Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This week in College Radio. CMJ issue 1297 Week 20

Before we get into the week 20 action I wanted to talk about a few things. First Week 19. Last week we saw Phoenix take the #1 spot, it was a lot closer than I had anticipated but they still pulled it out.  #1 most added last week was Vampire Weekend.  We saw the number of reporters drop again as more people packed their bags for the nearest waterpark or rooftop bar.  

Last week I was away at the AAA Noncommvention. Hung out with a lot of great people. Did some Karaoke, had a fun run, went to some panels, saw the rocky statue. It was a bast of a time.

(graham and I at the museum) 

There were also some panels and my favorite the Music Meeting where we get to rate unreleased songs.  The one thing I wanted to talk about though was the panel " The new Art of the Add, as I have brought up before was the important of ADDS. Everyone has a different ideas as to what they are for and if they should be paid attention to.  There are arguments for ignoring them and for sticking by them.  I want to address it from the promoter side of things.

First off it sounded to me like the reason for ignoring an ADD week for a lot of these stations was because there was not enough going on yet, no tour, appearances ect. What they fail to fully realize though is that they could be the ones driving the story instead of being a footnote of progress.  I know radio has a LOT of competition but I think if more stations took a song they liked and played it they could help make more stars than they realize.   The other thing with an ADD date is that it usually thought out to help make maximum impact for tour dates and appearances.  It is also designed to help get a record another bullet point so that the story can be driven even further.  Last year we worked a small band called the Lumineers. They did OK, we did have a lot of stations get on board early and play the record. The record has since gone platinum!  But
the record only peaked in the 30s on CMJ but was on the charts for over 30 weeks!  Why? Because stations kept on jumping on the bandwagon liked Lebron James had joined the band.  Had these stations been leaders and now followers the record surely would of been a top 10 if not a top 5 success and perhaps it would of gotten them even bigger. They could of had the chance to say we ( college radio ) helped create this huge success and now.. now they will say this band is too big for college radio.

And now to week 20 in college radio. And really I am amazed at what went down this week.  First off the number of stations went down to 234 I would like to think this is the bottom but looking back to last year we got down to 219 ( on the Memorial day weekend) That just happens to be next week so I expect us to hit somewhere around 210-220 next week. That, combined with the fact that a lot of stations are going to be re-reporting last weeks chart, will make it difficult for there to be any real movement on the charts. I saw a lot of that this week on the charts where records in PRIME movement weeks ( weeks 3 and 4 ) went up only a few or down a few, a running in place if you will.

So if I were to of made a prediction last week I would of said that Vampire Weekend will be your new #1 this week. Huge add week and a nice debut and Phoenix barely getting in there last week. Seemed like an easy call.  This week was anything but easy, time of year, many promoters pushing huge records just leads to a lot of the same looking charts out there and makes it a very tight top 200.  The major players this week were Junip, Iron and Wine, Phoenix and Vampire Weekend ( I also kept an eye on She and Him, Yeah yeah yeahs, !!! and Flaming lips but the others separated themselves from the pack pretty early on)   Early on I thought for sure Vampire Weekend had it locked up as they had some of the biggest stations in college radio at #1 or in the top 5.  However Iron and Wine made it really close down the stretch had they not been missing one of the bigger stations I think they could pulled off the rare, return to #1 trick.  In talking to some other promoters Vampire Weekend seemed to be the overwhelming pick for #1. Then the results came out.


I was shocked.

Just when you think you understand the charting system it throws you a curve ball like this.  Vampire Weekend had more big stations on board than Phoenix. More #1 spots than Phoenix 30-22. ..
When you are looking to predict how a record will do for yourself each week it is nearly impossible to keep track of every factor. So the factors I look at are the size of the station on board each record and how many #1's they have in comparison.  10 times out of 10 this is a better predictor than number of stations on a record overall.   I have looked over the numbers and I really am still at a loss as to how Phoenix is the number one record at college radio still.  If I were working this record I would be least a little more shocked than I am right now.  In my opinion when the charts are this close I would love to thee the formula behind it all to know how a record got the position they did.  Really goes to show how every station matters. This week there were 7 reporters who's chart did not count because the repeated a band on the chart. I am not sure to this day why a station can even submit the chart when it is going to be invalid or why they don't reach out to the station to get them to change it.  I would gladly wait another hour for charts to come up right instead of having them come up fast.

