Norfolk State’s WNSB celebrated 40 years of operation and partnership with community organizations. Although the station has a long history on NSU’s campus, they plan to implement some new changes to push their mission forward. NSU can expect to hear a fresh sound, see live performances and a brand new studio space in 2020.
One way that they have re-branded is by changing their name from “Hot 91” to “Blazin’ Hot 91,” along with unveiling a new logo. For years, Hot 91 has been associated with urban contemporary music, playing both the newest tracks and classic music for their community listeners. This change in name, however, will be accompanied by a change in programming.
“Urban alternative is specifically for a demographic that 18 to 44 years old. So, that means that if there’s music that was probably released before the time period of the 18 to 44 year-olds, then it will probably not get played here. Urban alternative for us is hip-hop and R&B,” said WNSB General Manager Edith Thorpe.
WNSB collected prior research to determine their audience demographics and listener needs by consulting with PARAGON, an entertainment consulting firm that as worked alongside major brands such as NPR Music, Sony, CBS News and Sirius XM.
The station received a $500,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to conduct the necessary research and launch the format. Alongside the format change, WNSB will continue their efforts to increase community engagement.
“We really are very interested in breaking new independent artists here in our market. They could be local or they could be international because we have gotten international music sent in to us and people enjoyed it,” said Thorpe.
WNSB is currently located In the Spartan Station, where students are able to walk past and see the employees and interns at work. In the near future, the radio station will be relocated to its original home, Madison Hall, where there will be larger studios for additional training and operation.
“We’ll be in a more convenient and conducive space, and we also will have access to the auditorium across the hall from where our offices and new studio will be. So, we’ll be able to do live performances in there, we’ll be able to do interviews and town hall meetings. When we talk about productivity, it will not be the same station that you’ve heard, “ said Thorpe.
Construction on the new location began in November 2019 and is expected to be completed by Summer 2020. The project was funded by the Department of Education, Norfolk State Title III office. The Grant was implemented under former Norfolk State President Eddie Moore Jr.
Although WNSB will be undergoing various changes with their brand, the station’s involvement with the campus community will continue to grow. Many of their hosts and employees are students who produce and record their own shows. Students have received training and mentorship from senior employees and the station plans to continue its work with their student interns moving forward.