Z100's current slogan is "New York's Hit Music Station.", used in tandem on-air with "All The Hits". The long running "#1" part of the slogan was removed in 2007. The former slogan was "Today's Best Music." Z100 is considered the biggest CHR/Top 40 station in the country, due to its 5 million audience weekly.
In 1980, when WRVR (now WLTW) dropped jazz for country, WVNJ began playing jazz music, which would air after 8 PM. They became known as "VNJoy By Day, VNJazz By Night". In May of 1983, plans were made for 100.3 FM to be purchased by Cleveland-based Malrite Communications. Malrite signed on the station from a studio in Secaucus, New Jersey and moved the transmitter to the top of the Empire State Building. In addition, new management announced plans for a top 40 format. The sale became final on August 1, 1983, and WVNJ-FM would end broadcasts on 100.3 that night.
The station, which now had the callsign WHTZ, went on the air at 6:08 AM on August 2, 1983 with program director/morning show host Scott Shannon, and the first song ever played on the station was "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. They signed on from their new and still incomplete studio in Secaucus, transmitting from the old FM tower site near Livingston, New Jersey, as their antenna would not be moved to the top of the Empire State Building until later in August. They did not begin calling themselves "Z100" until a few days later. Moving the tower to midtown Manhattan greatly increased the coverage area of the station's signal.
Z100 was the second station that summer to attempt to bring the Top 40 format back to New York, with rock station WPLJ having begun the evolution to top 40 in June. WHTZ was programmed to remind listeners of one-time AM powerhouse WABC, which had gone from a tight Top 40 format to leaning Disco in early 1979 to leaning adult rock later in 1979 to leaning adult contemporary in 1980 to evolving to Adult Contemporary/Talk in 1981, before it finally flipped from to an all-talk format on May 10, 1982.
Within 74 days of signing on, WHTZ had climbed from last place to first in the New York Arbitron ratings book.
Over the years, Z100 stayed with a top 40 format, with WPLJ behind them in the ratings. Scott Shannon would leave Z100 at the end of 1988 to begin "Pirate Radio" in Los Angeles, and Steve Kingston took over as program director. By 1991, however, the Top 40 format was in an identity crisis. A major sign of this crisis would come when WPLJ would move to a hot adult contemporary format by 1992. Z100 would respond to this by adding some older songs and introducing an evening talk show called "Love Phones". Ratings gradually dropped from 1991 to 1993. In 1993, Z100 dropped the older songs and began mixing in alternative rock music which wasn't normally being played on Top 40 stations. By the end of 1994, the majority of the station's music consisted of alternative rock with only a few non-modern-rock-based songs per hour. The station would still play the current big hits by artists such as Madonna, TLC, Mariah Carey, and others. At this point Z100 was sold to Shamrock Broadcasting.
Ratings, though nowhere near the top anymore, would remain steady at the station during much of the mid-1990s, but by March 1996, there was a steep drop after WKTU signed on 103.5 FM with a dance music format, and WXRK adapted a full alternative rock format. Both stations would end up taking listeners from Z100. Steve Kingston and his assistant Sam Milkman would leave Z100 for K-Rock, while music director Andy Shane would leave for WKTU, joining another former Z100 music director, Frankie Blue. Airstaff had also gradually begun leaving the station beginning that February. Z100 had even stopped using the name "Morning Zoo" the year before. Morning host John Lander left in November 1995. That January, Steve Cochrane arrived to do mornings but by May he was gone. Z100 was undergoing a crisis at this point. The station was sold in a corporate deal to Chancellor Media.
In April 1996, the station brought in Tom Poleman as its new programming director. Initially, at that point, Z100 dropped all non-modern rock titles and began playing strictly pop alternative. By May 1996, Z100 began gradually replacing its on-air staff, and the harder alternative songs were phased out. Though initially it seemed that Z100 was becoming a modern AC station, beginning that summer, the station would gradually began to move back to a mainstream Top 40 format, as they added pop music from such formats as R&B, rap, and adult contemporary. One of Poleman's biggest moves was to switch DJ Elvis Duran from afternoons to the "Z Morning Zoo" (which was known as "The Morning Show" for the previous several years), Z100's popular morning show. Despite having shared the post with other hosts (such as Elliot Segal, now at WWDC) through the years, Duran remains the "Head Zookeeper" to this day. By December 1996, Z100 was a full-time Top 40 station again, and its ratings reached the heights at which they still remain today. Chancellor merged with Evergreen in 1997, making WKTU a sister station of Z100. Still, both stations continued on the same courses, occasionally overlapping with music.
In a 1999 merger, Z100's parent company, Chancellor, would acquire Capstar, forming AM/FM Inc. Shortly after the merger was finalized, AM/FM would be bought by its current owners, Clear Channel Communications.
