Once upon a time...at Yasgur's farm (8/16a)
This is no ordinary doorstop. (8/15a)
But things will liven up soon. (8/16a)
The biz is getting its game face on. (8/16a)
More speculation over lox and bagels (8/16a)
Seriously, we can't take off any more clothes at the office.
Nothing doing.       
Well, what do YOU want?      
Badly needed.     

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I’m not one to brag. I don’t spend much time laurel sitting or career coasting. There’s a chipped Billboard Monitor Radio Awards plaque/thing on the far corner of my desk, designating that Modern Rock Live won for Network/Syndicated Program of the Year in the Modern Rock Market in 1997. That’s it for “career recognition.” Now, I wouldn’t even have a shot at a list of the top “60 under 60” executives. It’s more than likely that I’ve made you money or helped you out, and expected nothing in return. “Big ego, low self-esteem” was a phrase I first heard “in the rooms” of AA, although it seems to be a prerequisite character trait for those of us who choose to toil in the quest for and deliverance of airplay.

The demands from our radio “friends” have grown in inverse proportion to their impact. “I broke that band,” they proclaim. “Now they owe me.” Oh, please. What do any of us have to brag about, really? Yes, Muse, whose “Dead Inside” was recently #1 at Modern Rock, nearing a weekly audience of 10 million, debuted at #1 this week. But, sales were under 100k, so that whole airplay = sales hypothesis doesn’t seem to hold true these days.  Airplay = ticket sales is more applicable, and Muse have certainly made themselves accessible to radio programmers/listeners way above and beyond most acts of their stature. The Modern Rock format is 35% current, unless you’re Lazlo, who has turned Kansas City into the mecca for new music.

I’ve hung my hat on this format for 30+ years—I’ve served it diligently—but I’m sure as hell thinking about “What’s next?” for us. Will currents deteriorate to 10%, with a smattering of new music from format superstars? Is your audience going to bail in droves for Beats 1?  The heads of labels spent decades with their heads in the sand, refusing to believe that the Internet was going to change the way they did business. Are you promo types going to follow suit? We’ve all been doing this job for years—how long can we continue, when the songs we champion max out at 5k weekly sales? Modern Rock these days is the artist development “head fake” to Pop radio—a base from which to springboard, which is absolutely mandatory if a rock song has any shot at crossing. So, what is Modern Rock good for (that Beats 1 won’t be)?

Airplay and on-air support definitely sell tickets. This is very important to artist managers. When you’re grinding your label friend about presents/sessions/selling sponsorships, etc., you’re directing your venom at someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race, except for their desire for airplay. Their salaries don’t reflect ticket sales, so yelling at the messenger avails you nothing, except for making their day very, very, very bad. That is why it’s important to cultivate a relationship with artist managers, who, in many cases, have installed someone whose primary job is to be their liaison with radio. They’re willing to pay someone to deal with your bullshit, and you should know that a manager and his money are rarely parted. If we want to keep this format that we’ve built our careers on from becoming a relic of a bygone era, “What’s next?” needs to be beyond what’s for lunch…

As Ted mentions this week, Beck remains the most innovative and important artist in Modern Rock, with “Dreams” certain to be his next #1. I put Beck on the same pedestal as I do Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Patti Smith and Neil Diamond. Beck’s discography has had an immeasurable impact on Modern Rock, and he, to quote an album title by my favorite artist, is “a wizard and a true star.”

Other songs that make me believe in something greater than myself: “Sedona” by Houndmouth (this song is magic, I promise), Glass Animals’ “Black Mambo,” Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s,” Cold War Kids’ “First” and Mumford & Sons’ “Believe” (congrats to Nick P. on having both Mumford singles in the Top 10).

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