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POST TOASTED
ABOUT A GIRL

By Karen Glauber

Twenty-five years ago today, I called my boyfriend in NYC from a pay phone at Burbank Airport, moments before boarding my flight to Seattle for a Sub Pop weekend. He worked at Gold Mountain at that time, and, through tears, told me that Kurt Cobain had died. My next call was to Bob Waugh at WHFS—we’d attended many Nirvana shows together, including the taping of MTV Unplugged, and he was the first station in the country to play “Heart Shaped Box,” which I’d hand-delivered from the U.K., days before the U.S. release.

The weekend in Seattle was surreal and so sad—my own history with Sub Pop involved loaning Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt money ($40k) to keep the label afloat, which went toward the making of Tad’s 8-Way Santa and Nirvana’s Bleach. The Tad album cost four times what Bleach did, for whatever that’s worth. Ted Volk and I worked “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at radio—he was at the label; I was at HITS. The Modern Rock format was borne from the youthquake incited by Kurt, Mark Arm, Chris, Eddie, Andrew, Billy, Layne, Mark Lanegan, etc.

I knew Kurt—not well, but we’d circled the same orbit for years—somewhere there’s a photo with his hands around my neck, while the band Eugenius made goofy faces in the background.  Now, it seems mandatory that Modern Rock stations have to play a Nirvana song every hour, thereby turning the music that once defined a generation into background sonic wallpaper. So much for our “edge.”

Dave Grohl, whose daughters are superfans, compared Billie Eilish’s impact on her audience to the early days of Nirvana, whose fans existed outside of the mainstream but kept growing exponentially as Kurt’s music provided the voice for a generation. Half of the Top 20 on the iTunes Alt singles chart is made up of Billie Eilish songs. It’s unfathomable to me that the format hasn’t fully recognized that she, and artists like her, are the key to radio’s future. I feel like a broken record, but most PDs (and consultants) have lost the plot.

This week marks my 29th anniversary at the “career cul-de-sac” known as HITS. I remember when the format didn’t want to play Pearl Jam, or countless other bands now considered core artists. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you will eventually “come around to my way of thinking,” to quote Urge Overkill, but damn, you sure make it soul-crushing sometimes.

Also this week, I celebrated 27 years of sobriety. The key to navigating social situations while clear-eyed was easy—plan an exit strategy immediately upon arrival.

Thursday at midnight, Dualtone launched “Gloria,” the first Lumineers single from their upcoming album III. Lori, Ted and I shared radio airplay “first alerts” until way past our bedtimes, beginning again early this morning. The response to the single has been unequivocally enthusiastic, which is always a relief.

Heather Luke and Allison Smith are out with a new Badflower single called “Promise Me,” which is already being played on WEBN, KROQ, KITS, KTBZ and KPNT, among others. It’s one of those rare rock records that can also flourish on the West Coast as well as the “Red States.” Even the PDs whose taste aligns more to the left (like mine) see the potential of this song. Very exciting!

Two songs out now should make you feel like winter is finally over: Dominic Fike’s “3 Nights” (nearing 900 spins at SiriusXM Alt Nation) and Smith & Thell’s “Forgive Me Friend.” Now, if I wasn’t stuck in bed with the same flu that has plagued me since January.

Mumford & Sons’ “Beloved” is already Top 20, on the heels of their massive sold-out tour, during which they’ve done radio sessions, in-store performances and myriad meet-and-greets with radio dignitaries. Last Friday, Marcus Mumford and CumulusTroy Hanson exuded greatness as they posed for a snapshot (at top) prior to Mumford’s sold-out show at the United Center. Glassnote’s Nick Petropolous was on hand to capture the magic.

SONG TO HEAR: Judah & the Lion “Why Did You Run?” 


 
 
HEAVENLY POP HIT

By Karen Glauber

I returned from SXSW with the same crud that has kept many of my coworkers bedridden for weeks. We were commanded to stay home at the first sign of sickness, but I’ve been feeling crappy for almost a week, so I’m in the office, loopy from a half-dose of my 10-year-old son’s cough medicine. I pride myself on being a linear thinker. Not this week.

A radio programmer was heard complaining about this year’s SXSW because they had to pay for their own meals on one or two occasions. If I didn’t see you at the C3 party, or at Lynn Barstow’s 101X party at Buffalo Billiards, then we likely missed each other. Lynn has been curating a showcase for his listeners for many years, and this year’s lineup of Belle MT, Judah & the Lion, Mobley, Mansionair, Sam Fender and Flora Cash packed them in. It’s incredibly valuable for what we do as promotion people to see the response from listeners—Judah & the Lion were the clear stars of the showcase, but the audience knew every word to Flora Cash’s “You’re Somebody Else” (always gratifying), and newcomer Belle MT’s breakout song “Hollow” left an indelible impression on those in attendance. Also, I love Lynn Barstow.

