Is America Finally Ready for an All EDM Radio Station?


Is America Finally Ready for an All EDM Radio Station?



Finally recognizing that this whole E.D.M. thing that the kids are fingering each other to in public isn’t going anyway anytime soon, the ground was broken on Thursday night for a radio station that the owners are calling “the first real E.D.M. station in the country.”

That’s great news on its face, if only because anything that wrests the country’s radio stations away from their Ms. Havisham-like vice-grip on nostalgia-fetishishism should be considered a step in the right direction. The frequency in question, 101.7, was the longtime home to WFNX, one of the last influential independent alternative rock stations in the country. In May the Boston station sold the frequency, and it briefly morphed into The Harbor, the type of Mike FM station that says “we play anything” but really means “we play Bon Jovi.” (WFNX continues as an online radio station.)

The best part of watching it fail so quickly from here in Boston is that every little blow to MOR corporate-cubicle-core-peddling is a victory for us all.

Or is it?  On the other hand, the owners in question happen to be a certain Mr and Mrs Clear Channel, architects of said peddling, so maybe this isn’t a victory for the little genre that could after all. Reactions were mixed among music fans in the city, ranging from “Oh great, more David Guetta and Skrillex bullshit” to “Oh great, more Skrillex and David Guetta bullshit.”

In truth, the idea of an all E.D.M. radio station is kind of redundant at this point, where everything from Rihanna to Britney Spears to Ke$ha and Usher, and anything else regularly played on top 40 radio throughout the country, might as well be called E.D.M. Others were more cautiously optimistic about the news. While the station did kick off with a track from Swedish House Mafia, they also seem to have enlisted influential UK radio host and taste curator Pete Tong to be involved in some capacity.

The station, now known as Evolution, as the New York Times reports, is a spin off of an online-only iHeartRadio app, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in terms of localized on-the-fly content, but either way, literally anything is better than mom-rocking to “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms on the way to the supermarket one more time.

Tom Poleman, Clear Channel’s president of national programming platforms, said the online station was intended partly as a test of the format, and that the reaction to it was so positive — it instantly became the most popular digital-only station on iHeartRadio — that the company decided to give it a go as a terrestrial station, where the investment and risk are, of course, much greater.

“It reaffirmed our gut that this is something that is ready for prime time,” Mr. Poleman said in an interview.

Boston, the tenth biggest radio market in the country, as the Times points out, now becomes the biggest city in the country with an all E.D.M. format.

As for who will listen? Well, me, for one. For now, that is, as long as it continues to be a source of new music, which is literally the only reason anyone should ever conceivably listen to the radio. I just tuned in and heard something I had no idea what it was. How rare!

It’s something I wish more radio stations, both terrestrial, and online, would take to heart. I have no idea why in the age of Spotify, with infinite music available on our computers and phones, anyone would ever listen to a single second of a radio station if not to be exposed to music that they are not already familiar with played by people who spend more time thinking about and listening to music than they do. That is literally the point of the medium. Anything else is an echo chamber of reinforced commercial backsliding.

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