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POST TOASTED
ALL IN: KG'S 32ND SXSW
3/20/18
I have the distinction of being one of fewer than three people (if that) who have bragging rights regarding perfect attendance at SXSW. That’s 32 uninterrupted years, even though one year consisted of only 36 hours in Austin, before flying back to L.A. to check myself into rehab. Maybe the more impressive statistic is that I’ve been sober for 25 of those 32 SXSWs. My highlights this year were bountiful, and most of the 30+ artists I saw were exceptional. The deafening buzz on U.K. band Shame (Dead Oceans) is fully warranted—I was gobsmacked (as they say) at their three shows, all of which I loved. Not since Arctic Monkeys made their SXSW debut in 2006 has a new U.K. band made this huge an impression. Judging by the lines outside the venues (thankfully, I’ve never met a line I couldn’t cut into), Billie Eilish (Interscope), Two Feet (Republic), Superchunk (Merge), and the return of Andrew W.K. with a full band were must-see priorities for attendees. C3’s annual Wednesday night gathering downstairs at Stubb’s is the unofficial launch of SXSW for radio programmers, label reps and artist managers. Our hosts, C3’s Joe Greenwald and Dave Barbis kept everybody happily fed and drunk, while their new clients Mt. Joy played a few songs from their Dualtone debut, including the soon-to-be Modern Rock smash “Silver Lining,” which had us singing along at the top of our lungs. KKDO’s Andy Hawk had this to say about Mt. Joy’s single: “I mean that hook is so massive! It's the kind of hook on a song that should make Mt. Joy a household name. It's the kind of hook that reaches across genres and formats.” Fueled by three Diet Cokes and a slab of cherry pie (it was 3/14, or Pi day, after all), I went outside to watch Lucy Dacus (Matador) and Superorganism (Domino), both artists proving that the future is, indeed, female. Journalists (which I am not) highlighted mostly female-fronted bands in their SXSW wrap-ups, including Billie, Lucy and Superorganism, as well as Soccer Mommy, Stella Donnelly, Goat Girl, Kitten, In the Valley Below, Bishop Briggs, Starcrawler and Jade Bird. The latter two artists were acknowledged with the prestigious 2018 Grulke Prize, voted on by SXSW panelists. Starcrawler (Rough Trade), fronted by force-of-nature Arrow de Wilde, was awarded the prize for Developing U.S. Act at SXSW, while Jade Bird (Glassnote), whose audiences grew exponentially with each set she played, was named Developing Non-U.S. Act at SXSW. Brent Grulke, after whom the prize is named, was SXSW’s Creative Director (and friend to all), who passed away in 2012 at the age of 51. The third of three Grulke prizes is for Career Artist at SXSW, and this year’s winner was none other than Todd Rundgren, whose appearance on my Thursday panel was definitely a career highlight for one of us. I’ve been a Todd super-fan for 40+ years, which is no secret to anybody who has ever met me. I didn’t think he’d agree to be on my annual panel about songwriting, let alone perform a song (Utopia’s “There Goes My Inspiration”) AND a duet with fellow panelist Chris Price on “Bleeding” (from The Ballad of Todd Rundgren) after Chris’ nerves got the better of him and he forgot the words. Also on the panel were my dear friend Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Matt Lowell from Lo Moon, whose Columbia debut was released last week, and will be unchallenged for my favorite album of 2018. Matthew performed a gorgeous song he had been working on, with lyrics about the need for a songwriter to address BIG IDEAS in this current political climate, while Matt played a solo version “All In” from his band’s debut. After the panel, Glassnote’s Daniel Glass pulled Todd and me into the frame of his on-camera SXSW.com interview, using us as visual evidence to illustrate his point of never knowing who he’s going to run into in Austin. And oh, the running I did—from Superorganism to IDLES, back across the I-35 to see Shame and Ought, before another jaunt across town with Jonathan Clarke to catch Andrew W.K. So many artists qualified as “must sees”: lovelytheband playing for 101X, Shakey Graves in front of a massive hometown crowd of 20,000 (at least), Lo Moon (3x), Morgan Saint, Slenderbodies, Marlon Williams, Bishop Briggs, In the Valley Below, Todd Rundgren, Chris Price, etc. etc. Years ago, I started hosting an annual breakfast for women who do promo at indie labels. Unlike me, the original three women’s careers have matriculated beyond promotion, but the tradition has persisted. On Saturday morning, at the unholy hour of 9:00am (lights out at SXSW is rarely before 3:00am), I was thrilled to see (pictured at top of page) Sub Pop’s Michelle Feghali, Merge’s Cecile Duncan, Secretly Canadian’s Bri Aab and Mute’s Caroline Shadood, with special guest Amber Miller (MD at WRFF Philly), join me for caffeine, food, unconstrained conversation and more caffeine. Sisterhood is indeed powerful.
