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By Karen Glauber

Some of us haven’t spoken since The Gathering in Louisville, which remains the most impactful way to catch up with radio friends and get a snapshot of some of the best new bands releasing music this year. Without question, the hotel performance of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes made the most lasting impression. When was the last time an artist left a mark—literally, a footprint on the ceiling of the ballroom—like he did? After his star turn in Kentucky, Frank and the band flew to Europe to open the Foo Fighters tour, with Dave Grohl joining Nerf among Frank’s famous fans.  I can’t fathom a scenario where “Crowbar” isn’t a huge hit for Alternative radio, so don’t disappoint me, friends.

There was an element to The Gathering that I described to Lynn Barstow and Andrew Harms as “fiddling while Rome burns.” The radio-and-record community was feeling its full “swagger,” but here’s what you need to know: If Modern Rock radio doesn’t strive to regain its status as a meaningful destination for new music, we’ll all be updating our résumés within the next two years. Despite what a certain consultant (aka “the format killer”) prescribes, you’re not going to win by playing songs until they’re wallpaper. Your ’90s library, which comprises 70% of your programming, has been co-opted by the latest iteration of the Classic Rock format, which already has the 40+ audience in its grip (and is gaining on the younger demo).

The Alternative stations that are focusing on the 18-34 demo are thriving far better than the stations that are still playing lovelytheband’s “broken” as a current. To ignore artists like Panic, Billie, AJR, Dominic Fike, etc., is to do so at your own peril. Only ONE Alternative album was in last week’s Top 200: Vampire Weekend’s latest. This band should be revered! Not only is Father of the Bride their best work, but their cultural impact in the rock world gives the Alternative format validity.

The advent of streaming has been very profitable to labels, and there’s seemingly endless money to be spent on radio promotion. The perception at record companies is that the Alternative format is a “loss leader”—our label friends are continuing to spend like drunken sailors on shore leave because the format will, on occasion, still recognize the “magic” of a song and create a platform from which to launch it to other formats. Shaed’s “Trampoline” is still #2 at Alternative BECAUSE there are 7k combined spins from Top 40 and Hot AC to prop up call-out at our format. The same holds true for Billie Eilish, who is the single most important artist currently making music and yet was ignored by Alternative programmers, with a handful of exceptions.

If the perception by our bosses is that the Alternative format doesn’t matter, how do we turn that around? I’ve spent my career focused on breaking new artists, using radio as the catalyst to achieve that goal. Where is your passion? What are YOU doing as an INFLUENCER? I refuse to accept that you’re all too sated by the status quo to allow the format we’ve cared about for so long to collapse around us. Was it always your dream to program FM sports? If so, that could be the next chapter in your career.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got bands to break: Badflower, Cigarettes After Sex, Fontaines D.C., Sharon Van Etten, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, a new Flora Cash, AJR, etc. Not to mention that two of my favorite bands, Spoon and Cold War Kids, are out with career-defining songs. Think about the incredible artists you saw in Louisville, including Cherry Glazerr, The Regrettes and Upsahl— build their careers now for YOUR future. Thank you for your time.


By Karen Glauber

At every moment of the day, someone else’s lyrics are running through my head. More often than not, as I recently told Todd Rundgren, they’re his words (“Same here” was his not-unexpected response).

I was thrilled to relinquish the role of my life’s music supervisor this past weekend to Chris Muckley, whose SiriusXM/Pandora “Indie 500” countdown on the XMU channel was the most compelling radio I’ve heard in years. The Top 500 was based on more than a decade of XMU airplay and “thumbs up” ratings from Pandora listeners (Pandora is now under the SiriusXM umbrella). I recognized about 90% of the songs on the countdown within the first 30 seconds and could easily warble along to the Top 100. Every time a song that I worked came on the radio, I excitedly told my son, “Mommy worked this song!” Julian, who thinks about Minecraft most of the time, ignored me (although he does recognize Britt Daniel’s voice by now). So many Spoon songs on this countdown—I’ve worked at least 15 Spoon songs since “I Turn My Camera On” was released in 2005.

Because I know you’re wondering, here is the Top 10 from the Indie 500 countdown: #10 Vampire Weekend “A Punk,” #9 Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know?” #8 Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Maps,” #7 LCD Soundsystem “All My Friends,” #6 The Strokes “Last Night,” #5 Pixies “Where Is My Mind,” #4 Franz Ferdinand “Take Me Out,” #3 The Shins “New Slang,” #2 Modest Mouse “Float On,” and #1 Arcade Fire “Wake Up.” You can listen to the countdown on the SiriusXM app, which I still haven’t figured out how to use.

This week’s race for #1 at Modern Rock will likely go to Shaed’s “Trampoline” by a photo finish (pun intended) over Catfish and the Bottlemen’s “Longshot.” Congrats to the Caroline team, especially Marisa DiFrisco, for a job well done! Capitol’s Gary Gorman repeatedly proves that he’s the best at what he does.

