HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

I haven’t written a column in months, not because I haven’t had anything to say—that’s never the case—sadly, the topics on my mind have been far weightier than my skill as a writer… Since the year began, Ted has been in my office every few hours to proclaim, “Well, that’s just how the format is right now,” prompted by the noise my skull makes after being pounded repeatedly on top of my desk. The impact generates a Cop Rock-like visual in my brain, in which Meghan Trainor appears in my office and sings, “My currents are NO, My ratings are NO, My audience is NO, My passion is NO, My show headliner is NO. NO, NO, NO, NO!” Then Ted asks, “What is that word you always use to describe the scenario where a PD books a 20-plus-band summer show, but the station plays less than a dozen currents?” I glare at him through the icepack that my assistant JJ has applied to my swollen forehead, and spell out: “C-O-U-N-T-E-R-I-NT-U-I-T-I-V-E.”

The solution to creating a compelling radio show, one might argue, is to PLAY the bands you’ve selected to perform at your radio show. Use whatever gut instincts that might have been cultivated during the course of your career and SUPPORT NEW ACTS that you know will be MEANINGFUL six months later, when it’s SHOW TIME. Based on the metrics available to the format, NOTHING IS A HIT. So make your own hits. M-Scores, call-out, online research—it tells you that your airplay doesn’t matter, not that a song is or isn’t a hit.

MAKE IT MATTER. When Hot AC is cycling through songs at a faster clip than Modern Rock, there’s something deeply wrong with our format. Let the first Elle King, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and X-Ambassadors singles take a well-deserved hiatus, and give the follow-ups a fighting chance to be as big. If an add is contingent on a radio show, then you can’t be surprised if your audience isn’t enchanted with the barrage of subpar bands. To refuse to support a band like, for instance, Tame Impala, because they don’t want to play radio shows, is a function of YOUR EGO, and negates the possibility that your audience will love the new single, just like they did “Elephant.”

Nobody OWES anybody anything, except maybe a return phone call and the opportunity to do good business. The labels/managers/agents owe the artists their best efforts on behalf of THE ARTISTS. It is our job to promote and never exploit their talent. Radio programmers have to stop treating artists like they’re Greg Brady in the “Johnny Bravo” episode of The Brady Bunch—chosen because they “fit the suit.” Where did you cultivate your highly inappropriate sense of ENTITLEMENT! It’s tiresome and—there’s that word again—counterintuitive. It will avail you NOTHING when your owner flips the format.

Ted has stopped me on many occasions from sending an email that I wouldn’t be able to unsend.  Lately, it would read something like, “Dear PD in a market with a bus station, whose spins (for some insane reason) count as much as KROQ’s: Go ahead. PLEASE DON’T ADD The Lumineers record. It outsold every other format-exclusive song on your playlist this week, last week and the week before. People LOVE this band. But please, I beg you, PLEASE DON’T ADD ‘Ophelia.’ Enjoy your 1.2 share. Love, Me/President HITS magazine.” YOU’VE LOST THE PLOT.

You’ll be at SXSW next week, right? Let’s see some bands together. Let’s leave Austin INVIGORATED by a passion to share what you’ve seen with the audience you influence. Stop trying to be concert promoters, and stop treating promo people like booking agents. NOBODY WINS. Promoters are extending the radius clauses on festivals because they’ve invested time and money into developing a touring base for their headliners, and don’t want your radio shows taking tickets out of their market.

I was talking to a 28-year-old girl last night at a show, and she told me she had heard about the artist who was about to play on Instagram. Remember when you used to be the NEW MUSIC LEADERS? Now, you’re playing less than 20% currents, the biggest of which was “broken” by a car commercial (Empire of the Sun). A big change needs to happen, or we will become an obsolete format, except for a handful of stations, just like when I started in 1983…

Goodbye to Norm Winer at WXRT. He is truly the greatest.

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