I AM A FUCKING UNICORN
3/9/18
By Karen Glauber No, I’m not. Well, not really. It’s the mantra I adopted at the beginning of the year when yet another conversation with a programmer commenced with, “Will [insert band name here] play my summer show?” A reasonable request if the station was already supporting the band, but not quite as welcome if said programmer had heretofore asserted that airplay would happen “over their dead body.” I get it—there aren’t dozens of radio-show headliners falling from the skies this year. Or even two or three, if my sleuthing is correct. As months tick by, the quest for available bands that can sell tickets and aren’t bound by the radius clauses imposed by summer festivals is a panic-ridden proposition. There’s little comfort in knowing that your best-ever Christmas show is ahead of you, based on your label friends’ promises of what will be available in Q4. Driven by an unrelenting desire to make YOUR life easier (hence the self-ascribed unicorn designation), I am in your corner, always. The role of “the messenger” isn’t a day at the beach either—we’re at the mercy of the worldwide schedules of the artists whose music we promote. Whatever influence we have is used to advocate on radio’s behalf. Don’t kill the messenger, please… Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I am willing to assert that AJR’s #1 this week with “Sober Up,” following Alice Merton’s two-week reign at #1 with “No Roots” is the FIRST TIME two independent-label releases have had back-to-back #1s at Modern Rock! AJR’s success, which Ted writes about this week in his column, happened because YOUR AUDIENCE mandated the song’s success. They didn’t care about AJR’s previous at-bats at Pop radio. They weren’t overthinking the band’s “place” at Modern Rock (like you were). They just liked “Sober Up” and decided that it fit on their favorite radio station (yours). As someone who makes infinitely more money than I do once said in a playback session I attended, “Sometimes the best song is just the best song.” We are infinitely grateful to our radio partners who helped AJR reach #1 this week—last Saturday was one of the most stressful (unnecessarily so) days of Ted’s career or my own—and we couldn’t have done it without you. Ted and I were raised in the major-label system to believe that “#2, #6, #11 = failure,” meaning that peaking at any of those chart positions is unacceptable. Imagine Dragons can sit at #1 for the rest of the year, for all I care, but the narrative is now in stone: For the past three weeks, independent label artists were #1 at Modern Rock… The last time I sat in the KROQ music meeting, I played them Veruca Salt’s “Seether” on Minty Fresh Records, which they added that day. Yeah, it’s been a minute. This past Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to wrangle an invite to participate in the process. There is no better call on Tuesday afternoon than the KROQ call with an add. I was in the room when Kevin Weatherly called Amanda Dobbins to let her know they were adding Greta Van Fleet’s “Safari Song” (smash!), and when he called Gary Gorman with the news of an add on Cold War Kids’ “Can We Hang On?” (my favorite from their new record). The highlight, however, was Kevin calling my cellphone (I was in the room, remember?) to inform me that KROQ was adding Cigarettes After Sex’s “Apocalypse,” which had scored more Top 5 votes in the music meeting than any other song. The other attendees in the room weren’t necessarily aware that the metrics for “Apocalypse” from Sirius Alt Nation and XMU airplay were huge, or that the band had already sold out two late-April shows in L.A. (the Ace Theater and the Fonda). Spotify streams of the song already exceeding 17.5 million without much terrestrial airplay wasn’t a factor, either. From mid-20s to mid-50s, everybody in the room agreed that “Apocalypse” was the best song of the week. This is Partisan Records’ first add at KROQ, and I hope there will be many “firsts” ahead for the label and the band!... Will you be at SXSW? Tell me which band playing in Austin will change my life: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com
THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING
1/26/18
By Karen Glauber One year ago, two nights before the Grammy Awards, Dualtone’s Lori Kampa and I were prepping for KROQ’s Grammy Museum event with The Lumineers. I was wearing a Dries Van Noten dress (my favorite designer) and the Prada shoes that I “won” from the band’s manager after betting him that “Ophelia” would reach #1 at Modern Rock. There have been two guiding principles in my life: (1) Don’t get mad, get even; and (2) The only bet worth making is the one you know you’ll win. After the KROQ set, we ran through the rain to the Convention Center for the MusiCares gala honoring Tom Petty, where The Lumineers played his song “Walls,” which the honoree told the band was one of his favorite performances of the night. This year, I hope that Arcade Fire and Chris Cornell both win the Grammy in their respective categories—I’ll be watching online in my Target loungewear, wearing a white rose to support the #timesup and #metoo movements… It was lovely to see many of my iHeart friends at last week’s ALTer Ego show. AJR opened the evening with two songs, their soon-to-be-#1 smash “Sober Up” and “Weak.” Ted Volk and I were intent on having the band meet Nerf, since it was his support at KTCL that set the campaign in motion. Running backstage, up ramps, through crowds, up and down elevators