Published on Saturday, 22 January 2011 10:37
In the wee hours, early this morning, a Chicago radio shift happened. WLUP-FM changed from a hard rock station to a classic rock station. Gone from its playlist are the current rock tracks, and harder classic tracks from artists like Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Guns N' Roses. The station is now playing artists such as Bryan Adams, The Eagles, Phil Collins, ELO, Pat Benatar, Dire Straits, and The Cars... artists they would never have played prior to today.
The station sent out a Twitter message
earlier today that said: "Heard the word? We're now featuring more CLASSIC Loop hits from Tom Petty, Boston, Journey, Steve Miller, Foreigner, Eric Clapton, and more!"
The Loop is now re-branding itself as "Chicago's Classic Rock Station," as opposed to its slogan for the last few years: "Chicago's Rock Station." No changes to its on-air staff is expected, as this is just a change in its rock music programming.
There had been complaints in the past that WLUP-FM's current rock programming often had the station overlapping with sister-station WKQX-FM's playlist. WKQX-FM/Q101 plays alternative and modern rock acts, which often are the same as current hard rock acts. This shift in WLUP-FM's programming further separates the programming of the two stations.
WLUP-FM's ratings have been struggling as of late. Once a top radio station in Chicago, the December Arbitron ratings had WLUP in 17th place with a 2.7 share in their target demo of Persons 25-54. Even worse, the station was in 19th place with a 2.0 share in the all ages numbers in the December ratings. This move is an attempt at bettering their sagging ratings.
Nationwide, as a general rule, radio stations with classic rock programming have fared very well under the Arbitron PPM ratings system. Locally, classic rock station WDRV-FM/WWDV-FM, aka The Drive, is consistently at or near the very top of the ratings for Persons 25-54. This move by Emmis-owned radio station The Loop now puts it in direct competition with Bonneville-owned radio station The Drive, with both playing much of the same artists. While The Loop does have three very good weekday rock jocks in Pat Capone, Byrd and Walter Flakus, they are not known as classic rock personalities. The Drive, on the other hand, has some of Chicago's best known classic rock jocks, veterans who have been on Chicago's airwaves for decades and posses encyclopedic knowledge of the music they play. The Loop is seemingly programmed by committee out of St. Louis, MO, while The Drive is programmed by Chicago veteran programmer Patty Martin. The Drive launched in March 2001, giving the station an almost ten year head start on The Loop for Classic rock radio programming. The Loop has been around since March 1977, but has not been exclusively classic rock for a great many years. The advantage clearly stays with The Drive, and The Loop will have its work cut out for them to catch up to Chicago's classic rock leader.
To some degree, this move by WLUP-FM also looks to steal away listeners from CBS Radio-owned WJMK-FM/Jack-FM, which now plays mostly classic rock from the 80's & 90's. WJMK-FM has also seen itself sink in the ratings over the last few months, as the station with no live personalities does not connect with listeners. Rumors are swirling that Jack-FM will be gone in 2011 -- either in a format flip or with a simulcast of one CBS Radio's two Chicago AM stations. When this happens, this could potentially help The Loop's ratings situation.
While this change in rock & roll programming could help WLUP-FM in the short run, its future is very much up in the air. The radio station's owner, Emmis Communications, has publicly announced that they are actively trying to sell both of their Chicago stations, WLUP-FM and WKQX-FM. It is also known that the company desperately needs to sell these two stations at a decent price before the end of this year in order to keep the entire company afloat for the following year. WLUP-FM has been the company's worst billing station for quite some time, losing money consistently, while most of their other stations nationwide have seen gains.
Music programming similar to what WLUP-FM had prior to today, can still be found, but only in the suburbs. NextMedia-owned WRXQ-FM in the south and WIIL-FM in the north both play harder-edged classic rock music, with WIIL-FM also mixing in current hard rock acts.