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Fresh Listen: WBEB (101.1 More FM)

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Logan Dave Moore 101.1 More-FM WBEB PhiladelphiaThe last time I heard WBEB (101.1 More FM), Philadelphia’s mainstream AC juggernaut, I remember feeling that they sounded a little too aggressive. Too new (which is not to say “new,” but mostly millennial). Too hot. Too adherent to the post-PPM mindset where big, cume-friendly records in succession were fine, even if they didn’t exactly cohere.

I also thought that More FM was a dangerous role model at a time when every mainstream AC station was grappling with the modernization of the format in their own way. Some heritage ACs, like WMJX (Majic 106.7) Boston, became similarly better-and-brighter. But some stations opened the door for Classic Hits to move into their old position. And many just sounded like a mess as Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” bleeped and blooped noisily next to, say, Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”

More FM has been famously well-funded and marketed over the years, in a way that further confounded their suitability as a mentor station. Faced with the choice of marketing aggressively – the way that AC once did — or playing “Dark Horse,” updating the music was the easier choice for many stations. And if some of those stations ended up sounding like just a bunch of random songs on a monitored playlist, that was partially because those who copied it were most likely experiencing the station that way, since More FM hadn’t been streaming since 2009, before reimaging from heritage AC B101.

But More FM is streaming now, under new GM Jim Loftus, formerly of crosstown Classic Hits WOGL, and just in time to take a “Fresh Listen” before the station segues to holiday music. When I did, the station felt more consistent and less provocative, although I think there’s an excellent chance that little or nothing about the station has changed since I last heard them; I’ve just gotten used to the new sound of the format.

And there was never a point when I would have denied that B101, more than any other mainstream AC, was doing a better job of staving off the all-ages, mother/daughter CHR juggernaut so evident elsewhere. There are other reasons as well, but neither of Philly’s top 40s has managed a consistent run in the top tier of stations. It’s impressive that B101 has managed to pick up as many recent CHR titles when you consider that top 40 has not been controlling the musical agenda in the market.

Last month, More FM was up 6.8-7.3 6-plus. The nearest CHR, WIOQ (Q102) was at a 3.8. Greatest Hits WOGL, which was tied with them two months ago, was off 6.1 – 4.6. Unlike sister WCBS-FM, WOGL has not abandoned the ‘60s, pushed as aggressively into the ‘80s, or tried to become “the old B101.” I’ve always appreciated WOGL for keeping its own council, but it’s hard to imagine any Greatest Hits station holding out indefinitely.

Other listening notes: the station still does song tags, the pre-recorded backsells that it helped popularize throughout AC; the imaging remains a mix of traditional (“Philly’s station for more music, less talk”) and attention getting (“How much is too much music? Have some more and let’s find out”). The two six-minute stopsets I heard were largely local agency-quality spots and were either simulcast or the best-sold online stopsets ever.

Here’s More FM at 9 p.m. last night (Nov. 11):

Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”

Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”

a-Ha, “Take On Me”

Imagine Dragons, “Demons”

Sara Bareilles, “Love Song”

Uncle Kracker, “Follow Me”

Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”

Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”

Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl”

Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”

Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

INXS, “Need You Tonight”

Adele, “Hello”

Usher, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love”

Sheryl Crow, “All I Wanna Do”

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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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