Posted by meghan morrison on February 16, 2011 at 01:25:34:
Music radio in Chicago may never be the same after tonight.
In a move destined to revolutionize the way listeners interact with radio, hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9) tonight will launch U-Mix-It, a program that turns over control of the music playlist to the audience through real-time online voting.
This is no ordinary request show. Through their participation on the Bonneville International station’s Web site and on mobile devices, listeners will determine which songs get played right up to the minute they’re aired. Acting as an online community, they’ll be able to select titles from the station’s vast library of hit music, and vote each one up or down.
In short, it turns broadcasting into crowdcasting. “Never before have Chicago music fans had this level of control and influence on a radio station,” said Greg Solk, senior vice president of programming for Bonneville.
Social media will be integral to U-Mix-It, allowing listeners to access the voting process, dedicate songs, share music and engage a variety of other options through their Facebook accounts.
Airing from 8pm to midnight Monday through Friday, the new show will be hosted by Erin Carman (pictured left), who joined the Mix last fall as weekend and fill-in host. She previously worked at Emmis Communications’ classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9) and alternative rock WKQX-FM (101.1). “I feel like I’ve been cast in the role of a lifetime,” Carman said. As evening personality at the Mix, she succeeds Jeff Corder, who was forced out last December after 13 years at the station.
Solk said Carman was chosen for her communications skills and because she understands how to “bridge the gap between social media and the radio,” making sure the casual listener doesn’t feel alienated. “It has to make sense to them and make sense to the people who are playing this game. It takes someone real savvy, and I think she’s got the tools to do that.”
Calling it “a new social music experience for Chicago music fans,” Solk said the show will target listeners on the younger end of the 18-to-49 age demographic, which is one of several the Mix already dominates in Arbitron Portable People Meter surveys. The fact that a top-rated station would take a risk on such a bold and innovative venture — especially at a time when its ownership is about to change hands — speaks volumes about Bonneville.
“We’re doing this from a position of strength,” Solk said. “Losing stations are always looking for an edge. But you don’t generally see stations that are No. 1 in a market stepping up and doing something this risky. They’re usually much more concerned with controlling the playlist.”
Solk also envisions adapting the device to other programming on the Mix, including the top-rated morning show hosted by Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart. “People could go onto the Eric & Kathy page and decide who Eric will talk to next, what they’ll give away, or where they should take listeners on trips,” he said. “It allows for audience participation in so many ways. Once you have the technology, you can use it for anything. It’s only limited by your imagination.”
The system was created for Bonneville by Daniel Anstandig, co-founder and president of Listener Driven Radio, a Cleveland-based software company on the cutting edge of crowdsourcing that develops interactive programming tools for broadcasters.
Calling U-Mix-It a “groundbreaking program,” Anstandig praised Solk, program director Mary Ellen Kachinske and their team at the Mix. “Their vision for real-time collaboration with the audience combined with our team’s knowledge of social media has resulted in an entirely new and paradigm-shifting way of programming radio,” he said in a statement.
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