Saturday, August 24, 2019
The first drama filled narrative of the frequency 95.1 FM on Chicago's radio airwaves is over. Well at least for the moment. The first year saga of an internet streaming station attempting to simulcast to the terrestrial frequency 95.1 FM ended at 12:00 AM August 23 as LaMont Watts the initial entrepreneur, owner of Future Vision Entertainment, ended simulcasting to the 95.1 fm frequency however, the Internet Stream is still available through the Future Vision app and on the Internet at this address http://clubsteppin.com/.
The music blend from this operation was eclectic and a unique experience to Chicago. Chicagoans were treated to a different presentation of the sounds that they loved. It wasn't the same cookie cutter formats adhered to by the "radio professionals." Clubsteppin.com was basically like the old WKKC College radio format on "steroids". It was labeled the "Steppers Dance Music" format. Many radio veterans scoffed at the idea of a Steppers Music format their response was Steppers Music "ain't no format!" However, LaMont Watts's simulcast to the 95.1 fm frequency with clubsteppin.com was like a breathe of fresh music in the air. The experiment truly inspired people in the steppers community to listen to radio again. The inspiration and impact was so powerful that it convinced professionals and others in the industry to work for free because it was believed that an Internet Streaming Station simulcasting to fm translators could be a "Game Changer" profitable and successful as a business venture. What Mr. Watts proved is that Chicagoans want something different than what is already available to them on the radio. It also brought out the worst side of some black people as others sought to takeover the frequency and buy it for their business purposes. It also proved that the profitability of an Internet station simulcasting to fm translators is another story.
When I responded to the reports of the change of the lease to 95.1 FM the questions and responses from people in Chicago were incredible it opened my eyes to the many feelings that people had about what they have experienced listening to the 95.1 fm frequency. Chicagoans were taking sides about an Internet Stream simulcasting to 95.1 fm. I felt really sorry for the disappointment. And both sides were complicit in escalating a war in the courts of public opinion. Both sides kept secrets what was going on leaving people in an abyss as to what was going on. Alas though radio and the media is not known for reporting on itself. Let me try to recap this saga for you.
When Mr. Watts started the lease of 95.1 fm in August of 2018, industry insiders were all a buzz about the "new" station. Where did it come from? How did he do it? With what money? Most people did not realize that the operation was an Internet Stream. An actual FCC licensed station has calls letters, a frequency, transmitter and antenna. During my first Facebook Live from From The Desk of Professor Reggie Miles, I tried to explain how technology was employed in the first experiment of simulcasting to fm translators. Also, I stated that the station was a lease and that it would be expensive to pay the lease and anyone seeking to go there for a job should NOT expect to be paid. However for many radio personalities once you get that "taste of radio" in your mouth its hard to ignore it and a radio personality will always crave that taste and when an opportunity presents itself the personality will move to satisfy the craving.
During the first 6 months of operations many personalities were coming and going at the operation headed by Mr. Watts. The reality is people will work for free for a minute but when the personality realizes that they have to spend money to do the job without some compensation for at least gas expenses that creates problems for the operations. This happened to Mr. Watts, the personalities wanted to get paid and Mr. Watts could not pay his employees. Eventually, internal differences at Mr. Watts's clubsteppin.com arose. Personnel were in mutiny mode as the allegations of poor business practices grew like "weeds" around the operation choking any chances of success. Six months after the start of simulcast it was clearly visible that it would be only a matter of time before the first experiment would crash and burn. What was intended to be the future of radio had turned into something entirely non-business like and ugliness with both sides being complicit in creating an aura of misinformation while at the same time camouflaging that a hostile takeover for the lease of 95.1 fm was brewing right under the nose of Lamont Watts. Clubsteppin.com was DOOMED anyway without the hostile takeover because it became evident that the station was not generating enough revenue to sustain itself in both the infrastructure and personnel.
