Syracuse Radio Hates Cool Music

Mark Bialczak posts on the Listen Up blog about a new development with WAER radio.  On their new HD 2 format, WAER simulcasts Xponential, syndicated out of WXPN in Philadelphia.  WXPN is the college radio station at my alma mater The University of Pennsylvania.  It has been on the cutting edge of music for a long time.

Of course, this begs the question, why can’t WAER create anything of interest on its own?  Criminy, they’re supposedly educating the radio industry of tomorrow, doesn’t anyone there have an ounce of creativity? Why can’t S.U.’s university-owned radio station play anything of interest?

Syracuse radio hates cool music: S.U.’s WAER plays cocktail lounge jazz, SUNY Oswego’s station plays no music–all NPR and old-time radio drama.  WJPZ, allegedly owned by Syracuse U. students, plays dance crapola. Commercial radio is all knucklehead morning shows and bland corporate rock.  The “community” radio station can only be heard on the radio in Madison County and our “public” radio station is averse to playing anything but classical music (I’m in envious awe of North Country Public Radio’s eclectic mix of programming.)

Most stations consign all the interesting stuff to the Sunday evening time slot, segregating it from all the rest of their fare. Don’t make any plans for Sundays if you want to catch local music, bluegrass, blues and world beat shows. At least WAER’s HD radio program will be free, so we can listen to hip music without paying for satellite radio–where all the rest of the hip stuff has migrated. But we will have to buy new radio receivers. 

I guess I’m betraying my boomer roots–there’s never been more easy access to such a wide array of music as we have now via the ‘net.  But I still long for the ease of just turning on a radio and hearing some cool tunes and a DJ that actually lives in your town talking up the good stuff.

9 thoughts on “Syracuse Radio Hates Cool Music

  1. I didn’t realize that you could hear good music on the radio anywhere in the world until I left CNY.

    I suggest WKZE out of Red Hook, NY. A great mix of tunes, live and streaming on the internet! It’s one of a dying breed – the independent, commercial (not ‘member-supported’) station.

    Almost all its advertisers are local businesses, and is an interesting thing that the local businesses support the station, and the station supports these businesses. I wonder if such an enterprise could exist, or even thrive, in Syracuse, as WKZE has in the Mid-Hudson Valley?


  2. Hey Phil — I think you’re a bit harsh and inaccurate, and painting with too broad a brush in your criticism of Syracuse radio. Have you ever listened to my radio show, Common Threads (noon to 3 pm on WAER 88.3 FM)? Or the local-origination blues shows on WAER on Friday night (9 pm to midnight), or Sunday afternoon (3 to 6 pm) or Sunday night (6 pm to 10 pm)? Or WAER’s local-origination Funk show on Saturday evenings. Also, WAER’s jazz programming is much more than just cocktail music — there’s everything from Miles Davis to John Coltrane to Ella to the funky Boston Horns to Larry Carlton to Bela Fleck to Dr. John to LOS BLANCOS, NANCY KELLY, HANNA RICHARDSON, JACQUE TARA WASHINGTON, and a host of other LOCAL artists who get played IN REGULAR ROTATION during the entire week on WAER.
    Also – WCNY-FM airs Leo Rayhill’s long-running jazz show weekday nights from 6 to 7 pm, and they have some other local origination jazz on there as well — NOT JUST classical!!
    Also – WAER’s programming on HD2 is still evolving. Stay tuned – Larry


  3. FYI: SU’s truly student-run station is neither of the two you note. It’s WERW, AM 1570 (much easier to listen via

    WJPZ (better known as Z89) is student-run, but semi-professional – as in semi-corporate top 40 crap. WAER is primarily there as a NPR station that focuses on Jazz since it has to differentiate itself from the other two NPR stations in Syracuse.


  4. I also stumbled onto WKZE and stream in the afternoon drive time. I am amazed at the quality of the interviews and knowledge of the music. Pretty great that something this good can come from a little tiny town……hats off to them.


  5. I traveled far and wide around this country and in Europe and Asia to find out how to organize a radio station that was different and would be a real resource for CNY, but there was considerable resistance and we never had sufficient resources (skilled people, money, support etc) to make it really happen.

    I did enjoy listening to WERW and also the unlicensed station JAM FM back in the mid 1990s, but my hope and passion was a for a community station in the tradition of WFMU, WBAI, WERU, WMNF, KBOO and a dozen other keystones of their communities, to be heard in Syracuse and be a hub of building a diverse music scene that brought established and new performers to CNY. That didn’t pan out and it may actually be worse now. I can’t say having been gone for 6 years now. The casino seems to grab the few well known touring musicians willing to perform in those parts and there is little if any support for the newer acts so they mostly drive on by as they head to gigs in PA, MA and elsewhere where folks actually go out and see new music.

    The story of how SU gutted the student run WAER and put the record collection out on the curb is telling about attitudes in the ‘Cuse.

    Eggers is purported to have said words to the effect of: “I’d rather have one person listening to my format than a thousand listening to yours when he locked the students out of their station”


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