and crashing into people in the Forum Club (sorry, Dennis Blair), I felt like I was reenacting the car chase in The French Connection, minus Gene Hackman and a Pontiac. During Spoon’s incredible set—their “Vegas 25,” as they called it, singer Britt Daniel proved for the millionth time why he’s the standard by which all other singers should be compared. Did you hear him yell “KA-REN” over and over during “Rent I Pay”? Yep, that was for me. The other highlight of the evening was seeing Lisa Worden reign supreme in her new iHeart role. She has earned her executive position and all the decision-making authority that comes with it, especially now that she’s also PD of 98.7… Although there hasn’t been an official announcement yet, it’s no secret that Mike Kaplan will be heading to NYC in May for the PD gig at Entercom’s ALT 92.3, where he’ll be an hour train ride away from his beloved Phillies. Without question, Mike is perfectly suited for this gig… My favorite song of 2018 is Jack White’s “Connected by Love.” Brady continues to stun me with stories of programmers who are overthinking the record. “Are you fucking kidding me?” has been my hair-trigger response to nearly EVERYTHING in the past year—and is certainly an appropriate reaction to anyone who might WRONGLY think that one of the most ICONIC singers in the format isn’t worthy of airplay. BESIDES, the song is in 6/8, which means you can waltz to it. “Connected by Love” is the first radio single from Jack’s third solo album, Boarding House Reach, slated for release on 3/23 on Third Man/Columbia… The buzz is strong on new music from James Bay, who personally greeted the radio elite on hand for a playback of his upcoming record in L.A. and NYC. Republic’s Amanda Dobbins and Drew Hauser hosted these well-attended gatherings. This is just one of many marquee releases the label will have this year, including new signing Lord Huron (swoon), Two Feet and watt, among others… I heard that Vince Richards is replacing Jim Fox in Sacramento, overseeing KRXQ and KKDO. As Ted always says, “Once a name, always a threat.” Hopefully, Andy Hawk will still have the biggest voice in the music selection for KKDO, which has thrived since he was brought back into the programming mix… Alice Merton’s “No Roots” is on course to becoming the highest-charting song by a woman since Bishop Briggs’ “River.” Nick Petropoulos played me the new CHVRCHES single, and I’m thrilled that it will be months, rather than years, between female-voiced Top 5 songs!... SONG TO HEAR: Mt. Joy’s “Silver Lining.” Same pick as last time—I’m obsessed!
POST TOASTED: HOW SOON IS NOW?
11/17/17
Just when I’d resigned myself to writing yet another column admonishing the Modern Rock format for its lack of commitment to new artists, Lenny appeared in my office with news of Lisa Worden’s new gig. “I have the biggest scoop in the world,” was his intro, which caught my attention even while I was searching online for a presale code to the upcoming Ian Anderson Presents: JETHRO TULL 50th Anniversary Tour. He told me that Lisa, my dear friend, was leaving KROQ to be the National Alternative Brand Manager for iHeart and VP of Programming for Alt 98.7 Los Angeles! This is a newly created position for the company, which gives Lisa oversight of 25 iHeart Alternative stations. To say this is a game-changer for the format AND for women in the music business is a vast understatement. Let’s acknowledge Lisa’s 22-year tenure at KROQ, where her loyalty to the station and to Kevin Weatherly was irrefutable. She, Kevin and now-departed APD Gene Sandbloom were radio’s strongest team, and the toughest to impress. The Tuesday afternoon call with the three of them on a speakerphone, informing you of your add at KROQ, was the single best call in the business. The power of KROQ is undeniable, and Lisa played a critical role in keeping the station’s brand at the forefront of the industry: She rightfully insisted that KROQ always deserved the seat at the head of the table and worked tirelessly on the station’s behalf—another vast understatement. Tom Poleman and his fellow executives have often spoken about the impact of iHeart Alternative on music, culture and lifestyle, yet, in my opinion, a large chunk of those stations have been responsible (irresponsible?) for thwarting the success of artists who would’ve (should’ve) had #1 songs at Modern Rock. When Lenny asks me why a song didn’t go Top 10/Top 5/#1 at the format, the answer is always the same: There were 8-10 iHeart guys who wouldn’t play it. This is a format without a consensus—there is never that point where a song is a big enough hit to warrant format-wide support. iHeart’s On the Verge platform ensures support on a national level, and their success rate of picking hits is unparalleled. It’s just one of the many national platforms the radio group has in its arsenal, plus an incredible roster of exceptionally talented programming superstars like John Allers, Mike Kaplan, Nerf, Aly Young and Dustin Matthews, among others. I am so excited to see what Lisa will do in her new role, although not nearly as excited as she is! Did I happen to mention what a game-changer this is for the format? This morning, Entercom proclaimed, “I’m back, bitch,” with the launch of TWO major market Modern Rock stations! ALT 92.3, New York’s New Alternative, flipped from AMP at 10:00 AM EST commencing with a playlist of 10,000 songs commercial-free. An hour later, ALT 103.7, DFW’s New Alternative launched in Dallas, also playing 10,000 songs