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DIGITAL DRIVES RECORD YEAR FOR WARNER MUSIC
Stop us if you've heard this story before. (12/8a)
RAG'N'BONE MAN NAMED BRITS
CRITICS' CHOICE
This chap is a comer, it appears. (12/8a)
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: VINYL OUTSELLS DOWNLOADS
Money is no object to those who follow the needle in the groove. (12/8a)
SONG REVENUE CHART: STARBOY JUKEBOX
One artist, 18 tracks, $1.23m. (12/8a)
I.B. BAD: BETTING ON THE COME
Increased profits have triggered increased investment in A&R. (12/9a)
YEAR-END CHAMPEENS
Who ruled 2016?
GRAMMY NOMS: SURPRISES
Stay tuned.
ANOTHER HISTORY LESSON
More jaw-dropping tales and pics from the archives.
STREAMING'S NEXT BIG PLAYER
It's not who you think.
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WE DON’T KNOW

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. 

 


 
 
STUBBORN LOVE

By Karen Glauber

The endless jokes about sophomore albums are funny because they’re usually true. An artist has their whole life to make their debut record, which, if huge, means the follow-up is usually rushed-to-completion by the record company, eager to cash in on the band’s success. Most bands tour relentlessly, especially when a big record creates the demand for shows. “Tickets and T-shirts” is how they make money, after all. Songwriting is relegated to the back of the tour bus, hence the stereotypical sophomore theme: Being on the road.

This theme can be divided into multiple subsets, such as: (1) Missing family/loved ones. (2) Seeing a million new faces (and rocking them all). (3) The artist’s mission to save the world because they’ve played festivals in multiple countries and have a deep understanding of “people” (file under “Bono”). (4) Falling in love every night (see #2). (5) The artist’s fragile disposition/nervous breakdown/drug addiction (countless examples).  The resulting album rarely fulfills the promise of the artist’s debut (unless their names are Adele or Amy Winehouse), and there are very few examples where the follow-up is universally regarded as an aesthetic and commercial triumph after a break-thru debut.

Since the exception is always more interesting than the rule, let’s take a close look at Cleopatra, The Lumineers’ latest. The first single, “Ophelia” is the most-played song at Alternative to be released in 2016. Although in Recurrent and no longer on the chart, “Ophelia” is #2 in overall audience this week. The song peaked at #1 at Alternative (for four weeks) and #1 at Triple A (for 12 weeks) but was not worked at Top 40. “Ophelia” had 2 MILLION streams this week, and single sales are nearing 400k. This is absolutely incredible, especially for a song that was a hit at two radio formats that supposedly don’t matter. In support of “Ophelia,” the band played a sold-out worldwide tour, culminating in an epic night at the Hollywood Bowl. Early next year (and remember, this is only album #2), The Lumineers will embark on an arena tour, with Madison Square Garden selling out within an hour of the onsale.

Single #2, “Cleopatra,” is #2 at Triple A, with #1 an absolute certainty within a few weeks. This week, it was #1 Most Added at Alternative (#2 Most Added last week), which should be strong enough for a chart debut in the vicinity of Top 30 this Monday. Our friend in the Northwest, Mark Hamilton, bumped “Cleopatra” to Power at KNRK, based on callout with his P1s, and the album sales increased 146%, from #76 in Portland to #24. “Callout + sales = SMASH,” was his quote to me. I know how much you love “metrics,” so here’s another one: “Cleopatra,” which is still an infant in terms of airplay, is already streaming 600k/week. Cleopatra is #17 on the iTunes album chart. Here’s what you need to know: YOUR AUDIENCE LOVES THE LUMINEERS. They are the #1 indie label band at the format! It really isn’t that complicated. As my fearless leader Lenny Beer always says, “People like what they like.” These songs will live in your library forever. You’re welcome.

