The Death of Local Radio and a Dearth of Options: A Eulogy for WFNX
By Megan Crotty
Music is something we all have in common. Whether we play it in the background or drum away ourselves, it is likely that it makes an appearance in our daily lives, and many of us rely on our local radio stations to bring us our favorites, both new and old. But, it seems the local radio stations may be dying out, succumbing one-by-one to radio’s biggest bulldozer.
For those of us who still listen to “alternative” radio, the options for good listening in Boston just got a lot slimmer. WFNX, a 29-year-old Boston staple, has been sold to Clear Channel, the corporate giant known best for jamming glossy pay-for-play pop down our collective throats. The very thought of the sterile, corporate radio juggernaut dominating the airways at 101.7 turns my stomach and thoroughly upsets me, but WFNX is not the first radio station in the area to go under in the past few years, nor is it the first station to be swallowed whole by Clear Channel. Hot 97.7, the alternative to WJMN 94.5 (a Clear Channel station), went bust a number of years ago, as did WBCN (a radio loss I still mourn).
WBCN and WFNX were two stations that operated in the same vein, and while there are still rock stations (WAAF) and stations that veer from the mainstream (92.5 The River), no radio station brings to Boston what WBCN and WFNX did. When FNX’s lights finally go out, Boston will lose more than the opportunity to be exposed to great local music and up-and-coming national and international picks. The airwaves will now be programmed from thousands of miles away, and in lieu of requests and hand-picked tracks, we will get the formulaic and repetitive. Frank Turner will be replaced by Taylor Swift, The pixies and The Dropkicks will have to move over for One Direction and Linkin Park, and Gotye will be replaced with….well, probably more Gotye.
The local concert and event scene will also take a palpable hit, and ticket prices will likely see a big boost when Clear Channel fills the void. The annual Clam Bake will be no more, the MFA sessions will become a distant memory, and Disorientation will no longer welcome hoards of undergraduates to the city in September. Hopefully, the small clubs like The Paradise and Brighton Music Hall will pick up some of the slack, but the loss of these bigger events in the city will leave a gaping hole.
My second concert ever (the first was NKOTB - don’t judge) was an FNX event. Green Day at the Hatch Shell. The still infamous concert that tore up the grass in front of the hatch under the ebb and flow of mosh pits and crowd surfing. The band was still fairly new, on the cusp of stardom. The crowd was huge and excited. I was only 14, and probably looked about 10. People swarmed all around, feeding off of the band’s energy and the novelty of the event. As my friend and I stood watching in awe, the couple next to us inched over to offer us a shot from the bottle of tequila they were clutching. Unfortunately, they failed to see my father standing behind us and got an earful from a towering and very, very loud Bostonian. You can’t buy memories like that – especially when the ticket prices are more than you can afford.
This was the beginning of my passion for music, and the first in a very long line of concerts, many of which were sponsored and orchestrated by WFNX. Now, local teens and adults won’t have the same opportunities. They will get pre-packaged pop-stars instead, singing underwhelming lyrics on top of predictable beats to an audience numbed by the sameness of it all. Its not that these types of acts and predetermined programming don’t have a place in town, its that they already have a place. The loss of WFNX means that there will be less, much less, to balance this out. When WBCN went silent, FNX took over completely. Now, it seems there is no where else to turn the dial as FNX’s format was the last of its kind in the city.
Hopefully, Adam 12, Paul Driscoll, Jim Ryan, Julie Kramer (who absolutely kills the Left-Over Lunch), and the rest will find another local home. I will certainly keep my ears open for them in the months to come, but while each DJ brought their own particularities to the airwaves, the magic was really in their combination.
The Boston music scene definitely won’t be the same without WFNX.