Cox’s 97X Tampa Bay turns playlist over to listeners


97x OnlineAnd it’s not just for an hour or so or a daypart—this is 24/7. Beginning 5 p.m. on 1/17, 97X (WSUN-FM 97.1) will give Tampa Bay listeners the musical reins. The station has a 12-year history of creating new and innovative ways for listeners to interact with alternative rock music. Now, armed with a refreshed brand identity, amped up social media plan and now listener driven music, 97X is committed more than ever to bring listeners a unique experience and changing the way consumers use radio.

RBR-TVBR spoke with Keith Lawless, CMG Vice President & Market Manager:

Is this driven by Listener Driven Radio (LDR), Jelli or in-house?


Will it really be 24/7?

It is really 24/7. We will have “Music Guides” (no longer calling them DJ’s as they will be there to facilitate the process for the listeners choosing the music) in the studio 24/7 interacting with listeners.

Are you adding more Indie Rock tunes to the choices? If so, can I get some examples?

Our playlist just moved from around 300 to over 1800. You can use the search function to check the music. If you don’t find what you like, then there is a function to recommend a song to be added.

How are you promoting this?

Digital outdoor started all across Tampa Bay at 10am. In addition, we are utilizing numerous digital advertising platforms.

Why was the decision made to pull this trigger?

97X has a very passionate, responsive, and socially intelligent group of listeners. We wanted to give them more and knew they were the perfect audience to embrace this kind of technology…and help turn this social music experience into a community.

“The way we communicate has been reinvented in front of our eyes with social media,” said Michael Sharkey, PD. “And today we are injecting that experience into radio and giving our radio station to the listeners.”

Listeners choose a song they want to hear from an expanded playlist of over 1,800 songs and vote on the 97X app or website. The new expanded playlist covers 30 years of rock music with deeper cuts from albums and artists not typically heard on the station before.

The station will also leverage social media with the new music voting feature to keep listeners connected to the station. The app has unique features such as Open Mic where listeners can record and upload a song introduction. The listener receives a text notification to let them know when their song introduction will air, which they can then share with their social networks.

Follow 97X on Facebook ( and on Twitter @97Xonair. Search “97X” in the iTunes store and Android Marketplace for the free app download.

RBR-TVBR observation: A great experiment that could mean a new direction for radio. LDR has moved the needle for many stations, but as far as a full-market signal doing this 24/7, this is a first. The expanded playlist is the way to go, and it may well go beyond 1,800 songs down the road. Let’s keep our eyes on 97X’s ratings going forward. Right now, they’re in 19th place, so they don’t have a heck of a lot to lose here. We’ve heard 97X. They’re a bit too close to in-market competitor 98 Rock in leaning toward harder-edged Alternative. They can open this field way up for themselves by adding a lot of Indie Rock tunes. Remember, radio used to thrive on taking requests. This is just full-circle, using the modern technology of social media.