Broadcast radio just got a whole lot less interesting, as Los Angeles alternative station Indie 103.1 has announced it will stop broadcasting today, turning to a web-only format. A statement on the station's web site alluded to "changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured" which forces stations to "play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge." I love you Indie, but I have to say, that's not exactly a new situation.
Indie was once called "the coolest commercial station in America" by Rolling Stone, but its existence has always seemed kind of tenuous. The station signed on five years ago to much fanfare, immediately achieving a cult-like status amongst a certain segment of Angelenos for its mix of alt-celeb hosts like Sex Pistol Steve Jones and bleeding-edge music: a recent playlist showed Delta Spirit, Santogold, CSS and Radiohead lodged in their Top 10. However, the station operated in a sort of legal limbo, owned by mostly-Spanish broadcaster Entravision and for its first two years used Clear Channel for advertising despite FCC rules about maximum station ownership in a market—not exactly "indie." While the station's ratings always hovered around a 0.5, industry insiders claimed the channel existed only to shave a few tenths of a point off of LA alternative juggernaut KROQ's ratings (up in the 3s and 4s), allowing Clear Channel stations to reach #1 status among English-language radio listeners. A complicated little conspiracy, I know, but whatever Indie's genesis, the station employed some great talents and played awesome music, offering up a youthful, edgy alternative to the often-a-little-too-yuppified KCRW. While its online broadcasts promise to be "only the best new music" on a medium where "the rules do not apply," I'll sorely miss driving around that sun-bleached town with Indie on the stereo, its crazy punk-rock tunes making the traffic jams feel like a party.