HITS LIST: TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Patti Smith and Angela Davis have nothing to do with this. (2/17a)
We just can't help ourselves. (2/17a)
A pop-cultural kaleidoscope disguised as a radio column (2/17a)
SPOTTED ON NEW MUSIC FRIDAY PLAYLIST
Think of the latest offering as top-"Heavy." (2/17a)
FLIPOVER FRIDAY: NEW ARRIVALS AT iTUNES AND APPLE MUSIC
L.A. goes country with the better half of a Jets receiver. Come again? (2/17a)
By Karen Glauber
This was the first year I watched the Grammy Awards with my eight-year-old son. His takeaway was (a) I let him stay up past his bedtime (yay), and (b) Metallica really didn’t need Lady Gaga and backup dancers (eesh!) to prove they’re the greatest metal band of all time. Julian might have had some coaxing on “(b),” but only a minimal amount. My favorite performance was Beyoncé’s medley of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles,” with its gorgeous, dream-like choreography, reminiscent of Pina Bausch’s work. Also, the sight of a pregnant woman, surrounded by other women, tends to make many men uncomfortable, perhaps because their status in the process, post-conception, is minimal to nonexistent. I may not have felt at the height of my “power” during my pregnancy, but I can’t hold a candle to Queen Bey, who ruled supreme on Grammy night…
By Karen Glauber
I need a hobby. I don’t suppose insomnia counts, despite increased pre-dawn texting from friends also reeling from this ongoing bout of “Are you fucking kidding me?” that appears to be our pervasive post-inauguration state of being. When it’s 3am and I’m using real-time Mediabase as a diversion from the Huffington Post, then I know it’s time to start the day. Why only work 12 hours a day when you can work 18 hours a day?...
I’m in NYC for two sold-out Lumineers shows at Madison Square Garden. “Cleopatra” could be the band’s next #1 Modern Rock hit (fingers crossed), while my favorite song, “Angela,” is starting its ascent at Triple A. While you weren’t paying attention, The Lumineers have become a core band for Modern Rock, although there are still a few programmers who remain oblivious to the band’s mass appeal, adding fuel to 2017 being The Year of Are You Fucking Kidding Me?...
I woke up (too) early this morning to the news of the CBS Radio/Entercom merger. What it means is still unclear—Entercom’s David Field will run the show, but CBS shareholders will retain 72% of the stock. Will there be a designated sports station in San Diego now, rather than having Modern Rock KBZT run the Padres games, as previously announced?...
Ted often speaks of Modern Rock as a “niche” format. Founded as a musical destination for “freaks and outcasts” (to paraphrase David K. Harbour’s speech at the SAG Awards), these stations were programmed by music fans who understood firsthand how a song could change someone’s life. No need to revisit how the format evolved into a profitable piece of a major radio group’s pie—I’ve been writing about that very thing for 20+ years.
Here’s my concern: There’s a precariously thin line between niche and, to put it bluntly, irrelevance. It’s unfathomable that the majority of radio (with a few notable exceptions) hasn’t embraced The xx’s “On Hold,” which is outselling and out-streaming nearly every other song being played. The reward of playing a song from a band the demo clearly loves far outweighs the risk…
I am well aware that there’s an enormous source of frustration among both my label and radio peers due to the pressure of booking radio shows, which are REQUIRED as a source of income. These shows are now 90% of the conversation, further complicated by festival radius clauses and limited talent budgets. It often puts the promotion person in a no-win situation, as they are neither manager nor agent for the artists they promote. Are these shows worth it? Is there an alternative money-generating solution?...
