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IF YOU REALLY LOVE NOTHING

By Karen Glauber

Bishop Briggs

It’s the second-to-last Friday of the discombobulated summer of ’18. I’m wearing a J. Crew T-shirt that says “Summer Fridays,” which suggests a certain joie de vivre that I just don’t have. For the sake of irony, if that’s something still worth pursuing, I could wear the shirt on, say, Tuesday, when the success (or lack thereof) of the songs I’m working weighs on me like a ton of bricks. A Tuesday call from a PD with an add on one of my records is the report card by which I judge my worth. This week, following a harrowing week where my blood pressure spiked to 210/105 (Happy summer Friday!), the call from Lisa and Harms with a Flora Cash add, followed by a text from Garett with an AJR add, put a bounce back in my step. My sense of “YOU’VE GOT THIS” lasted for a few minutes, and then it was back to business as usual.

Lately, conversations with programmers have been mostly show-based. If they don’t want your band for their show, you might as well talk about the Manafort indictment. So much for being “in it” for the love of the music. Our bosses don’t think the format matters (except when it does) and can’t understand why stations play two-year-old songs in Power, not to mention nonstop RHCP, Nirvana, Green Day, Imagine Dragons, Weezer, etc. How is this Alternative or Modern? It’s “Classic Alternative,” is what it is, with a 10% smattering of “new” music. I call it wallpaper, but I understand that we’re living in a PPM, M-Score, callout environment, even when the pace of new music reacting in the marketplace has exploded with streaming.

Ted’s kids knew about Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown” (33m Spotify streams) and Rex Orange County’s “Loving Is Easy” (48m Spotify streams) more than 18 months ago, while you’ll spend the next few months overthinking whether or not these artists deserve a shot. The heavy lifting is being done for you by the streaming services—rarely will a label take a song to radio without first establishing a presence on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, etc.

Once the radio campaign commences, having SiriusXM’s Alt Nation on the song is critical, because their audience is active and the station, quite frankly, is one of the few that move the needle sales-wise. Jeff Regan’s support of King Princess (125m Spotify streams) and LSD’s “Genius” (52m Spotify streams) provided the empirical evidence that these songs could/should work on terrestrial radio...

With Troy Hanson at Cumulus, Michael Martin at Entercom and Lisa Worden at iHeart, the blueprint for breaking new artists is infinitely clearer than it’s ever been. Other gatekeepers—like John Allers, Nerf, Lazlo, Mase, Jim Fox, Andy Hawk, Kevin and Miles at KROQ, Michelle at WLUM, Aaron, Mark Hamilton at KNRK and Jeff Morad at WEQX—can tell you if a song is a hit before it even charts. I’ve always said that I trust the metrics of WEQX, KRBZ and WWCD as a true barometer of a song’s potential. Yes, they play more currents than you do, but only one song can be #1 callout in a given week. Riddle me this: Why is Arctic Monkeys’ “Four Out of Five” #1 callout at KNDD and KNRK and Top 10 at 91X, yet you won’t touch it? What do they know that you don’t?...

I’m so excited about the new Jade Bird single “Uh Huh,” out now on Glassnote. I fell head over heels in love with her at SXSW, and this is the song that fulfills the promise of her incredible live show. Another song I adore is “Magic” by Half the Animal, who will be opening for lovelytheband on their fall tour. This one sounds like an unmitigated smash…

Congratulations to Brett Greenberg for his impending Top 10 with The Interrupters single! iHeart’s “On the Verge” support has been an important catalyst for the song’s success…

Last, but certainly not least, congratulations to Ted and my “work son,” David Jacobs, on his promotion to West Coast GM for Mom+Pop Records! We’re kvelling… Song to hear: Bishop Briggs’ “Baby” (swoon!)


 
 
PAUL LYNDE FOR THE BLOCK

By Karen Glauber

If you were alive in the ’70s, there was no escaping the oh-so-popular TV show Hollywood Squares, a B-list celebrity-extravaganza take on the game tic-tac-toe, featuring Mt. Vernon, Ohio’s hometown star Paul Lynde in the center square. In the course of the show, “I’ll take Paul Lynde for the block” was the contestants’ most frequent phrase, and I use that phrase to describe the strategy of how two stations in a competitive battle prevent each other from market “ownership” of an artist. I first applied “Paul Lynde for the block” to my advantage when working Bishop Briggs’ “River” in its infancy, and I frequently see KROQ and 98.7 add “buzz” records within a week of each other, securing their “seat at the table” when the artist blows up.

For a format that’s supposedly over (according to your boss’ boss, it’s Kaddish), we’re navigating 10 markets with more than one reporting Modern Rock station (I’m sorry, I refuse to refer to the format as “Alt” as long as the “Alt Right” signifies what it does). San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, Honolulu, Norfolk, Salt Lake City, Buffalo, Albany and Kansas City each have two reporting stations, not to mention the myriad markets with “spoiler” stations, or markets with a powerful Non-Comm or Triple-A station that is fighting for a piece of the audience.

