Chicago radio gets Q’d

For the last few months, Chicago-area radio listeners had no alternative rock station.

As of Sunday night, Chicago-area radio listeners have… two?

In a surprise move, Elmhurst-based WJJG-AM (1530) flipped from talk to Alternative Rock Sunday night – a day before Merlin Media was supposed to launch its new Alternative format on WKOX-LP (formerly Smooth Jazz outlet WLFM-LP, on 87.7 FM.) With Merlin branding their station as Q87.7, WJJG is being branded as – Q101.

Man, that’s a lot of Q’s.

WJJG’s format is basically the internet feed of Q101.com, the domain and intellectual property WJJG’s parent company (Broadcast Barter Radio Networks) acquired from Emmis Communications after it sold a majority stake in the former WKQX (now all-news WIQI-FM) and classic rock WLUP-FM. For the last few months, WJJG has mainly been syndicated fare from Mancow Mueller and Michael Savage, plus “best of’ bits from Steve Dahl’s podcasts.

While Mancow’s show remains on WJJG/Q101 (making for a rather odd reunion between the brand and Mancow), it is not known where Michael Savage’s show will end up in the Chicago market – the conservative talker was previously on WIND-AM before switching to WJJG a few months ago.

As a result of WJJG’s surprise flip – or so it seems – Merlin decided to launch its new Alternative format the same night – an hour after WJJG launched theirs. (WJJG flipped at 6 p.m Sunday; WKQX launched an hour later at 7 p.m.)

As far as slogans, Q87.7’s is “Underground. Alternative”. Q101’s is “Chicago’s Alternative”.

While the dueling Alternative stations have the potential to confuse a few listeners, at least the format is back on Chicago’s airwaves after a eight-month hiatus amid questions of Alternative’s staying power on radio.

But the Smooth Jazz format has been in even worse shape for the last couple of years and stations nationwide – including WNUA and the former WLFM – have abandoned the format due to its older skew, which makes it a difficult to sell to advertisers.

As yours truly tweeted a few weeks ago, if WKQX (and WJJG/Q101) do the Alternative format correctly and avoid the pitfalls the old Q101 fell into, there is every reason to believe their new music ventures would succeed. However, both stations do have obstacles: neither has a full power signal – reach would be limited, especially in the case of WJJG, which is a daytime-only station and not heard in many areas of Chicagoland.

Meanwhile, The Merlin Marlin (remember him?) christened the launch of Q87.7 with the following, per All Access: “We just couldn’t contain our excitement about our new toy. It’s like the night before Christmas… we opened the presents early. Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve done something premature.” (yes we know – we figured that out when the Merlin Marlin hired Ozzie Guillen as manager… What? Oh. That isn’t the same thing?)

Where/how to listen

To listen to the new WKQX, there are several ways you can tune in: to 87.7 FM on terrestrial radio; low-power analog Channel 6 or digital 61.2 on your TV (not available in all areas); channel 877 on Comcast/Xfinity systems; or log on to UndergroundQ.com to listen online. If you have an HD Radio, you can tune in to Q87.7 on WIQI 101.1-HD 3. Q87.7 also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

If you’re not able to listen to Q101 on WJJG (which I assume is most of you,) you can listen online at Q101.com, or WJJG.com. and you access their Facebook and Twitter pages by clicking here and here, respectively.

Let the battle of the new generation rockers begin.

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