Latino 95.5 FM, the county’s first station dedicated to reggaeton, Latin pop and contemporary Spanish-language music, will become Latino 100.9 starting at noon Monday.
Thousands more people across Sonoma County will soon be able to hear the most popular Spanish-language music on local radio. The most significant change with the switch in frequency is the sixfold increase in reach from 80,000 monthly listeners to 500,000 monthly listeners.
“It’s a representation of our community. Our community is growing. Latinos are the future so we need to have our radio stations represent that as well,” said Eric Madriz, program director for Latino 100.9, which is owned by Wine Country Radio.
The station will take over the signal for the 101, a modern alternative station.
“We try to service the community, but also I think we have a place for some of those listeners to go because we have The Krush, we have Bob FM that plays a lot of that music,” he said.
“There is some crossover so we have some places to send our listeners.”
95.5 FM’s signal only reaches Santa Rosa, Windsor and Sebastopol, Madriz said. Under 100.9 FM, the signal will reach all of Sonoma County, as far south as Novato and parts of Napa County.
“We’ve seen tremendous support even with the small frequency and the small power that we have,” he said.
Madriz also oversees Exitos 98.7 FM, a Spanish-language radio station that plays regional Mexican music, which includes genres such as banda, norteño and corridos. It’s currently the No. 1 Spanish-language radio station in Santa Rosa, according to Eastlan Ratings, a radio ratings and media-research company.
Exitos’ signal already reaches about 500,000 monthly listeners, so he hopes by bringing Latino 95.5 to the same level of reach, it will expand Wine Country Radio’s service and appeal to a broader Latino population.
Madriz was part of Latino 95.5’s launch in September 2016, and he has overseen the station’s growth for the last seven years.
“We’ve always got that complaint, ‘Ah, but we can’t really hear you where I live,’ or, ‘It cuts out,’ or, ‘There’s not a very strong signal,’” he said. “So I’ve been dealing with this since we launched.”
Though regional Mexican music dominates the Spanish-language airwaves, he sees this change as an opportunity to cater to local listeners as artists, like Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Bad Bunny, gain worldwide notoriety — even among non-Spanish speakers.
“Latino artists are all of a sudden becoming household names, even within the English(-speaking) community,” he said. They may not listen to Spanish music, “but yet they know who Bad Bunny is.”
The radio station brought multi-platinum reggaeton artist Yandel to Santa Rosa in 2018, one of the biggest acts it’s attracted so far.
With the further reach the station, he hopes he can attract more well-known Latino artists to the area, fulfilling the varying needs for Spanish-language entertainment as census trends in recent years show a growing Latino population in the county.
“What’s exciting about this (change) is I think we’re going to get the attention of more people and I think it’s just going to open up the possibility and open up the doors to do more,” he said.
Community outreach, ticket giveaways and the opportunity to bring bigger artists to the area are some ways he wants to expand further.
“The music itself has a very broad appeal. I think that’s something that our community is going to resonate with. We’re the only ones that play this,” he said.
“We’re the only ones bringing this type of music, but we just want to put it on a bigger platform that our listeners, as well as our advertisers, can enjoy.”