie publication, it's a very corporate publication, excuse me, blog, owned by a much larger media company.

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