Why Is The Buzz Still So Popular?

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The only other concert in recent months to sell out at a Gaga-like pace has been the perennial Buzzfest, the semi-annual schlock-rock festival organized since 1995 by Houston's "new rock alternative," 94.5 The Buzz.

The concert sells out almost every time - like it is Saturday, but you can probably still win tickets from the station - and this year, with headliners like the newly-reunited Limp Bizkit, Deftones and Jordan-Catalano-wants-you-to-take-him-seriously's band 30 Seconds to Mars, they're not exactly booking musicians at the peak of their game. And yet 94.5 The Buzz ranks constantly in the Top 5 for radio stations in Houston, one of the biggest markets in the country. The only question is why.

To better understand what makes The Buzz so popular, Rocks Off examined Arbitron ratings from the past year while spending the better part of the last few days listening only to the station. Our conclusions are below.

According to Arbitron, the leading radio audience research company in the U.S., the Houston-Galveston radio market is the sixth-largest in the nation. Only New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth come before us. And yet, for all of those markets, Houston is the only one with an alternative-rock station in the Top 5.

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LA's legendary KROQ is the only other alternative station in the Top 10 for the markets listed above. In Dallas, the market likely closest in demographics to Houston, the Clear Channel-owned alternative station The Edge, whose Web site looks oddly like The Buzz's, ranks a paltry No. 17.

It was with hesitation that Rocks Off decided to undertake the task of non-stop Buzz listening this week. We'll admit the station is programmed into our car radio, but we're more likely to stop on KUHF than any other station. Yet back when Rocks Off commuted to The Woodlands every day for work, The Rod Ryan Show was the perfect way to break up the monotony of Interstate 45.

You already know we're not great fans of Creed. But that mainstream rock band seems to exemplify the style of music The Buzz is known for. Yet by early Thursday afternoon, we were actually starting to get into DJ Don Jantzen's nostalgic set. Jantzen was playing a series of truly alternative songs from the early 1990s and beyond -- Green Day's "Longview," "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins, "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" by The White Stripes, Nirvana and "Graduate" by Third Eye Blind. It turns out Jantzen does a Flashback every set.

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And now a word about radio genres. The Buzz, Dallas' The Edge and LA's KROQ are all billed as "alternative" stations, the most popular genre for men in the 18-34 age range. But the genre is more aptly called "modern rock," since the major alternative stations in the other top cities are referred to as "adult album alternative," meaning they play deeper cuts and more diverse setlists from a variety of artists.

During our time listening to The Buzz over the past few days, we heard "Uprising" by Muse more than once each day, but we also heard "What's the Frequency, Kenneth," by R.E.M. When was the last time you heard R.E.M. on The Buzz?

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