Let’s go back to the elephant in the room: While you’re fighting with your label friends about “presents” (I promise you, your audience DOESN’T care) and taking up valuable playlist real estate with bands available to play your show (which, as we’re seeing, often results in a lineup that can’t compete with the other festivals and BIG NAME shows in your market), the heads of record companies are investing in hip-hop and pop acts, with far less emphasis on signing “alternative” bands. They don’t think you matter—Modern Rock is a “niche” format, and the bands you play are also niche, meaning their impact on the mainstream music market is negligible until the artist crosses to another format.

These are not the views expressed by me or my boss Lenny Beer—I’ve devoted my 35-plus-year career to this format—but I’ve never been more concerned about its future. You’ve got a consultant who seems hell-bent on turning the format into a mecca of “dad rock,” where new music doesn’t matter. If this is the approach that works for you, accept your position as a “Classic” station, and stop the charade of asking for bands to play your radio show for infinitely less than fair market value. Get your egos in check and stop torturing your label friends with your demands. It’s truly unnecessary and ruins our nights and holiday weekends. Our bosses DON’T know who you are, and frankly, my dear, don’t care.

I use whatever “power” I have (sometimes it feels like the sound of one hand clapping) to take care of those who do right by the artists I represent. If you’re not going to be part of the process, or, better yet, the PRIVILEGE, of breaking new acts, get the fuck out of my way.

Here are some of the new records deserving a TRUE SHOT AT MODERN ROCK RADIO: Flora Cash’s “You’re Somebody Else” is already #1 in research at KRBZ (I have always trusted their early data implicitly), and KKDO is reporting the BEST P1 RESEARCH THEY’VE EVER SEEN, with a 98% passion score! Interrupters’ “She’s Kerosene” is Brett Greenberg’s sure-fire hit of the summer. I believe that certain songs come alive when played in a car with the windows down—I can attest that “She’s Kerosene” makes traffic on the 101 seem almost fun. Chvrches’ “Miracle” is on its way to becoming the band’s biggest Modern Rock hit. They’re a band that’s already bigger than the format, so stop resisting. AJR’s “Burn the House Down” will be their second #1 Modern Rock hit. Nerf and Ted Volk are both honorary bandmembers. Donna Missal’s “Keep Lying” is the REAL DEAL. WWDC, WNYL, WSUN, KXTE, WEDG and KRBZ were among the dozen first-week adds. Interpol’s “The Rover” should be an automatic, or you should have your Modern Rock card revoked.


 
 
FOUR OUT OF FIVE

By Karen Glauber


CHVRCHES by Danny Clinch

Timing is everything. Everything is cyclical. Everything counts in large amounts (according to Depeche Mode). In a presentation at the iHeart Alt Summit on Wednesday, someone remarked that 2 million guitars were sold in the U.S. last year—an impressive and heartening statistic for those of us who refuse to accept the edict that “rock is dead.” The number of guns sold in America last year is staggering: more than 25m.

Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” deserves more than a few spins. I refuse to be cynical. I refuse to give up on the power of rock & roll. Donald Glover is rock & roll, regardless of which genre you categorize his music. When Florence Welch sings, “At 17, I started to starve myself/I thought that love was a kind of emptiness/And at least I understood then the hunger I felt/And I didn’t have to call it loneliness,” she embodies the force of rock & roll.

Mike Kaplan and I were blown back in our seats by Bruce Springsteen’s performance on Broadway this past Wednesday night. Accompanying himself on either guitar or piano (with two harmony assists from his wife, Patti Scialfa), Bruce told stories of his childhood and the evolution of his career that were deeply personal and revelatory, including a version of “Born in the U.S.A.” that bore the weight of its intended meaning as a slow-burn blues piece. I wept a smidge during “Born to Run,” later recounting to Mike how I used to call my local Top 40 in Easton, Pa., to request the song the week the album came out, even bringing my copy to the station, just in case they didn’t have it.

I’ve always thought of myself as the sum of my influences, fucked-up parents included, so, in lieu of driving to wherever my father was buried in 1987, I made the trek to the Brooklyn Museum Thursday night to see the David Bowie exhibit. Upon entering, you’re given a headset, and the music/commentary changes as you wind your way from room to room (or “station to station”—see what I did there?). His music evolved from record to record, even acknowledging the weight of audience expectations with the cover of his 24th album, The Next Day, which superimposed a white square over his iconic Heroes cover.

