Imagine a station that plays records that are hits now. (5/29a)
Ketchup on a hot dog, yea or nay? (5/29a)
Stats and strategy. (5/24a)
I.B. Bad does the math. (5/24a)
The power from the Tower speaks. (5/22a)
The astonishing first half-century of a world-rocking genre.
Who's next to grow the profile of Seoul music?
Are we about to see new attendance records set?
He signed Elvis.

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“Can we work it out? Scream and shout, ‘til we work it out?”—that’s a line from the new Arcade Fire single, “Afterlife,” one of two songs that “defined” 2013 for me (the other being “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” from Tame Impala). Ever since I wrote out the lyrics (from memory) to Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park album on my Latin notebook in 1973, I became aware that I “think” in songs. Lyrics and melodies run through my brain at every waking moment (which is useful when I’m leaving the umpteenth message for certain radio PDs who, if their spins didn’t count, I wouldn’t call on my slowest day). I know that the key to a HIT, especially at Modern Rock, is a song that “works” on many levels: emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Forget about MScores, which only prove that the less a song is played, the better the MScore. Want to improve your MScores? Ask the PD to move your records into the overnights (thank you, Lazlo, for being right as always). In the last year, the rigid constraints of the Modern Rock target demo (males 18-34) have been loosened to include women and the younger end of the demo. This shift was predicated on the realization that most ’90s gold was burnt to a crisp, and that the Active-leaning bands that ruled the charts a few years ago were struggling to compete in the new song-based landscape. The lyrics that resonated this year spoke of male longing, both in terms of relationships (“I Will Wait,” “Sweater Weather,” “Safe and Sound,” “Stubborn Love”) and of finding one’s footing in the grand scheme (“Sail,” “Take A Walk,” “Trying to Be Cool,” “Madness”). Women embraced the shift to the format’s “sensitive” side, removing much of the gender-bias that has limited Modern Rock for many years. Top 40 and Hot AC “borrowed” our biggest hits, and multi-station airplay only served to strengthen the call-out at Modern Rock, rather than increase the “burn.” Songs like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather,” Bastille’s “Pompeii,” Lorde’s “Royals,” etc. continue to dominate Modern Rock playlists, even after months of success at other formats. The biggest artist development story of 2013 was Vampire Weekend’s career-defining Modern Vampires of the City, which yielded the hits “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers” (on its way to becoming their biggest song to-date). Modern Vampires of the City is #1 on nearly every critic’s year-end list (followed closely by Arcade Fire’s Reflektor). Their fanbase has grown exponentially, solidifying Vampire Weekend’s status as a truly IMPORTANT band. For me, 2013 was the year of Tame Impala. This Perth-based psych-rock band on Modular had developed a significant touring base among the early adopters, but very few programmers believed it would work for them. “It’s about balance,” was our argument. And guitars. And swagger. We knew from significant early airplay at SiriusXM’s XMU and WWCD that “Elephant” had “hit potential.” The goal of promotion is to champion songs and artists that can ultimately “redefine the mainstream.” The audience’s taste is far broader than most programmers will acknowledge, as we’ve seen again and again. After nearly a year, “Elephant” became a Modern Rock hit, eventually played on nearly every station (except 4, 3 of which are in Florida). Tame Impala’s Lonerism was also nominated for Grammy for Best Alternative Album! 2013 was a year of discovery and revelation, with artists like Lorde, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Chvrches and Daft Punk expanding the definition of what’s considered “Alternative.” Ruled by programmers Jeff Regan and Gregg Steele, SiriusXM’s Alt Nation was the first to play many of the year’s biggest songs, and their support is the “secret weapon” for breaking bands. Garnering support from the string of stations stretching from Seattle to San Diego remains absolutely critical in the early stages of a record’s growth. There is still no better call on a Tuesday than Kevin, Gene and Lisa calling with a KROQ add. I ended my year with one of those calls (Arcade Fire’s “Afterlife”) and the giddiness still resonates. The influence of WRFF’s John Allers can’t be understated, especially since he added programming Premium Choice to his to-do list. He and 98.7’s Mike Kaplan have been bold in their music choices, which resulted in chain-wide airplay for bands that would otherwise never have had a shot. Without question, 2013 was an exciting year of growth for Modern Rock. Unfortunately, “entitlement” seems to be the most acute of many programmers’ senses, and this behavior was deemed acceptable; another cost of doing business. Your audience doesn’t give a shit about “presents” or stage announcements or market exclusivity. It’s your ego that perpetuates these demands. Prioritize what is TRULY in the best interest of your station (staying on the air seems critical) and your listeners (keeping them tuned in). Forge relationships with artist managers. We’re just the messengers, trying our best to do what is in everybody’s best interest. Respect the artists. Have a genuine passion for the music you get to play. Develop a five-year career plan and make yourself as “invaluable” as possible. Be grateful.

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