I was at the scenic Kansas City Airport Hampton Inn late last Friday night, trying desperately to fall asleep before my unfathomably early flight back to LA, when I heard a familiar song intro on the TV (I have to sleep with it on). I lifted my head off the pillow and saw (I also sleep with my glasses on) the Acura commercial that uses Beck’s “Wow” as the music. WOW, indeed. The single best way to break a song at Alternative radio is through car ads: Empire of the Sun, X Ambassadors, Fitz and the Tantrums and, now, Beck! I hope my Alternative radio friends will put “Wow” back into rotation today. Seriously. You’ve been handed a hit song on a silver platter. Don’t fuck this up… Speaking of X Ambassadors, their initial fanbase was made up of college kids—not the early-adopter, blog-reading hipsters, but the not-so-cool kids who drew inspiration from Sam’s incredible songwriting and relatable presence. A band I love, The Arkells, have a similarly fanatical base of support. Their new single, “My Heart’s Always Yours,” is being played on some key northeast stations. Their fanbase is your audience.


 
 
I CAN’T GO FOR THAT (NO CAN DO)

By Karen Glauber

Far more often than my delicate constitution can handle, someone in a position of authority points a disapproving finger my way and declares, “Your format is a shit show. You don’t sell records or break acts.” I could laugh at being held accountable for the current state of Modern Rock radio for the same reason I make fun of my coworkers for saying “We won” or “We suck” when recapping the success/failure of their favorite teams. “We” had nothing to do with the Dodgers’ latest victory, no matter how many games we’ve attended. However, I’ve been neck-deep in the format for 30+ years, so the accusation feels personal.

Yes, it’s a Sisyphean challenge to break new acts at Modern Rock for a myriad of reasons. The only accurate thing an MScore measures is our septic frustration when a PD uses it as an excuse to drop a record. To quote my friend Amanda Dobbins, “I can’t even.” There’s also a phantom menace I call “the format killer,” who, when in the presence of programmers far and wide, advises them that the key to ratings gold is to STOP PLAYING NEW MUSIC. Yes, clients pay to be told that the format that was founded (and has thrived) on the premise of NEW MUSIC DISCOVERY should no longer play new music. Welp. If most of the format decides to take the wait-until-the-song-is-Top-20 approach before adding, then these stations should get out of the concert business. The demand for bands for radio station festivals far exceeds the development of bands that can sell enough tickets for these shows to generate expected NTR. God bless Weezer and blink-182 (and their collective catalog of Modern Rock hits) for bailing you out in 2016. Without them, you would’ve been “totally fucked” (to reference my favorite song from the Duncan Sheik-composed musical Spring Awakening)…

“Playing new music is good business,” said one of the programmers who had been otherwise advised to do the opposite. Indeed, because artist managers and agents aren’t in the habit of giving radio stations their artists at way below market value without a potential upside. Adding a few records a month before a holiday show has appeased labels in the past, since those of us who work records are looking for an opportunity to take a song as high up the chart as possible. It’s a cynical strategy on part of the programmer, but we live in a world of false hope.

My approach (not that you asked) is to reward loyalty and super-serve the stations that consistently support our efforts to break bands, whether it’s John Allers in Philly or Lesley James in Columbus. There have been only THREE new artists to go Top 10 at Modern Rock in 2016: The Strumbellas, Kaleo and Bishop Briggs. All three were chosen by iHeart for its On the Verge program. The Strumbellas and Kaleo had #1 songs, and Bishop Briggs peaked at #3 (and she’s the only female to go Top 5 in 2016.) Clearly, iHeart’s influence on the chart is formidable, and the songs they picked this year have been smashes. Judah & the Lion, signed by Harvest’s Jacqueline Saturn, is the current On the Verge. I’ve already declared to the band and their management that “Take It All Back” is a surefire #1, so that’s that…

How do you measure a hit song at Modern Rock? Let’s recalibrate what we used to believe was the sales baseline: Last year’s measurement of 1,500 singles/week is now 500 singles/week. The Modern Rock audience will pay $.69 for a song, but they won’t pay $.99 (and they’ll pay $12 for a beer at a radio station festival, but, you know, priorities)…

