STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
“You’re still alive,” she said.
Oh, and do I deserve to be?
Is that the question?
And if so, who answers?
— Pearl Jam “Alive”
Feb. 24, 2005 was a catastrophic day for the music lovers at Philadelphia’s Y-100.3 WPLY-FM.
After a decade-long run as the area’s modern rock radio outlet, station ownership changed the format to hip-hop (100.3 The Beat has since been repositioned toward a different demographic, playing ‘70s-’90s R&B under the name Old School 100.3).
That same day, Y-100 program director Jim McGuinn and promotions director Josh T. Landow — undeterred after losing their jobs — launched y100rocks.com as a petition to bring the station back to the airwaves, and resume broadcasting as an independent online streaming radio station.
“Some of us had seen the writing on the wall. We were a tight-knit group and a family,” said Landow, who is the owner/operator of the listener-supported, all-volunteer online incarnation of the station, now called “Y-Not Radio,” at YNotRadio.net and iRadioPhilly.com.
For four years, 88.5 WXPN featured a “Y-Rock on ‘XPN” show, which was hosted by McGuinn. That’s as close as they came to returning to the terrestrial radio bands. Today, McGuinn is with the Minnesota Public Radio station “The Current.”
Meanwhile, Landow said, being unfettered from corporate ownership has meant that Y-Not Radio has been able to be more adventurous with its playlist, play more local music and eliminate what he called “bad songs I had to play” on the old FM station. For instance, pausing the telephone interview to open the microphone at the Y-Not Radio studio in West Philadelphia and talk to the listeners, Landow said on the air that he does not miss having to play the bands 3 Doors Down or Three Days Grace.
When asked about iHeart Media’s Radio 104.5 filling the void in the Philadelphia market created by the Y-100 format flip, he said: “Real music fans enjoyed a lot of what we do. We’re not going for mainstream alternative (rock audience). We’re not playing the same thing over and over and over like they are. We’re exposing artists that aren’t being played elsewhere.”
Marking the 10-year anniversary of moving from FM to online, Y-Not Radio is celebrating by bringing back former DJs, like McGuinn, Dan Fein (now promotions director at WMGK), Marilyn Russell (now with 95.7 Ben-FM), Liam Static, Jeff St. Pierre, John Von, Marco, Cat, Heather, Adam B., Jake Rabid, Caseygirl, Andre, and others, to relive musical highlights and memories. Current Y-Not Radio hosts that were part of the old station, like Landow, Joey O., Matt McGrath, Rob Huff, Matt Summers, and Adrienne, will also get in on the act. Check for the guest DJ appearances under the schedule tab at www.ynotradio.net.
“It’s a surreal thing that it’s been 10 years. In some ways, it seems like it was yesterday,” Landow said.
Landow recalled that one big challenge was waiting for the listeners to catch up to the technology. “Ten years ago, it was getting people to find out how to listen online,” he said, noting that many people were still using dial-up modems to get online back then.
More recently, switching from Live 365 to iRadioPhilly as their streaming service has made a difference. “Having an app that’s easy to use is important,” he said.
A photo gallery, featuring the station’s musical visitors over the years, can be found at www.facebook.com/YNotRadio.