BEST TREND IN LOCAL RADIO Minneapolis 2006 -
One late February afternoon during drive time, Minnesota Public Radio opened the VH frequencies. For Current listeners unfamiliar with such a concept, that means DJ Mary Lucia managed to sneak in Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" just before a rather sleepy news break. Later in the same evening, KQRS played "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder—a rare moment when the self-proclaimed "Home of Rock and Roll" played host to a black artist not named Hendrix. Normally such programming anomalies would be the result of a software glitch or a contrary jock on a doobie joyride. But something exciting happened this year: FM music programmers finally loosened the fuck up. Maybe it was the advent of the new "Jack" format (104.1) hitting the local market—a programming gimmick in which no live humans ever grace the airwaves, just "random," carefully chosen, sometimes painfully familiar tunes of any genre. Maybe it was the presence of the Current. Or maybe it was KQ's newfound fascination with periodically opening its entire "music library" from A to Z. Surely the billions and billions served by the brisk downloading industry has more than a little to do with it. In any case, local radio is suddenly more vital than at any other time in recent memory.