You can’t tell me that there just aren’t any hits. A song needs exposure to measure its true potential. In my perfect world, Glass Animals had the hit of the summer with “Life Itself,” and Warpaint’s “New Song” is the song I want to hear on my favorite station. This week, SiriusXM’s Jeff Regan added “Loveblood” from my favorite new U.K. band Sundara Karma. In my opinion, AltNation is the most accurate barometer of a song’s hit potential. New music is the lifeblood of our format. And, with or without you, there will be hundreds of bands each year that will release music that has an impact on popular culture. Are you in, or are you out? 


 
 
YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE

What used to be called “friendly competition” is now outright bullying. If you want to help break an artist I’m working with, let’s make it happen! But please, stop with the threats. I have two concerns at work: 1) Keeping my job and 2) doing the absolute best I can for the labels and artists that pay me (so that I can keep my job.) I’m no longer defined by my job (motherhood took care of that), but I’m deeply proud of what Ted and I have accomplished at the format so far this year. You are a means to that end, and my efforts on your behalf can be boundless when we’re both trying to do what’s best for the artist, which is the basis of every decision I make. I’m sorry if that runs counter to what you believe you’re “owed.” No, I’m not sorry. Given the real “weight” of what happened last week in Orlando, another in a long list of horrific examples of man’s inhumanity towards man, it’s impossible to take your ego-fueled tantrums seriously…

I’m finally in my hotel room in Louisville, 16 hours after I left my house in L.A. Deadline was yesterday, but delayed flights and no onboard Wi-Fi is the reason it’s 1:30am and I’m finally writing this. I packed the wrong toothbrush—the one I just used plays “We Will Rock You” for a full two minutes (to encourage a thorough brushing), except now it won’t stop playing. I smothered it with a washcloth, but the strains of Queen are still audible from the next room…

What will be this summer’s Modern Rock anthem? Bishop Briggs’ “River” is touching Top 10 at Alternative, bolstered by iHeart choosing it to be the second On the Verge artist so far this year, following The Strumbellas (which topped the chart last month). There are only five stations that haven’t yet added “River” (for reasons I can’t fathom), so that’s a clear contender. Beck’s new single “Wow” is a definite favorite—anything he does is exactly what I want to hear on the radio at that moment…

Phantogram (pictured above) has a surefire smash with “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.” One listen. Done. Republic’s Mike DePippa and Amanda Walk should have two of the biggest hits of the year with Bishop Briggs and Phantogram!... Capitol’s Gary Gorman sent out an email blast this morning alerting programmers that the new Bastille single “Good Grief” would be arriving momentarily. Doesn’t Gary know that radio has been waiting for this record for months? In the summer, I want to hear songs that make me feel buoyant and free (even when I’m tethered to my desk, or stuck in a crowded airport). Thank you, Bastille, for delivering the perfect summer song!...

There’s been much ado (and rightfully so) about Head and the Heart’s “All We Ever Know,” which Warner Bros.’ Rob Goldklang and the C3 team launched last week. Even radio programmers that still ask Nirvana can play their Xmas show (for real) seem to love this record!..

Dualtone just signed buzz band The Rebel Light, whose song “Strangers” has been getting some serious radio love. Another contender in the making!...

If I’m playing favorites, and it’s my column/my rules, I’m giving out bonus points to CHVRCHES’ reworking of “Bury It” with Hayley Williams. This could be a multi-format summer SMASH…

The song I want to hear when I wake up in the morning (besides the inevitable SpongeBob Squarepants theme, now that my son has figured out the TV remote) is Glass Animals’ “Life Itself.” It’s the song I want to hear on my way to work, and on my way home, and every moment in between. It’s my summer’s “Get Lucky.”...

SONG TO HEAR: Zipper Club “Going the Distance” (if Metric and Brian Eno had a lovechild)…

What’s YOUR pick for the Summer Song of 2016? Email me: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com