The “suits” who lay off radio hosts are the same as the bean counters who eliminate budgets for PR firms. They just care about “hitting the numbers,” without consideration of the damage of destroying long-term relationships. But sometimes, the relationships can prevail.
Two months ago, corporate ownership of Windsor, Ontario station CIMX-FM, known as 89X, cut its U.S. based staff serving the Detroit market. Among the budget casualties was Cristina, a part-time DJ. She hosted a Sunday morning classic alternative show called “Time Warp,” which appealed to GenXers in particular who enjoy the sounds of the ’80s and ’90s. Cristina didn’t just play music, she guided her audience through the music, with palpable enthusiasm, compelling personality and extensive knowledge.
Classic alternative is one of the music genres that I enjoy, at least in part. For almost 20 years, “Time Warp” was appointment listening. Even though some of the tunes weren’t for me, I always learned something interesting from Cristina and even discovered some music I wish I hadn’t missed when it was new. Listening to someone with a true enthusiasm for what they do, not phony hype, is a lost experience in media. But Cristina brought that every week, establishing her brand as the authority on retro alternative music.
I was disappointed to hear that she was among the cuts at 89X, a station I felt as if I had “outgrown” otherwise. But a few weeks later, I discovered on Twitter that “Time Warp” was still alive. Cristina was now streaming a version of the show on her own, on Sunday mornings, online. How cool is that?
I reached out to her for this blog to hear how and why that happened. Here is, in part, what she told me:
“I just listened to this documentary on Andy Patridge from XTC…He made this comment that music just infected him…that he got infected with music…That’s kind of what happened to me… Music isn’t just a hobby, it’s part of my being and part of my life. So after when everything went down at the end of March, it meant my radio career is probably over. But that doesn’t mean your love for music and love for what you live for is over… I also felt that it was terrible for the listeners as well, people who really enjoyed the old school classic alternative music…There’s this void so why not fill it?”
Cristina paints the picture of what it’s like for so many in radio now by telling me, “We weren’t sure what exactly was going to go down but we knew something would change because there were a lot of weird things going on. So, in the back of your mind, every time you’re doing a show, you’re thinking…’Well I hope this isn’t the last one.'” Amid those thoughts, she considered her backup plan. She had some equipment and software at home. She thought, for her listeners, she would figure out a way to do the show online.
She doesn’t see this as a business opportunity. “It’s a service to the classic alternative community… It’s really an opportunity for me to offer something that I’m really passionate about and frickin’ love. The fact that there are people willing and they want to listen to it and they love it? That’s sweet!”
There are some legal restrictions because of music licensing, but Cristina does a very enjoyable version. In at least one way, it’s better than the original. You don’t have to suffer through Canadian public service announcements to get to the music, or to her insights.
She has also proven to be nimble, doing an hour plus special streaming show on the day singer Chris Cornell died in Detroit, playing his music from Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and even his friends’ onetime band, Mother Love Bone. “That’s what radio can offer to people is to help them wrap their brain around something that’s unthinkable,” she said. “It helped me grieve, maybe it helped someone else?”
It did, Cristina.
“The outpouring of support (from listeners) has really blown me away… It really helped me get through a crappy period in my life…losing something that meant so much…Doing the show is kind of my gift to them.”
To get the streaming link on Sunday mornings, follow Cristina on Twitter at @cristinarocks or check out this link