HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

I sometimes joke that the best music-business employees are adult children of alcoholics (myself included). By nature or nurture, we tend to be perfectionists and are quick to take the blame for anything that doesn’t go 100% according to plan, even if we had nothing to do with the outcome. Schedule a second weekly shrink appointment and give that employee a raise if said parent(s) was also a raging narcissist. The impulse to succeed is unrelenting, and the expectation of approval is nonexistent (although we’ll certainly seek it out, if within our periphery.) For those of us who do promotion, we accept the unacceptable from our radio partners, allowing them to perpetuate their own mythology that it was they who single-handedly broke (artist name) and therefore they are owed having (artist name) play their Xmas show at below market value. Since we promotion people are judged by a real-time report card called Mediabase, too many of us make ridiculous promises to keep the tantrums (from radio and our bosses) at bay. We grew up in chaos and will therefore do almost anything to quell it, even though the economics of the deals we make are nothing short of satanic. But the devil you know…

Even a cursory glance at a BuzzAngle market streaming chart reveals the deep, abiding challenges of breaking Alternative records in 2016: “Our” records are barely visible in the Top 1000 streams in any given market. Our benchmark for sales is now 500/week, which is hard to swallow when the #1 record at the format has an approximate audience of 12 million. But yet, as my fearless leader Lenny always says, there are still “10 records in the Top 10,” some of which are real format-exclusive hits, like The Lumineers’ “Ophelia” and (see photo above) The Strumbellas’ “Spirits,” which is now a GOLD single! Our favorite Canadians (besides Justin Trudeau and the judge on Masterchef Canada who looks like Elliot Easton) have worked tirelessly this year, commencing with “Spirits” being anointed iHeart’s On the Verge up until now, with their second single “We Don’t Know” on pace to be even bigger. Many congratulations to Glassnote and the band for proving to the naysayers that Alternative music can find its audience with (1) a great song, (2) meaningful partnerships with radio, (3) constant touring, (4) the right syncs like Wednesday night’s World Series for “Spirits”), (5) press and (6) great management. Yes, #6 is KEY, and if radio programmers read the interviews/roundtables with managers in this issue, they might leave with some insight that while they are a truly important part of the puzzle, there are many other factors in play when it comes to having a hit…

Gary Gorman is a lock for #1 next week with Bastille’s “Good Grief,” after conceding the top spot last week to Green Day’s “Bang Bang,” which enjoyed a brief one-week run at the top. Will The Head and the Heart leap over Kings of Leon to #1? Will the year end with Judah & the Lion in the lead? Those three records have the “sound” that’s working best at the format right now, and keep an eye on upstarts Sundara Karma, whose “Loveblood” has been called “the best Kings of Leon-meets-Arcade Fire song we’ve ever heard.”…

Despite what the “format killer” has been advising his stations (more Milky Chance/less new music), it’s been a banner year for new bands. Kaleo, Bishop Briggs, Glass Animals and the aforementioned Judah & the Lion are among the newer bands that are selling tickets and having radio hits. Even without radio (yet), artists like Aurora, The Lemon Twigs, Lo Moon, Banks & Steelz and Mansionair (just looking at my most recent Spotify playlist) are inspiring the next generation. All I’ve ever wanted to do in my career is break artists and, by doing so, shift culture. If Alternative radio doesn’t embrace that goal, within the greater context of making these songs hits for the format, then that thing I’ve spent the past three decades doing will have no value. 


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