Blogs

Did Fragmentation Kill Rock Radio?

Is it time for current-based rock radio to become one format again? His focus was mostly country radio, but during his keynote at Tuesday’s RAIN Summit Nashville, Big Machine Label Group President/CEO Scott Borchetta talked about rock radio’s recent travails. Rock’s weakness, he said, was due to its splintering into multiple charts—modern rock, active rock, and, in some cases, mainstream or heritage rock. That was why, Borchetta said, he had personally opposed any attempt to fragment the country chart. While the opposition of Borchetta and many on Music Row to fragmentation goes back for decades, you think he might come around now that Big Machine and radio group owner Cumulus have partnered on a NASH Icon record label specializing in heritage artists, like Reba McEntire. Labels like havin...Read More

Moving Past Call Letters And Dial Position

If there is anything lacking in my knowledge of the radio industry, it would be the lack of attention spent listening to the national and regional Christian music networks. In the part of the New York market I reside only Educational Media Foundation’s “K-Love” is available in any nearby market. But after two trips to the Midwest this summer including a week traveling through Michigan and from here in Nashville at the 2016 Radio Show one thing in particular caught my ear. Some of these brands are more prepared for our digital future than any commercial radio station as they have moved beyond reliance on the frequency and call letters. It doesn’t matter what frequency Educational Media Foundation’s “K-Love” or “Air 1” are on as the branding is the same whether its Chicago, Charlotte or Chat...Read More

Once Derided On Stage, Denver Is Now “Forever Country”

It might not have been intentional, but “Forever Country,” the new superstar-laden single and video promoting the fiftieth anniversary of the CMA Awards, wades into a more than forty-year-old dust-up about “what is country” that ensnared the CMA Awards itself. The song that kicks off the classic country medley is John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” That song was only a top 50 Country hit in 1971. But on the new single, “Country Roads” takes its place alongside Dolly Parton’s “I Will Love You” and Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again.” Denver’s reverse crossover from pop singer/songwriter to regular country hitmaker culminated in an Entertainer of the Year win at the 1975 CMA Awards. And in a notorious incident when presenter Charlie Rich, after a rambling monologue, torched Denver’s...Read More

As Industry Gathers, Radio Is Still Negotiating the Audio World

I came out of Radio Show 2013 in Orlando with optimism and many questions. I was excited about broadcasters’ new spirit of candor that didn’t get lost under the usual talking points. There was a group head admitting that radio had a spotload issue. There was Cumulus’ Lew Dickey announcing his deal with Rdio and suddenly declaring that “it’s all audio.” Suddenly the concept of on-demand music was something that every major group needed in its portfolio. And it was no longer a discussion that ended at the RAIN Summit on the day before the Radio Show. But if broadcasters were now in the “audio” business, that raised issues as well. Audio was broadcasters’ core competency, but they were no longer alone. Apple and Google were in the audio business as well. Broadcasters worried if they were “tel...Read More

“Perfect” for My Current Mood

“Boy, there’s a lot of controversy about that song,” said the jock backselling Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion” on Monday. Then he added, “It’s really growing on me,” maybe a little too hastily. I loved “Perfect Illusion” after one listen. But if you’re grappling with it, or dismissive, I understand. It’s a harsh lyric and an adamant vocal. It’s yet another Madonna homage. It’s chaotic in places, especially the bridge. Even my friends with reliably similar tastes offered only qualified approval in the first few days. (I will say that the one person I know who did like it within seconds is a female co-worker with the best ears in the office.) Gaga should have known to give radio the guaranteed crowd pleaser they needed from her. “Applause” was a really good little record, an...Read More

The Market Within A Market

“It’s sure hard to punch around this market.” That’s an industry friend talking about Nashville radio. The fast growing city and home to the upcoming Radio Show 2016 is also growing as a radio market, in a way that many people may not realize. More than 25 years ago, Nashville became one of the first markets where an FM translator was used to do something other than help an FM station extend its coverage over rough terrain. WAMB-AM, then an anachronism as a station running a true Big Band format in the ‘90s, was given an FM frequency for nighttime only use. In doing so, it became a talisman for radio’s future as well. Now, Nashville is home to numerous FM translators and a handful of Low Power FM stations. Together, the LPFMs and translators comprise nearly twenty additional broadcast choi...Read More

Reconsidering Radio’s Worst Summer (Of The Early ‘80s)

