The trade reports were that longtime AC WLIT (Lite FM) Chicago had gone to adult top 40 as My 93.9, along the lines of highly successful Clear Channel sister KBIG (My 104.3) Los Angeles and straight up against WTMX (the Mix). What I heard when I turned them on, however, was Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" into Bryan Adams' "Heaven." A few songs later it was Phillip Phillips' "Home" into Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," two segues that you can hear on most mainstream ACs these days.
Recent years have not been kind to heritage mainstream ACs like WLIT, while adult top 40's press has been great. WTMX, aided by one of the best, most reliable morning shows in the format, shifted its focus from modern AC to "whatever adult women seem to like" and only got bigger. The passion, even among adults, for "now" has hardly wiped out gold-based formats, but it has left "yesterday and today" stations in a particularly tough position. We took a "Fresh Listen" to WLIT's efforts to stake new ground.
Texturally, as those segues show, WLIT is still mainstream AC. What has changed is its time frame. The station is billed as "more variety from the '80s 'til now" and the formula is typically one '80s song and two millennials. To underscore that, most of the music image promos are also one '80s song and two by more recent artists. The new artists—P!nk, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, etc.—are mentioned by name; the '80s artists are not.
It's not all that different from where a lot of mainstream ACs have landed these days—albeit slightly more recurrent. It would have barely raised eyebrows if the same music recipe had shown up on a Chicago station that was still called Lite FM, which is why, of course, this music mix is not on a station called Lite FM. In that regard, it also recalls WNIC Detroit's segue to Fresh 100 a few years ago.
The new My 93.9 also isn’t so different from the original WWFS (Fresh 102.7) New York. That particular station was a little heavier on the modern AC '90s—a subgenre that has turned out not to be so important for anybody just yet. But it was the first step in mainstream AC stepping away from the '70s and recognizing the power of P!nk and Kelly Clarkson.
Then there was WCFS (Fresh 105.9) Chicago, which went through several permutations of bright/hot AC before becoming all-news WBBM's FM simulcast partner, but it was generally agreed at the end that it would have had enough traction to remain on the dial if owner CBS didn't decide it had other priorities.
A number of the heritage ACs that crossed the line into this "more contemporary, but not quite adult top 40" place have continued to evolve, and it's likely that WLIT will as well. If it does end up positioned head-on against WTMX, that would also likely have implications for Clear Channel top 40 sister WKSC (Kiss 103.5).
KBIG has shown that there's room for a tempo-driven, not-too-rigidly-defined hot AC to offer "now plus variety," even in a market where there's a successful adult-friendly mainstream top 40. Mainstream ACs are still grappling with the question of how much “now” they can offer without vacating their franchise entirely, so how My 93.9 does will be telling.
Here's My 93.9, 8 a.m. on Thursday, June 20
fun., "We Are Young"
Madonna, "Like a Prayer"
Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"
REO Speedwagon, "Keep On Loving You"
Uncle Kracker, "Drift Away"
Rick Springfield, "Jessie's Girl"
Natasha Bedingfield, "Unwritten"
Green Day, "Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)"
Lady Antebellum, "Just a Kiss"
Maroon 5, "Daylight"
Modern English, "I Melt With You"
Adele, "Rolling in the Deep"
P!nk, "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)"
Phil Collins, "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)"