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THESE ARE MY FRIENDS

By Karen Glauber

Please allow me to introduce you to my good friend Lisa Sonkin, the newly appointed SVP of Rock Formats and Public Radio Promotion at Columbia Records, where she was most recently as the SVP of Triple A and Public Radio Promotion. Lisa has worked at Sony Music for the past 14 years, which followed a decade at Elektra, which was preceded by her “radio years” as MD at WTMX in her hometown of Chicago. Darice Lee is adding Triple A promotion to her CV and will remain in L.A., where she will continue to be both awesome and invaluable.

In addition to a pending Vampire Weekend record (can’t wait!), Lisa and Darice will have new music from MO featuring Mark Foster, Coin (produced by Mark Foster) and yes, new music from Foster the People, whose “Sit Next to Me” is the #2 most played song of the YEAR thus far at Modern Rock. I’ve told Lisa all about you—how accessible you are and how easy you are to promote—oh, and what a wonderful partner you are, not to mention those golden ears of yours! Truth be told, consider yourself lucky that you get to work with this team…

Every time a station is added to the panel of reporters, an angel gets its wings. No, that’s not it. What really happens is that the cost of promotion goes up exponentially with each new station because most of these stations have no ratings (I have more Facebook friends than these stations have listeners). But a spin is a spin is a spin, so the indie vultures descend and place an exorbitant bounty on each add. There are a few rakish fiends who are charging $2,000 per add for overnight airplay. I would blame them, but their fees are merely a reflection of what the market (namely, those of us seeking adds) is willing to bear.

At this time of the year, when most on-air real estate is tied into Xmas shows, adds on new artists are few and far between. Of course, it’s counterintuitive to overpay for a point of entry in a market where the airplay has zero impact. I’ll work with any station, reporter or not, if they want to play new music, as would most of my colleagues. Indie labels can’t afford to pay for this level of insanity, which is a definite barrier to their records having success at the format. The costs have escalated, but it isn’t like radio is breaking more new artists. What are we doing to change that?

The answer, my friends, is not the Xmas show. Oh, how stations are struggling to sell tickets this season. The bands you thought would sell out your show when you booked them six months ago have been through your market already (sometimes twice), and those songs of theirs—the “hits” you just knew were going to help you pack your show—have been off the air for a month. So it’s early November—now what? I know, let’s forget about the pending Xmas-show disaster and start getting commitments from bands for summer ’19!

90% of the artists I work with are grateful to be included in the radio-show conversation. Without question, they appreciate the impact radio has had on their careers, and the last thing they want is to be perceived as “failing” you by your show not selling out. From my perspective, the radio show as a profitable NTR line item needs to be reinvented…

What song is currently outselling Billie Eilish, Mumford & Sons and AJR? You’re right, it’s Badflower’s “Ghost!” You win Julian’s Halloween candy and my soon-to-be-received “I Voted” sticker. Also selling (besides a dozen Billie Eilish songs—don’t let call-out deter you—she’s the fucking future), is Flora Cash’s “You’re Somebody Else,” now Top 10 at Modern Rock!... Bob Moses’ “Back Down” and Mumford & Sons’ “Guiding Light” are two truly extraordinary songs. Please listen to each of them four times in succession, and then do the same with Tom Morello’s “Every Breath That I Take.” Congratulations, you’ve just taken a master class in songwriting…

VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN.

 

 


 
 
MY BODY IS A CAGE

By Karen Glauber

Many of us first met Sean Demery in 1992 when 99X Atlanta flipped to Alternative. In the years that followed, the programming team that included Brian Phillips, Leslie Fram and Sean was the standard to which all others aspired. Sean’s singular creative mind and quick wit, coupled with Leslie’s brilliance and enthusiasm, made every visit to Atlanta memorable.

In 2004, Sean moved to San Francisco to program Live105, returning the station to the cultural force it had been when Richard Sands had sat in the PD chair years before. Sean was obsessed with music and encouraged his staff to share their favorites with him. In early 2005, Sean’s unabashed love for Arcade Fire prompted him to add “Rebellion (Lies)” from Funeral (which wasn’t the song I was working at the time), and it turned out to be Live105’s most-played song of the year.

It became apparent that Sean and CBS corporate were not on the proverbial “same page,” and rather than toeing the line, he gave his DJs MORE freedom. Last week, current KROQ MD Miles Anzaldo and I were reminiscing about the “Miles the Intern” weekend Sean let him program. You can’t inspire people to perform to the best of their abilities by stifling their creativity—and Sean practiced what he preached. After a week of especially bold adds, I asked Sean why he was so brazenly defying “the suits.” His response was pure Sean: “If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down in flames.”

Well, that happened. Sean went back to Atlanta to reteam with Leslie, but the evildoers then in charge made that situation untenable for both of them. During that time, I pitched the idea of a “Rock for Girls” station to Andy Schuon, who was at CBS Radio, preferably in an underserved market like Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, which Leslie, Sean and I could run. It would’ve worked.

Sean’s career/life landed him all over the place, usually for a less than a year, but we always stayed in contact. I last saw him in December, when I brought Lori Kampa to KINK to meet him. He loved Portland, he loved his job, and he loved that he and his wife Jenn were living in the same city. The conversation we had about focusing on the community, rather than engaging in a pissing match over which station in the markets got the presents on a show, is one I’ve often repeated, citing Sean as one of the few programmers who could take the big-picture view of his job. He was proud that they changed the call letters to PINK during breast cancer-awareness month, and was giddy over incredible public turnout the station achieved for their coat drive.

One month later, Sean had a brain-stem stroke, which left him paralyzed and unable to communicate. Last Saturday, he passed away at the age of 60. I am grateful to have known Sean Demery for over 25 years. It isn’t my habit to end too many radio calls with “I love you,” but merely saying goodbye to Sean at the end of a call wouldn’t sufficiently express how deeply I valued him, so it was always “I love you.” Next time you hear an Arcade Fire song, think about Sean…

When Nick Petropoulos told me that the new Mumford & Sons song was called “Guiding Light,” I wondered if it was a cover of the Television song of the same title from Marquee Moon. At first listen, it was abundantly clear that THIS “Guiding Light” is a one-listen anthem, certain to remind us that Mumford & Sons deserve their status as one of the biggest bands in the world. Welcome back, friends…

When was the last time a debut single from a brand-new artist (unsigned!) was added in NYC and L.A. before the song had even been serviced to radio? Say hello to “Loser” by Jagwar Twin, added this week at ALT 92.3 NYC, ALT 98.7 LA, KLLT St. Louis and KYRK Corpus Christi. On the next day, they sent out the song to radio…

SONG TO HEAR (AND THE BEST BAND TO MEET): Bob Moses’ “Back Down.” I’m obsessed with the new album Battle Lines.

 


 
 
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.


 
 
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