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ALWAYS LOVE

By Karen Glauber


As I sat down to write this in my office (also known as my bed), I realized I haven’t left the house, except to take out the garbage, in the past two weeks. We all deal with our anxiety in our own ways, and I take comfort in music, episodes of The Good Fight, endless loads of laundry and the security of my house. It’s a holiday weekend, whatever that means, and Alternative radio is marking the beginning of summer with specialty programming, whether it’s The Top 500 Bands with the Word “The” in their Name or The Top 500 Songs A-Z by Bands Who Played Our Radio Show Side Stage (and were never heard from again). The options are limitless.

The Tuesday after Memorial Day is a little-known holiday we’ve always called the Day the Playlists Froze, also known as the Day Jeff Deane Makes Bank. Take Monday AND Tuesday off, label friends, and we’ll start over on Wednesday.

The topics on everybody’s lips this past week included James Kurdziel’s segue from WEDG Buffalo to the PD gig at legendary Classic Rock station KQRS in Minneapolis. He’ll stay on as PD and on-air talent at WEDG for the time being, which, in radio parlance, could mean either next week or permanently. In other Cumulus news, Troy Hanson has been promoted to VP/Corporate Programming-Rock Formats. His new role will include oversight of the Classic Rock format in addition to his current portfolio of Active and Alternative stations, as well as VP of Operations for Cumulus Chicago and PD of WKQX. Congrats, Troy!

My radio and label friends were also shocked by the timing of an article called “It’s the End of the World Famous KROQ as We Know It,” which seemed unnecessary, misleading and mostly unkind, although I respect the writer’s work. During this pandemic, most music stations have taken a big hit in the ratings. Did KROQ lose a point-plus in the ratings because management fired the last vestiges of its morning show? There is no argument that the abrupt dismissal of Kevin Ryder and his staff was inelegant, but we also don’t know if the tenor of the morning show had changed following the ascension of Mike Kaplan as the station’s new PD.

Without question, Kevin Weatherly should be regarded as the GOAT of our format. He, along with a handful of others, including Lisa Worden, Gene Sandbloom, Tom Calderone, Leslie Fram, Richard Sands, etc., made the Alternative format a viable business, and breaking new artists was an important part of their programming mission. Whether it’s the programs that Lisa has implemented to increase the visibility of new artists at iHeart or the new-music-intensive playlists of Lazlo, Mase and Jeff Morad, the desire to break new artists is still a priority. However, PPM, MScores and call-out research, not to mention format-killing consultants, have contributed to most Alternative programmers cutting back to as little as 8% current music.

The Classic Rock format has adopted “our” ’90s gold as their own, and Alternative stations have taken a ratings hit because the uppermost-demo listener (34+) would rather hear Nirvana segued into Rush than into Powfu. So KROQ, and most stations, really, have the choice of becoming Classic Alternative, or trying something new. Jeff Regan has always programmed Alt Nation to focus on new music, and he can tell you whether or not a song is a hit after 100 spins. Michael Martin has reinvigorated KITS by playing more currents, and that is what Mike Kaplan did when he started programming Alt 92.3 in NYC, and what he’s doing now at KROQ. In a fucking pandemic, when radio is doing its best to entertain and provide a sense of community for their anxious audience, no programmer should be put on the defensive for trying something different.

If there was ever a time to shake things up at radio, it’s now. Programmers who are still treating their station as their own personal “Spite Store” (thank you, Larry David) have zero leverage right now—and how wonderful is that?...

SONG TO HEAR: Cannons, “Fire for You”

THOUGHT: #VOTE


 
 
THE WAY WE GET BY

By Karen Glauber

First thought: Gratitude. I have a job. Those of you on the receiving end of my 5am emails know how important work is to me. Julian and I are safe, healthy and fed. Will he be able to attend his beloved computer camp, Planet Bravo, this summer? Who knows? He misses his friends, but they’re now making Spotify playlists to share—his generation’s version of the mixtape. Lots of AJR, Travis Scott and songs he remembers from movies. We adhere to the Safer-at-Home guidelines to the extent that my car hasn’t been driven since mid-March. In isolation, music has become a way to articulate our feelings. A song on the radio can provide a welcome catharsis, or invigorate the senses.

