First Listen – NASH FM

NASHThere was never all that much mystery about whether Cumulus would take its newly acquired WFME New York to Country. Cumulus clearly likes the format, which is enjoying its biggest boom in twenty years. Success stories in Boston and Philadelphia have proven Country’s mettle in the northeast. The only other realistic choice would have been giving Alternative its fifth shot in seven years. And thanks to RadioInsight, even the name of the new “Nash FM” has been floating around since November.

The question was more about what kind of Country station can work in New York. Until a few years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that Country in New York would have to be gold-and-recurrent-driven and aimed at AC WLTW (Lite FM). Country listeners weren’t just perceived as holdovers from the early ’90s Garth and Reba boom; some were still thought to be pining for the “Urban Cowboy” era of the format.

But in recent years, the “Country in the Northeast” manual has been rewritten. WKMK (Thunder Country) Monmouth/Ocean, N.J., thrives being uptempo and male-friendly. Long Island’s WJVC may be the most musically aggressive station in any larger market. And Country as a format has gotten hotter and younger-leaning everywhere.

Then there was the question of whether a New York Country station would have to tamp down the “wisdom of the rustics” celebration of the rural lifestyle that abounds in the format. In recent years, that’s become harder when the most rural-themed songs are also the edgiest, most contemporary sounding hits. And it was speculated early on that the new 94.7 would be part of some national format initiative for Cumulus, making it harder to customize the station entirely for the market.

The new 94.7 Nash FM, which launched Monday morning, has definitely come down on the mainstream side. There’s roughly one ’90s cut per hour. There’s even been a George Strait from the ’80s (“Ocean Front Property”). Because even Country’s more conservative stations have had to follow the appetite for newer artists, you can still hear Nash FM play Carrie Underwood into Lady Antebellum into the Band Perry before Garth Brooks or older Alan Jackson shows up. But they will.

As for attitudinal concessions to New York on “America’s Country Station,” none are readily apparent. That might be a function of the reportedly national nature of this station. But for many programmers, that just doesn’t seem to be an issue now. The second song on the station was Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country,” which mentions Long Island, and not in a positive way. The third was Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone,” which tempers its pro-heartland message cleverly, but only slightly. It was two hours in when Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” a more likely New York country anthem showed up. A few hours after that, I heard Kacey Musgraves’ “I-was-bored-in-a-small-town” lament, “Merry Go Round.” 

As Musgraves’ presence indicates, Cumulus did not, to its credit, launch Nash FM with only top 10 hits. So far, most of the top 20 has shown up, as have some songs from further down the Country chart, including the Henningsens’ “American Beautiful” and Kix Brooks’ “Moonshine Road.” Then again, the new station is targeting both those listeners who haven’t had regular access to Country radio for years, but also those who’ve been getting their Country from WKMK, WJVC, or Sirius XM’s The Highway, all of which give ample exposure to new music.

Will Country do so well in New York that New York’s other group owners, all of whom have had an opportunity at some point to try the format, will regret their decision? I think it will surprise some people. But it doesn’t have to. It just has to prove to be Cumulus’ best available option. Other broadcasters have had different priorities for more than a decade, and I’m glad this was Cumulus’ choice.

Here’s the station just after Noon on Monday (21):

Alan Jackson, “Living On Love”

Florida-Georgia Line, “Cruise”

Jason Aldean, “The Truth”

Tim McGraw, “One Of Those Nights”

Brooks & Dunn, “Proud Of The House We Built”

Montgomery Gentry. “One In Every Crowd”

Gary Allan, “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)”

Martina McBride, “This One’s For The Girls”

Randy Rogers Band, “Too Late For Goodbye”

Kacey Musgraves, “Merry Go ‘Round”

Kenny Chesney, “Never Wanted Nothing More”

Darius Rucker, “Come Back Song”

Gloriana, “(Kissed You) Good Night”

Travis Tritt, “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive”

10 replies
  1. Brian
    Brian says:

    I too am glad country has returned to NYC. it was the best option as just about everything else format wise is taken or has failed there. Even an FM news station didn’t go anywhere. I do question the branding a bit. America’s Country station is ok, but NASH FM name isn’t exactly the wHat I’d use to endure myself to a city which many folks couldn’t find Nashville on a map. At any rate in the PPM era, name and branding really only matter to get someone to listen in the first place. You really don’t have to get people to memorize a name anymore anyway.

