TOP 15: VIEWS
Drake looking at one lofty view on the sales chart. (5/4a)
U.K. MIDWEEK CHARTS: DRAKE ON COURSE FOR A DOUBLE #1 (UPDATE)
Hey, have you heard of this guy named Drake? (5/4a)
WHY YES, THIS IS WHAT THEY CAME FOR
New Calvin Harris & Rihanna single explodes at radio. (5/4a)
USED TO PUB YOU SOBER
UMPG signs Kane Brown, says "cheese." (5/4a)
By Karen Glauber
Fueled by insomnia, night sweats and a diet of Peeps (always gluten-free, fat-free—it says so on the box) and Honest Lori’s Lemon Tea (just a tad sweet—says the label), I’ve lost my ability to filter what I say. I’m not quite at the level as the aunt who dares to call the new baby “funny-looking,” but some have been a bit surprised at my willingness to speak out.
When the topmost executives at labels are questioning the necessity of having an Alternative department because the perception is that the format doesn’t sell records, where’s the risk? Everything on Pop and, to an extent, Hot AC, sounds the same, and the only way an Alternative song has a shot at crossing over is if it was an Alternative hit first, like twenty one pilots, Elle King, X Ambassadors, James Bay, The Lumineers, Tove Lo, BORNS (Hot AC), Cold War Kids (Hot AC), Empire of the Sun (Hot AC), etc. This week’s Alternative Top 10 contains seven songs that have already been #1.
Some might argue that the chart moves too quickly—did the Nothing but Thieves and Foals songs have enough saturation in the marketplace to warrant being #1? Well, compared to the airplay of other songs on the chart, they did. If you want to include sales and audience, then the Top 5 would be twenty one pilots, Cold War Kids, Coldplay, Empire of the Sun and The Lumineers.
A PD asked me recently (today) why anybody takes charts seriously. Hey, ask our bosses that question! When stations play so few currents, and a #1 song is in the range of 2,500 spins/week, then it’s completely counterintuitive (that word, again) for a spin in L.A. to count the same as a spin in Allentown (which was considered the “big city” for my hometown of Easton, PA). Ted and I have spent years trying to figure out which metrics the brains behind the chart-that-matters use when they add stations to the reporting panel.
Let’s back up a second—a good chunk (some might say the majority) of the format can be considered “after-market,” meaning they won’t add a record until it’s Top 10. The first surge on the chart is from the “early-adopter” stations, whose audiences thrive on hearing new music, and by the stations in small-to-meaningless markets that constantly add and drop songs, but whose spins can help get a record charted.
There’s usually a “bounty” associated with the latter set of stations—controlled by per-add indies, who can command a weekly ransom of up to $3,000/record. I’m happy to support REAL airplay with marketing that helps a station stay on the air. I’m happy to support MEANINGFUL airplay by setting up radio station shows that gives the act their first “look” in a market, and helps a station bring in sponsorship revenue.
Here’s what happens when the brains behind the chart-that-matters add a new station: The vultures descend. And by vultures, I mean the per-add indies who catch the first Greyhound bus into the new market and make an offer that the GM can’t refuse. We’ve all gotten that Tuesday call from one of them saying, “My station wants to add your record. It will cost (pick a number between $700-$2,000).” For sport, I like to say, “I will give you $500 if you can tell me the name of the band, $750 for the name of the song and $1,000 if you can sing the chorus.” That game is fun, and all, but NOTHING could top the $800 invoice for an add on a station that ISN’T EVEN ON THE AIR. It’s a fucking TRANSLATOR station, where each non-spin counts towards the chart as much as a KROQ spin. I’ve been known to ask for “paper adds” in the glory days, but this is ridiculous! To quote Husker Du, this “makes no sense at all.” And, to quote the Urinals’ seminal punk hit from 1979, “ack ack ack ack!”…
Speaking of punk rock, the best show at SXSW was Iggy Pop. Everything else, even the artists I loved, like Jack Garratt, DMA’s, Aurora, The Strumbellas, Barns Courtney, Joseph, Harriet, Declan McKenna, Lewis Del Mar and Rayland Baxter couldn’t compare…. SONG TO HEAR: BISHOP’s “River.”
