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EVERYTHING NOW

By Karen Glauber

Win Butler (second from right) with SiriusXM’s Jeff Regan, Columbia's Brady Bedard and SiriusXM's Rob Cross 

Nan Fisher was the first one to tell me nearly two years ago that I would hit it off with Brady Bedard, newly anointed as Columbia’s VP, Alternative & Rock Promotion. “He’s a good kid,” she said, which, from her, constitutes high praise. I certainly don’t need to remind Nan that she once occupied the same position at Columbia—our friendship is too important to me—rarely mentioning the two weeks that “Butterfly” by Crazy Town was #1 because of her efforts. Sadly, 2001 was a bleak, scary time for many, many reasons, and the music played on Modern Rock radio was a reflection of that. Brady and I immediately bonded over our shared love of legendary Minneapolis radio station Rev105: I was at HITS, promoting records to Kevin Cole and Shawn Stewart.

Brady was still a teen back then, and his taste was formed by the music he heard on the station. Didn’t most of us grow up with a local radio station that sparked our love of certain bands? For me, it was WSAN, a progressive AM station in Allentown, PA, and WNEW in NYC. Were it not for WSAN, my ongoing Todd Rundgren obsession wouldn’t have been realized. Brady is a student of ’80s indie rock, and, hallelujah, I’ve found the one person who isn’t completely bored by my firsthand account of that era.

Once Arcade Fire signed to Columbia worldwide, Brady took command of my favorite band’s Modern Rock radio campaign, just as I had been for the previous four records. I like to believe that I’m still part of their inner circle, but it’s Brady who has been in the trenches. “Everything Now” is one of the band’s most successful radio hits, with the biggest radio chains supporting the song in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, the glaring lack of support from a certain radio consultant (whom I refer to as “the format killer”) kept “Everything Now” from its deserved place in the Modern Rock Top 10.  The album debuted at #1! The song is a legitimate hit at most of the stations playing it! Following the band’s Madison Square Garden show, the N.Y. Daily News posted this lede: “Arcade Fire prove they’re still the world’s best band at MSG show.”

It’s unfathomable that this band isn’t an “automatic” for the format. During one of our daily conversations a few months ago, after a particularly frustrating Tuesday, Brady was laughing when he repeated words I’d forgotten I’d said: “There’s no part of radio promotion that’s any fun. But radio is still, unequivocally, the number one way to expose artists. You sell more records through radio than any other means.” He was reading to me from Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, specifically the chapter about Arcade Fire, written by John Cook, with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, in 2009. Brady sent a photo (seen here) of him and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, SiriusXM’s Jeff Regan and Rob Cross, taken after Win’s interview with Jenny Eliscu last Tuesday. That was fun to see. If Modern Rock embraces the next single, “Creature Comfort” en masse, that will be fun.

A year ago today (in fact), Brady and my favorite new band Lo Moon released their first single, “Loveless.” This week, Alt Nation added the band’s follow-up, “This is It.” Of course this song should already be on dozens of Modern Rock stations—now THAT would be fun. Almost as fun as falling into a pair of tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway, in fact.

So many “ifs” in this climate: IF ratings truly measured real audience. IF MScores measured anything empirical. IF programmers believed in the power of music discovery. IF there were more stories to tell this year about the power of the format, beyond Portugal the Man and, the soon-to-be-told story of Alice Merton. What if every conversation wasn’t an argument? IF, IF, IF…

SONG TO HEAR: LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”


 
 
EVERYTHING NOW...AND THEN

By Karen Glauber

Last month, after receiving an advance stream of the latest Arcade Fire album Everything Now, on the tenth listen through, I felt compelled to send Win Butler an email to convey my feelings. I’ve worked on the band’s behalf since the release of Funeral, their 2004 debut, so sending him an email wasn’t that unexpected:

“Dear Win, I love it so. ‘We Don't Deserve Love’ kills me. Like I said when you first played it for me at Scott’s house, it reminds me of NYC in 1981, when the arrival of Ed Koch as mayor made housing for artists unaffordable and it all went underground. Disco was strictly ‘bridge and tunnel,’ but hip-hop had caught our attention—knowing all the words to ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was a college party trick, plus there was this incredible dance music coming out—Tom Tom Club, ESG, Bush Tetras, Material, Liquid Liquid, League of Gentleman (once a prog nerd…), etc. Protest songs with a killer beat. We’d go to Danceteria and the Peppermint Lounge to see our friends’ bands—R.E.M., Pylon, Mission of Burma, etc., always for free, and dance for hours after. We weren't cool by any definable standard. I went to Oberlin and spent my days at the college radio station. We took road trips to DC for college radio conventions and discovered the Go-Go/Thrash scene, where Trouble Funk and Minor Threat would share a stage. When The Clash played 17 shows at the Bond international Casino, we pushed our way to the front of the stage for the two shows we were able to wrangle our way into. We would’ve never been allowed to enter Studio 54 or the Palladium or Area. Nor would we have wanted to. Your record captures what it felt like to be broke in NYC, before Koch had completely transformed Times Square into Disneyland. It was such a formative time in my life. Kids need an escape even more today than we did then—the music you’re making now evokes that tension and heartfelt release. Here’s to its success! I hope to see you soon—my love to all. xxkg”