Ted is on his way to Philadelphia for John AllersWRRF 12th Birthday Celebration. Instead of ponies and cupcakes, WRFF has assembled its biggest lineup to date, with The Lumineers, Death Cab for Cutie, Grouplove, Phantogram, The Revivalists, and more (including current U.K. chart-topper Lewis Capaldi). Ticket prices ranged from $39.50 to $100, and the show will be a sell-out at 24,000 tickets by tomorrow. If you build it, they will come. It helps that The Lumineers, moments away from another #1 Alt song with “Gloria,” haven’t played the market in two years, not to mention an incredibly strong lineup. Tiered ticketing for radio shows is key. WKQX’s upcoming Picniq, which also has The Lumineers headlining, is at more than 20k tickets sold. Keep in mind that both shows are coexisting with huge festivals coming to their markets: Firefly in Philly and Lollapalooza in Chicago. Give your audience what they want.

Speaking of Phantogram, Republic’s Amanda Dobbins and Drew Hauser dropped their brand-new single, “Into Happiness,” this morning! It’s soooo good!

Why are there no direct flights from LAX to Louisville? On June 12, I’ll be on a 6am flight (connecting in Dallas) to join you at The Gathering, which has replaced SXSW as the must-attend radio powwow for programmers. As the alcohol flows, so does the conversation, although I’m not sure what anyone remembers at the confab’s conclusion. I’m most excited to see these two bands: Cherry Glazerr and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. The latter's new single, “Crowbar,” is a one-listen smash. You will love them both. Last Wednesday, Andrew Harms, Chris Muckley, Spotify’s Allison Hagendorf and legend Matt Pinfield stood front-and-center with me at the sold-out Fonda Theatre to watch Ireland’s Fontaines D.C. open for recent Ivor Novello winners/Partisan Records labelmates Idles. Some of you might have seen Fontaines D.C. perform “Boys in the Better Land” on The Tonight Show, or, like Jeff Morad, caught them at SXSW and immediately added the song at WEQX. Remember seeing Arctic Monkeys on their first tour? The energy is comparable, and singer Grian Chatten is also a star, a la Alex Turner. They’ll be back in September for a headline tour.

SONGS IN MY HEAD: The Echo in the Canyon soundtrack from the Andy Slater-directed documentary of the same name. The Mamas & the Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go,” covered by Jakob Dylan f/Jade Castrinos, is one of the many highlights.



By Karen Glauber

Dammit, the CBD pen my boss Lenny gave me rolled under the bed, and then I lost my grip on the hanger I was using to retrieve it. Maybe I can use a shoe to grab the hanger, but the only pair I brought with me to NYC is on my feet. I’m supposed to be at a cocktail party for the iHeart Rock and Alt programmers in 30 minutes—I have to find something more substantial to eat for dinner than the candy apple in my purse before I leave the apartment.

In the past few days, I’ve answered the question, “What do you do?” more than a few times. The answer is always some variation of “I try to redefine the mainstream by promoting left-of-center artists to radio programmers.” The follow-up response is usually, “Radio? Hmm… Is that still a thing?” Of course it is, I respond, always defensive about my beloved Alt-radio format.

Looking at Mediabase RealTime en route to the party, it’s heartening to see Billie Eilish’s “Bury a Friend” on track to be #1 this week. She’s the most important new artist in ages, without question, and this #1 means that the format got it “right” this time. I hope this is the first of many #1 Alt songs for Billie Eilish.

I’m stuck in traffic, so what else is interesting on RealTime? Two indie-label records are in the Top 10: The Lumineers’ “Gloria” and AJR’s “100 Bad Days,” the latter of which is a call-out smash for KTCL and KKDO, two stations with massive ratings. Also, “100 Bad Days” is streaming 2.5 million a week with only ONE format playing it, so pat yourselves on the back for a job well done, and put the record in Power now…

Vampire Weekend’s latest album, Father of the Bride, debuted at #1, selling the equivalent of 138k+, bolstered by rave reviews, a pending tour and radio support for “Harmony Hall,” which is still my favorite song of 2019. Their new single “This Life” is out now and should be an automatic at the format. Columbia’s Lisa Sonkin and Darice Lee were #1 Most Added this week with “Blame It on My Youth,” blink-182’s first single for their new label. If I ever get out of this Uber, I’ll be toasting Lisa and Darice, because Dominic Fike’s “3 Nights” was just announced as iHeart’s latest On the Verge record! What an incredible week this has been for our Columbia friends!

My pal Matt Malone is the new PD at WQMP Orlando, where he will continue to post photos of his cat on social media. Matt is a giant among men and a super-smart programmer.

