Radio Musings I: Jam 88.3

12:15 am PHT

You may or may not know that Jam 88.3 (Wikipedia article) is my most favorite FM station by far. I’ve been listening to them since 2004, around the time they were celebrating their first anniversary. Jam 88.3 began airing in 2003 replacing CityLite 88.3, and it’s widely known that the station was instrumental in popularizing acoustic music in the local scene. In fact, if there’s an acoustic version of a song avaliable, then they would play that. They were also responsible for launching the careers of artists like M.Y.M.P. and Kitchie Nadal.

Jam 88.3’s slogan is “your kind of mix,” and I mostly agree with that. Due to a strict music criteria that doesn’t include hip-hop, R&B, and electronic and dance music (EDM), and focusing on easy-listening pop and not too much of the harder rock, Jam 88.3 manages to play the biggest proportion of songs that I get to enjoy among all the stations. It’d be the perfect mix if they threw in some of the mellow EDM and soothing R&B songs, but they usually hit the sweet spot for me most of the time.

Anyway, for the three years I’ve been listening to them, I’ve heard them evolve, and I would say, not for the better. The changes the station has been adopting has been moving it steadily closer to the mainstream ABC segment of the market that’s occupied by the likes of 99.5 Hit FM, Magic 89.9, and Monster Radio RX 93.1.

For one thing, Jam 88.3 started ignoring their much-cherished “less talk, more music” slogan starting around early 2006 when they began having two-DJ shows (previously, all regular shows only had one DJ, which obviously minimized the DJ chatter). This was one thing they prided themselves in before (even having jingles where they subtly dug at the other chatty stations). But starting with last March’s reprogramming, they completely threw the “less talk” strategy out the proverbial window. For example, The Big Breakfast Show, which airs from six to nine in the morning, has three DJs (Lambert, Hillary, and Migs), something completely unprecedented in Jam’s history. Also, they have the Nightlife: the Rick and Patti Show, from nine in the evening till midnight, a self-confessed talk show which completely embodies the “less music, more talk” ideology. I found it funny that 97.9 Home Radio, a playlist radio station, used Jam’s tactic to attack them when they said, “we play more music, unlike others, who lie.”

Another observation is the type of songs they play nowadays. While non-mainstream pop artists like James Morrison, Missy Higgins, and Jason Mraz still receive ample airtime, the limelight is now shared by rock and alternative bands like Incubus, Panic! At The Disco, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy. Nowhere is the move to heavier music more evident than in their station ID jingle, where electric guitar riffs were added. Well, I do like many of the rock songs they air, like Incubus’ “Dig”, but it’s now becoming harder to distinguish Jam 88.3 from other mainstream radio stations.

To be fair, Jam 88.3 still refuses to play any EDM, hip-hop, and R&B music. They play covers like Fall Out Boy’s version of Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” and Starsailor’s cover of Sugababes’ “Push the Button.” But, they’re also warming up to some electronic-like music by playing Just Jack’s “Starz In Their Eyes” and hellogoodbye’s “Here (In Your Arms)”.

Despite my alarm over these changes, Jam 88.3 still occupies the top spot in my list of FM stations that I listen to. These changes are most likely a result of their well-deserved increased popularity, but I hope that this does not come at the expense of alienating their long-time listeners.

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