For those paying attention, recent MScores reflect that the P1 listener is spending more time tuned to their favorite station. Alternative airplay has impacted Shazam charts—format-exclusive acts are showing up in a market’s Top 50. In Sacramento, for instance, the Top 50 Shazam chart includes KKDO-supported songs from Bakar, AJR and The Head and the Heart. Looking at Folsom, Calif., which Andy Hawk says is the center of his core audience, The Lumineers’ “Salt and the Sea” is #13 on Shazam, Powfu is #1, and the rest of the Top 50 includes Live Lounge Allstars, twenty one pilots, Bakar, Billie Eilish, Cage the Elephant, The Head and the Heart, AJR, Glass Animals (my faves) and Absofacto.

AJR’s “Bang!” is Top 50 Shazam in almost every airplay market, not to mention #1 in all demos in Rate the Music, and yet there are still some stations that are “waiting.” For what, I wonder—an engraved invitation? If there was ever a time for the format as a whole to support a record that has proven itself, this is it. There are a handful of PDs in our format who won’t accept that a song that’s a hit at 90% of the panel could be a hit for them. This lack of “consensus” airplay is a detriment to the format’s ability to truly break artists. Back in my 12-Step Program days, we referred to that as “terminal uniqueness.”

The fearsome team of Weezer and Capone is back this week with a new single called “Hero,” which will soar to the top of the charts, based on our collective love of the band and Capone’s unwillingness to take “no” for an answer.

Amy Kaplan from 7SManagement, and a friend of long standing, sent out “The Lighthouse” by The Used f/Mark Hoppus to a few programmers to get their opinion. WNYL, KROQ and KITS added it immediately, and now she’s serviced it format-wide. This track is a legit smash—and I’ve never been a fan of The Used. What a way to launch a song!

The first true “Song of the Summer” is “Don’t Let Me Down” by Milky Chance f/Jack Johnson. I’m not sure I’ve ever been excited about music from either artist, but the alchemy of this pairing is special. Nick Attaway at BMG is running point on this one.

Flume f/Tor Y Moi’s “The Difference” is one of the streamiest songs at radio right now—over 1.3 million U.S. streams this week! Also, it’s great.

Speaking of streaming, the buzziest streaming record of the quarantine, Powfu f/beabadoobee’s “coffee for your head,” is now entrenched in the Top 10. I’m currently watching beabadoobee play “Coffee,” (as featured on the Powfu smash) on an Instagram Live with WEQX. She’ll have a new single in June on Dirty Hit. I absolutely adore her.

The other streaming smashes are 24kGoldn’s “City of Angels,” Ashe’s “Moral of the Story” (both nearing Top 10) and BENEE’s “Supalonely”—a big favorite in my house. KennyHoopla’s “how will i rest in peace...” has accelerated from radio-programmer favorite to on-air hit. Other artists radio is collectively championing include Car Seat Headrest, CHVRCHES, Chaz Cardigan and Rezz & Grabbitz.

My future picks include the aforementioned beabadoobee, goddess Jehnny Beth, whose new single “Heroine” is the anthem I’ve been searching for, and Fontaines D.C.’s new single, “A Hero’s Death”—a fave I share with Andrew Harms, Jeff Morad and Dustin Matthews.

SONG TO HEAR: Nick Cave “Cosmic Dancer,” the first single from the Hal Willner-produced T. Rex tribute album, Angelheaded Hipster.

THOUGHT: On Mother’s Day, I give thanks to the most important woman in my life: my shrink.


 
 
100 BAD DAYS

By Karen Glauber

I haven’t been isolated like this since I left rehab 28 years ago. I’m sleeping about the same as I did then (not much), but my focus is on my kid, my work, his schoolwork, keeping him healthy and (relatively) entertained and tempering my anxiety to a dull roar. “One day at a time” is the advice I was given 28 years ago, which has never been truer. In addition to my April sober birthday, another milestone was attained: My 30th anniversary at HITS—I’ve truly earned my self-appointed status as the “cockroach of Modern Rock.”

Despite what has been written about radio losing the plot during the pandemic, the opposite is true: Radio, in its purest sense, has never mattered more. Those of us who are in the promotion trenches have been able to do our jobs with a clarity we haven’t experienced in years. Nobody knows what the concert landscape will look like for the remainder of 2020, so radio shows are not the primary consideration for evaluating new music.

