Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Amp Radio vs. KIIS-FM: Two Very Different Takes on a "Sexy" Problem

You're a top 40 radio station with a dilemma: The new song by David Guetta (featuring Akon) is catchy and destined to be a hit. The problem? It's titled "Sexy Bitch." And what's more, the phrase "Sexy Bitch" is said over and over again throughout the song.

The solution at Clear Channel-owned KIIS-FM (102.7): Play the tamer alternate version -- "Sexy Chick."

But new KIIS rival Amp Radio (KAMP-FM 97.1), owned by CBS Radio, decided to go racy and stick with "Sexy Bitch."

Amp, after all is trying to make inroads on KIIS, and has got to be a little more edgy to make some noise. At the same time, CBS has been extra cautious in recent years when it comes to content standards -- still smarting from the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl debacle -- so I'm surprised they're going with the racier version of the song.

Above, a recent screen grab of both stations' playlists.

I asked Sean Ross, a radio consultant and the expert behind the newsletter Ross on Radio, to give me his take on the "Sexy Bitch" vs. "Sexy Chick" decisions:

I think Amp has tried to position itself from the outset as a little edgier than KIIS – somewhere between that station and Power 106’s Hip-Hop format. Mostly, however, I hear the “chick” version, including on Amp’s New York sister station, WXRK (Now FM). On the other hand, when Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed” was on the radio, Now FM did play the “must be the weed, must be the ‘e’” line, while WHTZ (Z100) edited it.

After the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl incident, stations seemed to default to the safest available edit, including all those stories of stations that suddenly edited Pink Floyd’s “Money” and Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner” after three decades. But there were still a lot of inconsistencies based on what edit was provided by the label.

Recently there have been a number of other records that have tested radio. I’ve also heard stations switching to the safer versions of songs in the middle of their chart runs, including David Guetta, “Obsessed,” and Jay-Z’s “Run This Town” where most stations somehow let the second half of Kanye West’s “everybody on my d---, no h----“ line go for weeks, then seemed to all edit it around the same time.

Ross notes that stations have stopped airing the gunshot ending of Rhianna's "Russian Roulette" -- or have even stopped playing it all together.

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