New York’s 101.9 FM Reinvents itself as WEMP “101-9 FM New”: Sample, 8/5/11

How we got here… doesn’t really matter anymore.

One can get really confused trying to figure out why a station is programmed to be as it is. Take this new WEMP. Rumored to be a future FM News station, 101-9 FM New (WITHOUT the S) is caught in an hour long news segment at about 3:40 pm at the start of this recording. Now, instead of CONTINUING with news, the station abruptly stops, and returns to AC Music, while continuing its Traffic & Weather on the 5’s.

This website’s administrators listened carefully on this day, thinking that, since Chicago’s FM News station actually launched on a Friday, it stood to reason that WEMP would finally launch it’s awaited FM News station and quit dancing around the format with this stunting. By 6pm we were still left scratching our heads (more like pulling out hair) wondering just WHEN Merlin Broadcasting is going to finally launch. Well, it wasn’t TODAY

Merlin CEO Randy Michaels is one smart radio guy. With what he has to work with, he’s building excitement in his new station, with much of the (interested part of the) Big Apple standing on its head trying to figure out just “what” and “when”. We’re sure it will be quite soon, but at this rate, I’ll be bald before the ‘final’ format hits the airwaves. Thanks, Randy. I’ll think of you when I buy my Toupe.

It's 'New" alright.. but what is it?


  1. Kathie

    What happened to the best radio station around? Where is Matt Pinfield? How is it possible that New York has no ROCK radio station? We don’t need another top 40/lite radio station playing Lady Gaga, there is plenty of that!!!!! There is nothing NEW about this station, playing the same thing as all the others

  2. Debbie

    I don’t want to listen to my whiny peers in real life never mind over the air waves!!!! Bring back Rock 101.9!!!!!! The NEW station is aweful!!!!!!!!

  3. Fred

    Worst station. RXP played the best music. WEMP is terrible!!! Bring back Pinfield and the old 101.9 format!!

  4. Jane

    This new format is an abomination!! RXP was the most refreshing thing on the radio. It is beyond me how NYC does not have a rock radio station. It’s disgusting. I hope the new format sinks quick and people get their act together and bring back rxp!

  5. Melissa

    My heart breaks. Is Gen X not a large enough cohort to support a decent rock and alternative station for an extended time period? I know you can stream WRXP, but nothing is easier than pushing an on button on your sound system hooked up to great speakers to hear great music.

  6. Michael

    Why would a well oiled radio program that is refreshing, and not the same old drab, or the new throw in your face crap change it. Anybody who was into alternative music knows that RXP got it right. This new format can basically be sum up as WTF. Some executive either has an I.Q. one point higher than a hard boiled egg; or should return back to his last job of cleaning toilets!

    • Michael, it can be summed up this way: Demographics. Mainstream/Alternative Rock simply does not bring in either the number of people who like that kind of music nor the advertising dollars in multi-cultural Manhattan. That format may have worked very well in 1978 but today, it’s not the favorite format of non-white males. White males are not the majority of New York City dwellers. Hate to bring that up but it really comes down to the numbers.

      In some ways, posting this aircheck is deceiving. 101.9 FM is now an All-News format. The first of its kind in New York City. This is not the music format you heard on the aircheck, as I suspected, that was an interim format intended to keep the competition at bay until they could get the new News format perfected for on air launch. We aren’t the first website to say this but perhaps our site group here is the loudest: FM News is THE wave of 2011/2012. Not only that, but I’ll say it as Airchexx’s webmaster, AM radio is going to begin shutting down. The band is almost unlistenable, and News, talk and other information formats that are the only successful ones left on AM are moving to FM beginning now, all over the country. In the future, AM stations will go off the air because they can not turn a profit at all and can’t be heard over electronic noise, and FM music formats are going to move to the internet and HD sub-bands (if HD survives). That’s the future of radio. You heard THAT here first.

