Thursday, May 28, 2009

WBCN's new HD Channel - Free Form 104 - 104.1 HD2

Over two years ago, I posting a pretty nasty commentary about WBCN's HD radio channel. At the time, the HD2 channel was an alternative all-music station about which nobody at the station even seemed to care. Granted HD Radio was new and not making money, but if the programmers didn't care...why should the audience?

That appears to have changed with WBCN's present HD Radio options. Major props where props are due.

I happened to stumble upon what they are presently broadcasting at 104.1-2, WBCN-HD2, and I'm captivated.

Actually, it appears that WBCN has split their HD signal into three channels now:

104.1-1 is WBCN's FM programming in HD
104.1-2 is Free Form 104
104.1-3 is Indie 104.1

Indie 104.1 is the channel that they formerly ignored, but now appear to be somewhat focused on playing a deeper selection of unique new rock music.

Free Form 104, however, is all over the place...and that's great! From WBCN's website:

"Free Form 104 celebrates the 40-year continuing experience of Rock in Boston on WBCN. WBCN broadcast its first Rock song March 15, 1968. Since then, BCN has dominated the rock n' roll format in Beantown, from early Rock, Blues, R&B, and other Rock siblings, the Woodstock era, 70's classic rock, 80's metal, and 90's grunge. Not a nostalgia trip, Free Form 104 is past, present, and future eclectic Rock-centric music, a free-life outlook, and attitude!"

I'm going to have to invest more time over the next few days to see if they have simply loaded a few songs from all over the map into their computer and pressed the shuffle button, or if the station is thought-out to any degree.

Just this morning, I have heard such diverse music as:

Eric Clapton - No Alibis
Jane's Addiction - Jane Says
Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
Regina Spektor - Fidelity
The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
Los Lobos - Will The Wolf Survive?
The Kinks - Come Dancing
Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running
Roxy Music - Dance Away
Tom Petty - American Girl
Black Eyed Peas / Macy Gray - Request Line
The Animals - Don't Bring Me Down

It's still, however, not live radio, which sadly makes sense these days with many stations automating their music and having personalities record breaks rather than perform them live. I believe they had WBCN personalities from the past record a bunch of fairly generic station ID's and multi-purpose liners that are peppered into the mix every few songs (i.e. 40 years of rock, and now here's something new on Free Form 104). I just heard one ID sending people to, which does not exist at the time I write this. (That's a little sloppy, to be perfectly honest).

According to the video message on WBCN's website from Sam Copper, WBCN's first rock Program Director in 1968, Free Form 104's programming will be focused on 60's-80's music, but will also include music from as far back as 1955 and as recently as now. They are playing a good sampling of live music as well.

HD Radio is still in its infancy, and until it's in every vehicle, the technology will be dead in the water and stands to be surpassed by streaming Internet content once everyone is driving an Internet-capable vehicle and WiFi (or Internet access of some form) is available everywhere. The only reason I own an HD Radio, which I purchased in the Spring of 2006 actually, is because I needed to be aware of its capabilities during my time in the radio research and consulting world.

But the technology is here, and it's nice to see people trying to figure out how to best utilize it.

No comments: