HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

Some of us haven’t spoken since The Gathering in Louisville, which remains the most impactful way to catch up with radio friends and get a snapshot of some of the best new bands releasing music this year. Without question, the hotel performance of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes made the most lasting impression. When was the last time an artist left a mark—literally, a footprint on the ceiling of the ballroom—like he did? After his star turn in Kentucky, Frank and the band flew to Europe to open the Foo Fighters tour, with Dave Grohl joining Nerf among Frank’s famous fans.  I can’t fathom a scenario where “Crowbar” isn’t a huge hit for Alternative radio, so don’t disappoint me, friends.

There was an element to The Gathering that I described to Lynn Barstow and Andrew Harms as “fiddling while Rome burns.” The radio-and-record community was feeling its full “swagger,” but here’s what you need to know: If Modern Rock radio doesn’t strive to regain its status as a meaningful destination for new music, we’ll all be updating our résumés within the next two years. Despite what a certain consultant (aka “the format killer”) prescribes, you’re not going to win by playing songs until they’re wallpaper. Your ’90s library, which comprises 70% of your programming, has been co-opted by the latest iteration of the Classic Rock format, which already has the 40+ audience in its grip (and is gaining on the younger demo).

The Alternative stations that are focusing on the 18-34 demo are thriving far better than the stations that are still playing lovelytheband’s “broken” as a current. To ignore artists like Panic, Billie, AJR, Dominic Fike, etc., is to do so at your own peril. Only ONE Alternative album was in last week’s Top 200: Vampire Weekend’s latest. This band should be revered! Not only is Father of the Bride their best work, but their cultural impact in the rock world gives the Alternative format validity.

The advent of streaming has been very profitable to labels, and there’s seemingly endless money to be spent on radio promotion. The perception at record companies is that the Alternative format is a “loss leader”—our label friends are continuing to spend like drunken sailors on shore leave because the format will, on occasion, still recognize the “magic” of a song and create a platform from which to launch it to other formats. Shaed’s “Trampoline” is still #2 at Alternative BECAUSE there are 7k combined spins from Top 40 and Hot AC to prop up call-out at our format. The same holds true for Billie Eilish, who is the single most important artist currently making music and yet was ignored by Alternative programmers, with a handful of exceptions.

If the perception by our bosses is that the Alternative format doesn’t matter, how do we turn that around? I’ve spent my career focused on breaking new artists, using radio as the catalyst to achieve that goal. Where is your passion? What are YOU doing as an INFLUENCER? I refuse to accept that you’re all too sated by the status quo to allow the format we’ve cared about for so long to collapse around us. Was it always your dream to program FM sports? If so, that could be the next chapter in your career.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got bands to break: Badflower, Cigarettes After Sex, Fontaines D.C., Sharon Van Etten, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, a new Flora Cash, AJR, etc. Not to mention that two of my favorite bands, Spoon and Cold War Kids, are out with career-defining songs. Think about the incredible artists you saw in Louisville, including Cherry Glazerr, The Regrettes and Upsahl— build their careers now for YOUR future. Thank you for your time.

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