Live blog: 99.5 RT flips to 99.5 Play FM

The live blog is up and running, right after the cut. Today, 99.5 RT will go off the air, to be replaced by what looks like a more mainstream pop station, like its next-door sister station, Magic 89.9 (which has reportedly taken over management for the frequency). Watch this space for a live blog on the station’s first twelve hours – I’m live here from 06.00 but will mostly write from 08.00 onwards – but for now you can go to the blog’s previous coverage on the flip of a legendary (how that statement holds nowadays is another topic altogether) radio station. Here’s my first post on the news of the flip, a month ago. Here’s my thoughts on the month-long hold pattern that made listening to the station a bit awkward. Here’s my review of the final edition of Disturbing the Peace, the station’s morning show, which kicked off the flip’s home stretch. Finally, here’s a backgrounder on the frequency’s recent troubles leading to the launch of the ill-fated Campus 99.5. Your comments are now welcome here, with memories of the radio station, hopes for the new one, and everything in between. Now, to see if they give this frequency a long enough fighting chance…

05.09: Yes, we’re live blogging again. I’m live blogging again. I’m live blogging another launch on this frequency. Again. I wasn’t up to listen to the station’s close last night, but apparently the last song played – without much fanfare – was 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Kings and Queens”. I’d love to attach meaning to it. James has written about the “air of silence” over at 906B (plus audio of the last ten minutes) here. Right now, I’m hearing Maroon 5’s “One More Night” as part of some mega mix. I don’t the songs before it and after it, but I bet the last one is J.Lo.

05.20: The final post on the 99.5 RT Facebook page is of this teaser. I don’t think I’ll be fond of the music, but these montages say little anyway.

06.01: “Hyperactive on air and online.” “Crazy cool all day and all night.” Familiar merch voices if you listen to the Magic, like, all day, yeah? Good morning, 99.5 Play FM. First song: Kanye West’s “All Of The Lights”.

06.09: Morning show: Tim Yap, Sam Oh and Nikko Ramos. Tim’s happy that he’s “first in booth! First in the booth!” How long can he keep up with the early starts, I wonder? The Playground is on from six until ten. The music – “Sound the Alarm” followed by “Die Young” – reminds me of the Brewrats, oddly. “Hello, party people!” Hey, there’s an idea…

06.15: Nothing’s sexier than an ad for Cherifer. Anyway, I’m off for now – I have to prepare for work and all. Let’s see if my dad, who usually listens to Disturbing the Peace, will stick with the station this morning. Hey, for one thing, Tim doesn’t sound as annoying as I thought he would be. Also, Sam Oh staying in the mornings is a good move. You don’t want listeners more confused than they already are… and they are confused, thanks to the high-octane music. Young Money is on. I know. Nicki Minaj said so. Back at around eight in the morning.

06.27: I can’t help but mention this: Tim Yap wants to start the day positively, by calling himself the guy who “swallowed the mic”. Oh boy.

08.22: My dad didn’t change the station during the two-hour trip from my home to Ortigas (via DLSU), but he did say something along the lines of, “you don’t mess with a legend.” (My answer: “NU was a legend, and now it’s a masa station doing well in the ratings.”) The first hint of guitar music came at past seven, with Matchbox Twenty’s “She’s So Mean”, and later, a new RT staple, Newton Faulkner’s “Clouds”. But they’re probably thinking, “guitars are for the old generation, and we’re the station for the new generation!” I must be that old(-fashioned). Then again, it seems they’ll still have a token old music show on Fridays. Anyway, my review of The Playground is now up.

08.28: Tim Yap has, so far, name-dropped four celebrities. And talked about what he’s tweeted, well, far too many times. And fed me with all this zen live-your-life crap, which never goes down well in the morning. But I think Nikko is still more annoying than Tim. At the moment.

08.39: Horrible. Logo.

08.49: If the basis of a radio station’s success is the number of celebrities listening, then this station has won. Tim just mentioned a fifth celebrity: Asia’s Next Top Model host Joey Mead. Earlier – and yes, I did keep count – he mentioned Bianca Gonzales and Drew Arellano and Solenn Heusaff. And Rihanna. And, just now, Jason Webb. He’s not listening, I think.

