R.I.P. Q101...Maybe

R.I.P. Q101...Maybe

That title "could be" or "could not be" true, depending on how much faith you have on the rumblings around the radio landscape after news of Emmis Communications sale of local radio stations WKQX "Q101" and WLUP "The Loop" to Merlin Media and Chicago-based equity firm GTCR earlier today.

If you trust the all-knowing Robert Feder in his Time Out Chicago article today, he says that Randy Michaels, former Tribune CEO and current Merlin Chariman & CEO, is looking to change the station from it's current (and legendary alternative) format to an all news format.


Whether or not you are a current or previous listener of Q101 "Chicago's Alternative", the station has been a big part of a majority of Chicago's (and surrounding area's) youth for the past almost twenty years.

It was a station that brought Mancow and the Smashing Pumpkins to the ears of the nation and helped break many more local bands (Disturbed & Fall Out Boy to name a few) into the spotlight with it's solid programming and smart advertising/marketing.

This station was also the reason that I wanted to get into radio as I was a loyal listener growing up in the 90's.  Going to the summer Jamboree shows and falling asleep to Loveline or Local 101 were staples of my youth.

I was fortunate to have interned there back in the summer of 02', a few years before the "shuffle" experiment hit, and have lots of amazing memories from the people, places, and experiences from that six months of working there.

The talk of this format switch hits home with me as I'm sure that everyone currently working there is fearing for the safety of their jobs, a feeling that I know all too well as I felt the same way when I was working at 94.7 "The Zone" and they flipped to Oldies three months before I graduated from college, great time to be wondering if my job was safe or if I was going to be shown the door due to the format flip.

It's a crappy situation no matter how you shape it because the new owner has to make profit in order to validate his purchase, business is business, when it comes down to it.

Radio is a fun and exciting profession to work in and there are plenty of days where I miss it, but it's situations like this that make me realize that I never want to deal with that feeling again.

Hopefully all this talk is just that..."talk" and Q101 stays Q101, but if there was one thing I learned during my years in radio: "If there's a rumor and Robert Feder is reporting about it, it's most likely true or going to be true".

Update: I completely forgot to include two items that are very important to Q101 & it's history:

  • James Van Osdol, one of my radio idols and former Q101 jock, is looking for support so he can fund an oral history of Q101, as told by former DJs, programmers, staff, and friends.  It's being housed here on the Kickstarter website and has around a month left to reach it's goal...if you are a fan of Q101, current or former, go and support JVO's project so we all can own a true piece of history!
  • There are many petitions being circulated to show Randy Michaels that Q101 has a solid and worthwhile following, here is the main one I've come across in the past day.

Filed under: Q101, Radio


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  • I knew that once Mancow and his midget strippers left everything would go downhill.

    Actually, with the exception of Electra's on-air times, Q101's music variety has gone down the toilet. So much for trying to fake alternative music programming.

  • Q101 hasn't been very good for quite some time now. I do realize though that part of why I feel that wayis because I've gotten older. Q101 was great in the 90s. I never listen to it anymore. Seems that XRT is the only station in town that plays music worth listening to. Its a shame, really, that there is such a shortage of good music stations in a city this big. Q101 is only good when they do an all 90s weekend.

    Oh, and get off my lawn.

  • Stupid question, but why do you buy Q101 to change it to a news station? Is it cheaper than buying a new frequency? Is there no new frequencies left to purchase?

    I can't imagine much of your audience is going to go I loved alternative music, but you know what, I'll sit around and listen to news instead now.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    There's a limited number of frequencies available, with licenses to use those frequencies supplied by the FCC. The FCC limits the number of available frequencies to prevent overlap. That same reason is why stations in neighboring markets (say, Chicago/Milwaukee) have staggered frequencies: Chicago will use 93.1, 93.5, 93.9, 94.3 and Milwaukee will use 93.3, 93.7, 94.1, 94.5.

    Michaels isn't looking for or expecting any overlap and he's not afraid of alienating Q's audience. Fact is, Q's ratings weren't good in the first place so losing that limited audience isn't a problem.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Bottom line is Q101 has been flat out terrible the last few years. The 'alternative' scene has been littered with weak one hit wonder bands of the last decade (see fall out boy, sum 41, good charlotte, etc).

    Looking at this years twisted lineup I couldve sworn I was reading a lineup from 2005.

    There is nothing fresh and new and there is little to no variety in the music they play. In a given hour, everything sounds exactly the same. There's only so many Chevelle songs you can play in a day, they are one of the few decent bands played on q101.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I'm really miss hearing "Man In The Box," "Daughter" and the other 6 songs they play on endless loop. Someone should tell them it's not 1997 anymore.

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