Music director Joel Weiss out at Tampa Bay alternative station 97X
Less than a week ago, WSUN-97.1 FM music director Joel Weiss was interviewing the singer of Jimmy Eat World on the air. Today, he says he’s out of a job.
The 13-year local radio veteran and 97X afternoon host has been let go by the alt-rock station’s parent company, Cox Media Group, Weiss tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
“I got laid off from 97X today,” Weiss tweeted, along with a link to a brief story on the radio industry website AllAccess.com, which stated that Weiss’ position was eliminated. On Instagram, Weiss elaborated: “I lived my dream for much of the past 13 years, and I’m grateful I had that chance even if the ending wasn’t happy.”
On Wednesday, Weiss said it was unclear whether the position that was being elimiated was that of music director, on-air personality or his specific combination of both. He wasn't aware of his departure being part of some wider Cox layoffs around Tampa Bay -- although another 97X personality, Griffin Brown, later tweeted that he, too, was let go on Tuesday.
"I'm super bummed out, but I also got to have my dream job for going on 13 years," Weiss said Wednesday. "So that part's nice."
In 2013, 97X became the first local station to program its airwaves entirely through a listener-powered app. That move led to some on-air personalities leaving the airwaves, though as the station’s music director, Weiss lasted a few more years.
"The station has been battling for a long time because of its signal deficiency," Weiss said. "97X's signal is about 20 percent the strength of the others in the area.... It made it very difficult to have consistent ratings results. And at the end of the day, ratings results are what companies are going for."
Weiss was 97X's go-to interviewer for artists like Marcus Mumford, Twenty One Pilots and Chvrches; helmed the station's "New Music" blog; traveled to festivals like Bonnaroo and Okeechobee; and was a key supporter of its local music initiatives.
Weiss said he'd received a lot of support from listeners, friends in the radio and music industry communities, and will be in the market for new radio opportunities soon.
"When news like that hits, you have a relationship with these people, and they express support, and they put your name out there to other programmers they talk to, and you start hearing back from people," he said. "I've been fortunate to receive a lot of that support. It makes me feel a littel better. It's a large source of solace."
The news that one of 97’s most visible personalities was leaving puts a damper on the station’s other big news on Tuesday: The unveiling of the 2016 lineup to its annual Next Big Thing festival, Dec. 3 in Tampa.
Events like Next Big Thing, Weiss said, will be just as important to 97X's success going forward as on-air personalities, if not more so.
"The station does not survive like your typical radio station does, by turning ratings into spot revenue," he said. "The station survives through its events. Being able to put on four our five free concerts a year -- one of those being the massive 97X BBQ, and then to be able to turn around and put on something huge like Next Big Thing -- those are the lifeblood of the station. It's almost as if events subsidize the station itself."
Calls and emails to the station and Cox Media Group were not immediately returned. We’ll keep you updated.
-- Jay Cridlin