    Quickly on another note, the one format missing from the NYC landscape now is a pure dance hits staton. We are well into a numerous year run for EDM music so the train may have left the station, but It has been 20 years since HOT97 was dance. Anyone want to start speculation on what station may switch to that format…I didnt think so.

  2. Cody Merryman
    Cody Merryman says:

    Yes. Both Nashville Country stations will reseeve the Nash FM brand. How they do it will be a challenge, but it could be done.

  3. steve warren
    steve warren says:

    the list above shows 15 songs….3 of them are useless; shouldn’t be on any competitive list anywhere. nobody’s done Country right in the apple since Salamon in the 80s. and they won’t get it well done this time either…if this short listing is representative (probably is, my guess), then 20% of their opening library is junk-music. good luck, boys.

  4. joe patti
    joe patti says:

    My concern isn’t whether “Nash” will fly in NYC. I’m concerned that “Nash” will become totally “Nash”-ional. This is what Cumulus keeps talking about with this project in terms of making it an all-encompassing “Lifestyle Brand” and spreading it to their other stations as well as to other forms of media.

    I can soon see an in-house satellite format for all their “Nash” stations, forcing further the national homogenization of music radio, and the further loss of localization, local jobs and entertainment values, and public service. And of course, Cumulus will say, “but we have to stay in tune with our Nash magazine and Nash TV channel.”

    From there, it’s no stretch to think that this and other big station groups will do the same thing with other formats. At which point radio will have come full circle from the days of NBC Red/Blue and CBS nets. Clear Channel is already most of the way there with Duran/Seacrest/Premium Choice.

    While I agree with Sean that it would be nice to have a few “national stations” (much like our friends across the pond at the BBC, and the up in the great white north at the CBC), our penchant for chasing money rather than chasing success, without regard for what makes radio truly sucessful, will take that idea much, much farther than it should. Then, when the next city bus strike comes along, we’ll turn on the radio and all will be right with the world – because no one will be there to tell us something’s wrong.

  5. Ross Ewage
    Ross Ewage says:

    I remember WHN when it was country and the formatics as well as the music were close to those of a HOT A/C station . It really sounded good. In a heavily ethnic and rhythmic-leaning market like NYC, I think uptempo pop country and formatics that resemble CHR are going to make it work. and keep the slow, draggy, depressing stuff (i.e. my wife ran off with my best friend and took the trailer) off the air. I was a college student in Rochester NY in l965 when a young PD out of Michigan named Big John Mazer came into town and took little 250-watt WRVM, last in a 6-station market, to number 2 in one book by changing calls to WNYR “Winner 68″ (it was 680 on the dial) and doing uptempo country with a CHR format.

  6. Joe Knapp
    Joe Knapp says:

    Typical poor music scheduling from the in-house Cumulus system. Two female vocalists in this hour and they’re just one song apart. They go three songs between power artists, which is questionable in the #1 market, especially for a new station trying to establish a brand. Steve’s also correct about the stiffs. Why play crap songs when you’re trying to establish a new format? Shouldn’t they stick to the basics? I didn’t really expect Cumulus to get this one right. I wonder what they’ll try after Country fails? Bottom line, as expected, I’m not impressed.

  7. Bob Jones
    Bob Jones says:

    I wonder if Cumulus will rebrand stations that are already very successful in their markets. I worked up until recently at KIIM-FM in Tucson, I can’t imagine it being re-branded to “Nash” Radio, but then again Cumulus was the reason I left KIIM-FM.


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