HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

As I sat down to write this in my office (also known as my bed), I realized I haven’t left the house, except to take out the garbage, in the past two weeks. We all deal with our anxiety in our own ways, and I take comfort in music, episodes of The Good Fight, endless loads of laundry and the security of my house. It’s a holiday weekend, whatever that means, and Alternative radio is marking the beginning of summer with specialty programming, whether it’s The Top 500 Bands with the Word “The” in their Name or The Top 500 Songs A-Z by Bands Who Played Our Radio Show Side Stage (and were never heard from again). The options are limitless.

The Tuesday after Memorial Day is a little-known holiday we’ve always called the Day the Playlists Froze, also known as the Day Jeff Deane Makes Bank. Take Monday AND Tuesday off, label friends, and we’ll start over on Wednesday.

The topics on everybody’s lips this past week included James Kurdziel’s segue from WEDG Buffalo to the PD gig at legendary Classic Rock station KQRS in Minneapolis. He’ll stay on as PD and on-air talent at WEDG for the time being, which, in radio parlance, could mean either next week or permanently. In other Cumulus news, Troy Hanson has been promoted to VP/Corporate Programming-Rock Formats. His new role will include oversight of the Classic Rock format in addition to his current portfolio of Active and Alternative stations, as well as VP of Operations for Cumulus Chicago and PD of WKQX. Congrats, Troy!

My radio and label friends were also shocked by the timing of an article called “It’s the End of the World Famous KROQ as We Know It,” which seemed unnecessary, misleading and mostly unkind, although I respect the writer’s work. During this pandemic, most music stations have taken a big hit in the ratings. Did KROQ lose a point-plus in the ratings because management fired the last vestiges of its morning show? There is no argument that the abrupt dismissal of Kevin Ryder and his staff was inelegant, but we also don’t know if the tenor of the morning show had changed following the ascension of Mike Kaplan as the station’s new PD.

Without question, Kevin Weatherly should be regarded as the GOAT of our format. He, along with a handful of others, including Lisa Worden, Gene Sandbloom, Tom Calderone, Leslie Fram, Richard Sands, etc., made the Alternative format a viable business, and breaking new artists was an important part of their programming mission. Whether it’s the programs that Lisa has implemented to increase the visibility of new artists at iHeart or the new-music-intensive playlists of Lazlo, Mase and Jeff Morad, the desire to break new artists is still a priority. However, PPM, MScores and call-out research, not to mention format-killing consultants, have contributed to most Alternative programmers cutting back to as little as 8% current music.

The Classic Rock format has adopted “our” ’90s gold as their own, and Alternative stations have taken a ratings hit because the uppermost-demo listener (34+) would rather hear Nirvana segued into Rush than into Powfu. So KROQ, and most stations, really, have the choice of becoming Classic Alternative, or trying something new. Jeff Regan has always programmed Alt Nation to focus on new music, and he can tell you whether or not a song is a hit after 100 spins. Michael Martin has reinvigorated KITS by playing more currents, and that is what Mike Kaplan did when he started programming Alt 92.3 in NYC, and what he’s doing now at KROQ. In a fucking pandemic, when radio is doing its best to entertain and provide a sense of community for their anxious audience, no programmer should be put on the defensive for trying something different.

If there was ever a time to shake things up at radio, it’s now. Programmers who are still treating their station as their own personal “Spite Store” (thank you, Larry David) have zero leverage right now—and how wonderful is that?...

SONG TO HEAR: Cannons, “Fire for You”


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