Win’s response was brief and very kind, which added fuel to my ongoing thesis that dance music, played on real instruments, with culturally aware lyrics, has an important place in current music. LCD Soundsystem’s “Call the Police” harkens back to the “Fuck Art, Let’s Dance” sentiment we felt at the onset of the Reagan administration. KROQ adding “Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow f/Run the Jewels this week, which Lazlo at KRBZ has already played 800 times, is an important step toward giving a musical voice to how fucked things are right now. This song has been out for a while, with early support from KCMP, Alt Nation and KQGO, among others, and hearing it on the radio is a welcome antidote… Beck’s new single, “Dear Life,” which arrived yesterday, has the chorus, “Dear life, I’m holding on”—a highly relatable sentiment…

As long as there’s a faction of people self-ordained as the “Alt Right,” I refuse to refer to our radio format as Alternative.  As long as I am reading articles like “Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture” in The New York Times, I will refer to the format as Modern Rock. Thank you…

Rarely, timed around a solar eclipse, perhaps, a song comes out that is PURE MAGIC. All of the “metrics” we pray for are immediate: Shazams, streams, calls, sales, etc. If we’re lucky, we bear witness to one or two of those in our career. Alice Merton’s “No Roots,” released by our friends at Mom + Pop, is that record. Mark Hamilton at KNRK is the spin leader thus far, with nearly equal emphatic support from KGSR in Austin, Alt Nation and WFUZ in Wilkes-Barre. The ordered rollout of stations reminds me of Bishop Briggs’ “River” (which has already sold gold/nearing platinum), except I think the chart success for “No Roots” will be even faster. David Jacobs is leading the charge on this—such an exciting project!...

Arkells’ “Knocking at the Door” has been #1 on the Canadian Modern Rock chart for the past 12 weeks. As they say up north, every record has a shot at going #1 in Canada, but it’s unheard of for a song to stay there for as long as this one has! “Knocking at the Door” is an unmitigated smash.


 
 
PASSION IS NO ORDINARY WORD

By Karen Glauber

I was in Boulder last week for the Triple A Convention, which has been hosted by FMQB’s Jack Barton ever since The Gavin Report followed the path of Album Network and The Hard Report to the burial ground of obsolete trade magazines. I’ve been coming to this convention for 25 years, forging decades-long relationships and seeing a bunch of performances that still resonate with me. Sure, we thought we were so cool in 1995 when some of us skipped the panels to see the movie Kids.

And I’ve done my part to support Boulder’s economy with my yearly blast through fashion haven Max, where I can try on Dries Van Noten to my heart’s content, while catching up with Max manager Holly Kabacoff, whose store is always my first stop. For other attendees, the dispensary closest to the hotel is the first visit on their itinerary. I’ve watched men of a certain age clap their hands in glee at the first sight of endless display cases filled with edibles in every size and shape, and countless strains guaranteed to produce the desired effect of the day. I’ve been one of the only sober people in the room for so many years that not even an edible shaped like a Prada bag could tempt me.

Most of the shows take place at the 500-capacity Fox Theatre, a far smaller venue than most of the convention’s headliners usually play. Thursday night’s Spoon show was epic—one of my favorite sets I’ve ever seen them play, heightened by the fact that their single “Can I Sit Next to You” is on the cusp of becoming the band’s second #1 single from Hot Thoughts at Triple A. Earlier in the day, my favorite new band, Columbia’s Lo Moon, played the lunchtime slot, earning a standing ovation from the radio programmers and industry folks in attendance. Their album, slated for early 2018, should be acknowledged as this generation’s Avalon.

Also, Wesley and Jeremiah from The Lumineers drove in from Denver to say thank you to the programmers who have supported the first three singles from Cleopatra. They were thrilled to hear that “Angela” is nearing Top 15 at Alternative, especially after I told them that only two other bands (Cage the Elephant and 21 Pilots) have had a third Top 20 single in the last three years.

An abiding theme of this year’s convention was how to monetize and build on the defining characteristics of the Triple A format. Legendary panel moderator Norm Winer solicited input from the audience as to what those characteristics are, and the adjectives that filled the white board resembled the best online dating profile I’ve never read: “Passionate,” “music lovers,” “smart,” “community-minded,” “family,” “like-minded,” “inclusive,” etc. When I imagine moving out of L.A., I know that moving to a city with a station like KCMP in Minneapolis, WFUV in New York or WRLT in Nashville would give me a base from which to build friendships.

