Ready, Aim, Fuego

Thanks to thirsty beer advertisers and hungry radio giants, Sunday night was made for Latin rock

Demographics, Alvarez believes, is Zeta's destiny. "We're a rock station in Miami and we need to play this for the people in Miami." That doesn't necessarily mean non-Latinos will be alienated by En Fuego. While Alvarez admits there has been a complaint or two from less enlightened listeners, she speculates, "Our regular listeners will like the music they hear on Sunday night as well. It's rock and roll: drums, guitar. Vocals. It could be in Swahili."

Radio promoter Fazzari says he has high hopes for Zeta's En Fuego. "Kike doesn't push the envelope that much when it comes to programming, which is totally fine," says Fazzari of Fuego Rock. "He has his core audience and Zeta is just going to bring another dimension, another way of looking at radio not only in Miami but in the United States."

Maybe. But the two shows not only air at the same time with practically the same name, but the programming is so similar that, as Posada observed, one night Fuego Rock and En Fuego each played the same artist (first local Peruvian folk-rocker Pepe Alva, then Chilean pioneers Los Prisioneros) at the same time (albeit different songs). Miami-based Volumen Cero visited Fuego Rock on the show's first night and stopped in at En Fuego last Sunday. After all, this is the capital of Latin music: Every Latin act in the world comes here to record and promote. Sooner or later the same reps and artists will show up at both Fuego Rock and En Fuego's door.

Luis Tamblay of Volumen Cero (left) makes an appearance on Nicole Alvarez's En Fuego
Steve Satterwhite
Luis Tamblay of Volumen Cero (left) makes an appearance on Nicole Alvarez's En Fuego
Fuego Rock's Kike Posada (second from right) embraces Grammy-nominated Bacilos
Fuego Rock's Kike Posada (second from right) embraces Grammy-nominated Bacilos

Neither Posada nor Alvarez care much about competition, though. With so little space for Latin alternative music on the radio, both camps feel it's more important to combine and conquer.

"I want [En Fuego] to succeed," insists Posada. "This is a market that has to grow."

"Now there are two of us," points out Alvarez. "They [the music industry and the fans] have to hear us."

If Fuego Rock catches fire, will HBC export the idea to other stations? Well, there's already Houston's syndicated A Tu Ritmo. If En Fuego explodes, will Clear Channel repeat the experiment at more outlets across the United States? "We intend to evaluate the opportunity to increase our Hispanic-format portfolio on a market-by-market basis," says Tom Owens, senior vice president of programming for Clear Channel Radio. "Servicing this increasing segment of the listening audience is one of the greatest opportunities for rating growth that exists today."

So, that means ... yes? Maybe? If that's what the kids want?

With more at stake than just about anybody else in the business, radio promoter Fazzari doesn't need more concrete answers. He is already delirious with possibility. "It just takes one station to really push the envelope so far to the edge that it's going to get other stations to do the same thing," he fantasizes. "If they get good response, you might get [Latin rock] in regular programming. They're gonna start filtrando the airwaves. Zeta's going to change the way that people look at radio and maybe help take the market to another level."

Zeta's Hansen is more cautious in his predictions. "Are we going to be suddenly playing Latin rock during the week?" he asks himself aloud. "I'm not prepared to say that today. At the core, Zeta is a rock station mainly formatted in English." However, Hansen's not ready to rule out the possibility. Pausing a moment, he adds, "The sky's the limit."

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