I can’t get Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes” out of my head—or “our song,” as I refer to it with WRDA PD Aly Young… How much do you love Of Monsters and Men’s “Alligator?” It reminds me of Sinead O’Connor’s “Mandinka,” which was a hit when you were a toddler… On the cusp of breaking wide open is Smith & Thell’s “Forgive Me Friend” on Arista. The signs are all there, although we know what a slog it is trying to break a new artist during radio-show season. Or any season, for that matter.

Earlier today, John Varvatos (a true rock star) and Heather Luke (a rock goddess) presented Badflower to a room filled with our radio partners. After the band performed “Promise Me,” the response was unequivocally, “I get it now.” What the programmers in the room didn’t see was Johnny Galecki standing side stage to support his favorite band, mere hours before the series finale of The Big Bang Theory aired. Promise me you’ll give this record a shot!

Secretly Canadian’s current and upcoming release schedule includes an array of incredible artists, most of whom happen to be women: Sharon Van Etten, Cherry Glazerr, Bleached (which Allers said did well during a test spin on WRFF!) and Alex Lahey. As I told Secretly’s Bri Aab: Behind every great woman is a great woman. Go forth and kick ass, my female friends, and don’t ever let men decide what you do with your body, your career, your choice to have children (or not), or how you should present yourself to the world. I’ve got your back, always.


By Karen Glauber

Twenty-five years ago today, I called my boyfriend in NYC from a pay phone at Burbank Airport, moments before boarding my flight to Seattle for a Sub Pop weekend. He worked at Gold Mountain at that time, and, through tears, told me that Kurt Cobain had died. My next call was to Bob Waugh at WHFS—we’d attended many Nirvana shows together, including the taping of MTV Unplugged, and he was the first station in the country to play “Heart Shaped Box,” which I’d hand-delivered from the U.K., days before the U.S. release.

The weekend in Seattle was surreal and so sad—my own history with Sub Pop involved loaning Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt money ($40k) to keep the label afloat, which went toward the making of Tad’s 8-Way Santa and Nirvana’s Bleach. The Tad album cost four times what Bleach did, for whatever that’s worth. Ted Volk and I worked “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at radio—he was at the label; I was at HITS. The Modern Rock format was borne from the youthquake incited by Kurt, Mark Arm, Chris, Eddie, Andrew, Billy, Layne, Mark Lanegan, etc.

I knew Kurt—not well, but we’d circled the same orbit for years—somewhere there’s a photo with his hands around my neck, while the band Eugenius made goofy faces in the background.  Now, it seems mandatory that Modern Rock stations have to play a Nirvana song every hour, thereby turning the music that once defined a generation into background sonic wallpaper. So much for our “edge.”

Dave Grohl, whose daughters are superfans, compared Billie Eilish’s impact on her audience to the early days of Nirvana, whose fans existed outside of the mainstream but kept growing exponentially as Kurt’s music provided the voice for a generation. Half of the Top 20 on the iTunes Alt singles chart is made up of Billie Eilish songs. It’s unfathomable to me that the format hasn’t fully recognized that she, and artists like her, are the key to radio’s future. I feel like a broken record, but most PDs (and consultants) have lost the plot.

This week marks my 29th anniversary at the “career cul-de-sac” known as HITS. I remember when the format didn’t want to play Pearl Jam, or countless other bands now considered core artists. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you will eventually “come around to my way of thinking,” to quote Urge Overkill, but damn, you sure make it soul-crushing sometimes.

Also this week, I celebrated 27 years of sobriety. The key to navigating social situations while clear-eyed was easy—plan an exit strategy immediately upon arrival.

Thursday at midnight, Dualtone launched “Gloria,” the first Lumineers single from their upcoming album III. Lori, Ted and I shared radio airplay “first alerts” until way past our bedtimes, beginning again early this morning. The response to the single has been unequivocally enthusiastic, which is always a relief.

Heather Luke and Allison Smith are out with a new Badflower single called “Promise Me,” which is already being played on WEBN, KROQ, KITS, KTBZ and KPNT, among others. It’s one of those rare rock records that can also flourish on the West Coast as well as the “Red States.” Even the PDs whose taste aligns more to the left (like mine) see the potential of this song. Very exciting!

Two songs out now should make you feel like winter is finally over: Dominic Fike’s “3 Nights” (nearing 900 spins at SiriusXM Alt Nation) and Smith & Thell’s “Forgive Me Friend.” Now, if I wasn’t stuck in bed with the same flu that has plagued me since January.

Mumford & Sons’ “Beloved” is already Top 20, on the heels of their massive sold-out tour, during which they’ve done radio sessions, in-store performances and myriad meet-and-greets with radio dignitaries. Last Friday, Marcus Mumford and CumulusTroy Hanson exuded greatness as they posed for a snapshot (at top) prior to Mumford’s sold-out show at the United Center. Glassnote’s Nick Petropolous was on hand to capture the magic.

SONG TO HEAR: Judah & the Lion “Why Did You Run?” 

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