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Trends are not permanent and the ratings surge that has accompanied the strategy of adding the same song (albeit with a different band name and label) every week CAN’T BE SUSTAINED. Where is the passion? Where is the commitment?

POST TOASTED: FEELS LIKE WE ONLY GO BACKWARDS

Our own Ivana on Vampire Weekend, Nine Inch Nails and Taking the Long View
I’ve been the self-appointed cheerleader for the Modern Rock format for the past three decades, even demonstrating unflagging enthusiasm and support during the darkest era of Rap/Rock, and the ensuing period of faceless Active-leaning Rock. By comparison, this is our Gilded Age, with an endless array of artists deserving airplay. The way for artists to flourish within the confines of PPM, MScores, call-out, etc. is to:

1) Have an undeniable song that "fits" in the current landscape of female-friendly pop.

2) Have an undeniable fanbase that will be thrilled to hear their favorite band on the radio.

I never subscribed to Excuse #384 for Not Adding a Record, that the band’s fans don’t listen to the radio. If a band already has fans, logic suggests that, unless the band is truly a cult band (with purple robes, Kool-Aid and Nikes sold among their merch), they could have even more fans. A band expands its fanbase beyond the core group of early adopters one of two ways:

1) The base expands to include the more mainstream consumer.

2) The base expands to the younger siblings of the early adopters (and THEN expands to the mainstream).

The first time I witnessed a band’s fanbase transition from college radio to the siblings was with the Violent Femmes, whose concert audience became younger, even without the benefit of commercial radio. I had this sense that it was a rite of passage for every college-radio DJ to play the first Femmes record for their younger siblings during their holiday breaks. It was fascinating to watch unfold. Now it’s those original fans’ kids who packed the stage to see the Femmes play their debut record in its entirety, without any sense of nostalgia. (How incredible to have made a record that still resonates after 30 years!)

If I had to draw a comparison to a current band, Vampire Weekend is the obvious choice. Although they FINALLY have their first Top 10 Modern Rock hit with "Diane Young," the band has built a huge touring base comprised of the initial fans and kids a decade younger. Maybe a big radio hit will change the composition of their audience, but I believe their continued success isn’t predicated on appealing to the lowest common denominator. There has definitely been a cultural evolution towards "smart" bands, like Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Tame Impala, Arcade Fire, Florence & the Machine, The National (75k sold first week!!!!!!), etc. I fear that radio often (always) chooses the most immediately "obvious" song to add, rather than the one with the biggest upside potential.

I love hit songs, but the format was built on bands whose music shifted culture. Trends are not permanent and the ratings surge that has accompanied the strategy of adding the same song (albeit with a different band name and label) every week CAN’T BE SUSTAINED. Where is the passion? Where is the commitment?

I hope the new Nine Inch Nails single, dropping this Thursday, is treated as an EVENT. "Came Back Haunted" is a fantastic songtheir best in ages—and Trent Reznor has earned his "automatic" status. There is a multi-generational fanbase for his music, and this song will certainly cut through the current "wallpaper." The band wouldn’t be playing key slots at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands if there wasn’t a demand. I don’t own a Nine Inch Nails album, but I’m looking forward to hearing the new single on the radio.

The trajectory of a band’s career (on the radio, at least), used to be college radio to Modern Rock radio (such as it was) to AOR radio and then, fingers crossed, to Pop radio. That’s how it worked for U2, R.E.M., Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs, etc. With Active Rock being somewhat less relevant these days (how’s that for diplomatic?), Modern Rock is more likely to find its hits from Non-comm and Triple A. Programmers should pay attention to the iTunes Alternative Album chart, local sales and file-trading as indicators of what people really care about.

SONG TO HEAR: Franz Ferdinand’s "Right Action" (coming 7/1, but Kris Gillespie has it to play for you).

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