It seems like every year begins with a song from a new artist that catapults to the top: KONGOS, Gotye and Bishop Briggs are a few examples, off the top of my head. This year, MISSIO’s “Middle Fingers,” a slacker anthem for the ages, is that record. Of course, its trajectory began at SiriusXM’s Alt Nation, since Jeff Regan is almost always the earliest adopter of the format’s biggest hits (see Rag’n’Bone Man, among others). Adds at KROQ, WRFF, Live105, DC101, WWCD, 91X, WLKK, KRZQ, WSFS, KXRK and WLZX soon followed, which set the course for “Middle Fingers” to be #1 Most Added this week. Smash… For those programmers still playing Cold War Kids “First” in Power rotation (even Adult Contemporary, the ultimate “aftermarket” format, moves faster than you), please be aware that the band’s new single, “Love Is Mystical,” is available for airplay NOW. Gary Gorman is at the helm following the band’s signing to Capitol. What a brilliant song! I love this band so much…
Modern Rock radio has the opportunity—wait, I mean the RESPONSIBILITY—to provide a community and haven for the aforementioned “freaks and outcasts.” It’s a scary time, bound to get worse, as the Narcissist-in-Chief wreaks havoc. Be inclusive and openhearted, community-minded and compassionate. And never forget that a song can change a life… SONG TO HEAR: Sundara Karma’s “She Said.”
By Karen Glauber
On Tuesday, I drove to San Diego to do my missionary work at KBZT and 91X, bringing both stations the gospel according to Britt Daniel (aka the new Spoon single), which was received joyously and with the fanfare expected of those who have supported this band for the past decade. Spoon’s first single, arriving 1/17, is the title track of the band’s new album, which, if I believe Pitchfork, is called Hot Thoughts. Spoon has delivered the swagger that has been missing in the absence of recent music from Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys (although I’ll argue to the death that Bishop Briggs, Phantogram and K. Flay have filled the void rather handily, you know, “for girls”).
Because Spoon is one of my Top 5 bands in life, it seemed perfectly invigorating-not-exhausting to fly to Chicago (and back) the following day to spread the word to Troy and Walt at WKQX and forever-fans Kelly and Marty at WXRT. Running in the freezing rain between the two stations (minus appropriate winter gear), I read a text that Mike Halloran, whose office I had spent an hour in the previous day, accompanied by my girl-crush Hilary and dear friend Garett, had just left 91X. I don’t know the full story, and his response to my text, “Was it something I said?” was vague, but this feels Shakespearean, especially with Garett’s very recent exit from KFMB. Will Garett proceed with his new consultancy (which includes 91X) or be named the new PD of 91X? Even at his most curmudgeonly, Halloran is a rare talent with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing countless Iggy stories since we first crossed paths in 1982. The tenure of a 91X PD seems to be around three years (Christy, Capone, Phil, etc., etc.), so maybe it was inevitable.
A belated but emphatically heartfelt congratulations to Jacqueline Saturn and the Caroline team for having the first #1 of 2017 with Judah & the Lion’s “Take It All Back.” The band and the label have worked around the clock to break this song at radio, with special acknowledgement due to Brad Hardin, John Allers and Mike Kaplan (among others) for anointing the song as one of iHeart’s On the Verge picks.
iHeart’s track record in 2016 was impeccable: Bishop Briggs and The Strumbellas were the other two artists chosen. The radio group’s first choice for 2017 is Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human,” currently galloping up the chart. Brady and Darice have a surefire #1 smash on their hands! Ask them about Lo Moon, whose debut (out this year) makes my heart soar. Jeff Regan is currently playing “Loveless” on SiriusXM Alt Nation’s “Advanced Placement” feature. Among the other songs given the “Advanced Placement” distinction is Sundara Karma’s “She Said,” which we’re currently setting up for a 2/14 add-date. Ask me about them (I’m obsessed).
Last year, we learned two important lessons: (1) Polling methodology, whether it’s determining the outcome of an election or the measure of a song’s hit potential via MScores, is deeply, deeply flawed, perhaps to the point of irrelevance. “There’s NO WAY that man can be elected President” was our outcry, as we pored over polling data that supported our indignation. Nor could your declaration that “Ophelia” wasn’t a hit be regarded with anything other than incredulity. (2) Abandoning the premise on which the Modern Rock format was built—namely, new-music discovery (as many of you did at the advice of the “Format Killer”) didn’t help your ratings. There are 100 million PAID streaming music subscriptions worldwide. The passion for music has never been stronger! I look at the BuzzAngle reports from key radio markets that show the Top 100 streaming songs of that week. There is a definite correlation between the biggest Modern Rock radio bands, like The Lumineers, The 1975 and blink-182, and streaming, but the biggest story is what you’re MISSING. For example, The xx’s “On Hold” is consistently tops in every market (90% of the Top 100 is hip-hop and pop), so where are you??? Their name is at the top of every festival poster you share on FB, and the song couldn’t be more accessible (Hall & Oates—hello!) Failure to support artists who are already THIS BIG is unfathomable to me.
