vanessa-james_web.jpgIf you’re an avid radio listener and you love R&B and Hip-Hop, you may have noticed a difference on Miami’s FM airwaves.

On May 14, 103.5 The Beat suddenly became a Spanish Adult Contemporary station known as 103.5 Super X. The switch left many Beat fans wondering what happened.

Yolanda Cabrera is among them. The 34-year-old mortgage processor was a faithful listener who has followed The Beat since it went live in 2002. She told the South Florida Times that she feels the station showed a lack of regard for listeners by suddenly changing formats without giving any notice.

“I was so hot when I got in my truck and tried to listen to 103.5 (The Beat) and it just wasn’t there. I thought since the public listens to the radio, we deserved some kind of warning or advance notice. I thought it was horrible that absolutely nothing was said. How can you cater to the listeners and you don’t even give the listeners the courtesy of telling them what happened?” Cabrera said.

Brian Olson, President and Market Manager of Clear Channel South Florida, said the format switch came after years of trying and failing to be competitive with urban powerhouses HOT 105 and 99 JAMZ.

“It was a business decision. We’ve been in the (Hip-Hop and R&B) format for years and the bottom line is the station was not performing in the ratings or the revenue. There are two Cox stations that do very well and we couldn’t compete with them,” Olson said.

Olson also said the change came with no intention of upsetting anyone. But after doing research, Clear Channel executives found that a station like Super X would have a better reach.

“Please understand it wasn’t our plan to change. We wanted to be successful. We added Steve Harvey to the mix; we marketed the radio station and we just couldn’t produce a winner. The research came back that the Spanish format was the best opportunity,” Olson said.

Cabrera, of West Park, said she finds this hard to believe. A woman of Trinidadian descent who lives in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, she said her neighbors were just as upset as she was.

“There are 101 Hispanic stations already, but in our community what do we really have aside from 99 JAMZ and HOT 105? Those are cool but in my opinion, 103.5 catered to my age group, 25-35 year olds. They played current music but they were also versatile. The Beat gave us reggae, calypso moments and oldie but goodies. You got a nice dose of everything and nothing was overwhelming,” Cabrera continued.

Manuel Rodriguez is a 42-year-old self-described old-school hip-hop head of Puerto Rican descent. He agrees with his neighbor, Cabrera.

“I’m depressed because I can’t even listen to the radio right now. I think the new (Spanish) station is horrible; I have to play CD’s. I used to love when MC Search would come hold it down. We had Prince Markie D and the music was good. They gave you a variety of music. They had the best-rush hour mix and they dealt with real issues. The Beat is really going to be missed,” Rodriguez said.

Vanessa James was one of The Beat’s most popular on-air personalities, hosting their Midday Lounge segment as well as managing their marketing and promotions. James told the South Florida Times that she and her co-workers were given hardly any official notice, and found out about the switch through the industry grapevine.

“None of the air staff knew that they would be changing formats,’’ James said. “Obviously the writing was kind of on the wall on the business end. We definitely knew that if the ratings and revenue didn’t pick up and change they were going to be looking at other options, but it was kind of like within 48 hours we were officially told. Prior to that, when the rumors were swirling, a lot of the air staff found out through other people in the market versus internally.”

James also said the decision Clear Channel made was at the expense of Miami’s black community, calling the Beat a “stepchild” in the way it was marketed.

“Although I feel the ratings and revenue were not where they should have been, I also don’t know if we were given the opportunity to succeed before they relinquished it. With the proper attention and the proper advertising, we could have made it,” James said.

“I think that it’s actually a huge disservice to the African-American and the Caribbean communities in the market because there is a huge void that needs to be filled. I don’t feel that WEDR, Power 96 or HOT 105 is catching everything because they each have their own niche. We definitely catered to that lane in the middle of 25-to-40-year-olds who are still fresh, and it’s going to be interesting to see who picks up the slack,” James continued.

While The Beat is no more, James has spent years cultivating relationships, and will continue to work in entertainment. On Tuesday, June 16, she will have a launch party for her media website, to give media, industry insiders and listeners the answers to all of their questions about the station’s switch, and help them keep up with what she’ll be doing next.

The new station, 103.5 Super X, has a fully functioning website, and that states it will play Spanish hits from the '80s, '90s and today.

Photo: Vanessa James


WHAT: Launch Party

WHEN: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Grass Lounge in the Design District, 28 NE 40th Street, Miami, Florida 33317

COST: Admission is free and open to the public

CONTACT: 305-573-3355