The summer of 1979 was pretty great for hit music—the peak of disco, the explosion of new wave crossovers, not much has to be said. Besides, I’d just graduated from high school. The summer of 1980 was pretty good where I was in Washington, D.C., thanks to the battle between WPGC and WRQX (Q107). WPGC hadn’t stopped playing R&B crossovers like many top 40 stations. Q107 leaned pop/rock and was pounding a half-dozen songs that weren’t national hits, or even singles. Outside, it was the summer of Air Supply, Robbie Dupree, and Christopher Cross, but it was OK in D.C. The summer of 1982 was the ramping up of Top 40’s resurgence. There was “Don’t You Want Me,” “Tainted Love,” “Hurts So Good,” “Eye of the Tiger,” “Vacation,” “Abracadabra,” etc. All of which did a lot to wash out the taste o...Read More

What Was Your Song Of The Summer

It was easy for me to call a song of the summer. I was able to choose “Ride” by Twenty One Pilots by late July. At that moment, I could pretty much count on hearing “Ride” on any pop or Alternative station I listened to for any sustained period. If my monitoring of the infinite dial covered six stations in a day, I would hear it six times. And because “Ride” was still going for No. 1 on the CHR chart throughout the summer, its CHR airplay is only peaking this week. With “Heathens” climbing the charts at Top 40 as well, that also makes Twenty One Pilots one of the few acts to pull off two growing songs at a time. But I knew “Ride” was going to be a contrarian choice. And I’ve also enjoyed watching the jockeying between the leading contenders: Justin Timberlake, Drake (also with multiple hit...Read More

Tell Your Listeners They Don’t Matter And Win?

On Monday, morning host Joe Volk was missing from Cumulus Rock “Z93” WKQZ Midland/Saginaw MI after over two decades as host of the “Joe And The Poorboy” morning show. Co-host Adam Shilling announced on the air yesterday that Volk was no longer employed at the station, but when pressed online things turned a little ugly. When a listener, who also claimed to be an occasional advertiser asked why Volk was gone the station responded “Yes, you do deserve an explanation and if you were listening this morning you would have heard one. Oh but wait, you weren’t listening.” Is that really how you want to treat a listener? Even if he wasn’t a one-time and potentially future advertiser why throw away the chance to make one? With the technology available ...Read More

Ross On RadioInsight: This Is How The ‘90s Roll In At Classic Hits

It was the perfect driving song for the end of a road trip. I got in the car at the airport and there was Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.” And it was on WCBS-FM, “New York’s Greatest Hits.” When the song was done, it was cold-segued into “Band on the Run” by Wings. When I got home, I checked NielsenBDS Radio. While it’s sometimes the case that I come across songs after they’ve actually been playing for a while on a given station, I had come across its very first spin on the Classic Hits station as part of an “oh wow Wednesday.” (They did play the version without the rap, if you’re wondering.) It wasn’t the newest song in rotation on CBS-FM. Santana’s “Smooth,” from 1999, is up to 700 spins on the station, helped by the plausible deniability of an artist whose other hits are decades...Read More

Ross On RadioInsight: Why We Want “No Scrubs” Again

It’s still one of my favorite stories about hearing a song for the first time. When TLC’s “No Scrubs” landed on my desk in January, 1999, I hailed Billboard R&B chart manager Datu Faison into my office to listen together. We had just gotten past the pre-chorus (“No, I don’t want your number/no, I don’t want to give you mine”) to the first “I don’t want no scrubs.” “It’s a smash,” said Faison, who then left and went back to his busy chart day. We were around :35 in to the song. “No Scrubs” sounded so good in part because the first taste of TLC’s Fanmail album had been “Silly Ho.” Never officially worked as a pop single, “Silly Ho” had not just a provocative lyric and title, but also a busy track that took the rapidly developing Timbaland sound of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” and ad...Read More

Ross On RadioInsight: Fresh Listen: Chicago’s MeTV-FM

For those of us not in Chicago, WRME-LP (Me-TV-FM) arrived, literally, as an intriguing station. Me-TV-FM didn’t stream its programming, and still doesn’t. Local press reports were nebulous—I couldn’t really translate the station as I heard it described into understandable programming terms. Was it an older oldies station? A supersoft AC along the lines of those in Miami and (at the time) San Diego? AM-style MOR? It couldn’t really be all those things? When I finally heard Me-TV-FM, it was, of course, all of those things. There were the sort of ‘60s oldies that had disappeared from most of today’s Classic/Greatest Hits stations. There were ‘70s pop songs far softer than anything played in WFEZ (Easy 93) Miami or the former KIFM San Diego. The new station also had an “oh wow” factor that we...Read More

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