09.27: I’ve just heard two local songs. Currently it’s Sponge Cola’s “XGF”. If my theory that OPM’s going on the ascendant again next year is going true, we need more of this stuff on the radio, and not in certain time slots only. Earlier, Tim Yap just dropped Georgina Wilson’s name oh-so-casually – ugh, Georgina is the bleeping worst! – and Nikko’s amazed, again, at how Tim just drops names like they’re, oh, just the thing he does.

09.40: For the first time today, not counting the station imaging, One Direction.

09.44: Oh boy, they just played an old Roadwatch trail mentioning the old station name. And I thought that month-long hold pattern meant they’d cover all their bases…

10.00: First edition of The Playground is wrapped, and it’s a surprisingly decent start. Music’s inoffensive. Jocks playing it safe, save for Tim accidentally saying “shit” on air. Up next, I’m told, is Dirty J. Unless they changed his name.

10.10: He’s using his real name now. Hello, Jing. Also, four-hour shifts. And once again, Newton Faulkner.

10.15: One of my biggest fears were just realized: Play FM is playing songs once every three hours. As someone whose memory is relatively sharp, this is not a good sign. And I know radio stations can play songs once every two hours. I know this is not new. I also know this is why I don’t listen to those radio stations. Jing just pointed out that, “back in the day”, he’s not usually asked to play 50 Cent, but now he is.

10.34: A bit of unspoken cross-network synergy: the vocalist of local band Save Me Hollywood – who Jing is playing now – is Julz, of that crappy Jam 88.3 morning show. At least they are still playing bands. Is it wrong to hope for a more equal mix? This is more of a personal thing, I’m sure, but waking up to Nicki Minaj talking about God (on the “inferno version” of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire”) is not exactly one thought I relish.

10.43: Death Cab for Cutie’s “Underneath the Sycamore”. This is very RT, isn’t it? Or, did the Magic ever touch this song? (Then again, they did touch Kimbra. Once.)

10.50: Now this, “the radio station for a new generation”, is playing Rod Stewart. A Christmas song, granted (why I hate Christmas songs: they totally ruin the flow, even if it’s Christmas) but Play FM is still having a bit of an identity crisis, it seems.

11.21: “When 99.5 RT came back in 2008,” Inka just tweeted, “we played pop songs, hip-hop songs, R&B songs, and even dance songs. Did you know that?” I do remember that, actually, only that time saw RT really dig deeper, and this time, well… not so deep. She’s going on air at two in the afternoon, by the way. She’s not changing her name. I don’t think this means we won’t hear from Jaz Reyes – who the more vocal RT listeners seem to dislike a lot, judging from her time on the hold pattern – on the schedule.

11.28: Jing just made a big deal of playing, “for the first time ever,” One Direction. I wonder what they all felt about the 1D guys – and that annoying Smart 1D-themed ad, with the guy who’s half-arsed his impressing a woman with his Directioner cred – back at RT.

12.38: I’m thinking, right now, of the first time 99.5 RT said goodbye – also without fanfare, I think – to give way to Hit FM. That was more of a name change, with all of the jocks staying; hindsight suggests the change was to enable the frequency to step away from the tall shadow the legacy of the original RT had. It should’ve worked in theory but it didn’t, and after over a year of plummeting ratings it was yanked. The same situation is happening again today: a station stepping away from its legacy to start over again. It’s much more of a clean slate now, with management from next door (as opposed to someone who previously worked for RT) trying to make the station sound sexier… but it’s been six hours and it feels like more of the same, really. Different, but the same. I’m talking nonsense here, perhaps, but could this whole reformat work? Has the frequency finally found a niche?

13.16: Jing has hinted, many times, that we have to get used to the stuff he’s playing now. He knows what we feel.

13.22: Kina Grannis’ “In Your Arms” is now on. A decidedly poppy song, considering that Kina’s already been in Manila twice, but I don’t remember hearing this outside of Mellow. (I only knew of her from my cousin, who’s a huge fan.) I like the midday slot’s playlist more, but it’s getting decidedly more random.

13.27: I know it’s too early for this, but I’m looking for listener interaction. If you can’t be snappy, make the listeners talk and make sure it’s interesting. But I’d love to blame this on the station not having their own textline. Again, so much for that month-long buffer period…

14.06: Here’s a realization: I don’t like the morning show’s urban-centric playlist, but I’m fine with the rest of the day. (Inka’s playing new-ish Hanson now.) Eight hours in, this launch has been a bit of a non-event, hasn’t it? The only burst of excitement I’ve warmed to so far is Inka’s intro, right down the bat, genuine and familiar and only after one song!