commercial-free. I’ve heard Alice Merton, AJR, Bishop Briggs and The Lumineers’ “Angela,” among the currents being played. All hail Entercom’s David Field for his belief in the Modern Rock format! Will Boston be next? The other question that needs answering is who will be the PDs for NYC and Dallas? Also, who will replace Lisa at KROQ? Matt Smith occupied the chair when Lisa left to program WHFS for two years, but that was many years ago. Who is capable of stepping into the most coveted MD/APD gig in radio? Who among us hasn’t fantasized about having that job? DO YOU APPRECIATE HOW MUCH THE LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED THIS WEEK? Seriously, last week we were being told by our bosses that our format doesn’t matter—our “hits” don’t stream like hip-hop and pop, our bands don’t cross over (Portugal. The Man and Imagine Dragons were ALWAYS pop bands, in their revisionist view), we are the bastard stepchildren of radio, etc. It’s a new ballgame today: Two of the biggest radio groups have made a big investment in the format’s future, while Cumulus has been expanding its Alternative footprint for the past few years. ALSO, SiriusXM has named Chris Muckley PD of XMU, which is my absolute favorite radio station. So much more will be revealed in the days ahead…
PUT YOUR MONEY ON ME
11/3/17
If it’s a blustery Monday in October, and Arcade Fire is playing at the United Center in Chicago, then I must be there. It’s been 13 years and a few weeks since my first Arcade Fire show at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. The occasion for the show was CMJ, but I had stopped going to the conference a few years prior after decades of perfect attendance. I was invited to see them by Mac and Laura from Merge Records because I had worked the Superchunk single “Hyper Enough” to Modern Rock radio, with some commercial success. Since that night in 2004, Arcade Fire has been my favorite band. Mac said I could work the record at radio, and I picked “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” as the first single. I’m pretty sure I didn’t charge him (don’t tell my bosses), since indie bands weren’t having much success at the format during that time—Linkin Park, Green Day, our then-management clients Hoobastank, Three Days Grace, U2 and Incubus were the bands that dominated the airwaves. Nevertheless, we persisted (as the saying goes), and I will always credit Live105 PD Sean Demery, along with Aaron Axelsen, plus staffers Miles Anzaldo and Derek Madden, for loving this band enough to make “Rebellion (Lies)” the station’s most-played song of that year. The signature song from Funeral, “Wake Up,” had little success as a radio single in real time. Rather, it became an “anthem” after its use in the trailer for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are in 2009. The band’s biggest radio hits have been “Ready to Start” from The Suburbs (2011 Grammy winner for Album of the Year) and “Everything Now,” the title song from the band’s Columbia Records debut. I’ve worked at least 15 of their singles to radio and it’s always disheartening (heartbreaking, really) that Arcade Fire isn’t considered an “automatic” at the format. Radio matters. Failure to recognize bands that matter makes radio less vital. The new single “Creature Comfort” should get its due at radio because it’s fucking incredible, and, as WXRT MD John Farneda proclaimed to me at the show, one of the standout songs of the night. I joke with Brady Bedard that the radio guys are waiting for an engraved invitation before they play a record. Let me know to whom that invitation should be addressed, and I’ll send it out immediately. After Ted or I have a particularly frustrating conversation with a PD, we’ll walk into the other’s office and express how we should find a station to program. Boston would be an opportune market to make an impression, while I’ve always wanted to run a Modern Rock station in the Chapel Hill/Durham area. Programming my non-existent station is comparable to my friends who play in fantasy football leagues, except I use the Mediabase chart to determine my stats. Unlike sports fans, I can “game” the system a bit by choosing the right songs to work/bet on. if you’re absolutely, on-the-money, unequivocally RIGHT at least three timesper year, your career will prosper. Like I always tell you, if you’re absolutely, on-the-money, unequivocally RIGHT at least three times per year, your career will prosper. For the last few months, I’ve declared Alice Merton’s “No Roots” and AJR’s “Sober Up” to be the two singles by new artists that are smashes. The metrics are there: Shazam, streams and sales. “No Roots” is nearing Top 10 and “Sober Up” is touching Top 20, so yep, I’m right. I also told you that The Lumineers’ “Angela” was a fall song, and, sure enough, as temperatures dropped, call-out heated up. As of today, “Angela” is the #1 Greatest Gainer for the week, with a dozen bumps to Power. Ignore at your own peril…. Reading the tea leaves, I believe that Howard P. has a huge hit on his hands with Odesza’s “Line of Sight.” The group is currently playing multiple sold-out arena shows in every market. Ask yourself this: Would you rather have points on this record or the “radio” band that, even after months of airplay, can’t sell 300 tickets in your market? The new Bishop Briggs single, “Dream,” which was co-written by one of my best friends (Dan Wilson), showcases her otherworldly talent and will be an even bigger hit than “River.” Don’t doubt me.
