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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


 
 
ALL IN: KG'S 32ND SXSW

I have the distinction of being one of fewer than three people (if that) who have bragging rights regarding perfect attendance at SXSW. That’s 32 uninterrupted years, even though one year consisted of only 36 hours in Austin, before flying back to L.A. to check myself into rehab. Maybe the more impressive statistic is that I’ve been sober for 25 of those 32 SXSWs.

My highlights this year were bountiful, and most of the 30+ artists I saw were exceptional. The deafening buzz on U.K. band Shame (Dead Oceans) is fully warranted—I was gobsmacked (as they say) at their three shows, all of which I loved. Not since Arctic Monkeys made their SXSW debut in 2006 has a new U.K. band made this huge an impression.  Judging by the lines outside the venues (thankfully, I’ve never met a line I couldn’t cut into), Billie Eilish (Interscope), Two Feet (Republic), Superchunk (Merge), and the return of Andrew W.K. with a full band were must-see priorities for attendees.

C3’s annual Wednesday night gathering downstairs at Stubb’s is the unofficial launch of SXSW for radio programmers, label reps and artist managers. Our hosts, C3’s Joe Greenwald and Dave Barbis kept everybody happily fed and drunk, while their new clients Mt. Joy played a few songs from their Dualtone debut, including the soon-to-be Modern Rock smash “Silver Lining,” which had us singing along at the top of our lungs. KKDO’s Andy Hawk had this to say about Mt. Joy’s single: “I mean that hook is so massive! It's the kind of hook on a song that should make Mt. Joy a household name. It's the kind of hook that reaches across genres and formats.”

Fueled by three Diet Cokes and a slab of cherry pie (it was 3/14, or Pi day, after all), I went outside to watch Lucy Dacus (Matador) and Superorganism (Domino), both artists proving that the future is, indeed, female. Journalists (which I am not) highlighted mostly female-fronted bands in their SXSW wrap-ups, including Billie, Lucy and Superorganism, as well as Soccer Mommy, Stella Donnelly, Goat Girl, Kitten, In the Valley Below, Bishop Briggs, Starcrawler and Jade Bird.

The latter two artists were acknowledged with the prestigious 2018 Grulke Prize, voted on by SXSW panelists. Starcrawler (Rough Trade), fronted by force-of-nature Arrow de Wilde, was awarded the prize for Developing U.S. Act at SXSW, while Jade Bird (Glassnote), whose audiences grew exponentially with each set she played, was named Developing Non-U.S. Act at SXSW. Brent Grulke, after whom the prize is named, was SXSW’s Creative Director (and friend to all), who passed away in 2012 at the age of 51.

The third of three Grulke prizes is for Career Artist at SXSW, and this year’s winner was none other than Todd Rundgren, whose appearance on my Thursday panel was definitely a career highlight for one of us. I’ve been a Todd super-fan for 40+ years, which is no secret to anybody who has ever met me. I didn’t think he’d agree to be on my annual panel about songwriting, let alone perform a song (Utopia’s “There Goes My Inspiration”) AND a duet with fellow panelist Chris Price on “Bleeding” (from The Ballad of Todd Rundgren) after Chris’ nerves got the better of him and he forgot the words.

Also on the panel were my dear friend Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Matt Lowell from Lo Moon, whose Columbia debut was released last week, and will be unchallenged for my favorite album of 2018. Matthew performed a gorgeous song he had been working on, with lyrics about the need for a songwriter to address BIG IDEAS in this current political climate, while Matt played a solo version “All In” from his band’s debut.

After the panel, Glassnote’s Daniel Glass pulled Todd and me into the frame of his on-camera SXSW.com interview, using us as visual evidence to illustrate his point of never knowing who he’s going to run into in Austin. And oh, the running I did—from Superorganism to IDLES, back across the I-35 to see Shame and Ought, before another jaunt across town with Jonathan Clarke to catch Andrew W.K. So many artists qualified as “must sees”: lovelytheband playing for 101X, Shakey Graves in front of a massive hometown crowd of 20,000 (at least), Lo Moon (3x), Morgan Saint, Slenderbodies, Marlon Williams, Bishop Briggs, In the Valley Below, Todd Rundgren, Chris Price, etc. etc.