      • Steady Eddie


        First let me start by asking you, are you from the New York City area? Because if you are, you would know that RXP was listened to not only by the “white males and white females” in this vicinity but by the other “white” personnel in the surrounding suburbs (like Westchester, Rockland, “white personnel in Ct & NJ).
        Quite a bit of area to cover don’t you think? Why you had to go along racial demographics is beyond me. Second, this was a hugely popular station. It was played in my office daily but once the change was made, so was the radio staion played. What in the world would prompt
        anybody to mess with a working format?!
        Oh, by the way who in their right made would actually believe that an all-news format would work..on FM?!!!. Who the hell
        wants to here this? What moron approved this?!!!

  7. Steady Eddie

    I’m sorry but I can’t be nice about this.
    What moron thought it would be a good change to go from a rock alternative format to a pop 80’s-90’s format and than
    to an all news format?! The RXP format was
    f-ning great. In my office, that’s all you heard. As soon as the idoits that run this station changed, everybody changed the channel also. Oh, by the way, Steve West,contrary to your belief, the demographics do dictate that there was and still is a market for this type of music in NY. This reached out to the suburbs, Ct & NJ. where there are still a lot of “white”
    people (sad you had to go the race route in justifying the changeover). Beside who the hell wants to here an all-news station on fm radio!!!!!!!!! Get back to me when your ratings come in and don’t give me the b s it takes a while to get back your audience. Also, Michael is dead-nuts on in his perspective. Oh, also who cares that it’s a first for NY radio, it sucks already.

    • Come on, man, I’m not trying to stir anything up by this. Demographics are the main tool used by radio in planning, executing and launching formats. It’s how they sell radio. Not just radio, but everything from foot powder to beer. I’m not suggesting one group is better than another, alright? So let’s nip this in the bud right now.

      All news on FM absolutely IS a major format of the future in major cities. YOU may not like it, but there’s a whole group of business people out there who have been just waiting for this to happen. People just don’t listen to AM anymore. Its too noisy with all the computers and digital gadgets out there. Music formats are very costly and it’s going to become much more so once royalties come into play. Royalties for over the air radio are a fact. It WILL happen. Not if, when. The NAB has already struck the deal. Just waiting for the law. Radio can simply not afford to do what it’s been doing and ignore the threats from digital media without making revolutionary changes. Eddie, you can complain all you want, but your shouting at a brick wall. The execs aren’t listening. Alternative Rock is now a fringe format. You can blame Howard Stern for that if you like, or CBS radio for moving Alternative from a mainstream format to a Grunge-based format. Whatever. It isn’t New York. Rock DOES NOT work in New York. Neither does Country, although I’d bet a Country station would bill much more than a Rock station. And one last thing to address both your comments. If you read my entire rebuttal, you’ll notice I said MANHATTAN. In the NYC market, honestly, what hppens outside of Midtown Manhattan does not matter. Do you understand? The major FM signals licensed to NYC only care about MANHATTAN. That’s where the big money is. Rock is DEAD in Manhattan. I’m sorry, sir, that’s reality.

  8. Randy Michaels and Walter Sabo are smart people. Mr. Michaels may be the most disliked person at Tribune Co. right now, but he’s a radio genius whose ideas were taken too far by Clear Channel. Mr. Sabo is brilliant when it comes to Talk radio. That being said, the reverb on this pre-launch sample is a bit annoying. I recall Harry Harrison on WABC or even at WCBS-FM. Now, regarding WRXP and the former Alternative/Rock/Whatever format … New York has not supported a rock format since 1985 that wasn’t classic-focused. WLIR, while beloved, was a station I struggled to receive on the Upper East Side. Above Rockland County, you couldn’t hear it. WNEW was a station for people 10 years older than me; KRock was all about Howard Stern. I’ve heard that Rock won’t work in NY. I don’t believe it, but a News or Talk format for younger audiences that don’t know AM is smart… even in NY where AM stations have huge signals. AM is like a cassette to anyone under 35 — who uses it?
    I disagree with Mr. Sabo that music’s presence on FM is waning. All it takes is innovative programming such as that used here at FM News 101.9 and music directors that use gut instinct and on-the-street research instead of programming from RCS Selector, what focus groups show and what record companies demand.