By Karen Glauber
I haven’t written a column in months, not because I haven’t had anything to say—that’s never the case—sadly, the topics on my mind have been far weightier than my skill as a writer… Since the year began, Ted has been in my office every few hours to proclaim, “Well, that’s just how the format is right now,” prompted by the noise my skull makes after being pounded repeatedly on top of my desk. The impact generates a Cop Rock-like visual in my brain, in which Meghan Trainor appears in my office and sings, “My currents are NO, My ratings are NO, My audience is NO, My passion is NO, My show headliner is NO. NO, NO, NO, NO!” Then Ted asks, “What is that word you always use to describe the scenario where a PD books a 20-plus-band summer show, but the station plays less than a dozen currents?” I glare at him through the icepack that my assistant JJ has applied to my swollen forehead, and spell out: “C-O-U-N-T-E-R-I-NT-U-I-T-I-V-E.”
The solution to creating a compelling radio show, one might argue, is to PLAY the bands you’ve selected to perform at your radio show. Use whatever gut instincts that might have been cultivated during the course of your career and SUPPORT NEW ACTS that you know will be MEANINGFUL six months later, when it’s SHOW TIME. Based on the metrics available to the format, NOTHING IS A HIT. So make your own hits. M-Scores, call-out, online research—it tells you that your airplay doesn’t matter, not that a song is or isn’t a hit.
MAKE IT MATTER. When Hot AC is cycling through songs at a faster clip than Modern Rock, there’s something deeply wrong with our format. Let the first Elle King, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and X-Ambassadors singles take a well-deserved hiatus, and give the follow-ups a fighting chance to be as big. If an add is contingent on a radio show, then you can’t be surprised if your audience isn’t enchanted with the barrage of subpar bands. To refuse to support a band like, for instance, Tame Impala, because they don’t want to play radio shows, is a function of YOUR EGO, and negates the possibility that your audience will love the new single, just like they did “Elephant.”
Nobody OWES anybody anything, except maybe a return phone call and the opportunity to do good business. The labels/managers/agents owe the artists their best efforts on behalf of THE ARTISTS. It is our job to promote and never exploit their talent. Radio programmers have to stop treating artists like they’re Greg Brady in the “Johnny Bravo” episode of The Brady Bunch—chosen because they “fit the suit.” Where did you cultivate your highly inappropriate sense of ENTITLEMENT! It’s tiresome and—there’s that word again—counterintuitive. It will avail you NOTHING when your owner flips the format.
Ted has stopped me on many occasions from sending an email that I wouldn’t be able to unsend. Lately, it would read something like, “Dear PD in a market with a bus station, whose spins (for some insane reason) count as much as KROQ’s: Go ahead. PLEASE DON’T ADD The Lumineers record. It outsold every other format-exclusive song on your playlist this week, last week and the week before. People LOVE this band. But please, I beg you, PLEASE DON’T ADD ‘Ophelia.’ Enjoy your 1.2 share. Love, Me/President HITS magazine.” YOU’VE LOST THE PLOT.
You’ll be at SXSW next week, right? Let’s see some bands together. Let’s leave Austin INVIGORATED by a passion to share what you’ve seen with the audience you influence. Stop trying to be concert promoters, and stop treating promo people like booking agents. NOBODY WINS. Promoters are extending the radius clauses on festivals because they’ve invested time and money into developing a touring base for their headliners, and don’t want your radio shows taking tickets out of their market.
I was talking to a 28-year-old girl last night at a show, and she told me she had heard about the artist who was about to play on Instagram. Remember when you used to be the NEW MUSIC LEADERS? Now, you’re playing less than 20% currents, the biggest of which was “broken” by a car commercial (Empire of the Sun). A big change needs to happen, or we will become an obsolete format, except for a handful of stations, just like when I started in 1983…
Goodbye to Norm Winer at WXRT. He is truly the greatest.
...to the song they’re playin’ on the radio… The quiet and unexpected (to most) death of David Bowie, one of music’s most important artists EVER, rattled our Modern Rock community last week. That it happened just two days after his 69th birthday/release of his latest album Blackstar, heightened the sense of loss we’ve all been feeling. I asked my label and radio friends what was the first Bowie song they remembered hearing; their favorite Bowie song, and if they had any personal memories about him or his music that they wanted to share.
