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DENNIS BLAIR: THE iGEN INTERVIEW

Interview by Ted Volk

Launching records from brand new artists with no prior airplay résumé is a challenging task at Alternative. Especially in a climate where slots are at a premium—with superstar established artists and hits that stick around on playlists for long periods of time. It’s best to just charge forward and keep the blinkers on, as they say in horse racing (blinkers are used to keep easily distracted racehorses looking straight ahead).  Essentially, I’ve been wearing blinkers for over 20 years.

 RCA’s SR VP Dennis Blair probably focuses better when the red light turns on than anyone I’ve ever met. Dennis is all business, and he’s had one hell of a track record over the last seven years. This week, Dennis sent Weathers’ “Happy Pills” out to radio; it snagged more than 30 stations and was by far the Most Added record. For more news from Alternative Radio, visit iGen.

Blair with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers →

I know, initially, you were going to go for “Happy Pills” a couple weeks back, but you decided to wait until after the 4th of July. Why did you decide to move it to 7/12?
We moved the date ahead, frankly, because of all the big releases that dropped at the format, all clustered within a short span of time. Naturally most PDs would focus on the established acts, which would overshadow any baby band, regardless of how dynamic. When we have a song everyone believes in, which has received such a great programmer response, we need to give that record every chance of success, the biggest look possible. Now, to have radio all add Weathers in unison—that was the tricky part. The RCA promo team did a phenomenal setup job.

"With the format in a conservative cycle and hit songs lasting on the chart forever, it was imperative to have a big week at radio and for the format to take notice." 

So to launch in heavy traffic would have been a disservice to the band and their incredibly deep debut album. The last two-to-three months have been all big name acts dropping their lead tracks. With the format in a conservative cycle and hit songs lasting on the chart forever, it was imperative to have a big week at radio and for the format to take notice. To make a statement. It may be a cliché, but timing is EVERYTHING. Now people are asking, “Who the heck are Weathers?”

Blair with Elle King and RCA Prexy/COO Tom Corson

Tell me a little bit about Weathers. The buzz feels really good and it sounds great on KROQ. Where are they from?
A young four-piece, alternative rock band from Los Angeles. Four guys who are making great, unique music with infectious hooks, who are touring their asses off and wrote a fantastic debut album. Rock is far from dead. You gotta believe! The new young American bands who are informed by all the different movements and scenes and sounds from popular music over the past 20 years are beginning to emerge, and Weathers are among the first to arrive on the format’s radar. And their hard work ethic and drive are going to break them.

When starting a new record like Weathers, is there one thing you do with setup, or do you simply try to find fans?
There is no substitute for thorough setup. And my team and I really began playing this for folks in early Spring. And there was an instant response. It also helped that indie press was starting to cover the single with acclaim. And that helps the chatter. And in early planning with all departments at RCA, the band and management, we were all on point; there was a commitment to make all the right moves—marketing exposure, advertising and tireless touring—to lay a groundwork. And I believe that radio trusts my team... that with our track record and our passion, when we say “We’ve got another one,” they trust it’s got a great shot at going the distance.

TOP 100 WEEKLY MARKETSHARE:
’21-GUN SALUTE
Hotter than July (1/25a)
CHART FINAL:
REPUBLIC OF MORGAN
Morgan garages a #1. (1/25a)
STREAMING SONGS: OLIVIA CRUISES TO #1
Talk about an overnight sensation... (1/25a)
RAINMAKERS:
JULIE SWIDLER
Prefers the original U.K. version of Rubber Soul (1/25a)
BLACK HISTORY MONTH: FREEDOM NOW, AND OTHER JAMS
A special issue on the impact of jazz. (1/25a)
RAINMAKERS
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMYS: WHERE TO FROM HERE?
After the snubs, the show.
HOW TO FIND 11,780 VOTES
It's the way all the biggest mob bosses did it.
MOVING THE NEEDLE
When vaccination schedules and touring schedules meet.
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