  9. Cam

    It is sad that New York City, which is such a diverse town, cannot support a really good alternative station.
    I cannot stand to listen to the NEW 101.9FM, where they scream the news at you, and give you tips on how to serve your leftovers.
    And if I want to listen to people comment on the problems of others, I have plenty of friends, whose problems I am more interested in hearing about than those of complete strangers.
    I stopped watching TV because of all the talk and reality shows. Now, am I going to have to stop listening to radio also? I stream more and more because I am so disappointed in all the radio stations.
    I miss my rxp.

    • Cam said, “I cannot stand to listen to the NEW 101.9FM, where they scream the news at you, and give you tips on how to serve your leftovers.
      And if I want to listen to people comment on the problems of others, I have plenty of friends, whose problems I am more interested in hearing about than those of complete strangers.”

      Point well taken. There was a comment in an earlier thread that I allegedly don’t know what women like. Well, in a general sense, NOBODY knows what women like except women!! (LOL), no, Walter Sabo and Randy Michaels know what they are doing. They are doing a Television news approach to what was typically an AM radio format. Technically, it’s female friendly all-news radio.

      I grant you that their presentation is not smooth, yet. But as they develop a working relationship, their on air presentation will improve greatly. But get used to one thing here: This is NOT WINS or WCBS. While there will be some hard news, there will also be covering more gossip and relationship news. That’s where the ‘female friendly’ aspect comes in. Give it time.

      Of course, rock fans will hate this new format no mater how many tweaks are made to it. WRXP is gone. Get used to it. Find something to stream. But don’t beat up the messenger who simply tells you that a small number of Rock fans were going to keep 101-9 RXP Afloat. The advertising dollars are and have been in Manhattan, and the listeners aren’t IN Manhattan. Simple fact.

  10. jacki

    im not happy with the “new station” hardly any music.. news, and news… losing me. as a listener… RXP was a great station to listen to, now only get it streaming on the going to find a new station, luv music and not wanting to listen to news for their duration.

  11. stevesrock

    My turn to shout at the brick wall!

    My friends!

    Eventually every thing breaks even brick walls break. I’ll bet you that no one would debate a brick wall breaking eventually? I am sure this worries executives a lot.

    So now Mr. Steve West – please tell your idiotic brick wall executives that this will not last. However, if you wish to think for one moment that Rock stations/Metal/Grunge will not return to Manhattan. I am using Manhattan because I know that you love to say the word Manhattan..Then you are wrong.

    Advice for you – Don’t assume that you know about what women and men like to listen to because you clearly do not, that is evident here. Oh I am sorry if it is not you then apply to the executives – I know the type.

    I see every day how at the top level an executive is the most stupid and gets paid the most money. Let’s watch as the brick wall crumbles shall we?

    I look forward to the new group of rock stations that will be arriving very shortly. : ) Have a nice day.

  12. Cam

    So Mr. West, about the new WEMP, you have said, “While there will be some hard news, there will also be covering more gossip and relationship news. That’s where the ‘female friendly’ aspect comes in. Give it time.”
    I understand that there are some “females” out there who are so interested in gossip and relationship news, that they are willing to devote time to listening to a radio station which devotes a lot of its time to the stuff, but there also many like myself, who don’t listen to such drivel or watch shows like The View.
    We all know that it is possible to skew how ratings are perceived. And the ad agencies that hawk such figures are not above that. Sure, I know that a lot of people get off on the kind of drivel currently being pushed down our throats, but these same people who now listen to it also have short attention spans, and will eventually be looking for something different to excite them. And then the present format will be kicked aside in favor of the next big thing.
    I, personally, cannot wait that long, and so, this “female” will keep streaming.

    • Cam, if I were to express my personal feelings about this, I’d be mourning the loss of the last hard rock station in New York. I personally love Alternative…especially that grunge sound. But being in the position I’m in, I have to be objective. Hey, this FM News format might fail. But even if that happens, you can count on Merlin to stay with this format for quite a while so don’t expect rock returning to 101.9. Maybe somewhere else.