In a dramatic turn of events it was discovered that the trademark for CLUBSTEPPIN was not registered. The trademark application for "CLUBSTEPPIN" was filed on April 14 2019. On July 14, 2019 it was announced at a public event that the trademark for ClubSteppin had been obtained by another individual and that there was a new group of owners of the CLUBSTEPPIN trademark and a new partnership that would also take control of the lease of the 95.1 fm frequency.
The announcement began a flood of questions as to what was really happening with LaMont Watts and his clubsteppin.com operation. Rumors, lies and innuendoes were abounding about the state of Mr. Watts's operation which in truth was a list of bad business decision making and a failure to pay the lease for the simulcast.
To keep up morale during the apparent takeover Mr. Watts and his Future Vision Entertainment clubsteppin.com crew tried to explain away the issues that surrounded the operation on July 17 2019. Mr Watts during the Facebook Live conference attempted to reassure his audience and his personnel that all was well and his operation was still going. The conference said many things but revealed little in facts about the state of the operation. You had to "read between the lines" to figure out what was actually being said. My experience as a researcher in the radio industry led me to conclude that the operation was in financial trouble. And many people would be hurt once it was discovered that the lease was terminated and their voices would return back to the Internet only.
A week later another Facebook live event was held with Sam Chatman, Ramonski, and Tracey Bell. Their presentation announced the return of Sam and Ski back to the airwaves and the reasons for their departures from Mr. Watts and his operation. It was much that was being stated but little was revealed regarding the facts. Dates of the changes were stated but the facts of the changes were unclear. We're going on in 10 days then two weeks -- etc. It was another read between the lines session. The truth of matter was that the lease of the frequency 95.1 fm had not been terminated so really no definitive statements of the new lease could be made only the statement regarding new owners. However, the plans of a takeover were in full effect. It all ended this way.
On Thursday night 8/22, Mr. Watts issued a mass text to his staff stating in part that the lease which allowed him to simulcast to the 95.1 FM frequency was over. No more 95.1 FM for clubsteppin.com. He thanked everyone and the game was over.
Friday morning on August 23, 2019 Tracey V. Bell announced via Facebook
"Tune your radio to 95.1 FM or if you are outside of Chicago....go to our 95.1 Clubsteppin Chicago FB page and click the link to listen LIVE!!!! THE INTEGRATED BRAND MARKETING COMPANY, IS THE NEW OWNER OF 95.1 FM!!!!!!! FINALLY AM ABLE TO SCREAM!! "PURCHASED!" OK...NOW BACK TO WORK. THANK YOU GOD FOR JESUS!!!! THANK YOU TEAM, PARTNERS, LISTENERS, ADVERTISERS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!! Love you all so much! Thank you Jesus!!!"
The takeover was complete
More later -- The programming.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
What it is and What it is NOT.