YOU WRECK ME
10/9/17
By Karen Glauber “It’s alright if you love me/It’s alright if you don’t/I’m not afraid of you running away/Honey, I get the feeling you won’t.” Who wrote better first lines than Tom Petty? I remember being completely enthralled by “Breakdown” when I was 16, driving to school in my ’72 Impala. His vocal cadence on that song reminded me of Peter Sellers as Inspector Closeau in the Pink Panther movies—a blast to sing along with while high, skiing on ice and rocks in the Poconos. I quickly claimed “American Girl” as MY song when my friends and I first heard it; it was important to have “signature” songs at that age. My love of Tom Petty’s music never wavered, even at my most “indie.” As much as I hated arena shows, it was an unforgettable thrill to see two bands I was close to, The Del Fuegos and The Replacements, open shows for Petty. Nobody in my group was ever too indie or too punk to appreciate Tom Petty. Neil Young was the only other artist who was equally untouchable. “Even the Losers,” “The Waiting,” “Free Fallin’” and “Walls” helped me work through some dark times. I became familiar with “Walls” fairly recently, when The Lumineers were asked to perform it at last year’s MusiCares dinner honoring Petty, which I attended as the band’s guest. The highlight was the six-song set Petty performed, ending with “Running Down a Dream.” I’ve listened to his music nonstop since Oct. 2, and this is the lyric I can’t get out of my brain: “Out in the great wide open, a rebel without a clue.” RIP… Lesley James has been PD at WWCD in Columbus since 2010, after her first civilian guest-DJ shot in 2004. Last week, Lesley called her nearest and dearest to let them know that she was resigning as PD, due to reasons beyond her control, but would be retaining her afternoon airshift. Mase, formerly of WKZQ and current CD1025 staffer, will be taking on the PD gig soon. Lesley stepped into the seemingly impossible-to-fill shoes of Andyman following his untimely passing, and built the station upon his legacy to even greater heights, including sold-out shows in Columbus’s biggest venues, and having a series of A-list bands AND new talent performing in the “Big Room” for their loyal listeners. When Lesley jumped on a record, I trusted her research as a barometer of the song’s potential success in bigger markets: Her metrics on Tame Impala’s “Elephant” gave me the confidence to work the song at Modern Rock, where it reached Top 10. Whatever Lesley chooses to do next, wherever she chooses to go, she will be a star… While you PDs are complaining about the lack of “hits” currently available to you, you might want to consider these, which are truly bona fide: 1) Alice Merton’s “No Roots.” This song is a certifiable smash, generating Top 10 Shazam stats in every market within the first week of airplay. It’s currently #13 on the iTunes Alternative chart—consider this your gift of the year, because “No Roots” is only going to get bigger. Please call David Jacobs at Mom + Pop and thank him profusely. 2) AJR “Sober Up." Gotta hand it to Nerf on this one—this single has been Top 10 in sales, streams and Shazams since he added it. Now, Nerf is 250 spins in, and WRFF PD John Allers has such confidence in this record that I anticipate an iHeart chainwide reaction to happen very soon. Whatever preconceived notions you may or may not have about this band, abandon them now. The same can be said about 3) Post Malone “rockstar.” The #1 streaming song on the planet hasn’t had a radio format “claim” it yet. Every millennial knows this song—what’s the risk in giving it a shot? The song is called “rockstar,” and isn’t that just what you claim the format is missing?... Belated congrats to KNDD PD Leslie Scott on being selected as the inaugural “mentee” for the MIW-Nielsen Music Mentoring Program! This one-year mentorship matches Leslie with key mentors from both the MIW Radio Group and Nielsen Music. Leslie was selected from a field of 40 candidates. Go forth and kick ass, Leslie!
