HITS Daily Double
"NeoAlternative is a format that sounds like a real Alternative to the rest of FM, by playing as much music as possible that’s exclusively Alternative."
——Dave Beasing, Jacobs Media


Format Changes the Result of Increased Competition, as KNDD, 99X Go Back to the Future to Secure Heritage

FIX UP, LOOK SHARP: In the words of Thunderclap Newman, there’s "something in the air" at PoMo, as speculators speculate the "real cause" behind the press releases announcing the programming shifts at KNDD and 99X. Even the "Old Gray Lady" (no, that isn’t me) responded to the fervor, as yesterday’s New York Times chimed in.

Would KNDD and 99X have made as big a deal about the changes without some knowledge of imminent competition from Infinity? Perhaps this should be thought of as a "correction," as in, not quite a full-scale recession? As a few more markets’ fall books trickle in daily, it’s become abundantly clear that merely "playing the hits" (expressly those records that succeed in call-out research), isn’t enough to sustain (let alone grow) the PoMo audience. In reality, 99X has only cut one current per hour, yet by changing its positioning to "New Rock and ’90s Alternative Atlanta," the station can reinforce (remind) long-time 99X listeners of its importance.

OM Leslie Fram has also been part of the station’s very successful "Morning X" for years, and has rightfully earned the affection and loyalty of her audience, which, I believe, transcends into other dayparts. If her programming department’s new approach makes 99X more selective about the currents they add, so that the new music they play has the potential to have the same emotional connection as songs from the library, this is something to be heralded.

I asked Jacobs Media’s Dave Beasing for his take on the hoopla, knowing full well he played an important role in KBZT San Diego’s sign-on and ongoing success, and has plenty of inside knowledge about Seattle and beyond. While others are referring to this not-so-new format as "Classic Alternative," Jacobs Media has dubbed it "NeoAlternative" and "NeoRadio" (rejecting my brilliant suggestion of "PostpostModern"). Dave has described it as such: "NeoAlternative is a format that sounds like a real Alternative to the rest of FM, by playing as much music as possible that’s exclusively Alternative. Sometimes that will mean more Gold or deeper Gold. NeoRadio—and we think this transcends Alternative—doesn’t hype itself like most of radio does either. My advice to record labels would be to build a grassroots fan base for a band long before they schedule an add-date. Because NeoRadio stations will be very in touch with their listeners; they’ll want to play acts that their audience is buying (downloading) and talking about. Does that mean radio won’t sometimes take the leads? Of course. In fact, some of the DJs will be empowered to discover new music and take a few calculated risks."

When I brought up the lightning rod topic of call-out research, Dave responded, "Call-out research is among the most valuable and most misused tools at radio’s disposal. But our label friends should be aware that much of the time, when we use ‘poor call-out’ as a reason to drop a song, it’s merely a convenient ‘don’t blame me, it’s nothing personal’ excuse that we know you can’t argue with." Good to know, Dave, good to know.

Although I have absolutely no clue what this year holds for the format, there are plenty of signs that make me optimistic (although Lenny might just call that "delusional"). How can I not be excited when The Strokes have the #1 Most Added song at PoMo this week? Or when my beloved Phantom Planet have the best first-week in radio in its career, as Epic pull in more than 20 adds on "Big Brat," including Y100, 91X, WZNE, KZON, WFNX, WJBX among others? Let’s celebrate MTV2 upping The Polyphonic Spree video for "Light and Day" into "Blowtorch" and note that sales for The DarknessPermission to Land will exceed 30k this week!

Get on the phone and congratulate the gang at Live105 for its fall book, 2.0-2.3 12+! Of even greater significance is Live105’s leap to #1 25-34. MD Aaron Axelsen said everyone at the station has worked insane hours trying to create a sense of community for the audience, as is the privilege of those who are in a position of influence. "Passion is what drives this radio station," said Aaron, for which we hail him, Sean, Spud, and everyone else at Live105.

What if we make a pact to approach our jobs from a position of passion, rather than fear? I’m game. F’rinstance, I’m obsessed with Michael Andrews and Gary Jules’ version of Tears for Fears’ "Mad World." I haven’t seen a record react like this since, well, Evanescence’s "Bring Me to Life." KROQ, KBZT, Live105, 91X, KCNL, KJEE, WBZY, KQRX and WFNX are already playing the song. Call me if you need a copy (I know people who know people).

How thrilling to see PoMo embrace a second Jet song, with 91X, KBZT, KFMA, WPBZ and others adding "Cold Hard Bitch" this week. This is not a song about me. Jet will be touring with The Vines very soon. Just wait until you hear the latter’s new single, "Ride," which is GENIUS. But first, before you go calling your favorite Capitol person for a copy, make sure you’re playing Yellowcard’s "Ocean Avenue." It really isn’t much of a stretch, seeing how the CD has already sold over 250k despite your dropping "Way Away" at the first sign of "bad research." Rather than dwell on last year (part of that new optimism), please note that WBCN, KMYZ, WNFZ, WLRS, KROX, 91X and more added Yellowcard this week. Thank you.

Do we think the new-new reality means that harder-leaning PoMo records will be a thing of the past? Certainly not while Linkin Park remains the biggest band in the format (a position they are unlikely to relinquish, possibly ever). The format became meaningful after bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and STP broke, and that sound remains crucial to its foundation. Either that, or Gary Spivack is the world’s greatest promotion guy, because he’ll be approaching the "official" add-date for Lo-Pro’s "Sunday" with more than 25 adds already in, including WZZN, 89X, WZTA, KPNT, WEND, KXTE and WWRX! I think it’s a combination of the two.

Our dear Virgin team had another astounding week with Courtney Love’s "Mono," while also landing KROQ on A Perfect Circle, as well as WWCD and WPBZ on The Thrills. Who knew they were such gifted jugglers? Oh yeah, I did!

Keep your ears, hearts and minds open for records by Air, Dizzee Rascal, Elefant, Postal Service (nice KROQ add!), Cordalene, Belle and Sebastian, Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Polyphonic Spree and The Format.

SONG TO HEAR: Fountains of Wayne’s "Mexican Wine" (sounds like a PoMo SMASH!)

PEOPLE TO WATCH: Steve Leeds, Aaron Scott, Lynn McDonnell (Happy Birthday!), John Allers, Michael Steele, Rae Cline, Paul Kriegler, Violet, John Michael and Sherri Trahan.