Thursday, January 15, 2009

R.I.P., Indie 103.1

After a little more than five years on the air, Indie 103.1 is dead.

Owner Entravision has replaced the station with a format called "El Gato" -- playing regional Mexican rhythmic and cumbia music.

The "Indie" format will continue to be streamed online... but the radio station called the best in the land by Rolling Stone magazine is no more.

Hampered by a weak signal, Indie 103.1 never managed to climb out of the ratings basement or pose any threat to alternative radio rival KROQ. But Indie's adventurous music blend attracted loyal fans, and its specialty shows -- particularly the noontime show hosted by the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones -- became stuff of radio legend.

The writing had been on the wall for some time -- it's actually amazing that Indie lasted five years, given its shaky ratings and the fact that Entravision specializes in Spanish language radio. Recently, morning host Joe Escalante was dropped, while most of the station's specialty shows were also scratched. The station also over the past few weeks started playing more mainstream alternative music, as well as much more classic tracks from the 1980s.

But alas, not even those tweaks could save it. The writing was on the wall.

Indie may have actually been kept alive by that weak signal (along with the attraction of its upscale listenership), as Entravision may have figured they couldn't do better than anything else -- and, so their thinking may have gone, perhaps all that critical acclaim would one day translate to more listeners.

The 103.1 signal hasn't been able to field a successful format due to that weak signal (actually, Indie lasted longer than anything else that's been on the 103.1 signal over the past two decades) -- past attempt have included Mars FM, Jazz FM, CD 103.1, Groove Radio, Groove 103.1, Channel 103.1, Super Estrella and KDL 103.1.

I'm actually bummed that Entravision went the Spanish route and didn't attempt to at least give all-dance another try. KDL was actually starting to pop a number during its brief life in 2003 -- so much so that Clear Channel saw it as a threat to KIIS and killed it by partnering with Entravision to launch Indie (as an attempt to hurt CBS Radio's KROQ).

When Clear Channel dropped out of the picture in 2005, many of us thought that Indie's days were numbered. Instead, Indie lasted another four years beyond that -- not bad.

Rest in piece, Indie. The station may have taken a lot of criticism through the years, but we were lucky to have a station like that in Southern California... and our radio listening experience will now be a lot poorer for it being gone. I guess it's time to charge up the iPod.

Here's the new "Digital Indie" logo:

A ticking clock on the new Indie home page seems to indicate a Feb. 14 launch for the audio stream. Also, Indie has now added a message to its home page. No word on whether station personalities like Jonesy will make the transition:

Indie 103.1 will cease broadcasting over this frequency effective immediately. Because of changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured, stations in this market are being forced to play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge. Due to these challenges, Indie 103.1 was recently faced with only one option --- to play the corporate radio game.

We have decided not to play that game any longer. Rather than changing the sound, spirit, and soul of what has made Indie 103.1 great Indie 103.1 will bid farewell to the terrestrial airwaves and take an alternative course.

This could only be done on the Internet, a place where rules do not apply and where new music thrives; be it grunge, punk, or alternative � simply put, only the best music.

For those of you with a computer at home or at work, log on to and listen to the new Indie 103.1 - which is really the old Indie 103.1, not the version of Indie 103.1 we are removing from the broadcast airwaves.

We thank our listeners and advertisers for their support of the greatest radio station ever conceived, and look forward to continuing to deliver the famed Indie 103.1 music and spirit over the Internet to passionate music listeners around the world."

UPDATED: Here's the official comment from an Entravision spokesperson:
"We've made the very difficult decision to cease broadcasting Indie 103.1 over the air. Instead, Indie 103.1 can be heard online on the station's website: A range of factors contributed to this decision, including changes in the radio industry's methods of measuring listener audiences that make it difficult to continue broadcasting innovative formats like Indie 103.1 in the current marketplace. Moving forward, Entravision will continue to stay focused on our core business of Spanish-language radio, television and digital media."

Indie's sign-off songs included Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and "Desperado" by Johnny Cash.

A few farewell messages from within the building:

Above, a message from the website. Below, Indie's most recent twitter message.

RIVAL RESPONSE: 100.3 "The Sound," the adult album alternative station launched last year by Bonneville, has had its own ratings problems. In a press release, "The Sound" management hopes to attract some displaced Indie listeners -- although their music mix isn't exactly the same:

Says Peter Burton, The Sound's general manager, "We have always had respect for Indie’s stance on music and the overall independent feel of the radio station. In a sense we too have tried to foster that spirit of independence at “The Sound” by playing a wide diverse musical playlist much like Indie was able to accomplish in a different way. In L.A. though there is only so much you can do with a limited signal. This is an unfortunate day for the creative end of our business."

Adds Dave Beasing, The Sound's program director, "This is a sad day for FM radio. The Sound's music may be a little different, but we’ll try our best to keep that same spirit alive."

More coverage:

Indie Reveals More Online Plans; "El Gato" Officially Launches

The Message That Forshadowed Indie's Demise

Introducing... "El Gato 103.1"

Retro Friday: The Birth of Indie 103.1

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