For decades, radio played a huge role in Bowie’s mainstream success, embracing whichever version of himself he chose to present with each record. Now, when visionary artists like Win Butler, Beck and Alex Turner reinvent themselves, radio digs in their collective heels and waits for the universe (or some divine entity) to inform them that the song is, in fact, a hit, and therefore worthy of airplay, squeezed between the six different Imagine Dragons songs they feel compelled to play at least once every 45 minutes. I emailed Peter Berard at Domino: “Maybe they’re waiting for an engraved invitation before they play the new Arctic Monkeys’ single?” And maybe these metrics would look even more impressive if they were embossed in gold: #1 iTunes Alternative Sales Chart upon release, over 8m Spotify streams of the single since last Friday, over 40 Modern Rock adds for week one (except for your station) and a sold-out ARENA tour beginning this fall. The Arctic Monkeys show in L.A. a few weeks ago reinforced their status as one of the truly great rock bands of this era, shoulder to shoulder with Tame Impala.

“Metrics” is Brady Bedard’s “safe word” (mine is “Prada”), and he’s bound and determined to break King Princess’ “1950,” bolstered by the streams and Shazams that explode with every terrestrial and satellite spin. He and Darice also just launched a “Genius” song by LSD (Labrinth, Sia and Diplo) that sounds like a smash on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation, according to programming chief Steve Blatter. I worked Sia records at the format from 2004 onward (Garett Michaels will concur), so don’t tell me she doesn’t fit… BIG NEWS: RCA just signed Flora Cash, whose single, “You’re Somebody Else,” is a big, huge, undeniable hit for WRFF and KRBZ, with the rest of you to follow. I always tell radio and label people that you can have a long career if you’re unfailingly RIGHT two times a year. This song is one of your opportunities to hit it out of the park.

SONG TO HEAR: CHVRCHES' “Miracle,” going for adds now.

“And her life was saved by rock & roll”: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com 


 
 
WHITE FLAG

By Karen Glauber

“You grind your teeth and your blood pressure is on the cusp of being worrisome,” said my doctor, as he listed the myriad reasons why my cluster migraines have spiked in recent months. “Otherwise, your health is unremarkable”—which from him is a compliment. The next question he asked surprised me: “Has your job changed in recent months? Is it more stressful than usual?” My doctor, like most of the people I work with, can’t quite define what it is I “do.”

Last week, at Bishop Briggs’ record-release show/celebration, the star of the evening hugged me and said, “You’ve been there from the beginning.” By “there,” she meant that Ted and I launched her radio campaign more than two years ago, rather than referring to the fact that I’ve been working in the Modern Rock realm since the dawn of time. A friend said that I’m a “lobbyist for bands,” minus the martini lunches and Michael Kors suits. 

The dozen or so Memorial Day weekends I spent in D.C. for the HFStival seem like a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, it’s the “summer radio show” that is straining longstanding relationships and causing infinite Sturm und Drang among us. Every market with an airport is now home to a summer festival, with radius clauses extending from a few counties to multiple surrounding states. The bands that qualify for the top lines on a festival poster are the same bands that radio has been targeting for their summer shows. Festival promoters are often in a position to offer top-tier bands significantly more money than a radio station. How do we, as advocates for both the programmers, whose airplay is critical to our existence, and the protectors of the artists, whose music is our reason for living, balance the two?

It helps if the radio station is in a position to pay the artist within the ballpark of their market rate, regardless of the return argument that said artist’s market value is the sole result of radio support. Should the band/label cover the expense of playing a one-off show so that a radio station can make money? Definitely maybe. I am quick to proclaim that I “refuse to reward bad behavior,” but the truth is that we all cave on occasion. As long as the Mediabase chart remains our weekly report card, bad behavior is just another cost of doing business.

Radio shows need to be part of most artists’ marketing plans—when and where to do them and how to make them financially viable for all parties, with touring cycles planned accordingly. Based on recent conversations, there will be an abundance of “headliner” bands available for Xmas shows, as long as we can survive the turbulence of the next few months…

Congrats to the RED team, especially our old friend Scott Burton, on reaching #1 with lovelytheband’s “Broken.” This is the third indie-label #1 at Modern Rock this year, and certainly the first of many for this band. Ted knew this song was a smash from first listen—he and I have completely different “ears” when it comes to picking the hits, which makes for lively debate in the HITS compound. I am confident that Cigarettes After Sex’s “Apocalypse” is the sleeper hit of 2018, my opinion bolstered by Alt Nation and XMU’s incredible research on the song, plus the huge impact that KROQ support has had on streaming and single sales in L.A. As Ted mentions in his column, The Wombats single “Turn” is Alt Nation’s #1 song right now. I treat Jeff Regan’s metrics as the single most valuable tool in my promotional arsenal. His track record is nearly unimpeachable…

These are the records you need to address: Mt. Joy’s “Silver Lining” (#1 Shazam in the ’burbs after one week of airplay on KNRK), and “Higher Ground” by Odesza, whose Coachella performance was among the highlights of many of our radio friends’ festival experiences… Sofi Tukker’s “Baby I’m a Queen” is an even more obvious Alt hit than “Best Friend”—I’m obsessed…

AJR’s brand new song “Burn the House Down” is nearing 6 million Spotify streams after three weeks. Our add date is May 1, but most of you don’t want to wait that long… Tell me something good: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com


 
 
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