Alternative Radio in Chicago

Last July, “alternative” radio station Q101 disappeared from the airwaves after the station was sold to then-new media company Merlin Media.

Since then, an impossible-to-predict series of events has come together.

For one, I decided to write a freaking book about the station.

Around the same time the station was being handed to Merlin, Q101’s name and history were purchased by a pair of entrepreneurial partners, Matt DuBiel and Mike Noonan. The pair worked to position Q101 as a digital-only property, and have spent a considerable amount of cash and energy to reinvigorate the brand and re-engage the audience. Along those lines, they’re currently trying to crowdfund a next-gen “Jamboree” event via Kickstarter.

Fast forward to last week: news broke that alternative radio was being brought back to the Chicago dial by … Merlin Media.

In another fascinating twist, Merlin has reacquired Q101’s old WKQX call letters. Robert Feder’s first report on the story appeared here. The latest update came today, and can be read here.

The big question is whether or not Merlin will make a move to buy back Q101’s name and assets, or if it will launch a station without the nineteen years of history (baggage?) that come with Q101.

With that and other questions swirling about, I asked Matt DuBiel to be my guest on next week’s show. We recorded the interview on Thursday, so by the time it hits the Steve Dahl Network on Wednesday, there will likely be a flood of new information available. Regardless of timing, the interview’s plenty interesting– maybe a little too “inside baseball,” but interesting nonetheless.


JVO: “At the time you decided, ‘we want these digital assets, we want the name Q101,’ you were aware that the station was kind of damaged goods at that point. Musically, reputation-wise, image, the station had been f***** with, prodded, tweaked, and pulled in a million different directions. You were buying a … problematic heritage.”

MD: “Yeah. And we didn’t realize as much as you know that that is true. We didn’t realize how serious that was.”

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