Modern AC’s Greatest Hits

First Listen: Sirius XM PopRocks It’s pretty inevitable now that the hits of the ‘90s will continue to resurface on the radio in different ways. The R&B and Hip-Hop crossovers are already there, thanks to the throwbacks boom of the last few years. The teen pop that came and went over a 15 year stretch—from New Kids to Backstreet—is starting to surface for any AC radio station that will test it. And much of the Alternative music of the era, including Modern AC, never left. With the imprimatur of being “rock,” there was never the same programmer eagerness to turf it out as there was for, say, “Wannabe.” If anything, the question was where the greatest hits of Modern AC would end up. Ever since the first incarnation of WNEW (Fresh 102.7) New York, now more than a decade ago, it seemed ine...Read More

Sixties MOR That Rocks

The narrative that the birth of rock ‘n’ roll essentially eliminated the ‘50s MOR that preceded it with one big blast in 1956 has been pretty well discredited now. It took a while for the obvious vestiges of pre-rock to be eliminated. Even in the late ‘50s, you could find holdover hits like the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra’s “So Rare” (1957) or Doris Day’s “Everybody Loves a Lover” (1958) that were absolutely of a piece with what preceded rock ‘n’ roll. But I’ve been thinking of just how blurred the lines between pop, rock, and MOR remained throughout the ‘60s. Just as anything worked first to the Alternative format seemed to qualify as Alternative for a while, even if it was Hootie & the Blowfish or Haim, almost any artist who broke after 1956 started with a clean slate, and a number of oth...Read More

As TuneIn Continues Subscription Push; Where Does AM/FM Go?

TuneIn, the one time aggregator that built its brand on the backs off making it easy to find streams for broadcast radio before putting its growth behind premium subscription content, has raised $50 million to continue its investment in building a subscription based competitor to SiriusXM. Bloomberg reports that “TuneIn will use the money to pay for rights to live sporting events and original programming like podcasts and music shows, which will help the company sign up more customers for a two-year-old subscription service.” Among the content currently included in the $9.99 per month TuneIn Radio Pro are Sports play-by-play and exclusive talk shows for MLB, NFL, NHL, Premiere League and Bundesliga, Audiobooks, language learning, and commercial-free music streams. The TuneIn ap...Read More

A Few Thoughts From The Translator Window Filings

With the 1,081 pending applications (now 1,045 after the first batch of dismissals) made for Class C & Class D AM stations now public, I had a chance to dig through the applications and a few key themes became apparent. There’s little spectrum left to bring a new translator to a big market. One application filed in the New York and Los Angeles markets, two in San Francisco, one in Philadelphia for a frequency that already contested in the 250 mile waiver period, and one in Dallas and Houston. The Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and one of the San Francisco filings were made by Multicultural Broadcasting after that company sat out the 250 mile waiver moves last year. Of the big operators some were active, while others were shockingly quiet. Salem Communications, which was very acti...Read More

THE Song Of Summer 2017

There aren’t a lot of stories about galvanizing records these days. But a few weeks ago, when the song was about a week-and-a-half old, the topic of Kesha’s “Praying” came up in my office. Three of my colleagues, all female, raved about it. The fourth hadn’t heard it yet. Once she did, she went under the headphones and listened to it several more times. Not every CHR station reacted as quickly. At the outset, the immediate airplay for “Praying” was mostly in medium markets and heavily concentrated in the Midwest. Both CHRs in Kesha’s hometown of Nashville were also on board. The big market leader was KIIS-FM Los Angeles, which supported the song immediately, but KIIS was the outlier. Two weeks later, you could see many of the majors rushing to catch up. There’s always something galvanizing...Read More

Songs That Readers Wish They Could Play

When I asked programmers to name the songs they wished they could play on Classic Hits radio last week, there was a wide swath of titles. Some were favorite stiffs—songs that made it as far as the high teens maybe, but never went to current, or songs that never got anywhere near that far. Some were top 10 chart hits, but songs that nevertheless feel lost now. And some were records whose hit status was never in question at the time—especially from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Nobody disputed whether “Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson was a hit. But at Classic Hits and Urban AC, it’s like it never happened. For those who haven’t friended me on Facebook, here’s a sampling of the songs that programmers wish they could play. I’ve divided them into three rough piles; (you’ll dispute...Read More

