HITS Daily Double

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”


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