The closest thing to a time machine may have been invented by, of all people, those who run a once-bankrupt media company.
But will it be good for business?
For now, I don’t really care because I’m really enjoying it as it’s getting started.
99X is back on the radio in Atlanta and, well, everywhere. If you’re a GenXer and you were in Atlanta in the ’90s, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, well, 99X was one of the first, last and arguably the best radio stations built for big city young professionals who were emerging from college into their first real jobs. This particular audience descended on what was America’s fastest-growing region 30 years ago, a time where rock music was making a big comeback.
Everywhere I went from the middle of 1994 until the middle of 1995 (usually to my TV news gig and back at odd hours, 5 or 7 days a week), 99X was in the car with me, providing something of a music renaissance with bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Candlebox, Live, Weezer and Better Than Ezra, just to name a few. The DJs were familiar local personalities and our guides to the music scene. It’s seems hard to imagine now but every time I have met someone my age and demographics who was in Atlanta during that time, 99X comes up within just a few minutes of the conversation. They didn’t just have listeners, they had fans, who would put the station’s logo on their cars – as seen in parking lots all over. That’s something that seems so foreign now.
Cumulus, the station owner, resurrected 99X (which used to play what now passes for “Classic Alternative” on Sunday mornings on a show, coincidentally and politically incorrect enough called “Resurrection Sunday”) on 100.5 FM rather than 99.7 FM. But that doesn’t matter because they’re streaming it all and it’s the enduring brand that will drive any audience. They have re-hired the morning and afternoon hosts from the ’90s and promise more are on the way. The playlist hits the mark. Driving on 14 Mile Road in the Detroit suburbs tonight streaming through Apple CarPlay took me back to driving I-75 into work in Midtown Atlanta with the FM radio going in my hatchback coupe without as much as a CD player.
13 years ago this month, we wrote on here about a concept called “GenX Radio.” As it turns out, it wasn’t a trend at all. And maybe tapping into nostalgia like this won’t be either.
But to be actually enthusiastic about a radio project (can’t wait for them to get that app going), feels good, amid a medium that seems like all it wants to do is cut and consolidate. I’ll hold off on making any predictions, for now. Until then, this is fun.