Syracuse Finally Has A Hip-Hop Radio Station, And It’s Booming
Located on the near westside of Syracuse, NY at 401 W. Kirkpatrick St. is diminutive tan and brown brick building. Surrounded by antennas on both the roof and the right side, this small building holds the connection to hundreds of thousands of listeners across Central New York via the AM and FM frequency radio signals. Housed in this building are radio stations 92.1 FM The Wolf, 92.5 FM/1490 AM Fox Sports, 94.1, 95.3, and 103.9 FM The Dinosaur, and the station’s newest — Syracuse hip-hop radio station 96.5, 100.3 FM The Beat.
In December of 2016, the station formerly known as Movin 96.5/100.3 rebranded itself into a rhythmic based format called 96.5/100.3 The Beat. Due to the evolving hip-hop market, and months of extensive research, station manager Sam Furco decided to make the change after ratings were decreasing and the station was losing money, Furco said.
Movin 96.5/100.3 used to play old school, 90s rap and R&B music, Furco said. When he researched the rhythmic pop 40 and rhythmic (contemporary hit radio station ratings), he could see where all of the listeners were going. As 96.5/100.3 The Beat has found itself back in the top ten radio station ratings of Central New York, the station has also found a way to capitalize and profit off of a new growing market of listeners.
The audience market of Central New York contains 564,900 people, according to a 2018 survey conducted by Nielson Audio. Ratings are created by surveying what percentage of those people are listening to the station each quarter of the year. In just under two years, 96.5/100.3 The Beat has increased its numbers from a 1.4 percent 2016 summer rating, to a 4.1 percent 2018 summer rating, according to Nielson Audio. Furco believes that one of the main causes is the increasing popularity of the hip-hop music genre.
“There was a clear void in the market,” Furco said. “Stations have been so focused on playing the pop top 40 that they didn’t realize that hip-hop is what’s taking over. You would be surprised to see how many times I give a prize away on the radio and a 48-year-old white women comes in to pick it up. The market is out there.”
Hip-hop has surpassed rock as the most consumed genre of music, according to 2017 Nielsen Music reports. Back in 2016, Furco said he wanted to catch on early to the new trend of sound that was taking over. In an effort to stay relevant, switching over to a rhythmic CHR format allowed the radio station to stay in business.
“If we didn’t switch over, there’s no doubt that this station wouldn’t have lasted,” Furco said. “Part of music is staying up-to-date on what’s going on, and that comes with playing music that we don’t like — but music that the people like.”
Traditionally, the market in Syracuse has been dominated by country music. The Beat falls five spots under the number 1 radio station, B104.7 which captures 8.0 percent of listeners on average each quarter, according to Nielsen Audio Ratings. The Beat is halfway to that mark, and within making their own station history, they look to become the number one radio station in Central New York.
One of the ways in which 96.5 The Beat hopes to reach the number one spot is by increasing its engagement with artists in the city of Syracuse, business developer Amanda Baker said.
“I get emails every day of local artists who want to get their stuff on the air,” Baker said. “We would love to do a show on a Sunday night where they can get their music in rotations, and we want to start doing local concerts as well. We have confidence that our ratings will get even higher after things like that on the station because now they’re a part of that growing scene.”
The Beat’s estimated increase in ratings should go from 4.0 percent to at least 6.0 percent market listeners by the summer of 2019, Baker said.
“When you hear artists like Cardi B with ‘Bodak Yellow’ and Kanye West with some of his stuff, you can see the genre taking over the airways,” Baker said. “If we cater to that, we should be able to take over the radios of more and more listeners each quarter. We have what’s new and happening right now.”
Aside from the radio, if you’re looking for music spots to match your vibe in Syracuse, check them out here.