ART VS. COMMERCE: WHEN ROCK STARS MEET RADIO PROGRAMMERS

“The industry is both the enemy and the best friend of the artist. Trouble is, they need each other.” – Chrissie Hynde

 

Is there anything more uncomfortable or awkward than an artist meeting a radio programmer (as exemplified by the photo above with Bono and The Edge at KTIM-FM in San Rafael CA in 1981)? In the world of music marketing and promotion, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle that is intended to lead to airplay. It’s the artist bearing his or her wares to the marketplace by way of a pitch, a smile, a kind word, a thank you – some sort of person-to-person exchange of pleasantries. It gives meaning to the music and the musician, way beyond anything that a cold, faceless, piece of plastic (or WAV file) can summon up.

No matter how many fans, FB friends, record sales or website hits they have, musical artists (and the industry behind them) still need radio, one station at a time, to make it into the ears and the minds of the general public. Nothing has changed in that respect.

The Internet has not replaced the valuable face time between artist and radio programmer.

This strange bedfellow thing is not a recent development. Sinatra reportedly hung out in radio station studios with all-night deejays hawking his latest releases.  Murray The K deemed himself the “Fifth Beatle” when he befriended the quartet upon their first visit to New York and played their records non-stop and back to back on Top 40 powerhouse WINS. I myself spent 20+ years at Warner/Reprise hauling singers and bands into radio stations and backstage meet and greets – almost 5,000 such events by my count – so I know a thing or two about the execution, dynamics and purpose of this ancient rite. Continue reading…

GET IN ON THE PASSENGER SIDE

“It’s a real error to think that just because you like somebody’s work, that you’re going to like them personally as well.” – Paul Simon

I divide musical artists into two distinct categories: those you love to see on stage and those you’d love to have dinner with. Rarely are they the same person, but it can happen. In my 20-year stint in Artist Relations at Warners I found that there were many artists with whom you would prefer not to do a meet and greet as it could ruin the fan’s fantasy of the artist. The fans assume that their favorite artist is just as captivating off stage as on stage. Not so much. That’s why I was leery at first to meet Passenger, the “suddenly famous” singer/songwriter/artist, on his solo tour of the U.S. last fall. His onstage presence felt real and honest – hard to fake, although I have seen it done once or twice. Imagine my surprise finding those same qualities in his persona off-stage as well. Now I want to have dinner with him, and take in another show. Continue reading…