Years ago, I started hosting an annual breakfast for women who do promo at indie labels. Unlike me, the original three women’s careers have matriculated beyond promotion, but the tradition has persisted. On Saturday morning, at the unholy hour of 9:00am (lights out at SXSW is rarely before 3:00am), I was thrilled to see (pictured at top of page) Sub Pop’s Michelle Feghali, Merge’s Cecile Duncan, Secretly Canadian’s Bri Aab and Mute’s Caroline Shadood, with special guest Amber Miller (MD at WRFF Philly), join me for caffeine, food, unconstrained conversation and more caffeine. Sisterhood is indeed powerful.


 
 
I AM A FUCKING UNICORN

By Karen Glauber


No, I’m not. Well, not really. It’s the mantra I adopted at the beginning of the year when yet another conversation with a programmer commenced with, “Will [insert band name here] play my summer show?” A reasonable request if the station was already supporting the band, but not quite as welcome if said programmer had heretofore asserted that airplay would happen “over their dead body.”

I get it—there aren’t dozens of radio-show headliners falling from the skies this year. Or even two or three, if my sleuthing is correct. As months tick by, the quest for available bands that can sell tickets and aren’t bound by the radius clauses imposed by summer festivals is a panic-ridden proposition. There’s little comfort in knowing that your best-ever Christmas show is ahead of you, based on your label friends’ promises of what will be available in Q4.

Driven by an unrelenting desire to make YOUR life easier (hence the self-ascribed unicorn designation), I am in your corner, always. The role of “the messenger” isn’t a day at the beach either—we’re at the mercy of the worldwide schedules of the artists whose music we promote. Whatever influence we have is used to advocate on radio’s behalf. Don’t kill the messenger, please…

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I am willing to assert that AJR’s #1 this week with “Sober Up,” following Alice Merton’s two-week reign at #1 with “No Roots” is the FIRST TIME two independent-label releases have had back-to-back #1s at Modern Rock! AJR’s success, which Ted writes about this week in his column, happened because YOUR AUDIENCE mandated the song’s success. They didn’t care about AJR’s previous at-bats at Pop radio. They weren’t overthinking the band’s “place” at Modern Rock (like you were). They just liked “Sober Up” and decided that it fit on their favorite radio station (yours). As someone who makes infinitely more money than I do once said in a playback session I attended, “Sometimes the best song is just the best song.”

We are infinitely grateful to our radio partners who helped AJR reach #1 this week—last Saturday was one of the most stressful (unnecessarily so) days of Ted’s career or my own—and we couldn’t have done it without you. Ted and I were raised in the major-label system to believe that “#2, #6, #11 = failure,” meaning that peaking at any of those chart positions is unacceptable. Imagine Dragons can sit at #1 for the rest of the year, for all I care, but the narrative is now in stone: For the past three weeks, independent label artists were #1 at Modern Rock…

The last time I sat in the KROQ music meeting, I played them Veruca Salt’s “Seether” on Minty Fresh Records, which they added that day. Yeah, it’s been a minute. This past Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to wrangle an invite to participate in the process. There is no better call on Tuesday afternoon than the KROQ call with an add. I was in the room when Kevin Weatherly called Amanda Dobbins to let her know they were adding Greta Van Fleet’s “Safari Song” (smash!), and when he called Gary Gorman with the news of an add on Cold War Kids’ “Can We Hang On?” (my favorite from their new record).

The highlight, however, was Kevin calling my cellphone (I was in the room, remember?) to inform me that KROQ was adding Cigarettes After Sex’s “Apocalypse,” which had scored more Top 5 votes in the music meeting than any other song. The other attendees in the room weren’t necessarily aware that the metrics for “Apocalypse” from Sirius Alt Nation and XMU airplay were huge, or that the band had already sold out two late-April shows in L.A. (the Ace Theater and the Fonda). Spotify streams of the song already exceeding 17.5 million without much terrestrial airplay wasn’t a factor, either. From mid-20s to mid-50s, everybody in the room agreed that “Apocalypse” was the best song of the week. This is Partisan Records’ first add at KROQ, and I hope there will be many “firsts” ahead for the label and the band!...

Will you be at SXSW? Tell me which band playing in Austin will change my life: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com


 
 
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