For me, SXSW is about music discovery. God bless Jeff Morad from WEQX, who returned home from Austin and promptly added two of the bands he fell in love with: Melbourne’s Amyl and the Sniffers and U.K. band Squid. I fell in love with Partisan’s Fontaines D.C. on my first night out, and my passion for them grew with the other three sets I managed to see them play. “You remind me of going to see The Fall when Mark E. Smith still had teeth,” was the comment I made to Fontaines D.C. singer Grian Chatten. They’ll be touring the States in May with IDLES. I spent all day Friday at The Current’s day party with PD Jim McGuinn, happily falling in love with Dylan Cartlidge, Cherry Glazerr, The Beths, Sam Fender and the aforementioned Fontaines D.C. The artists’ sets were being broadcast live on The Current’s website, available to the world, and, according to a friend who was listening, my laugh was audible (for that I apologize).

The anticipatory anxiety kicks in the night before my yearly panel, even after decades of moderating. Sleep? Not a chance. Thankfully, Matthew Caws from Nada Surf has assumed the role of wingman/co-moderator after 10 years of being by my side. Mac McCaughan from Superchunk (taking a selfie with me above) is another regular, and Clem from Cherry Glazerr, Andrew W.K. and Martin Phillipps from The Chills agreed to perform on the panel, the topic of which was songwriting. Having Martin there was a thrill—I’d tried to sign The Chills at A&M Records when Kaleidoscope World was out, to no avail, but I’ve remained a lifelong fan. After an extended break to deal with nearly life-ending hepatitis C (now untraceable, thanks to a miracle drug developed in New Zealand) and alcoholism (now sober), Martin and the band received a hero’s welcome in Austin, including being named the 2019 SXSW Grulke Prize winner for Career Act. We closed the panel with an audience singalong to The Chills’ biggest radio hit, “Heavenly Pop Hit,” followed by the Andrew W.K. classic “Party Hard,” and a wonderful time was had by all.

The Grulke Prize for Developing Non-U.S. Act was awarded to Dualtone’s Angie McMahon—her incredible set on Friday night was my first glimpse of an artist I’m excited to champion.

Remember when radio programmers were the REAL “influencers,” instead of a 19-year-old whose parents bought her way into USC? (How dare you question that I got into Oberlin on a football scholarship.) Seriously, radio friends, you’ve lost the plot. Where is your influence? You’re letting the streaming services lead the way—I guess you figure that you’ll take credit for breaking the record, regardless of when you add it. Still, I’d be doing my best to avoid being one of those stations that gets flipped to “The New Generation of Classic Rock,” as that appears to be a real threat. Take the reins, dammit!

I remember seeing The Lumineers for the first time at SXSW in 2012. “Ho Hey” had a few spins at Alt radio when the band headed into Austin, most notably from KNDD, which was the first commercial Alt station to play the band. On April 5, The Lumineers will release the first single from their new album. I can’t wait for you to hear it.


 
 
THEY OWN THIS TOWN

By Karen Glauber

Let’s start off with the ch-ch-ch-changes in Modern Rock that occurred this past week. Mike Killabrew is the new Director of Rock Programming at Alternative DC101 and Classic Rock WBIG, replacing James Howard, who made the move to Chicago. Mike’s departure from Indianapolis, where he wore many hats, leaves a hat-rack-sized hole that many will be vying to fill. Also in iHeart-land, we were disappointed to hear that ALT106.7 in Detroit is now WLLZ, a well-known rock brand for decades. Gone is the Alternative format, but Casey Krukowski will stay on as PD of “The Next Generation of Classic Rock,” (a moniker that could be applied to half the reporting stations on the Alternative panel), and, fingers crossed, there will be another Alt station in the market before too long.

We also hear that WFUZ PD Phil Kukawinski is exiting for a new gig in a market where many of us will be gathering in June. There is now an opening in Scranton, Pa., which we referred to as the “big city” when I was growing up in Easton...

ALT SF’s Aaron Axelsen just added midday duties, along with diaper duties, as the new shift was announced just weeks after the birth of his son, Max Austen. No word if he’s branded his nights at home with baby Max as “Poopscene.”

Lots of chatter about a certain indie’s “land grab,” as he’s now controlling seven stations, each with a bounty of at least $1k for the add, with additional tiers for real airplay.  With the format playing so few currents, he’s merely capitalizing on what the market is willing to bear for call letters on a Tuesday. It’s simple economics. As long as overnight airplay counts the same as regular dayparts, and as long as a spin on an HD2 station in a market without an airport counts the same as a spin in a Top 10 market, there will be labels willing to pay, even in tertiary markets, where the station’s dream of a 1.0 share is an unattainable fantasy. This is truly the sound of one hand clapping, folks. Either the chart-makers need to recognize that overnight spins mean nothing (except as a boost for MScores), or our label friends need to stop spending like drunken sailors on shore leave every week.

At the end of the day, the songs that stream are the ones that have the best shot of becoming radio hits. My friend Richard Sands, who I truly adore, gave up his column this week to a consultant who cited Lord Huron’s “The Night We Met,” a song that came out almost four years ago, as an example of a streaming success that deserved airplay. Said consultant will likely weep when lovelytheband’s “broken” falls off the chart this week after 68 weeks. Too soon! Too soon!

