By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It's especially true now that formats overlap until they practically lie on top of one another. For example, Sugar Ray's "Every Morning" can be heard on practically every format except urban, and it's only a remix away from that, and a few months ago Shania Twain's "Still the One" was heard as many times on KDMX-FM and KISS-FM as it was on country stations such as KYNG-FM, crossing over like Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson in new sneakers.
There seems to be no way a program director can justify not adding Sugar Ray or the Barenaked Ladies to its playlist when the Billboard charts suggest everyone else has already added them. It's a setup that encourages the chicken-before-the-egg question: Do the charts drive radio stations, or is it the other way around? Some, like KRBV-FM's Thomas Bacote, give the charts high priority when it comes to making out playlists. Others, such as The Zone's Abby Goldstein, feel that the charts are merely a mirror, the cause and not the effect.
"Some folks in our format don't look at the chart at all," she says. "They just play what they like. You know, it's definitely one of the many considerations that go into our decision-making process. But it's not it. I think that the chart is the reflection. [If a song is high on the charts] it's not something we automatically add, but it's certainly something that we look at. I mean, if something is charting at our format, that means that there are stations around the country in our format that are having success with it."
As much as Billboard, SoundScan, and BDS have revolutionized the chart system in the past few years, even they know that they aren't the last word when it comes to what people hear on the radio. They, like the radio stations and record labels, can only do so much. The most valuable player in the music industry is the same person it always has--and most likely--always will be: the listener.
"Ultimately, responsible programmers aren't just going to play stuff," Mayfield says. "They'll play stuff because their listeners want to hear it. With the stakes being as high as they are in broadcasting these days, there's really not a lot of room for them to play things that they don't think their audience wants to hear."
Death to the music biz
There has been much hand-wringing of late concerning The Merger at the Universal Music Group, referred to above. Music-biz folks are mourning the recent "deaths" of Geffen Records, Island Records, and A&M Records. Two weeks ago, Seagram's honcho Edgar Bronfman and his toadies went in and fired 500 employees from those labels in Los Angeles and New York; in coming weeks, 700 more hard-workin' folks are expected to be cut loose, in a so-called effort to streamline UMG's operations at labels such as Mercury and MCA. The winner in all this, if there is such a thing, is Interscope Records, which will emerge as one of UMG's main labels. For now, that means most of Interscope's currently signed bands will remain on the label, while at least 150 acts on other labels under the UMG umbrella will get their runnin'-not-walkin' papers.
So far, two Dallas bands will definitely remain affiliated with UMG: As reported in Street Beat on December 17, 1998 ("Dude, you dropped"), Radish will indeed release its second album, Discount Fireworks, on March 23. And Street Beat has learned that the Toadies will also remain on Interscope, though there is no release date set for the band's sophomore effort--because, like, the record's not done yet. (To pass some of the time, guitarist Clark Vogeler has formed a side project with Baboon singer Andrew Huffstetler. The two have recorded casually under the name Mommy, and there may be a gig sometime in the near future...or not.) The hold-up on the Toadies' record will not stop the band from making a very rare local appearance on February 26 at Trees, with a possible second show to come the following night. Might be your best chance to hear some new Toadies music this year.
The death, or not, of Hagfish
Based on an interview with Hagfish frontman George Reagan that appeared in Street Beat last week ("Tele like it is," January 28), many people have gotten the impression that Hagfish has broken up. Even the band's official Web site (www.hagfish.com) reported as much, with Reagan's ambivalence about continuing with Hagfish apparently confirming months of speculation on the site about the band's demise. "[Hagfish] is still in my heart and everything, but I really, really like doing what I'm doing now," Reagan said, referring to his new band, Tele.
But there were a few things Reagan forgot to mention, according to Hagfish bassist Doni Blair. No, the band isn't breaking up, he says, but Reagan is leaving. Sort of.
"George doesn't want to tour at all," Blair says. "So he's going to stay home and write songs for us. He already has another record done. We'll still be doing business with him. He'll still print up our T-shirts and sing backups and help us produce the records. He'll do everything he can, except sing lead and tour. It wouldn't be right for him to sing lead if he's not going to play the songs on the road. We're not going to have a second-string singer."