Rogers changes KISS Vancouver to rock format after 30-hour Rage Against the Machine loop

While some speculated "Killing in the Name" was played to protest recent layoffs, the station's content director says it was to get attention for the relaunch as SONiC.

Rogers Sports & Media has changed the format for its KISS top 40 radio station in Vancouver to a modern rock format, a debut that happened after more than of day of staff playing Rage Against the Machine on a non-stop loop.

CKKS-FM is now known as SONiC, playing music under a modern/alternative rock format. A release from Rogers specifically mentioned artists Florence & The Machine, Foo Fighters, 21 Pilots, The Lumineers, Green Day and The White Stripes. The SONiC format was previously debuted by Rogers in Edmonton. It broadcasts at 104.9 FM in Vancouver, as well as 107.5 FM in nearby Chilliwack and 92.5 FM in Abbotsford.

The new format was debuted following roughly 30 hours of the station playing “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine on a nearly non-stop loop. The only breaks between plays was the occasional call from a listener playing along and requesting “Killing in the Name,” or the DJs making quips about the song. Requests for other songs were categorically denied.

DJs and those affiliated with the station did not comment on the reasons for playing the song on loop, but many listeners speculated that it was a form of job action after morning show hosts Kevin Lim and Sonia Sidhu were laid off ahead of a format change earlier this week. Others speculated that it was a stunt meant to promote the change to a rock-oriented format.

In a statement to MiC, Christian Hall, content director for SONiC and Jack 96.9 at Rogers Sports & Media, said the move was an intentional one to get attention for the format shift.

“In keeping with radio’s reputation of being fun and the format’s reputation as being a tad disruptive, we couldn’t think of a better way to capture our local listeners’ attention than by playing the iconic anthem ‘Killing In the Name’ by Rage Against the Machine non-stop for 30 hours, and well… it wound up catching the world’s attention.”

After a bumper introducing the SONiC brand and its format played at 9 a.m., new morning show host Angela Valiant came on air and addressed the . She did not specifically refer to the reasons for playing the song, any job action or layoffs, but instead referred to other things being protested around the world, saying “there’s a lot to protest these days” and that it fit with that the kind of attitude the station wanted to have.

The station then played “Killing in the Name” one more time.

Rogers plans to support the format change with “a robust marketing campaign in market until the end of the year across TV, OOH, digital, social and guerilla postings.

According to the most recent PPM release from Numeris, KISS FM had a 4.1% share of hours tuned among adults in Vancouver, tied for eleventh among the city’s 19 radio stations. That tie is with 99.3 The Fox, one of the stations SONiC will now be competing with in the rock genre. The city’s other rock station, Rock 101, has a 7.4% share of hours tuned.

Other Rogers Sports & Media radio stations in Vancouver include CityNews 1130, Jack 96.9 and Sportsnet 650. It’s other Valley-area stations include Star 98.3 and Country 1071.1.

Featured image by Scott Penner