The stations that make up the Triple A format understand how to create music-focused NTR events where it’s not just a collection of bands playing: WFUV’s dance party cruises, KGSR Austin’s Blues on the Green series, WXRT’s sponsorship of Taste of Chicago, etc. The Alternative format has become reliant on creating a “community” via social media, thereby missing the real-life connection that was once a cornerstone of the format. Do you want to attract a younger audience? Here are two suggestions: Pay attention to streaming data instead of MScores (empirical evidence vs. six meters in a Top 20 market determining the success of a song). Stop playing the same ’90s songs until they become wallpaper. Nirvana was the most important band of a generation, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear “Come As You Are” every 65 minutes…

It appears that WBRU will be going off the air after a 29-year run as Providence’s source for Alternative Music. Perhaps it will reappear as an online station, but it’s unlikely that PD Wendell Clough will continue in his current role. The first WBRU show I ever attended was the station’s Birthday Bash in 1995 with new band Ben Folds Five. I predict that this will turn out to be just one of many changes in the Alternative format in the months ahead…

SONG TO HEAR: Alice Merton, “No Roots”

 


 
 
OUT OF MY SYSTEM

By Karen Glauber

April 1 was the anniversary of two milestones: My 27th anniversary at HITS (aka “the career cul-de-sac”) and my 25th sober birthday. From what I can remember, my first two years were spent either at my desk or hiding underneath it. Klonopin is what finally did me in—I was a trendsetter with a full-blown benzo addiction years before most rehabs had a clue how treat the detox and recovery. Rehab was certainly memorable, and an experience I choose to never repeat. Chris Whitley visited, clearly under the influence, and serenaded me with his guitar. R.E.M. sent flowers, as did many other work associates, until my room (which I shared with one of the American Gladiators, whose nose was blown out from coke) resembled a morgue. After 30 sleepless days and nights, I emerged, looking like a praying mantis and completely “shut down” from detoxing too quickly (I could put a cigarette out on my arm and not feel it).

In the early months of recovery, I was resolutely unwilling to accept that there was a power greater than myself. Not that I thought that I was all that great, mind you, but I’m a wee bit Type A (which sobriety has yet to quell). Someone suggested using gravity as my higher power, which seemed too obtuse for my very literal mind to wrap my head around. Instead, I chose Patti Smith as the embodiment of true grace, strength, talent and female power. Horses was my 12x12 and, later, Just Kids became my bible. Since Patti’s “comeback” after the death of her husband, I haven’t missed an L.A. show. This is my version of church, and her 4/5 show at the Teragram Ballroom was no exception. I’m grateful for my job, my sobriety, my kid, and for the opportunity to break new artists, regardless of how difficult you radio programmers make it for us…

FACTS DON’T LIE (unless you’re the President): Spoon’s latest single, “Hot Thoughts,” hit 5 million streams on Spotify April 6. This far exceeds the streaming numbers for most every other song you’re playing, like Dreamers and Andrew McMahon, for example. I know that your playlist is almost wholly made up of bands playing your radio show, but there has to be an exception made for artists like Spoon! Taking the macro view: Why should bands that can command a significant payday at festivals be penalized because their summer touring plans don’t coincide with your radio show? Why not make the commitment now and reap the benefit of the band’s ability to sell tickets for your Xmas show? I’ve been told multiple times in the past few weeks that my priorities and your priorities are not the same, to which I answer that our priorities are, in fact, identical, if keeping our jobs remains high on both of our lists. Or, as 27 years at HITS might suggest, it’s in my best interest to do right by your radio station and the artists on whose behalf I toil…

I invited 98.7 PD Mike Kaplan to a show, but I wouldn’t tell him where we were going or whom we were going to see. On the rare nights when I’m not wrestling my son to do his homework, I would much rather watch Vanderpump Rules and order Postmates than go out and see bands. At SXSW or Coachella, I’ll willingly stay out until the last note, but not so much on a school night. Knowing this, Mike agreed to this “blind date,” although his best efforts at advance detective work revealed nothing.

After dinner, we arrived at the Echoplex and I introduced him to an artist named Dario and his manager Jesse. The venue was packed with an attractive crowd of music savvy early adopters, dance kids and twenty-something males. Yeah, I was old enough to be their mom, but I was the one hugging Dario (oh, is he gorgeous!) and not them. Way past my bedtime, he introduced himself as Youngr and proceeded to play a succession of instruments: Keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, plus triggered samples, with his brother and another bandmember on stage filling out the parts. The soon-to-be hit “Out of My System” was the crowd-pleaser (it’s at 24mil Spotify streams, fwiw), and 98.7 and KKDO both added the record this week. Dario’s father, btw, is Kid Creole and the Coconuts founder August Darnell. “Cherchez la Femme,” darlings…


 
 
Post Toasted Index
posted 9/15/17
posted 4/19/17
posted 3/10/17
posted 2/17/17
posted 2/2/17
posted 1/12/17