The format has been gifted with current singles from core artists that are unequivocal hits, such as “Caution” by The Killers, which will be locked at #1 for the foreseeable future, courtesy of the ace promo job by Ayelet Schiffman, Amanda Dobbins and Drew Hauser. Green Day also had a swift ascendance to #1 with “Oh Yeah!,” which was Rob Goldklang and David Ravikoff’s second #1 this month, following SubUrban’s “Cradles.” AJR’s fourth Top 10 Alternative song, “Bang!,” is streaming 3m/week from our format’s airplay! It’s also the only solely Alt song in the Shazam Top 100. While watching Jack from AJR’s IG Live Thursday with Kevan from Alt 92.3, I learned that the voice of “metronome” and “Here we go” on “Bang!” is of Charlie Pellett, the official voice of the N.Y. Subway System, whose “stand clear of the closing doors” is embedded in the brain of every commuter. That’s show prep you can use!

Speaking of the format’s core bands, Mike Kaplan added The Lumineers’ “Salt & the Sea” in both NYC and L.A. The song has always been his favorite, and the “warm blanket” effect of The Lumineers on the radio is especially heightened during this stressful time. As “Life in the City” moves into recurrent after 28 weeks on the chart, look for “Salt & the Sea” to be the band’s next hit.

I believe that radio airplay is still the #1 most-effective way to break an artist. In addition to the obvious—radio hits drive ticket sales and build an act’s base—airplay also means publishing income for the artist. With touring on hold, publishing income is an artist’s lifeline. AIRPLAY MATTERS.

The songs I’ve been screaming about the loudest are now between #11 and #20 in “real time,” ready to leap into the Top 10: Glass Animals’ brilliant “Your Love (Déjà vu)” on Republic, which is their biggest radio hit to-date; Powfu f/beabadoobee’s “Coffee for Your Head” on Columbia (smash, smash, smash); Ashe’s groundbreaking “Moral of the Story” on Mom+Pop; and KennyHoopla’s “How Will I Rest in Peace…” on Arista, masterfully promoted by John Boulos. Steered by Dave Lombardi, FINNEAS’ “Let’s Fall in Love…” had an incredible run at the format. FINNEAS has at least two other songs on his record that I think could be huge at Alt.

My Friday night plans include watching Chvrches perform “Forever” on Fallon. Without quarantine, my Friday night plans would be the same. Glassnote’s Nick, Michael and Marlee will be charted with “Forever” this week, with KKDO already on deck for Monday!

 Bakar’s “Hell and Back” is the hit you shouldn’t miss. The following should also be commanding your attention: Flume f/Toro Y Moi’s “The Difference,” guardin’s “Alive,” 24KGoldn, Major Lazer f/Marcus Mumford, 070 Shake (new this week at KRBZ!), Rezz & Grabbitz (another hit for Dennis Blair), Cheap Cuts w/Pete Wentz, Bleeker, Hoko, and Chaz Cardigan’s “Not OK!” on Capitol, which Gary Gorman is very excited about.

SONG TO HEAR: Car Seat Headrest’s “Hollywood” on Matador. Definitely the best song of the month!

THOUGHT: Now that we’ve pivoted into the “new normal,” let’s use this time to evolve into what we’ll become next.


 
 
KILLERS HIT #1 AT ALTERNATIVE

The Killers have returned with the fastest-rising #1 of their career at Alternative radio with “Caution,” on Island. “Caution” is the first single off the band’s forthcoming sixth studio album, Imploding The Mirage, the follow up to 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful. The band performed the song on Global Citizen's One World: Together at Home livestreamed festival on 4/18.

Produced by the band in conjunction with Shawn Everett and Jonathan Rado of Foxygen, Imploding The Mirage was recorded in Los Angeles, the band's hometown of Las Vegas, and Park City, Utah. It features an array of collaborators, including Lindsey Buckingham, kd lang, Weyes Blood, Adam Granduciel, Blake Mills and Lucius, a rarity for the group, who have typically kept guest spots on their recordings to a minimum.

"Caution" features a blazing guitar solo courtesy of Buckingham, and is a standout on Imploding The Mirage. Reminiscent of the band’s fan-favorite albums Sams Town and Battle Born, the new LP finds The Killers evoking a spirit of ambitious reinvention matched with anthemic choruses, a proven formula that's served them well on past journeys.

Photo: Olivia Bee


 
 
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