Clear Channel Media and Entertainment launched its first Electronic Dance Music (EDM) broadcast station today replacing the adult hits format on WHBA-FM with a new station called Evolution 101.7. Clear Channel purchased the signal, which had been alternative-formatted WFNX, from the Phoenix Media/Communications Group back in May of this year and initially changed the format to adult hits as The Harbor.
The new station, which gets its name from the EDM channel launched six weeks ago on the company's iHeartRadio platform, is expected to feature music from artists such as Skrillex, David Guetta, Calvin Harris and will air shows hosted by a mix of well-known and up-and-coming DJ's like Diplo, Fatboy Slim, Paul van Dyk and others.
The station kicked off with a special Boston-focused one-hour show hosted by Pete Tong, a British DJ known for his work on BBC Radio 1's Essential Mix show and who played a major role in launching the iHeartRadio channel. After the launch Tong will host a two-hour show weeknights from 7-9 p.m. The station launch will also feature exclusive content from Swedish House Mafia's final tour.
While not a common format, this is by no means radio's first attempt at a dance formatted station. Billboard currently monitors seven full-time dance stations as part of its Dance Panel: five terrestrial and two satellite/digital. The number was eight before Adult Hits KDHT in Denver changed formats last month. However, if ever there was a time for the format to expand, it's right now.
Much of Top 40 radio's recent ratings success can be attributed to a string of uptempo dance hits from popular artists that began well over a year ago and has only recently begun to slow down a bit. Then there's EDM, one of the hottest semi-underground sounds around right now. Festivals like the Electric Daisy Carnival in New York that feature popular EDM acts are able to sell 60,000 tickets at $100 and up before the headliners are even announced and a recent Swedish House Mafia tour date in Chicago sold out the United Center, easily a 20,000 seat arena, in just minutes; something neither Prince nor Madonna were able to do.
The challenge though isn't finding passionate fans; it's finding enough of them who tune in not only at night and on the weekends but during the day when ad rates are the highest to give the station critical mass. Dylan Sprague, Vice President of Programming for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston, believes Boston's music fans will rise to the occasion. "The music scene in Boston has a vibrant EDM community as well as a rich history of bringing new music to audiences in the area and around the country. We're excited to continue the tradition by giving dance music a home on Boston's airwaves."
This also marks the first time a a format developed on iHeartRadio has made the leap to broadcast something the company would surely like to do more of. "Like the early days of FM, iHeartRadio is the new playground for programming experimentation. Evolution 101.7 is a great example of iHeartRadio's ability to drive new innovation in radio programming, and will bring even more variety to Clear Channel's impressive roster of stations," says Tom Poleman, President of National Programming Platforms for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.