A year ago, Lamont Watts made Chicago radio history by bringing an Internet Radio format to the mainstream terrestrial airwaves. As reported by Robert Feder, "Since 2005 Watts has programmed the dance music format (Stepping) at clubstepping.com. This move will be historic because this format (stepping music) has not been done on a 24/7 basis on a terrestrial radio station". Although the statement related some facts it was unclear about "clubsteppin.com" being an Internet Stream simulcasting to the 95.1 FM frequency. The focus of the article was on the steppers music "format". The confusion is because many terrestrial radio stations operate a dot com along with the terrestrial signal. People don't really know the differences in a terrestrial station and a dot com because both can be heard on a cellular device or smartphone. The information in the article talks about the format with no specific information about Mr Watts being an owner of a RADIO station with call letters like WGCI, WVON, or WBMX. Mr Watts did not purchase a radio station Mr. Watts does not own a RADIO STATION. Mr Watts owns an Internet Stream "Clubsteppin.com". To own an FCC licensed radio station call letters that begin with the letter W or K (if the station location is west of the Mississippi river) are assigned to accompany the station owners brand name for example possible call letter could have been WCSC (Club Stepping Chicago) 95.1 FM. The were no CALL LETTERS for CLUBSTEPPIN.com just the use of the 95.1 FM frequency. An actual terrestrial radio station has owners, studios, transmitter and antenna. CLUBSTEPPIN.com is on the Internet which makes it an INTERNET STREAMING station not a terrestrial radio station. Clubsteppin.com is heard on the 95.1 FM frequency because it broadcasts from WLEY 107.9 HD2 and simulcasts the programming to two FM translators on the 95.1 FM frequency (see https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/fm-translators-and-boosters). Club Steppin 95.1 fm is a simulcast of an internet operation to a terrestrial station. Moreover, the use of technology to simulcast an internet station to a terrestrial station carries a huge expense.After years of streaming "CLUBSTEEPIN.COM" on the Internet Lamont Watts sought to localize the format in Chicago and through research of the technologies and the FCC law regarding the use of FM translators Mr. Watts discovered a way which would allow him to enter the airwaves of Chicago through "simulcasting". Mr. Watts needed to find an owner of a local terrestrial station who would lease their operation to Mr Watts and his Future Vision Entertainment company to "SIMULCAST" Clubsteppin.com. Mr. Watts managed to enter into a LMA agreement with Spanish Broadcasters for the use of WLEY 107.9 HD2 Aurora as his primary station which then enabled him to use FM Translators owned Windy City Broadcasting to simulcast his "ClubSteppin.com" Internet Stream on the frequency 95.1 FM. It was an ingenious undertaking of combining companies and technologies to broadcast the CLUBSTEPPIN.com "steppers dance music" format. The FCC does not allow the simulcasting of Internet Streaming operations directly to FM translators without using a "primary" radio station. Spanish Broadcasters who own WLEY opened the door of opportunity for Clubsteppin.com and Windy City Broadcasting had the translators to make the undertaking complete. Lamont Watts was on a bold mission to bring "stepping" music to the forefront as a radio format. It was an idea that many in radio doubted and urged Mr. Watts not to undertake however, the doubts seemed to fuel the determination of Mr. Watts who launched 95.1 FM ClubSteppin in August 2018.
Chicago was taken by "storm" when Clubsteppin.com emerged on 95.1 FM with a unique and different format that blanketed the heavily populated areas of music lovers on south and west sides of Chicago. The "steppers dance" format was an instant hit and the response to the station format was immediate. People gravitated to the "eclectic" blend of music. The City was buzzing with the question, Have you heard 95.1 FM? There were many reasons for the buzz and to keep from stating any details on the why, let's just call it an interest in the "the kid" on the block. You don't have to be a "Stepper" to enjoy the music was the refrain heard on the new 95.1 FM and that seemed to catch on.
ClubSteppin.com hit the road "running" with many names that were once heard on the airwaves in Chicago. Many former air talents got in line for an opportunity to get back to the airwaves. I thought that was an incredible step forward especially for a new station that did not have advertisers or established revenue. How are you going to pay the talent without revenue? Then I discovered that many of the air talents were doing radio "For the Love of Game" without pay which I thought was a mistake that would come back to haunt him. People will work for free for a minute but not for a long time. Luckily there was an election coming and those political ads brought in handy some quick advertising revenue.
It may have been more prudent to run the operation for at least 90 - 120 days with no specific talent and just let the music play as the major talent to establish the operation in the market, that is how other "major" radio stations start out however, Mr Watts was determined to make an immediate statement. Future Vision Entertainment and 95.1 FM were coming into the market as "Game Changers" to take a place in the ratings book as Watts managed a deal to bring Tom Joyner and the TJMS back to Chicago after a year long absence on 95.1 FM. According to Watts "Bringing Tom back to Chicago was just as important as the launch of this historic station. Tom is Chicago. The listeners love him and 95.1 is excited to welcome him home". The TJMS began airing on 95.1 FM M-F 5 to 9 AM. This was a major move for Watts and his new operation having a Radio Hall of Famer come back to his roots in Chicago. Unfortunately the information neglected to state that the TJMS was being "brokered" in Chicago. Reach Media the owner of the TJMS was in a win/win situation adding 95.1 FM in Chicago to its list of affiliates while at the same time providing Clubsteppin.com with a proven commodity to sell to potential advertisers.