EVERYTHING NOW
9/15/17
By Karen Glauber Win Butler (second from right) with SiriusXM’s Jeff Regan, Columbia's Brady Bedard and SiriusXM's Rob Cross Nan Fisher was the first one to tell me nearly two years ago that I would hit it off with Brady Bedard, newly anointed as Columbia’s VP, Alternative & Rock Promotion. “He’s a good kid,” she said, which, from her, constitutes high praise. I certainly don’t need to remind Nan that she once occupied the same position at Columbia—our friendship is too important to me—rarely mentioning the two weeks that “Butterfly” by Crazy Town was #1 because of her efforts. Sadly, 2001 was a bleak, scary time for many, many reasons, and the music played on Modern Rock radio was a reflection of that. Brady and I immediately bonded over our shared love of legendary Minneapolis radio station Rev105: I was at HITS, promoting records to Kevin Cole and Shawn Stewart. Brady was still a teen back then, and his taste was formed by the music he heard on the station. Didn’t most of us grow up with a local radio station that sparked our love of certain bands? For me, it was WSAN, a progressive AM station in Allentown, PA, and WNEW in NYC. Were it not for WSAN, my ongoing Todd Rundgren obsession wouldn’t have been realized. Brady is a student of ’80s indie rock, and, hallelujah, I’ve found the one person who isn’t completely bored by my firsthand account of that era. Once Arcade Fire signed to Columbia worldwide, Brady took command of my favorite band’s Modern Rock radio campaign, just as I had been for the previous four records. I like to believe that I’m still part of their inner circle, but it’s Brady who has been in the trenches. “Everything Now” is one of the band’s most successful radio hits, with the biggest radio chains supporting the song in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, the glaring lack of support from a certain radio consultant (whom I refer to as “the format killer”) kept “Everything Now” from its deserved place in the Modern Rock Top 10. The album debuted at #1! The song is a legitimate hit at most of the stations playing it! Following the band’s Madison Square Garden show, the N.Y. Daily News posted this lede: “Arcade Fire prove they’re still the world’s best band at MSG show.” It’s unfathomable that this band isn’t an “automatic” for the format. During one of our daily conversations a few months ago, after a particularly frustrating Tuesday, Brady was laughing when he repeated words I’d forgotten I’d said: “There’s no part of radio promotion that’s any fun. But radio is still, unequivocally, the number one way to expose artists. You sell more records through radio than any other means.” He was reading to me from Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, specifically the chapter about Arcade Fire, written by John Cook, with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, in 2009. Brady sent a photo (seen here) of him and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, SiriusXM’s Jeff Regan and Rob Cross, taken after Win’s interview with Jenny Eliscu last Tuesday. That was fun to see. If Modern Rock embraces the next single, “Creature Comfort” en masse, that will be fun. A year ago today (in fact), Brady and my favorite new band Lo Moon released their first single, “Loveless.” This week, Alt Nation added the band’s follow-up, “This is It.” Of course this song should already be on dozens of Modern Rock stations—now THAT would be fun. Almost as fun as falling into a pair of tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway, in fact. So many “ifs” in this climate: IF ratings truly measured real audience. IF MScores measured anything empirical. IF programmers believed in the power of music discovery. IF there were more stories to tell this year about the power of the format, beyond Portugal the Man and, the soon-to-be-told story of Alice Merton. What if every conversation wasn’t an argument? IF, IF, IF… SONG TO HEAR: LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”
EVERYTHING NOW...AND THEN
8/28/17
By Karen Glauber Last month, after receiving an advance stream of the latest Arcade Fire album Everything Now, on the tenth listen through, I felt compelled to send Win Butler an email to convey my feelings. I’ve worked on the band’s behalf since the release of Funeral, their 2004 debut, so sending him an email wasn’t that unexpected: “Dear Win, I love it so. ‘We Don't Deserve Love’ kills me. Like I said when you first played it for me at Scott’s house, it reminds me of NYC in 1981, when the arrival of Ed Koch as mayor made housing for artists unaffordable and it all went underground. Disco was strictly ‘bridge and tunnel,’ but hip-hop had caught our attention—knowing all the words to ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was a college party trick, plus there was this incredible dance music coming out—Tom Tom Club, ESG, Bush Tetras, Material, Liquid Liquid, League of Gentleman (once a prog nerd…), etc. Protest songs with a killer beat. We’d go to Danceteria and the Peppermint Lounge to see our friends’ bands—R.E.M., Pylon, Mission of Burma, etc., always for free, and dance for hours after. We weren't cool by any definable standard. I went to Oberlin and spent my days at the college radio station. We took road trips to DC for college radio conventions and discovered the Go-Go/Thrash scene, where Trouble Funk and Minor Threat would share a stage. When The Clash played 17 shows at the Bond international Casino, we pushed our way to the front of the stage for the two shows we were