In the hours and days after September 11, 2001, Z-100 positioned their Studio Cam towards the window so listeners could get an up to the minute view of what was happening at Ground Zero.
The station now broadcasts "mini-mixes" by DJ Spinbad, a well-known DJ who creates a nightly mash-up mix of the day's top songs, playing them all together, mixing, for instance, the lyrics of one with the music of another. This often lasts 15-20 minutes, and is played at seven o'clock and ten o'clock Monday through Friday. Spinbad's mix is also a part of the weekly 5 O'Clock Whistle, a tradition started in 1986 to celebrate the end of the work week.
In early 2006, Z100 launched an HD Radio station that plays songs by bands who have not gone mainstream, or have very little exposure. Currently, it is the only New York City area HD2 station that features DJs.
In October 2007, after years of hovering near the top, Z100 once again became the highest-rated station in New York City, scoring a 5.1 rating in persons 12+ in the Summer book. This marks the first number-one finish for the station since the 1980s, according to Clear Channel New York programming guru Tom Poleman. It also scored a first-place among the 18-34 demographic in the book, as well as a second place in the 25-54 demo.
In 2008, world-famous remixer Jason Nevins joined Z100 for the "Remix at 6 with Jason Nevins", where 1 of Jason's remixes is played every night at 6pm. The programming follows the Z100 playlist and gives listeners a "you heard it hear first" mix premiere of projects that come straight from Jason's studio.
The current Morning show includes Elvis Duran, Danielle Monaro, John Bell, Carolina Bermudez, Greg T, Skeery Jones, David Brody, TJ, Garrett, Scotty B and Loren. The show also features Froggy, the Y100 Miami Executive Producer.
The Z100 Morning Show features "John Bell's Stupid News," Danielle's "Sleaze Report," Carolina's "Rage Page," "Phone Taps" (Actual prank calls to an unsuspecting friend or relative of a listener), stunts performed by Greg T, Song Parodies, various contests, news and traffic reports.
They have been simulcast on Max 106.3 WHCY in New Jersey since Early 2003. The show began syndication on May 22, 2006, starting with WHYI Y100 in Miami, Florida, followed by WIOQ Q102 in Philadelphia on July 23, 2008 and began airing on Cleveland's Kiss FM on Aug 25th 2008
Until May 2008 the show was known as "Elvis Duran and The (Y/Z) Morning Zoo", but the "Zoo" references were replaced with "Show" by July, to make it more marketable to new affiliates that do not use a letter in their name, like Z100 and Y100. This was done because they were beginning to broadcast on WIOQ in Philadelphia along with other stations.
From 1983-1991 and from 1997-2004, Z100 aired the "24 Hours Of Christmas" from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Sometimes it would begin at Noon, and other years it would be as late as 2pm. They were one of the first major market Top 40 stations to play wall-to-wall Christmas music at the time. The music consisted of Christmas songs done by core artists mixed with well known Christmas music by oldies artists and some traditional easy listening type artists. The versions of the songs not done by Z100 core artists were widely played familiar songs. They played about 125 songs in total, which were repeated over this 24 hour period. When Scott Shannon arrived at WPLJ, he began the same tradition there in 1991. Z100 discontinued the tradition in 1992 and during the "alternative years". By 1997, more core artists began creating Christmas music. As a result, Z100 reinstated the 24 hours of Christmas that year. It would continue until 2004, when it was discontinued due to the desire to counter-program other co-owned stations as well as competitors.
On Christmas Eve at noon, the station airs a (pre-recorded) countdown show of the top 100 songs for the year, based on the total number of song spins, listener requests, and weekly playlist success (peak position, weeks on). The show is then repeated an average of once a day over the following week, with a final broadcast airing in January. Until 2004, the countdown began at Noon on Christmas day after the "24 Hours Of Christmas". Until 2005, the countdown was hosted by Elvis Duran and Paul "Cubby" Bryant. In June 2006, Cubby left Z100 to co-host the nationally-syndicated "Wake Up With Whoopi" Goldberg program, heard in NY on Z100's sister station WKTU. As of 2006, Z100's Top 100 countdown is hosted by Elvis Duran and new afternoon DJ JJ.
Songs that are released in the final quarter of the year can be problematic; if a song is very popular during the last three months of the year and is in high rotation, it will often peak higher than a song that had been in medium rotation for a number of months. However, if a popular song is only in low to medium rotation during the later part of the year, it will often chart very low or not at all on the year end countdown, only to appear very high on the countdown of the following year.
The 2007 "New York's Hit Music Station" logo and Current (2008) Red Blue Yellow "Z100 New York" logo, not yet listed here