  13. Tara

    Steve – I think the main point of these conversations is being missed altogether. NYC has 2 pop stations, 2 rap stations, 2 R&B stations, 1 dance music station, 1 classic rock and 2 lite-FM stations. I don’t disagree that some people want an FM talk station – though God knows why – but why take away the only unique station? Why do we need 2 lite-FM stations? They play the same roster of songs. Secondly, it’s not like the FM talk format hasn’t been attempted before. It has…twice, and they both failed miserably (KROCK & WNEW). Why is this opportunity different? If both previous attempts failed, why do this again? I read an article that contradicted what you said about the ratings for the RXP format. That article actually stated that ratings had been quite high, and more so in the last few months. While I’m still glad RXP streams on-line, I’m at a loss for a station to listen while I drive. I’m hoping the on-line streaming strategy was to keep it as a place holder for when the all-talk format fails and they have to quickly bring real music back to the airwaves. BTW, I’m allegedly the target market for this new format – they are way off, I couldn’t be anything further from a soccer mom. I may have to invest in satellite radio.

  14. Cam

    Steve, I get what you are saying and I don’t expect a return of rock to 101.9 just because I am unhappy about the new format. I am just sad that even their target audience is less than enthusiastic about WEMP’s format. I feel like people such as myself are being overlooked.
    I also agree with Tara. There is not even a decent station worth listenong to while driving. I have taken it one step further, as she said, and have been listening to satellite radio, when in the car.
    But I am resentful that I must now pay to get a radio station that I can at least stand to listen to. Add to this the fact that others are telling me that they know what I should want to listen to, and I am really not happy about the whole situation.

    • Cam, personal opinion again, its astonishing to listen to the nation’s #1 radio market and not hear Rock or Country. My explanation as to why this is holds true of group owners and corporate management.. but not necessarily everyone else. It saddens and angers me to see it in NYC and moreso in my home market of Boston, where I grew up. It’s not as pronounced, yet, but these same trends are taking hold there too. Its getting so that small market radio takes more chances and plays more of what we want to hear than large markets.

      I personally like News radio, but wish it had displaced a different station than WRXP.

  15. Cam

    Hey Steve, I agree with your last comment. That is exactly what I have been trying to say.
    Also, when I was young we only had AM radio to listen to. But the AM stations could only play songs that were three minutes or less.
    Then along came FM and we were able to listen to the long versions of all the songs we liked, as well as cuts off albums that could not be played on AM.
    Now it seems that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of music on FM. My biggest fear is that if this new format for WEMP is the least bit successful, then more FM stations will jump on the bandwagon.

  16. Debbie

    The new format is about as exciting as watching my crabgrass grow.

    I listened to the old RXP all the way from Suffolk County so as far as the demographic study is concerned, it’s not cutting it. I’m a white female who knows a ton of people, all white if you must know, who loved the station but are now listening to our local WBAB, which isn’t bad but is nothing as diverse as the old RXP was.

    If the brains behind the format change want to bring back their listeners, they’ll bring back the old format. Very simple concept. Talk radio is boring. And if I need a good recipe for meatloaf, I’ll Google one.

  17. Mathew

    I echo same sentiments as Cam. Can stream all you want. The beauty of radio is to put local events together, promote local music/artists, bring people together who share a common love of music.
    Very sad.

    This morning taking number 1 off my preset for 101.9 and switching it…. I don’t know. 105.5 that I can barely hear but hey its better than nothing. And I would rather listen to nothing than listen to crystal clear, neo-talk radio.
    People in this gen. use google for traffic. And I would think women wouldn’t like to hear gossip/drama while they drive or at work.

    The thing was most of these same people would never even turn the radio on otherwise. If they turned on a radio it was for RXP. The other pop/rap stations, the listeners skim around but once a commercial hits they hit off or go to another station since they pretty much all sound the same. With RXP it pretty much stayed on all day. In the car, at work, ride back.

