Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Influence Matters (or Goodbye WBCN)

Posted by thecastlegroup on August 7, 2009

So we’re six days from one of the most iconic rock radio stations in America closing down. In its place comes a Top 40 station from down the dial.

If you lived in Boston anytime over the last 40 years, you know WBCN. The “Rock of Boston” defined radio in this town, and was a recognized brand across America. In the late 70s and early 80s (my formidable years), the station introduced the Ramones, U2, The Police and other cutting edge bands to the country.

Their hold on the local rock scene was so solid that competing alternative station WFNXused the tagline “New Rock on the Block” to counter BCN’s position in the market.

Its DJs were legendary, its events (the Rock and Roll Rumble) historic, its programming and even its promotions “must hear” radio. During its glory years, you would see (or seek out) BCN personalities around town at dance clubs and bars. The Big Mattress and its April Fool’s Parade was hysterical.

And now it’s going pop music. Don’t get me wrong, I like Top 40 stuff too, but we’re talking WBCN here.

Others can chronicle BCN’s decline (sports programming, getting Howard Stern, losing Howard Stern, satellite radio, HD radio, iPods, Pandora and more).

The real reason WBCN failed is that it stopped innovating. Maybe it just became too hard to make progress in a fragmented market, or maybe the weight of staying on top became too heavy.

BCN is moving its “format” to HD radio. While it will live somewhere, I won’t be able to access it, and even if I did, would I be rewarded with the WBCN that surprised and entertained me for 20 years?

This is a time when a brand moved away from its core offering — breaking new bands and introducing great local music — and found that the competitive landscape had changed so much, it could not recapture its mojo.

Boston is general needs to ramp up its sense of innovation. Does anything feel really groundbreaking out there right now? A new brand, technology, approach? WBCN is a microcosm of this.

With another reason to say goodbye to the 80s, I will respectfully put my memories of WBCN alongside those of the Rat, Metro, Channel, Stompers, Al Halliday and the Hurricanes, Buzzy’s Roast Beef and more.

In high school, a friend who was really into music carried around a box full of cassettes of bands no one had heard of yet: Psychedelic Furs, Smiths, REM, Husker Du. He went on to work for WBCN. Maybe if his music collection had continued to be so prescient, BCN would have survived.

So for Duane Ingalls Glasscock and the rest of 104.1 gang, goodbye WBCN.

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