THE STRINGER ERA BEGINS
Rob picks up his keys to the kingdom on 4/3. (3/28a)
ACM boss talks Nashville (3/27a)
UNDERWOOD MOVES TO CAPITOL NASHVILLE
Grainge and Dungan lure the superstar (3/28a)
STREAMING SONGS: UNIVERSALLY DOMINANT
75% marketshare ... that's good, right? (3/24a)
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.”