The man himself. (7/6a)
SHOP TALK & SEGUES: BEATS 1'S OPENING WEEKEND
The global station programmed, and Michelle S. listened. (7/6a)
A GOODMAN IS NOT HARD TO FIND
The new guy at Sony Nashville. (7/6a)
THE CHARTS THEY ARE A CHANGIN’
Thank God it's Friday? (7/6a)
OLD DOMINION “BREAK UP” & BREAK OUT
Updates on a pair of new and developing Sony Music Nashville acts in our Music City section. (7/6a)
One of the worst things you can say to me is that I “missed the point.” It would be less hurtful if you called me ugly (whatever), stupid (good luck with that) or stubborn (thank you). Working here for the past 25 years has given me (and my co-workers) a perch from which to view the whole of the music industry, as well as each of its parts. I am also blessed/cursed with the type of brain that can’t remember anything important (like, say, history), but I know every job you’ve ever had and every record you’ve ever worked.
Within a few minutes, today I bombarded Matt Pollack with Baby Chaos, Dambuilders, Happyhead, Mest and Wank, and recalled a random conversation I had with Rostam from Vampire Weekend on the night Arcade Fire won the Grammy for Album of the Year. I am exhaustive, exhausting and, without question, exhausted. Tell me I’m a control freak and I’ll say thank you. It is not my nature to “miss points,” or anything else, for that matter.
Yes, that level of vigilance and awareness keeps me awake at night. I look at the stats, read the room and listen to those smarter than I am. My advice to friends is to be completely, unequivocally RIGHT at least twice a year (cue up Aqualung’s “Something to Believe In”; I’ll wait). Here’s an example: Last year, Dustin Matthews, PD at WRXL Richmond took a chance on X Ambassadors f/Jamie N. Commons’ “Jungle,” and invited the band to play his Xmas show. Subsequently, he spoke reverentially about their performance and his eagerness to hear new material. With the release of “Renegades,” he was a vocal advocate within iHeart, and likely played a key role in the radio group’s decision to anoint the song On the Verge at Modern Rock. Now, “Renegades” has been #1 for weeks, and the album, VHS, is currently Top 10 at iTunes. (I bought the X Ambassadors’ record first thing this morning so I could play “Unsteady”—my favorite of theirs—on repeat.) The point (unmissed) is that Dustin took a chance, was right and his support will be remembered by those who keep track of such things (which includes his bosses, I hope)…
“We Used to Vacation” is the title of the first Cold War Kids song I ever heard, probably a decade ago, played by Nic Harcourt on KCRW. At first, I thought it was Crowded House, until the chorus kicked in, so I called Nic while he was on the air to find out what it was. Now, at last, the band has the biggest radio hit of its career. Mark Czarra at Downtown Records is thrilled, obviously. I know what it’s like to devote a decade to a band without ever quite delivering that career-defining SMASH you wished for them. Being ahead of the curve is often the toughest road to take…
Just as certain songs have “magic”—like Houndmouth’s “Sedona,” which is already performing like a Top 10 smash—there are artists who are also “magic.” Maybe they haven’t had a radio hit (yet), but there is something about their talent that stands out above others. Beck, as I’ve often stated, is a genius, nearly without peer. I hold Win Butler and Britt Daniel in equal regard with Beck, and I’m not wrong in my assessment. Courtney Barnett is next. I heard “Dead Fox” on Beats 1 today, and it slayed me. She is Patti Smith for this generation. Elle King is redefining “swagger” in Modern Rock. Father John Misty, Dawes, Best Coast, Yeasayer, Phases, Coleman Hell, Robert DeLong, FIDLAR, Coasts (love, love, love)—each poised to have the best year of their careers. Playing Leon Bridges is the best programming decision you’ll make this summer. Time to break some records, friends.
I’m not one to brag. I don’t spend much time laurel sitting or career coasting. There’s a chipped Billboard Monitor Radio Awards plaque/thing on the far corner of my desk, designating that Modern Rock Live won for Network/Syndicated Program of the Year in the Modern Rock Market in 1997. That’s it for “career recognition.” Now, I wouldn’t even have a shot at a list of the top “60 under 60” executives. It’s more than likely that I’ve made you money or helped you out, and expected nothing in return. “Big ego, low self-esteem” was a phrase I first heard “in the rooms” of AA, although it seems to be a prerequisite character trait for those of us who choose to toil in the quest for and deliverance of airplay.