SONG OF THE WEEK: The Shins’ “Name for You” (James Mercer’s female-empowerment anthem for his daughters. The perfect song at the perfect time.)
By Karen Glauber
I sometimes joke that the best music-business employees are adult children of alcoholics (myself included). By nature or nurture, we tend to be perfectionists and are quick to take the blame for anything that doesn’t go 100% according to plan, even if we had nothing to do with the outcome. Schedule a second weekly shrink appointment and give that employee a raise if said parent(s) was also a raging narcissist. The impulse to succeed is unrelenting, and the expectation of approval is nonexistent (although we’ll certainly seek it out, if within our periphery.) For those of us who do promotion, we accept the unacceptable from our radio partners, allowing them to perpetuate their own mythology that it was they who single-handedly broke (artist name) and therefore they are owed having (artist name) play their Xmas show at below market value. Since we promotion people are judged by a real-time report card called Mediabase, too many of us make ridiculous promises to keep the tantrums (from radio and our bosses) at bay. We grew up in chaos and will therefore do almost anything to quell it, even though the economics of the deals we make are nothing short of satanic. But the devil you know…
Even a cursory glance at a BuzzAngle market streaming chart reveals the deep, abiding challenges of breaking Alternative records in 2016: “Our” records are barely visible in the Top 1000 streams in any given market. Our benchmark for sales is now 500/week, which is hard to swallow when the #1 record at the format has an approximate audience of 12 million. But yet, as my fearless leader Lenny always says, there are still “10 records in the Top 10,” some of which are real format-exclusive hits, like The Lumineers’ “Ophelia” and (see photo above) The Strumbellas’ “Spirits,” which is now a GOLD single! Our favorite Canadians (besides Justin Trudeau and the judge on Masterchef Canada who looks like Elliot Easton) have worked tirelessly this year, commencing with “Spirits” being anointed iHeart’s On the Verge up until now, with their second single “We Don’t Know” on pace to be even bigger. Many congratulations to Glassnote and the band for proving to the naysayers that Alternative music can find its audience with (1) a great song, (2) meaningful partnerships with radio, (3) constant touring, (4) the right syncs like Wednesday night’s World Series for “Spirits”), (5) press and (6) great management. Yes, #6 is KEY, and if radio programmers read the interviews/roundtables with managers in this issue, they might leave with some insight that while they are a truly important part of the puzzle, there are many other factors in play when it comes to having a hit…
Gary Gorman is a lock for #1 next week with Bastille’s “Good Grief,” after conceding the top spot last week to Green Day’s “Bang Bang,” which enjoyed a brief one-week run at the top. Will The Head and the Heart leap over Kings of Leon to #1? Will the year end with Judah & the Lion in the lead? Those three records have the “sound” that’s working best at the format right now, and keep an eye on upstarts Sundara Karma, whose “Loveblood” has been called “the best Kings of Leon-meets-Arcade Fire song we’ve ever heard.”…
Despite what the “format killer” has been advising his stations (more Milky Chance/less new music), it’s been a banner year for new bands. Kaleo, Bishop Briggs, Glass Animals and the aforementioned Judah & the Lion are among the newer bands that are selling tickets and having radio hits. Even without radio (yet), artists like Aurora, The Lemon Twigs, Lo Moon, Banks & Steelz and Mansionair (just looking at my most recent Spotify playlist) are inspiring the next generation. All I’ve ever wanted to do in my career is break artists and, by doing so, shift culture. If Alternative radio doesn’t embrace that goal, within the greater context of making these songs hits for the format, then that thing I’ve spent the past three decades doing will have no value.