What The 2017 Summer Song Won’t Be

In Germany, the Summer Song 2017 battle is already decided. On Billboard, “Despacito” has been No. 1 for so many weeks that it would seem like they’re only holding off on the coronation to try and keep the suspense going. I’m still not ready. I like that a Spanish-language hit could be Song of the Summer (as has been happening around the world for years, see that German list). I like seeing Luis Fonsi have an English-language hit after nearly 20 years. I don’t like that the title translates to “Slowly,” in this summer of tempo deprivation. But we have reached the point where a lot of the songs that were contenders at summer’s outset have peaked or fallen away. Some of them were records I would have much preferred to do better. And the list says something about the current state of pop musi...Read More

CBS Gives HD Radio A Needed Programming Boost A Decade Too Late

On Wednesday CBS Radio News/Talk 1020 KDKA Pittsburgh announced the launch of a new “KDKA Traffic & Weather” HD Radio subchannel on 107.9 WDSY-HD3 and streaming via The programming will feature traffic and weather reports every five minutes from 5am to 7pm weekdays and road closure updates along with weather in nights and weekends. For the first time since 102.7 WNEW New York debuted as the first HD Radio station in 1999 a broadcaster is creating something that can be used as a selling point for the technology. In its early days both Sirius and XM used their 24/7 traffic and weather channels as selling points for their new satellite services. The combined SiriusXM has now consolidated traffic to just eight markets split over five channels after temporarily elimi...Read More

Songs That Programmers Wish Would Test

  I’ve never seen Electric Light Orchestra’s “Turn to Stone” do well in music testing. Or “Sweet Talkin’ Woman.” Or “Livin’ Thing.” Or “Do Ya?” The band that had five years as one of pop music’s greatest hitmaking machines is now often represented at Classic Hits radio by two songs, “Evil Woman” and the goofy outlier that it is “Don’t Bring Me Down.” (Who was Brrrrruuce? What did Jeff Lynne have against him? And even if they really were singing “grooose,” as they insist, that doesn’t make any sense either.) But “Turn to Stone” got nearly a hundred BDS spins this week. Nearly a decade ago, former WCBS-FM New York PD Brian Thomas nurtured it from a few spins a week to playing almost daily. (It got five spins there this week.) WGRR Cincinnati Keith Mitchell tells me it “does well enough ...Read More

Summer Song Week 6: The Year Without A Summer?

I’ve been on the road again this week. The place I am now is lovely and temperate—perfect summer weather. The market I was in earlier this week was sticky and hot—undeniable summer weather. And in each of them, the unavoidable song on the radio was “Stay” by Zedd & Alessia Cara, which was the unavoidable song of my Memorial Day road trip as well. “Stay” has just been pushed out of No. 1 on the CHR chart by “Despacito.” So it may not be at this level of exposure for the second half of the summer. But it’s not going away by Labor Day. If anything, in late August, “Stay” will be the song going from No. 7 to No. 8 in the top ten. I’m not anxious to anoint “Stay” as Summer Song 2017. It’s undeniable, but it’s not up, it’s not fun. It’s a holdover from spring.  And it raises this question ab...Read More

What Is Fast? Not So Fast!

Quick, which is more uptempo? “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2? Or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”? “I Still Haven’t Found” sort of floats, wraith-like, through its four-and-a-half minutes. “Sunday” rocks. But their tempo is essentially the same, just under 101 BPM (beats per minute). Ron Gerber’s “Between the Songs” is billed as “a step by step guide to creating radio magic,” specifically putting on a specialty show like his syndicated “Crap From the Past,” based at KFAI Minneapolis. It has a lot for music junkies as well. And my eye went immediately to one of the book’s appendices. That’s where Gerber catalogs hundreds of songs — some enduring hits, many forgotten ones on the order of “Cross My Broken Heart” by the Jets — by their BPM count. The results may not surprise anybody ...Read More

Summer Song Week 5: The Summer Stealth Contender

I don’t think it’s going to be long now before somebody just gives the summer song battle to “Despacito.” It’s July. “Despacito” has more momentum than “I’m The One.” (It’s all relative, they’re No. 2 and 3 this week respectively; but “Despacito” is up +1167 spins and “I’m The One” is “only” +488 spins.) And if another song is going to explode into contention, it needs to be in the next few weeks. And today, anyway, the new summer contender pipeline is barely rumbling. But don’t write off Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” You don’t hear about it as much, but that song was the most obviously calibrated of the Summer Song of 2017 candidates. It’s also holding at No. 12 (in a tough patch of charts where it’s nevertheless +655 spins, according to Mediabase). “There’s Nothing Hol...Read More