Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Radio Nowhere?

You may or may not know that Bruce Springsteen has a new album out, one in which he reunites with his E Street Band. The new release is called Magic, and it is currently the #1 selling album in the country. Since its release on October 2, it has sold more than 500,000 copies. In this day and age, that's pretty good. In addition, critics are raving about it. Rolling Stone gave it a rare 5-star rating, and even Pitchfork Media kinda sorta liked it, and they hate everything.

Twenty years ago, something of this magnitude from The Boss would have been all over the radio. You wouldn't be able to escape it. But that was twenty years ago.

Welcome to 2007.

Believe it or not, many so-called 'rock' radio stations are not playing the new Springsteen album. At least that's what FOX Noise is trying to tell us. Sure, it wouldn't be surprising. The over-compartmentalized radio industry, for some really stupid reason, does not know what to do with aging rockers. And in shades of 2003, they're also claiming that radio monolith Clear Channel Communications has put the kibbosh on the album, and it's lead-off single "Radio Nowhere," a scathing attack on you-know-what, due to Springsteen's often outspoken views on politics and society. Of course, the alleged memo claims, stations could continue to play the shit out of "Born to Run."

Is it because of Springsteen's left-leaning political stances? Is is because his latest single is about how much radio sucks these days? Or is it because he's older than dirt? Whatever the reason, it certainly hasn't stopped him from selling albums. Or concert tickets.

Some stations are indeed playing it. According to Radio and Records' airplay charts, the song is currently #3 on Adult Alternative-formatted stations, and #22 on rock formats. You'd think that at least a few stations are playing it.

But something doesn't smell right. And something even tells me not to trust anything coming from FOX Nuisance. And I'm not one to jump to conclusions either. I'd rather take my time and be accurate. What I found is that Clear Channel did not send out a memo, or at least that's what they're saying:

MYTH: Clear Channel Radio directed its stations not to play music from Bruce Springsteen’s “Magic” CD.

FACT: Although Clear Channel owns only 8% of the radio stations in the U.S., in the first days after the CD's release, airplay of music from the disc on Clear Channel Radio stations represented a full 21% of the total radio airplay in the U.S., including airplay from satellite radio. That's according to airplay stats from Mediabse (sic). Further, Clear Channel Radio stations played music from the CD more than twice as much as the nearest radio broadcaster, which came in at less than 10% of total U.S. airplay.
Gotta love Clear Channel for having their very own debunking page. They also claim that they did not boycott Madonna and Rage Against The Machine due to their political comments, and that it was Cumulus that banned the Dixie Chicks, not them. They also claim to have not banned Tom Petty's The Last DJ, which was essentially a vicious tirade against the radio and music industries, and John Lennon's Imagine.

Now, claims such as the ones purported by FAUX News deserve to be investigated. Actually, anything reported by them deserves looking into, but I've said that many times before. And if Clear Channel was going to blackball Springsteen for his politics, they're 35 years too late. Everybody knows what Springsteen's about. Or didn't they ever listen to Nebraska?

So, I decided to see if there was any truth to this, and decided to take a look at the radio trade sites and see for myself. Of the 'active rock' and 'mainstream rock' stations that Clear Channel owns, none are reporting any airplay of Springsteen's new album. Then again, these stations are oriented more toward current hard-rock, so you'll be more likely to hear the latest from Korn or Megadeth. The lone exception is WDVE in Pittsburgh, which is actually playing "Radio Nowhere." It is currently #3 on the station's playlist.

To make things even more confusing, there is another rock format designed for the older folks. It's primarily called Adult Album Alternative, or 'Triple A' or just 'AAA.' This is one of the only radio formats still around that are friendly to older musical artists. Clear Channel owns four stations airing this format - KBCO in Denver, KTCZ in Minneapolis, KZPS in Dallas and KPTL in Des Moines. All four are playing the new Springsteen album, and some are even playing a few other cuts in addition to "Radio Nowhere."

So, what about Clear Channel's classic rock stations? Ah hah! One would think that a format that plays the death out of Born in the USA would be ideal for the latest offering from The Boss, right? Wrong. Seems they'd rather remind us how young our favorite rockers used to be, rather than how old they are now. Some of the rumors about the alleged Springsteen memo claim it was directed at these very stations. Maybe they did get the memo, because it looks like those stations aren't touching it, save for maybe WAXQ in New York. Then again, most classic rock stations resemble the movie Children of Men, where they live in a world where nothing has been born for 18 years or so. For many of these stations, the last album ever released was U2's The Joshua Tree in 1987. Heaven forbid they even acknowledge this century! Now you're just asking too damn much.

Just for a comparison, I did search of some of their classic rock stations and and their playlists to see if they were playing any other new offerings from other high-profile classic rock staples, to see if they were indeed singling out Springsteen. In the past few months, John Mellencamp, Paul McCartney, John Fogerty and The Eagles have released notable new product. Of all these releases, only Fogerty's new one is getting airplay on classic rock radio, albeit on only one Clear Channel outlet, WNRQ in Nashville. I should also mention that WNRQ did do perhaps one of the strangest segues in rock radio history this morning, when the went from Van Halen's "You Really Got Me" into Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." Ouch!

So, this little bit o' research showed me that Springsteen doesn't seem to be ostracized by The Monolith due to his stances. It's likely due to his age. In fact, any new product from any artist over the age of 50 is being avoided like leprosy! On friggin' classic rock stations! On radio stations that would rather play the same REO Speedwagon and Foghat hits over and over again! Blasphemy!