15.14: Jaz Reyes in the evenings. This is how you complement Boys’ Night Out, folks: by being unlistenable. This live blog will end at six in the evening flat, definitely. Unless you convince me otherwise.

15.31: Inka just slipped and mentioned the old station name. It feels like home. I’ll admit, whenever Jing said “99.5” I expected him to follow with “RT”. Maybe soon?

16.20: Inka gets on the meta bandwagon. “I never thought I’d actually say it, but… that was Justin Bieber!” she said. That was “Beauty and a Beat”, by the way, the song that was introduced to the world via a fake story regarding private footage being hacked into and leaked. I recognized Nicki Minaj (yes, her again) but not Justin. I thought his voice got deeper.

16.49: I am singing along to David Cook. Again.

17.11: Carissa, who did the faux Live at 55 segments on the second RT – I say “faux” because they aren’t really news updates like before, but are entertainment tidbits that are, frankly, mentioned throughout the rest of the schedule anyway – is still on board doing, well, faux formerly Live at 55 segments. The station is still making the most out of its small news booth adjacent to the main studio. Yes, they have a news booth. She was here this morning too, possibly in pre-recorded form – that never happened on Disturbing the Peace, and the same goes with traffic reports. Today’s items include the Ikea monkey, Adele failing to register her baby’s birth, and Psy’s apology. (Yes, they haven’t played Psy yet.)

17.54: Almost time for me to go home. The station so far has been fine. Nothing special. You might say it’s still burning itself up, but if you ask me, you have to be something special from the get-go for me to listen to you. Anyway, Jaz Reyes and Justin Quirino – the latter, I didn’t really meet him when we were in La Salle, but I’m only a batch higher than him – will be hosting Nighttime Playtime later tonight. I’m not live blogging that until later, because I’ll be on my way home by then, and I have dinner with the family. Luckily? Not exactly, because somebody in the comments convinced me to write about her show, despite what I feel about Jaz and her loud ways. I’ll be back here at nine o’clock at the earliest.

21.13: Nighttime Playtime? More like Amateur Playtime. I only listened to the first hour and Jaz isn’t as annoying as I feared… but she is too eager. A bunch of awkward moments between her, Justin, and long-suffering traffic guy David. Also, this has to be the weakest show on the schedule. It’s forced fluff. Early days? Still forced fluff.

21.38: Am I being too harsh on the station, only on its launch day? Because I really feel like it’s a wasted opportunity. Or maybe it’s all the goodwill I had for the station, from Tim Yap’s surprisingly bearable debut to Jing and Inka’s steadying the show, disappearing after hearing Jaz pronounce Rihanna as Ri-ha-nna. Maybe the weekends are better? Eh, not holding on to that either. I’ll admit one thing, I’ve stopped listening. Wrapping this live blog in a few.

22.00: It’s safe to say this station is not for me – not for me who wants new music from beyond the charts, nor conversation not restricted to pop culture items. I am, obviously, not the “new generation” the station wants on board – goodbye, RT loyalists, and go screw yourselves – and I guess I’m totally fine with that. The question is, will those new listeners tune in? Will the kids be willing to ditch Mo Twister and his rants from New York for Tim Yap and his celebrity stories? I don’t think so. Play FM is no different from everything else – and to make things worse, there’s no compelling reason to tune in. Making things worse is that it’s attached to Magic to the hip, so the priority still definitely goes to the mothership. Still early days, and maybe in a few months they’ll be more confident. No telling what will happen next. But I’ll take a stab and say that, no, this station is still on shaky ground.

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14 thoughts on “Live blog: 99.5 RT flips to 99.5 Play FM

  1. “13.16: Jing has hinted, many times, that we have to get used to the stuff he’s playing now. He knows what we feel.”
    Really? Too bad I wasn’t able to those myself. I tuned out before lunch break. I’ll try to listen again after work… Hopefully I won’t be disappointed.

  2. It would be great if you could try to listen to the 6pm show for a few minutes and give us your thoughts. We all know Jazz would be a trainwreck but more opportunities to poke fun at her would be great.

    1. Well, that’s why radio stations are always reformatted. But I can see why. The RT legacy was long muddled, and it couldn’t define itself differently against Jam then. Now Jam has the “creative youth” demographic, Play plays the teens very well, and Magic is free to go slightly older. Worked out for them, but not for listeners like me.

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