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I have absolute faith that 2011 will be a banner year for Modern Rock.
IVANA'S YEAR-END MUSINGS
Our PoMo Goddess Takes a Look at the Modern Rock Radio Landscape, the Year's Top Releases and More
“If my boss calls, could you get their name?” became a frequently asked question by our label and radio friends this year, as record companies and broadcast groups played a heart-pounding game of extreme musical chairs. This heightened sense of career uncertainty was exacerbated by the widespread arrival of PPM, which made us nostalgic for the quaint days of Arbitron diaries.
Breaking a new band was more challenging than ever, with M-scores added to a programmer’s arsenal of why they wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t/didn’t play a song more than they did (or didn’t). Playlists have shrunk considerably since the switch to PPM. But there are still 10 records in the Top 10 (thank you, Lenny Beer), and the format played a critical role in breaking artists this year because programmers were paying attention to the music emerging from the underground. Unless a song has absolute “magic,” it’s futile to expect that radio can give a song the number of spins it needs to get a real “read” on whether or not it’s a hit. You used to have an idea at 150 spins, but now it takes at least 300 before you really know.

Even then, it can take a YEAR for a song to reach its maximum potential, like Phoenix’s “1901.” And because of Phoenix, which was played everywhere (even in Florida, where “butt rock” continues to dominate), programmers were much more enthusiastic about giving a shot to left-of-center songs by bands with meaningful bases.

2010 was the year of Arcade Fire, whose song “Ready to Start” reached Top 10 (and garnered a Grammy nomination), while the band sold out two dates at Madison Square Garden. The CD The Suburbs is also nominated for Album of the Year! 

It was also the year of Mumford & Sons, whose #1 hit “Little Lion Man” paved the way for their soon-to-be-even-bigger smash “The Cave,” and whose success was also acknowledged with Grammy nominations.

The Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” ascended to #1, and the band broke into the mainstream, bringing their loyal fans and massive touring base with them. The Dirty Heads’ “Lay Me Down” was the biggest and most undeniable song of 2010. Florence & the Machine, The XX, Neon Trees, Temper Trap, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Broken Bells, Civil Twilight and Cage the Elephant were among the other new bands having chart success this year, as quality prevailed. As the year closes, Vampire Weekend is poised to have their biggest career hit with “Holiday,” bolstered by exposure from two extensive TV ad campaigns and nonstop touring.

It’s bands like Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, etc. who are the future of the format, not the generic, faceless lowest common denominator rock bands, whose singer you couldn’t identify if your life depended on it. The “passion” bands are important to the future of radio because their appeal skews both young and upper demo. In order for the format to continue to thrive, the younger demo (aka “The Coachella Generation”) needs to turn on the radio and be surprised and delighted to hear the bands they love, presented in a way that makes them feel included. The 25+ demo, who came of age listening to the format, still relies on radio to be their arbiter of what’s new and good. I have absolute faith that 2011 will be a banner year for Modern Rock. Thank you friends.

R.I.P. Andyman. I hope you know how beloved you continue to be in our hearts.
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