LAZLO/KRBZ: “When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I picked up The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust at a garage sale. I remember putting it on and hearing ‘Five Years.’ I sat and listened to the entire record and go to ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’ and knew my life had been changed.”
TROY HANSON: “My fave Bowie tune is ‘The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell’ from Hours. I have a strong memory of having dinner with David’s guitarist Earl Slick before catching Bowie’s set, David was incredibly gracious and kind with his time afterwards, ever the gentleman.”
JEFF REGAN: “The DJ at the local roller rink would play ‘Let’s Dance’ twice a session back in the day. I had no reference point at that time to his previous work; all I knew was how much that song mattered to me. Only later did I start to piece together his remarkable gift to fuse/bend genres and transcend that which was ‘trendy.’ Plus, his ‘Peace on Earth/Lttle Drummer Boy’ with Bing Crosby will forever be one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.”
LESLIE SCOTT: “It’s tough to pick one favorite song, so I have to pick two, one that might not even count: ‘Man Who Sold the World’ and ‘All the Young Dudes’ [Ed note: of course that counts!] I was always in awe of Bowie, because he could do ANYTHING. He was beyond an artist and beyond a musician.”
LYNN BARSTOW: “’Fame’ was the first song I knew, thanks to Casey Kasem. Then, after the fourth grade, I graduated to rock radio and heard ‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Space Oddity’ a lot. Ziggy was among the first records I bought, so my fave has got to be one of those—‘Five Years’ or ‘Starman’ or ‘Suicide,’ likely.”
MARK HAMILTON: “My favorite song is ‘Life on Mars’!!!!!”
HALLORAN: “Too many (favorites) to choose from, but ‘Moonage Daydream’ was the first one that transported me. ‘Queen Bitch’ was the first time I remember seeing him—on the Old Grey Whistle Test.”
RISA MATSUKI: “I heard my first Bowie song in 1978—it was ‘Changes’—my best friend’s mom was a huge fan and was playing the song one day. I remember looking at the cover of the album, being not quite able to wrap my head around this pretty man with long hair (I was 7), but there was something in the way the song told a story, and his voice stayed with me.”
JON MANLEY: “How in the hell is it possible to pick a favorite Bowie song? ‘Heroes.’ ‘Rebel Rebel.’ ‘Modern Love.’ ‘Life on Mars.’ Endless possibilities, and I refuse to choose! He made it OK to be weird, and isn’t that an even greater gift than the music he left us?”
NICK PETROPOULOS: “First song I heard was ‘Changes.’ First song I obsessed over was ‘The Man Who Sold the World,’ thanks to the Nirvana introduction. That intro led me to dive into his entire catalog, thus becoming just as obsessed with Mick Ronson’s guitar playing.”
LESLIE FRAM: “The first song I ever heard was ‘Space Oddity,’ and then became obsessed. He was so incredibly generous with his time when he came to Atlanta for Breakfast With Bowie on the 99X Morning X show. He did an intimate performance for fans at Smith’s Olde Bar. How often can we use the word genius where it truly applies? Bowie exemplified what it means to be an artist.”
KRIS GILLESPIE: “My introduction to David Bowie was about as peculiar as it can get. My grandparents were my caretakers while my parents finished college, and I would crawl up the stairs in their farmhouse to my uncle’s room to listen to music as a toddler. And somehow David Bowie (along with the likes of Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople) had found their way to the stereo of an 18 year-old rural Missouri farm boy in 1974. I can vividly remember sitting on the washing machine next to my mom in the kitchen on my 3rd birthday and my uncle walking in and giving me my own copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and never being happier in my young life.
“I can’t really say for sure what the first song was under those circumstances; it was definitely a Ziggy Stardust track and I have a very strong memory of ‘Star’ being an early fixation and can still hear why. The production on the album is really vibrant, a bit dry (not a lot of reverb) and tight-mic’d so it feels like they’re playing right there in your bedroom. ‘Star’ has got some really great hooks but weird angles and shifts to it, so it sort of just tumbles out of the speakers.