On to the rest of the charts. As I mentioned we saw a lot of stagnation. The top debut on the chart does not come in until 46 with Baptist Generals and the biggest move comes from BIBIO jumping from 158 to #20.  In looking at the top 10 or even the top 20 I don't see anything new challenging for the #1 spot next week. I think we will see the same thing we saw this week, it coming down to Vampire Weekend and Phoenix. I don't see how She and Him, Mikal Cronnin, !!!, Yeah Yeah Yeahs make a move, and I thought at one time they could all press for #1.  The number one add of the week was The National blowing everyone out of the water. They come in at #82 whereas  last week Vampire Weekend came in at #41. So I think they will jump into the top 10 but wont be a major contender for #1 for another few weeks.

This weekend I head to Las Vegas for the 15th annual Punk Rock Bowling Tournament and Festival 
Pirate! has been going for years now and we compete in the Bowling tournament. 3 years ago we came in 9th place out of 250 teams and this year we will look to take the crown. Wish us luck! With it being Memorial day as well next week might not see a recap we shall see how badly vegas treats me.

                                                   Here is our trophy from that year.

Be sure to hit me up if you have any questions or want me to look into something involving college radio.  And be sure to follow me on twitter @theanimalarrg


al0137 said...

Always interesting posts Mr. Blake. The fact that anyone is conducting a deeper analysis of the CMJ 200 Charts is appreciated.

The 'Phoenix' record going #1 for another week was not terribly surprising given all the variables you touch upon in your article (station turnover, reduced contributors, etc..). It's the release primed with the largest name recognition, following a major crossover record for them and Coachella, mainstream press, etc.. It's not terribly surprising that stations not fully keeping current are just throwing that on the top because you know, why not? When the chart is so compromised to begin with, you'll get a ho-hum record like 'Bankrupt!' at #1 for two weeks on a chart that's desperately needs ADHD medication.

Interesting there was some debate about the importance of adds in relation to congruent promotions/tours/appearances at Non-Comm but that only really happens in an ideal situation where one of the main aims of the format is to expose emerging artists or releases that otherwise would receive no radio airplay anywhere else. Sure, the main action is to rise up onto XPN level playlists (FMQB action) because pretty much all of this isn't going to go any further than that. There's probably an intern at Clear Channel and Cumulus that's into the new 'Phoenix' record - score. Everyone is fighting for the largest scraps in the dominated corporate radio paradigm of programming.

al0137 said...

So, what about stations that still can actually program radio? I'd like to think that would be the stations that report to CMJ.

But what is the importance of an "add" when CMJ allows the title to be charted during the same week? How does 'Modern Vampires of The City' debut at #41 on Issue 1296 when said date of issue was 5/13/13 - which was it's actual ADD date? This sets up a whole system which is, at best, questionable to really what's being played and subsequently charted. It's a game to make sure that 'x-record' goes onto the chart, regardless of said title's true performance at any given reporting station.

Bringing up 'The Lumineers' record is an excellent example of how the format can 'break' an artist, sending them on their way to a wider audience. That record's true performance was its chart life, not position. However, the argument being made is that these stations/MD's should be leaders and not followers when making programming decisions. The issue with that is that in the ever-devolving shelf-life of any given title, it's practically zero-sum from the get-go: Top Add week one - Top #30 week two - go #1 in week 3 (or four). The stations are pushed to work most titles fast and furious because next week the priorities are going to be completely different. So these MD's keep getting pushed in a million different directions on titles, not given time to explore records and champion them, and then be able to share that record with their DJ's that actually create interest that will grow and then reported back. This kind of natural progression of an record doesn't exist in a four-week vacuum. So, 'The Lumineers' (obviously) is exactly how new artists are broken on the format in the real-world.

Take that metric and it can probably be easily said that Charles Bradley's 'Victim Of Love' LP is the most successful record to come out of college-radio in 2013 thusfar. That title still sits pretty high and it's still being charted because a good amount of stations actually like the record and still are discovering it. 'Victim Of Love' ceased to be pushed for chart impact some time ago. Same for 'Phosphorescent' and 'Thee Oh Sees' (a true surprise and well-deserved #1) as well. A shame, I'm sure those accounts are well-closed at this point (bragging rights do not pay the bills).

So, what does it look like from here till July? If you are not the lucky person(s) working 'The National', 'Vampire Weekend', or 'Daft Punk' record, then it's probably a no-go. Only spoilers to that party might be the 'QOTSA' or 'Boards of Canada' but you are still looking into the holiday weekend. 'She & Him' and 'Deerhunter' are fighting for #2 next week if they are lucky to chart higher for one week over 'The National'. But really, when attempting to figure out if 'Vampire Weekend' or 'The National' record is going to be #1 for 1298, you really have to ask yourself if it really matters?

Of course it's a quantity issue - but I'll leave that for another comment week when 'Random Access Memories' goes #1 and it's way more revealing who is sitting at the #5-#10 slots.

Douglas said...

Great comments!


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