able to wrangle our way into. We would’ve never been allowed to enter Studio 54 or the Palladium or Area. Nor would we have wanted to. Your record captures what it felt like to be broke in NYC, before Koch had completely transformed Times Square into Disneyland. It was such a formative time in my life. Kids need an escape even more today than we did then—the music you’re making now evokes that tension and heartfelt release. Here’s to its success! I hope to see you soon—my love to all. xxkg” Win’s response was brief and very kind, which added fuel to my ongoing thesis that dance music, played on real instruments, with culturally aware lyrics, has an important place in current music. LCD Soundsystem’s “Call the Police” harkens back to the “Fuck Art, Let’s Dance” sentiment we felt at the onset of the Reagan administration. KROQ adding “Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow f/Run the Jewels this week, which Lazlo at KRBZ has already played 800 times, is an important step toward giving a musical voice to how fucked things are right now. This song has been out for a while, with early support from KCMP, Alt Nation and KQGO, among others, and hearing it on the radio is a welcome antidote… Beck’s new single, “Dear Life,” which arrived yesterday, has the chorus, “Dear life, I’m holding on”—a highly relatable sentiment… As long as there’s a faction of people self-ordained as the “Alt Right,” I refuse to refer to our radio format as Alternative. As long as I am reading articles like “Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture” in The New York Times, I will refer to the format as Modern Rock. Thank you… Rarely, timed around a solar eclipse, perhaps, a song comes out that is PURE MAGIC. All of the “metrics” we pray for are immediate: Shazams, streams, calls, sales, etc. If we’re lucky, we bear witness to one or two of those in our career. Alice Merton’s “No Roots,” released by our friends at Mom + Pop, is that record. Mark Hamilton at KNRK is the spin leader thus far, with nearly equal emphatic support from KGSR in Austin, Alt Nation and WFUZ in Wilkes-Barre. The ordered rollout of stations reminds me of Bishop Briggs’ “River” (which has already sold gold/nearing platinum), except I think the chart success for “No Roots” will be even faster. David Jacobs is leading the charge on this—such an exciting project!... Arkells’ “Knocking at the Door” has been #1 on the Canadian Modern Rock chart for the past 12 weeks. As they say up north, every record has a shot at going #1 in Canada, but it’s unheard of for a song to stay there for as long as this one has! “Knocking at the Door” is an unmitigated smash.
PASSION IS NO ORDINARY WORD
8/14/17
By Karen Glauber I was in Boulder last week for the Triple A Convention, which has been hosted by FMQB’s Jack Barton ever since The Gavin Report followed the path of Album Network and The Hard Report to the burial ground of obsolete trade magazines. I’ve been coming to this convention for 25 years, forging decades-long relationships and seeing a bunch of performances that still resonate with me. Sure, we thought we were so cool in 1995 when some of us skipped the panels to see the movie Kids. And I’ve done my part to support Boulder’s economy with my yearly blast through fashion haven Max, where I can try on Dries Van Noten to my heart’s content, while catching up with Max manager Holly Kabacoff, whose store is always my first stop. For other attendees, the dispensary closest to the hotel is the first visit on their itinerary. I’ve watched men of a certain age clap their hands in glee at the first sight of endless display cases filled with edibles in every size and shape, and countless strains guaranteed to produce the desired effect of the day. I’ve been one of the only sober people in the room for so many years that not even an edible shaped like a Prada bag could tempt me. Most of the shows take place at the 500-capacity Fox Theatre, a far smaller venue than most of the convention’s headliners usually play. Thursday night’s Spoon show was epic—one of my favorite sets I’ve ever seen them play, heightened by the fact that their single “Can I Sit Next to You” is on the cusp of becoming the band’s second #1 single from Hot Thoughts at Triple A. Earlier in the day, my favorite new band, Columbia’s Lo Moon, played the lunchtime slot, earning a standing ovation from the radio programmers and industry folks in attendance. Their album, slated for early 2018, should be acknowledged as this generation’s Avalon. Also, Wesley and Jeremiah from The Lumineers drove in from Denver to say thank you to the programmers who have supported the first three singles from Cleopatra. They were thrilled to hear that “Angela” is nearing Top 15 at Alternative, especially after I told them that only two other bands (Cage the Elephant and 21 Pilots) have had a third Top 20 single in the last three years. An abiding theme of this year’s convention was how to monetize and build on the defining characteristics of the Triple A format. Legendary panel moderator Norm Winer solicited input from the audience as to what those characteristics are, and the adjectives that filled the white board resembled the best online dating profile I’ve never read: “Passionate,” “music lovers,” “smart,” “community-minded,” “family,” “like-minded,” “inclusive,” etc. When I imagine moving out of L.A., I know that moving to a city with a station like KCMP in Minneapolis, WFUV in New York or WRLT in Nashville would give me a base from which to build friendships. The stations that make