Sometimes there is a dichotomy between that inert feeling of supporting the local music community by championing it beyond your local show and your responsibility toward high ratings and monetizing those ratings. Let’s face it, hits bring cume. A sustained string of well programmed hits (and proper misses) consecutively brings more time spent and the probable insurance of future listening occasions. Oft times, new music is seen as an impediment to the most recent PPM gamesmanship. And new local music can be viewed by some as a few steps left of even playing great new music.
But many programmers at Alternative radio lately have not only been playing local music in all dayparts, but finding incredible talent in their own backyard as strong as some of the music that comes to them in traditional ways.
Even with incredible superstar power coupled with young artists at Alternative, there is a new groundswell of unsigned or locally signed bands getting significant airplay at Alternative. Here is a small format sample with their spins to date:
Stephie Coplan & The Pedestrians “JERK” 290
The Head & The Heart “Lost In My Mind” 2,216
Bison “Switzerland” 1,008
Dead Sara “Weatherman” 180 (early in the project)
Churchill “Change” 194
Breathe Carolina “Blackout” 1,551
Ghostland Observatory “Miracles” 430
Urge “Say Yeah” 429
While playing local and regional artists is nothing new, PPM has seemingly relegated this programming strength out the back door. With so many superstar artists and new artist hits permeating the format, why the compulsion to take the extra risk?
107.7 The End/Seattle‘s APD/MD harms tells Alternative Contraband, “localism is what keeps radio alive and relevant. Imaging “local music” is one thing, however when real rotation/support for a local artist works, it is an invaluable find that wins across the board.”
Radio has gone through some tough PR the past few years as internet and streaming music services have repositioned the medium as repetitive and lacking adventure. Alternative Contraband knows different and feels its time to bring this to further light.
Conventional wisdom in the PPM world says to play the hits more than ever. Many PD’s and MD’s are often blinded by the notion that everything that goes on the air has to be a hit or probable hit. Programming proper flow is playing the hits and the proper “misses” or image records. Many times this image song can be a surprise hit. It happened for us several times at 107.7 The End, including with Harvey Danger‘s “Flagpole Sitta” among others.
James Steele, PD at 96X/Norfolk had that experience when he decided to play a regional artist called Bison and their tune “Switzerland” (Here is the band performing the song at a recent 96X benefit show http://youtu.be/6X3Wwyr3c5I)
offering “I never decided that Bison’s song “Switzerland” was a hit. I saw them perform for the first time and was blown away by their live show about 40 seconds after it began. I went and saw them again at a venue that could fit 100 people inside. I knew that they were special, and I knew that everyone in our area needed to hear this band. I bought the album, and listened to it a couple times within 24 hours. Ross from our Indie Music show (the late late rock show) had spun a couple of their songs already. One happened to be “Switzerland”… I thought this would be the best one to go with based on the verses, hooks, and over all feeling. Within 48 hours of that 2nd concert we started lightly spinning “Switzerland”. We didn’t put any big booming “LOCAL MUSIC” sweeper in front of it. Why make people automatically judge a song before even hearing it? Just let it flow in the mix with the station. Their brain will decide for itself without any false judgments based on it being local. Bison “Switzerland” ended up being the biggest reacting record I have ever seen in the five years I’ve been with 96X. The band wrote and created the song, we played it, the audience fell in love with it…that’s how it became a hit on our radio station…the bands talent and passion make them a hit. ”
Bravo! This type of programming will take Alternative radio’s relevance to a new level of respect. It is also an important differentiator to the myriad streaming services out there. Moving into local music will most likely be the next step for some of these services and radio has been doing it for dozens of years. Keep that inquisitive nature and keep playing those local hits!!