The sudden mellowing of Sonoma County's last hard-rock radio station, The Fox 101.7, prompted a Facebook-organized uprising Friday that drew about 60 chanting protesters to the sidewalk outside the studios of Maverick Media.
"Bring back the Fox!" shouted the crowd that gathered at 4 p.m. on Neotomas Avenue, off Farmers Lane.
The demonstrators objected to Maverick's unannounced switching of The Fox, a 23-year-old rock standard, to a Top 40 format that features pop artists like Britney Spears, Pitbull and Pink.
"We've got some people upset. It was to be expected," said Kent Bjugstad, manager of The Fox and Maverick Media's other Sonoma County stations — KSRO, Froggy 92.9, The River and Mix 104.9.
He said he feels bad to have changed the format of a station with a passionate following, but said The Fox's audience has been declining for years.
Hard-rock radio stations are losing ground across the country, and a local market survey found greater interest in Top 40s music targeted at listeners 18 to 34 years old, he said.
On the sidewalk Friday afternoon, protest organizer Daniel Mills, who'd created a Facebook page for people seeking to save The Fox, said there is more at stake than just the rock station.
He said The Fox played an important role in giving local bands some air time, bringing heavy metal and other hard-rock bands to Railroad Square's Last Day Saloon and promoting such performances at Phoenix Theater.
It pleased Mills, 27, that the Facebook campaign drew a crowd to Maverick Media's door only a day after The Fox became Hot 101.7
"Pretty much what happened here is social media at its finest," he said.