The opportunity to broadcast the TJMS also was a win for ClubSteppin.com too. However, after 11 months the operation has went through numerous personnel changes, at least two relocations, an attempt of a hostile takeover and the loss of credibility in the community just to name a few issues. Yet the music is still satisfying to the people. So that has been the best thing thus far, the music. Technically, the programming transitions (going from one song or commercial to another) could be more tighter and smoother. You can hear ads and promo announcements being cut off near the end because of the automation system starts the next element too soon that is not a sign of professional radio or what happens in a professional radio station. The operation's instability appears to be its only constant. You can rest assured there will be some drama with personalities or with the ownership. At least 20 people this year and that is a conservative estimate have entered in and left. Also to play out a hostile takeover at a public event was not cool for the image of the operation or seen in media. https://www.facebook.com/BobGormanJr/videos/10214697462136115/
So what's happening NOW? Only God knows. It appears to be some legal troubles. One side states the situation as this https://www.facebook.com/lwatts223/videos/10216926458208086/ and the other side states the situation as that https://www.facebook.com/95.1clubsteppinchicago/videos/354421488578690/. And neither side has provided any information about what is really going on and to state it plainly. It's a "HOT" mess and not a real radio station. It's an internet station simulcasting on the 95.1 FM frequency and regardless who gets to own the rights to simulcast on the 95.1 FM frequency the programming, production and operation of the station should be comparable if not the same as a commercial terrestrial radio station. Every aspect of the operation should mirror the production and programming of commercial radio with call letters and more importantly generating revenue from advertisers to make the operation worthwhile. In addition to "serving the public interest". The new owners/operators simulcasting on the 95.1 FM frequency to be different must have their own terrestrial radio station to simulcast to the fm translators otherwise the new operators on the 95.1 FM frequency will be yet another Internet stream simulcasting to the 95.1 FM frequency. There is no "GAME CHANGING" if you are not doing better than what commercial radio is already doing. And so far playing music on an unregulated Internet stream is not changing the game it looks more folly as opposed to quality broadcasting. Whoever is leasing, owning, running, and programming the simulcasts on 95.1 FM, I wish that the operation stop "playing" radio and execute real radio. It is embarrassing the drama that has been going on.
Just Thinking Out Loud.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
When CLUBSTEPPIN 95.1 FM launched in Chicago in August of 2018, the broadcast airwaves were taken by surprise as webcaster "LaMont Watts" turned broadcaster exposing Chicagoans to an exclusive Internet radio format called "Steppers" Music on the airwaves. Mr. Watts and his Internet operation "CLUBSTEPPIN.com" entered into a LMA(local management agreement) with an option to buy two translators from Windy City Broadcasting’s, 95.1 W236CF Chicago and 95.1 W236CG Bolingbrook IL which are fed by Spanish Broadcasting Systems’ 107.9 WLEY-HD2 Aurora. This arrangement created the opportunity for Mr. Watts and his Future Vision Entertainment media company to become the first Internet stream to become a broadcast radio station. The expenses for this history making operation include price tags for the use of the Spanish Broadcasting Systems 107.9 WLEY HD2 Aurora and both "translators" from Windy City Broadcasting which is a "hefty" leasing and equipment expense for the Internet operation to broadcast on the terrestrial radio frequency 95.1 FM. Mr. Watts believes that the directional coverage of the "translators" (W236CG and W236CF) would be ideal for covering the south and west sides of the Chicago area where he feels that the CLUBSTEPPIN format will make an impact and turn his vision profitable. - Let's pray for the best.