It would be very hard to overstate the impact of David Bowie on my life and the lives of so many musicians I love, friends and colleagues through his art, his attitude, his life and now his death (the man made great art out of dying—that’s how remarkable he was). If you felt or wanted something different from everyone else around you, he gave a lot of people the confidence to express themselves in new and unique ways.
There will never be another David Bowie as we know it and I wouldn’t want to hang that sort of expectation on anyone. The great thing is that someone will come along and be as inspirational and influential as he was down the road, but it will be something new and different… some might say “alien” to what came before it. Let the children boogie.”
Let’s dance/For fear your grace should fall/Let’s dance/for fear tonight is all.
As I type this on Tuesday morning [9/22], I’m carbo-loading for tomorrow’s Yom Kippur fast. The Glauber family has a longstanding tradition of fasting in between meals to uphold, so I’ll likely cave before noon…
This morning, Howard Stern played Chris Cornell’s acoustic version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which Chris recorded last week at SiriusXM. There’s nothing quite like hearing one of the greatest voices in rock sing one of the most heart-wrenching songs ever written. Last week, in fact, I posted a question on Facebook: “Today, list up to 15 songs that bring you to your knees.” There were hundreds of responses from friends who, like me, tend to synthesize our feelings via the music and lyrics of others.
There’s a constant soundtrack running through my head, always in search of the perfect song for that moment. The “most played” songs in my head could be compiled into an album called More Songs About Longing (cue The Replacements’ “Unsatisfied”). It isn’t always just about the lyrics. I’d be hard-pressed to sing the lyrics to either Beach House’s “PPP” or Glass Animals’ “Black Mambo,” but both songs still give me the chills.
The most impactful songs express a common feeling (“longing” is a perennial #1) in a new way: Gotye’s “Someone that I Used to Know,” Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” X Ambassadors’ “Unsteady,” Florence + the Machines’ “What Kind of Man,” and the new Chris Cornell single “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” immediately come to mind. There are muscular songs that shake you to your core, like The Dead Weathers’ “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles),” Cold War Kids’ “First,” Tame Impala’s entire catalog and The Bohicas’ “Where You At.” Where is the swagger and (pun intended) “edge” on Modern Rock radio these days?...
Think about it—what was the last song you heard that made you feel like a knife was going through your heart (in a good way)? Not that you asked, but here’s my list (or “mixtape”) of 15 songs that never fail to slay: Arcade Fire “Afterlife,” Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello “God Give Me Strength,” Big Star “The Ballad of El Goodo,” The Blue Nile “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” Jeff Buckley “Last Goodbye” Glen Campbell “Wichita Lineman,” Daryl Hall “Why Was it So Easy,” Gram Parsons “$1000 Wedding,” The Replacements “Unsatisfied,” Todd Rundgren “Hope I’m Around,” Split Enz “Message to My Girl,” Spoon “Black Like Me,” Dusty Springfield “No Easy Way Down,” Tame Impala “Apocalypse Dreams” and The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year.” For the record, “Wichita Lineman” was the most-cited song among the respondents, many of whom are acclaimed songwriters in their own right…
Here’s another conversation starter, even more popular than Cards Against Humanity: Define yourself in five artists. These are not necessarily your favorite artists—it’s like a personality test—what would I know about you by your choices? I picked Big Star, Todd Rundgren, Patti Smith, Spoon and Television. Tell me who defines you… We’re very excited to report that our dear friend Bill Carroll has reunited with Joe Greenwald and Dave Barbis with his new gig at C3. Bill will be initiated into the team with an onstage performance of Houndmouth’s “Sedona” at next week’s ACL in Austin. Oh, I wasn’t supposed to reveal that yet?...
Big props to Rob Goldklang and Heather Luke for being Most Added this week on JR JR’s “Gone.” I’m sure Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a fan of this song, even after the band’s recent name change… Chvrches’ “Leave a Trace” is a career-defining record. The girls know…
The first time I heard El Vy’s “Return to the Moon,” I thought it sounded more like The The (a compliment of the highest order) than The National. I love this song. Also Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Multi-Love” just won the 2015 APRA Silver Scroll Award for “Excellence in New Zealand Songwriting,” besting Lorde, among others. This is the country that brought us Neil Finn, so they take their songwriting very seriously. Ask Hannah Carlen for a copy…
“And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time…”