    Race has nothing to do with it. Im not white. 30 and Indian male. Great music. Was the only one and accumulating a real fan base. The #’s don’t lie. Wonder how much of a bump 105.5 is getting.

  18. cbsimonsez

    As a truck driver who leaves Syosset NY only to drive into Astoria and LIC once i get as far as the Cross Island i am lost. I have satellite radio for my personal vehicles, but im not about to transfer all the wires into a company truck every morning.

    What i dont understand, bands like Alice in Chains and the like who play at MSG … how are they expected to let their market know that they are in town. Sure i may get a notice via TicketMaster on my computer, but what about those who dont have access to computers or the Net? How can anyone advertise that they are in town if there is no station to play them?

    This is NYC, not some little po-dunk town in Iowa with a population of 15. I cant believe that we have gone this long with out an alt rock station. Please, someone give me something other then a damn Beatles Block for lunch every day, please!

  19. FM Album Rock Radio is dead. Period. That slow death began when WPLJ-FM flipped to CHR in 1983. It has been in a steady decline since then.

  20. Steady Eddie

    Hey Steve West, you still out there? Remember me? Sorry,not to pick on you,well
    actually I do but have you seen the recent
    arbitron ratings for NYC for WIMP, I mean, WEMP 101.9? 37th place !!!! That’s the fucking bottom of the ratings tank dude!
    Tell me you still believe this “station”
    has a shot. Oh, please don’t give me this
    bs that it takes a while for a new staion to get it’s ratings up! Who’s the boss of Merriman? Hope this douchebag is taking a bath with this venture of his. Now that being said, how about we bring back the old format, just for the suits to save face, like the u-turn with 101.1WCBS? Whatta you say?

    • Nope. No excuses. The station is a disaster. I thought the format idea had legs but it was done wrong. When WTOP moved to FM in Washington. It went right to number one. But it was the only real news station back then.

      Lesson learned: ‘female’ oriented news doesn’t work. It’s merely a gossip column that makes listeners yawn.

  21. Cam

    Argh, that is not ‘female’ oriented news. We ‘females’ listen to the same news as the ‘male’ population. A station like this perpetuates the mistaken notion that we women are somehow flaky enough to want our news with gossip and recipes.

    • crangernj

      Well Ken, you got your wish…….enjoy the “new” 101.9 alternative rock……

  22. Camille

    Thank God your back!!!!

    Been listening to 104.3 fm – plays the same songs – I am over 50 yrs old & couldn’t take it anymore – you would think The Rolling Stones had only 4 hits – While you were gone found a pirate radio station down the dial think coming out of SUNY – A bit too heavy metal for me but your station is just perfect – now I do not have to switch stations – Love you & Thank you – Best of Luck!!!!

  23. Jerry

    I’m listening to 101.9 right now through my stereo system. It has never sounded better. WELCOME BACK!!!!!!!!!

  24. Holy crap, there is a God! Hey Steve West, can you imagine the suits actually did the right thing? This was a very quiet move back to the “old” 101.9 format. What? They didn’t want to admit they goofed? Suffice to say I am more than happy to have them back. F ing awesome

  25. Cam

    Well, it seems that God is a sports fan and not an alt. rock fan. Either that or Randy Michaels is the devil himself. I think it is the latter. So, I guess when RXP changes to a sports format, it is back to internet radio, yet again.

    Guess he switched back to the old alt. format for a short time just to boost ratings, so that they would look good for the impending sale. Anyone who gives this idiot a job in the future has to be a little light in the brain dept.

  26. Steady Eddie

    This totally sucks. Fm is for music only. So far every talk station of any kind has failed on fm. New York radio sucks so bad. I hope and pray that espn
    And wfan totally fail. Sports talk all day long totally sucks.

  27. Cam

    Well Steady Eddie,

    It seems that you and I are the only two who see a prob. with all talk radio, and sports radio, in particular. Even though I love football and hockey, I do not need a station that talks sports 24 hours a day. But maybe that is just sour grapes. So, happy, happy for the sports nuts; I will just hold back my feelings for awhile. Let me know waht you think.

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