Now, it would be a different story if these guys were putting out shit, like Styx currently does. Or were washed-up bands that likely don't even have any original members left. But we're talking about artists who have put out very strong recent product that has gotten a lot of press. McCartney, unhappy at the way his label has been marketing his newer stuff, left EMI after almost 45 years to sign with a label owned by Starbucks, and over the past decade has put out perhaps the strongest, most consistent stuff in his entire solo career. With little airplay, his new album has sold over half a million copies. Yesterday, the Eagles released their first studio album in 28 years. Fogerty made peace with Fantasy Records, got back the rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival hits after 35 years and has gotten rave reviews for his newest release. He's actually happy now.

Yet you likely won't be hearing any of that stuff on your local classic rock outlet, owned or not owned by Clear Channel. Hey, they didn't play the latest offerings from Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones either. And that's a shame.

It's gotten so dire that these guys, in search of any kind of airplay, have resorted to alternative venues. McCartney licensed a song for a Lexus commercial a couple years ago and is angling for airplay at the local Starbucks. Mellencamp also licensed his latest hit single, in this case to sell Chevys. Dylan is doing a radio show for Sirius Satellite Radio. The Eagles took matters into their own hands and released their new album on their own through Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, commercial rock stations are torturing us with crap like Nickleback, a band that basically releases the same song over and over again.

And they wonder why we don't listen to radio as much anymore.

So, what about this memo business? I'm guessing that it isn't what it seems. If Clear Channel were to banish every left-leaning musical act from their stations, all that would be left is country (though minus the Chicks, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and now Merle Haggard(!!!)) and talk radio. So that's a losing proposition there. Sounds to me like yet another FOX Noise gossip trying to stir up shitstorms.

Clear Channel deserves to be raked over fiery hot coals in hell for many things, and they certainly do for not giving The Boss the airplay he so rightfully deserves. And for dumbing down their crappy radio programming for the many listeners who are much smarter than they assume.


raccoonradio said...

>>The over-compartmentalized radio industry, for some really stupid reason, does not know what to do with aging rockers.

I just heard Ray Davies' new album
(not on a U.S. label yet). It's
great and also prob. won't be heard
on your radio. (Ray once sang:
"Where did you go Mr DJ?/Why did
they take you off the air?/ Was
it something that you said to
the corporation guys upstairs...")
("Around the Dial")

Also, RIP Porter Wagoner; his
last album "Wagoneer" was also
great but I'll bet it's not being played on commercial country

ltr said...

Here's what has to say about it. And again, we're reiterating that this whole 'Clear Channel is banning Bruce' thing is a load of B.S.

They also know better how to decipher Mediabase than I do. Plus, they were able to actually check classic rock stations on there, which I was somewhat limited at doing:

FOX NEWS may proclaim that it offers "Fair And Balanced" reporting, but some of its work is about as "fair and balanced" as saying that someone is "a little bit pregnant." A recent column by FOXNEWS.COM entertainment reporter ROGER FRIEDMAN reprised the familiar "corporate radio won't play great artists" canard --the "victim" this time being BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and his new album, "MAGIC."

In a recent column, FRIEDMAN asserts that "sources tell me that CLEAR CHANNEL has sent an edict to its Classic Rock stations not to play tracks from 'MAGIC'" -- either because SPRINGSTEEN's album contains liberal, anti-war lyrics, or that SPRINGSTEEN is passe. Apparently, some CLEAR CHANNEL Classic Rockers didn't get the memo. According to MEDIABASE data, the lead track off the new album, "Radio Nowhere," is currently getting airplay on no less than 11 of the group's Classic Rock stations.

FRIEDMAN went even further, declaring that "The No. 1 album is not being played on any radio stations, according to RADIO & RECORDS, which monitors such things. Nothing." If R&R monitors the same stations MEDIABASE does, it may have to make a public correction. At least 100 different "corporate" radio stations are playing "Radio Nowhere."

More contradicting data: Over 22% of airplay on all of the tracks off "Magic" has been aired on CLEAR CHANNEL stations. They also provided 25% of all the airplay for "Radio Nowhere," which has already been the most-played song on AAA radio.

FREIDMAN apparently doesn't believe AAA is a legitimate format by writing, "SPRINGSTEEN [and] 'older' artists have been relegated to something called Triple-A format stations (i.e. either college radio or small artsy stations such as WFUV in the BRONX, N.Y.) which are immune from the CLEAR CHANNEL virus of pre-programming."

That, of course, will come as news to the half-dozen AAA stations are owned by the so-called "virus" known as CLEAR CHANNEL, including the "small, artsy" KBCO/DENVER, which has been one of the top-5 stations in the market; as well as top-10 AAA stations KTCZ/MINNEAPOLIS and KWMT/TUCSON.

While one would be tempted to dismiss such reporting as typical, considering the source, the problem is that stories like these perpetuate other lies. Indeed, other websites that spout anti-consolidation views have linked this report to the historical "fact" that CLEAR CHANNEL banned the DIXIE CHICKS because of their anti-war views -- when, in fact, it was CUMULUS that issued the ban.

And so it goes...

ltr said...

Here's what CC-owned KTCZ (Cities 97) in Minneapolis has to say, from Minnesota Monitor :

Cities 97's music director, Thorn, says the Fox report is "hogwash": "First, corporate never tells us what to play, and second, we're playing it already." The station is currently having a ticket giveaway for Springsteen's upcoming concert here.

He says the title track is the most biting, but he doesn't see why it wouldn't get played on his station. "Yeah, it's critical of the administration: Yay! Most of the country is critical of the administration."

If any song could be deemed less-than-Clear-Channel-worthy, it might be the first single from the album, "Radio Nowhere."

"That song is kind of talking about how bad radio is," he said, "and it's it's getting a quarter of its play from Clear Channel."

Meanwhile, the market manager of the company's Harrisburg, PA stations, Ron Roy says, "It's all crap. We've been playing Springsteen for a month. There's never, ever been a directive not to, or for that matter for any song or band."

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