up the Triple A format understand how to create music-focused NTR events where it’s not just a collection of bands playing: WFUV’s dance party cruises, KGSR Austin’s Blues on the Green series, WXRT’s sponsorship of Taste of Chicago, etc. The Alternative format has become reliant on creating a “community” via social media, thereby missing the real-life connection that was once a cornerstone of the format. Do you want to attract a younger audience? Here are two suggestions: Pay attention to streaming data instead of MScores (empirical evidence vs. six meters in a Top 20 market determining the success of a song). Stop playing the same ’90s songs until they become wallpaper. Nirvana was the most important band of a generation, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear “Come As You Are” every 65 minutes… It appears that WBRU will be going off the air after a 29-year run as Providence’s source for Alternative Music. Perhaps it will reappear as an online station, but it’s unlikely that PD Wendell Clough will continue in his current role. The first WBRU show I ever attended was the station’s Birthday Bash in 1995 with new band Ben Folds Five. I predict that this will turn out to be just one of many changes in the Alternative format in the months ahead… SONG TO HEAR: Alice Merton, “No Roots”
OUT OF MY SYSTEM
4/19/17
By Karen Glauber April 1 was the anniversary of two milestones: My 27th anniversary at HITS (aka “the career cul-de-sac”) and my 25th sober birthday. From what I can remember, my first two years were spent either at my desk or hiding underneath it. Klonopin is what finally did me in—I was a trendsetter with a full-blown benzo addiction years before most rehabs had a clue how treat the detox and recovery. Rehab was certainly memorable, and an experience I choose to never repeat. Chris Whitley visited, clearly under the influence, and serenaded me with his guitar. R.E.M. sent flowers, as did many other work associates, until my room (which I shared with one of the American Gladiators, whose nose was blown out from coke) resembled a morgue. After 30 sleepless days and nights, I emerged, looking like a praying mantis and completely “shut down” from detoxing too quickly (I could put a cigarette out on my arm and not feel it). In the early months of recovery, I was resolutely unwilling to accept that there was a power greater than myself. Not that I thought that I was all that great, mind you, but I’m a wee bit Type A (which sobriety has yet to quell). Someone suggested using gravity as my higher power, which seemed too obtuse for my very literal mind to wrap my head around. Instead, I chose Patti Smith as the embodiment of true grace, strength, talent and female power. Horses was my 12x12 and, later, Just Kids became my bible. Since Patti’s “comeback” after the death of her husband, I haven’t missed an L.A. show. This is my version of church, and her 4/5 show at the Teragram Ballroom was no exception. I’m grateful for my job, my sobriety, my kid, and for the opportunity to break new artists, regardless of how difficult you radio programmers make it for us… FACTS DON’T LIE (unless you’re the President): Spoon’s latest single, “Hot Thoughts,” hit 5 million streams on Spotify April 6. This far exceeds the streaming numbers for most every other song you’re playing, like Dreamers and Andrew McMahon, for example. I know that your playlist is almost wholly made up of bands playing your radio show, but there has to be an exception made for artists like Spoon! Taking the macro view: Why should bands that can command a significant payday at festivals be penalized because their summer touring plans don’t coincide with your radio show? Why not make the commitment now and reap the benefit of the band’s ability to sell tickets for your Xmas show? I’ve been told multiple times in the past few weeks that my priorities and your priorities are not the same, to which I answer that our priorities are, in fact, identical, if keeping our jobs remains high on both of our lists. Or, as 27 years at HITS might suggest, it’s in my best interest to do right by your radio station and the artists on whose behalf I toil… I invited 98.7 PD Mike Kaplan to a show, but I wouldn’t tell him where we were going or whom we were going to see. On the rare nights when I’m not wrestling my son to do his homework, I would much rather watch Vanderpump Rules and order Postmates than go out and see bands. At SXSW or Coachella, I’ll willingly stay out until the last note, but not so much on a school night. Knowing this, Mike agreed to this “blind date,” although his best efforts at advance detective work revealed nothing. After dinner, we arrived at the Echoplex and I introduced him to an artist named Dario and his manager Jesse. The venue was packed with an attractive crowd of music savvy early adopters, dance kids and twenty-something males. Yeah, I was old enough to be their mom, but I was the one hugging Dario (oh, is he gorgeous!) and not them. Way past my bedtime, he introduced himself as Youngr and proceeded to play a succession of instruments: Keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, plus triggered samples, with his brother and another bandmember on stage filling out the parts. The soon-to-be hit “Out of My System” was the crowd-pleaser (it’s at 24mil Spotify streams, fwiw), and 98.7 and KKDO both added the record this week. Dario’s father, btw, is Kid Creole and the Coconuts founder August Darnell. “Cherchez la Femme,” darlings…
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