The demands from our radio “friends” have grown in inverse proportion to their impact. “I broke that band,” they proclaim. “Now they owe me.” Oh, please. What do any of us have to brag about, really? Yes, Muse, whose “Dead Inside” was recently #1 at Modern Rock, nearing a weekly audience of 10 million, debuted at #1 this week. But, sales were under 100k, so that whole airplay = sales hypothesis doesn’t seem to hold true these days. Airplay = ticket sales is more applicable, and Muse have certainly made themselves accessible to radio programmers/listeners way above and beyond most acts of their stature. The Modern Rock format is 35% current, unless you’re Lazlo, who has turned Kansas City into the mecca for new music.
I’ve hung my hat on this format for 30+ years—I’ve served it diligently—but I’m sure as hell thinking about “What’s next?” for us. Will currents deteriorate to 10%, with a smattering of new music from format superstars? Is your audience going to bail in droves for Beats 1? The heads of labels spent decades with their heads in the sand, refusing to believe that the Internet was going to change the way they did business. Are you promo types going to follow suit? We’ve all been doing this job for years—how long can we continue, when the songs we champion max out at 5k weekly sales? Modern Rock these days is the artist development “head fake” to Pop radio—a base from which to springboard, which is absolutely mandatory if a rock song has any shot at crossing. So, what is Modern Rock good for (that Beats 1 won’t be)?
Airplay and on-air support definitely sell tickets. This is very important to artist managers. When you’re grinding your label friend about presents/sessions/selling sponsorships, etc., you’re directing your venom at someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race, except for their desire for airplay. Their salaries don’t reflect ticket sales, so yelling at the messenger avails you nothing, except for making their day very, very, very bad. That is why it’s important to cultivate a relationship with artist managers, who, in many cases, have installed someone whose primary job is to be their liaison with radio. They’re willing to pay someone to deal with your bullshit, and you should know that a manager and his money are rarely parted. If we want to keep this format that we’ve built our careers on from becoming a relic of a bygone era, “What’s next?” needs to be beyond what’s for lunch…
As Ted mentions this week, Beck remains the most innovative and important artist in Modern Rock, with “Dreams” certain to be his next #1. I put Beck on the same pedestal as I do Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Patti Smith and Neil Diamond. Beck’s discography has had an immeasurable impact on Modern Rock, and he, to quote an album title by my favorite artist, is “a wizard and a true star.”
Other songs that make me believe in something greater than myself: “Sedona” by Houndmouth (this song is magic, I promise), Glass Animals’ “Black Mambo,” Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s,” Cold War Kids’ “First” and Mumford & Sons’ “Believe” (congrats to Nick P. on having both Mumford singles in the Top 10).
Last week, two things happened that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around: 1) I was a chaperone on my son’s school trip to a farm, and 2) Spoon, Wire, Courtney Barnett and U2 were in town and I missed every one of their shows (12, in all). Hi, my name is Karen Glauber, and I’m the mother of a six year-old boy, who I named after famed Krautrock expert/acid casualty Julian Cope.
25 years ago, I started writing this column under the nom-de-plume Ivana B. Adored, inspired by the Stone Roses’ song, “I Wanna Be Adored,” which peaked at #18 the week I started at HITS. This summer, as an acknowledgement of my tenure at the “career cul-de-sac” I’ve called home since I left A&M Records in 1990, I’m assembling a special issue of the magazine, looking back at the past 25 years of Post Modern radio, labels and artists. If you have any photos from 1990 until the present that are worth sharing, PLEASE send a hi-res copy to me: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com. Also, if I’ve ever gotten you a job, broken your band, made you money or returned your phone call on a Tuesday, you will be “asked” to advertise. Please give, as I have given to you (no smirking, please)…
This week, in a trade called Country Aircheck, a radio consultant that nobody has heard of named Kevin Hill said this about his format: “If you want to make ratings in Country radio, take females out…Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.” As expected, this comment was put on blast by country superstars like Martina McBride and Miranda Lambert, but, really, is Modern Rock any more progressive? Will programmers schedule two female artists back-to-back in a set of music? These would all be #1 songs if the format waited for call-out to catch up with the marketplace: Florence and the Machine, In the Valley Below (the daily Spotify streams on “Peaches” are between 300% to 1000% higher than anything surrounding it on the Modern Rock chart), Elle King, Chvrches, Marina and the Diamonds, Banks, Alabama Shakes and Courtney Barnett, among others.
Terrestrial Modern Rock radio has to completely reinvent itself, or it will be meaningless in a few years, except as another “classic” format.