Maybe next year he’ll realize that Billie Eilish, who I first saw last year at SXSW (because my friend’s 13-year-old daughter was already obsessed and demanded that we go), is the future of the format. It’s a fucking slap in the face when this guy is quoted as saying, “I feel like Alternative music has been struggling lately.” Kiss my ass. Or better yet, meet me in Austin next week and see the artists who are already defining the future.

The Alt format was built on the foundation of music discovery. Streaming is one of the best tools we have to identify future hits, but it’s also absolutely the case that airplay boosts streaming: AJR’s “100 Bad Days” is generating more than 2 million streams a week, and we’re just hitting the Top 20 at Alternative. The streaming for Flora Cash’s “You’re Somebody Else” exploded after John Allers gave it the nod at WRFF.

To celebrate Sharon Van Etten’s sold-out run in Chicago, Bri Aab from Secretly Canadian, Amy Kaplan from Mick Management and I invited women from the format for the first-ever female-only Alternative radio junket (pictured above). It was an incredible event that I expect will be the first of many. The following week, there was a Rock/Alt radio convention whose activities included machine-gun shooting at a range. This was in Las Vegas, the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Unbelievable.

SONG TO HEAR: Dominic Fike’s “Three Nights.”


 
 
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!

By Karen Glauber

First things first—I hope my Midwest radio friends are safe and warm despite the polar vortex whipping through their markets. I can’t really complain that my thoughts are being drowned out by the cacophony of rain and thunder outside my office. Or that I left my umbrella in the car. Or that my basement will likely be flooded when I get home. Or that a crack of lightning woke me up at 4am (actually, that might’ve been a text from Dustin Matthews—I wasn’t awake enough to discern the origin).

Still, it’s a beautiful day for the format when a new Cage the Elephant song appears. “Ready to Let Go” is an insta-classic, the first single from Social Cues, the band’s long-awaited (four years!) new album. There isn’t a station that can’t play this record, although I’m sure there are a few knuckleheads who will fight it. This is not the year to be contrary; that would be my advice to you.

Congrats to our friend Mike Kaplan on being appointed Alternative Format Captain for the Entercom chain. He, along with a 12 other men (and one woman), will occupy the Captain position for a period of one year; he'll also remain PD at WNYL, NYC. Look for an announcement from Entercom regarding the previous Alt Format Captain, SVP Michael Martin, very soon. Chainwide initiatives from the Entercom Alt stations are being discussed, and today’s spin of the new Cage single every two hours should be a clue of what’s to come. iHeart is playing “Ready to Let Go” every hour today, in case you’re keeping score.

On the heels of a #1 single (“Sober Up”) and a #2 (kill me) single (“Burn the House Down”), Nerf’s best friends AJR (pictured) released “100 Bad Days,” the first single from their next album Wednesday at midnight, with early and avid supporters like Jeff Regan, PD of SiriusXM’s AltNation and KTCL, plus a select few others, finding the song in their in-box a few hours prior. The band sat down with Andrew Harms at Alt 98.7 earlier in the week—video of the interview is here.

Speaking of AJR videos, the new one has already racked up 300k views on YouTube in the past day. Response for the song from the public and our programmer friends has been unequivocally positive, which positively warms my cold, dead heart.

This year’s ALTerEgo show at the L.A. Forum brought out some of our iHeart friends from near and far, including the aforementioned Nerf and Dustin, as well as our bff John Allers, plus Aly Young, Casey Krukowski, DZL, Dubbs, newly promoted COO Brad Hardin, John Sykes, Harms and the woman who put it all together, Lisa Worden (who will certainly know the identity of the new DC101 PD before you do). It was an epic evening for all in attendance.

One of my resolutions for 2019 was that I was going to “act with intention” regarding everything I do. If I were to Google that phrase, an image of Spotify’s Allison Hagendorf (a constant source of inspiration/motivation for action) would surely pop up. I love her. My intention often turns to obsession, and such is the case with Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall,” currently on repeat in my office. (And it just stopped raining!) After six years without them, this song is an event.

Harmony Hall, in case you were wondering, is the Columbia University dorm furthest away from campus. Ezra Koenig has said that the song isn’t about the dorm (incidentally, Adam from AJR also used to live in that dorm as a Columbia undergrad, and it’s rumored that Mac from Superchunk also trudged the mile to campus during his tenure there).

But whatever the song is about, it has my favorite lyric so far this year: “Anger wants a voice/Voices wanna sing/Singers harmonize till they can’t hear anything/Thought that I was free/From all the questioning/But every time a problem ends/Another one begins.” If I have any say in the matter (not that Lisa, Darice or Matt really need my help), this song will be an Alt smash.

Also on my “target list” is Shaed’s “Trampoline” (currently Top 20 and rising), Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen” and Seeb’s “Grip” (winner for Best Use of a Dan Smith Vocal), not to mention Flora Cash reaching its imperial destiny at #1.

E-mail me: Karen.Glauber@hitsmagazine.com


 
 
Post Toasted Index
posted 4/5/19
posted 3/25/19
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posted 1/11/19
posted 11/2/18
posted 9/25/18
posted 5/18/18