SIGNAL TO NOISE: The cost-benefit proposition of radio has the major labels rethinking the promotion equation. Some of it is still considered valuable, while a few formats remain relatively useless when it comes to moving the needle—especially when they don’t play acts that stream or lean too heavily on artists from prior decades.

That said, it must be noted that the majors’ top promotion players are some of the most talented execs in the business, and they do much more than get your records played at all radio formats. The hitters in this small club—Greg Marella, Gary Spangler, Peter Gray, Keith Rothschild, Rick Sackheim and Mike Chester—are all deeply embedded in the cultures of their companies. Their superb artist relationships and “good ears” are supplemented by a deep, fundamental understanding of the industry, which is why these execs have been used effectively as major players well beyond their ability to get records played—though it’s worth pointing out that 100% of the #1 records at Top 40 radio last year were from the labels these execs oversee as part of their remits, as were 86% of the #1 records on the Hot 100 (Christmas records by Brenda Lee and Mariah Carey were among the few exceptions to their dominance).

iHEART BEAT: The fact remains that radio may have lost some of the gatekeeping war. Yet the biggest players—iHeart’s Bob Pittman, Rich Bressler, John Sykes and Tom Poleman—have maintained key real estate on the cultural landscape. Just look at the array of stars making an appearance on the iHeartRadio Music Awards to claim trophies in some of the most creatively worded categories imaginable. Nobody assembles a TV show like Sykes—the only surprise is that he didn’t entice the Clintons and Obamas to the red carpet as well. Poleman, meanwhile, is the most esteemed programmer of the last 30 years and arguably the GOAT. And then there’s media wizard Pittman, who began at NBC in NYC, was a pioneer of MTV and played a key role at AOL. He reinvented iHeart, bestowed its catchy new moniker and made it part of the digital conversation. These guys are in their own category.