Here’s the thing: Apple Music is launching momentarily, with big names like Zane Lowe and Trent Reznor serving as musical curators. This service, in whatever form it takes, will be current, trendsetting and of-the-moment. It won’t be subject to MScores, call-out, research, focus groups, NTR, ratings, charts, consultants and every other excuse you use to justify “playing it safe.” Terrestrial Modern Rock radio has to completely reinvent itself, or it will be meaningless in a few years, except as another “classic” format. At 30% currents, the path towards having no cultural impact is well on its way.
And you’re ok with this? Hands up, you surrender? What if you just programmed with your heart and gut this summer? Take some chances—have some fun! BE THE EXPERT. Is recording a session with a band in front of some listeners your MOST CREATIVE IDEA, EVER? You have access to so many incredible bands, from Cold War Kids to U2; Cayucas to Mumford & Sons, for example, what are you going to make an impression with your audience? Where is the joy of discovery and sense of fun? Are you going to let Apple steal your audience? Curate this: email@example.com,
Ted Volk (my better half at HITS) and I are obsessed with the Florence + the Machine’s first single from How Big How Blue How Beautiful. We are rarely in love with the same songs—Ted’s taste is on point with most Modern Rock PDs, which is why he’s the best at what he does, while I scoot on the margins, grateful if I never hear another Red Hot Chili Peppers song or “Geronimo” again in my lifetime. Ted calls me an “Outlier”—he must’ve read a few Malcolm Gladwell books—although I immediately think of a song of that title from the latest Spoon record. Speaking of Spoon (who, me?), Lazlo is playing “Inside Out” in Power, and says the call-out warrants it. Lynn Barstow just moved it up in rotation, as well. What do they know that you don’t?...
I know that I have a kid at home with pneumonia, and I haven’t been vomited on this much since that night at the Iroquois Hotel in 1983. Once I had my son Julian (named after Julian Cope) at the tender age of 47, I felt like my heart had permanently attached itself outside of my chest. Weirdly enough, I hear music differently (sleep deprivation?), and although my job would be infinitely easier if every band I work with delivered a radio-friendly four-on-the-floor “stomper” with every record, it’s songs like “Peaches” by In the Valley Below and “Black Mambo” by Glass Animals that get to me. I want to listen to slinky songs in a minor key (“D-minor is the saddest of all keys”—Spinal Tap) and, well, feel something.
Here’s the thing: Modern Rock radio is good for maybe 5,000 singles a week without the benefit of a sync (X Ambassadors), airplay on other formats or other mitigating factors (iTunes front-page placement is a massive sales boost). Anything over 1,500 singles/week signifies that the song is a “something” in today’s climate. When programmers tell promo reps that the song can’t be a hit on their radio station without a visible sync (a daily conversation), are they acknowledging that they’ve given up as “New Music Leaders”? With the majority of stations refusing to even consider a song until it’s Top 20, how are we supposed to break new bands? Let’s just assume that only a handful of records every year will be true “smashes,” so now tell me which records you want to add and I’ll tell you which ones “matter.”
Ron Cerrito and Amanda Walk will break James Bay. That is a given. Cold War Kids’ “First” deserves to be a hit. Anything alt-J releases should get a shot because they’re the band that can sell out Madison Square Garden without your help. Whether or not I like them is beside the point. Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” sounds like Wanda Jackson, and I encourage radio to embrace female artists that are badass, like Elle and Courtney Barnett and Matt & Kim and Best Coast and Sleater-Kinney and Wolf Alice and fuck yeah, Fifth Harmony (“Worth It” is an ANTHEM), because I want this generation of women to feel empowered and not just entitled. Listen to the women on your staff—they’re the ones who determine the hits…
As you know, Garett Michaels has left the building at KNDD Seattle, just as the station hit its five-year ratings peak. His future, although unknown, remains bright. In the meantime, our longtime friend Leslie Scott is in the “Acting PD” role, with support from Programming Ace Dave Richards and musical savants Manley and Pepper. Charese Fruge has left Las Vegas for the VP Programming/OM gig at CBS Houston, overseeing six stations. Former Live105 jack-of-all-trades Miles Anzaldo has moved to Minneapolis to do nights at Go 96.3, joining his former San Francisco roommate Derek Madden in the Twin Cities, where they can attend concerts as each other’s plus-ones, without working for the same company…
On May 19, you will add the follow-up to Modest Mouse’s first #1 in 11 years. The song is called “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box,” and Ted thinks it’s an even better single than “Lampshades on Fire.” Here’s to another #1!...
Ask Rob Goldklang about Phases. I’m obsessed. I’m also deeply, passionately in love with Coasts’ “Oceans,” which Bill Carroll and Howard P. will break this year… Unless Fifth Harmony has any interest in adding a 50-something dork to their lineup and changing their name to Sixth Harmony, you can find me here: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com.