Wednesday, March 25, 2015


March is.... well to put it gently... difficult.  Spring breaks and SXSW really mess up the general flow of college radio. That should all come roaring back over the next several weeks as April generally is one of the craziest months.  Over the last few years weeks 13-17 have been some of the highest reported weeks at college radio that combined with the perception that college radio dies in the summer time means there are far more releases than perhaps any other time of the year.  So there should be more reporters, more big records and hopefully more chaos at the top of the charts.

This week Father John Misty held on to #1 rather easily.  There are a number of records though that still have a great chance at taking #1.  This weeks #1 most added Modest Mouse was once the king of college radio, I am not sure if they have the same clout as they once had but I am sure are a challenger for #1.  Dan Deacon stays at #1 in pretty much a 3 way tie with Jose Gonzalez and Purity Ring. All three of these are different indies so it makes it a lot of fun ( from the outside) to watch.  Of Montreal and San Cisco are up there as well but I don't see either being legit challengers for the top spot.

It will be curious to watch if there are any bands that get a SXSW bump. Were there an IT band this year, I am not so sure.  Wondering out loud here if concentrating on the top of the charts is enough or if there is interest for more of an overall rundown.  Something I always look at is how many former number ones are on the chart and what record has been on the chart the longest.

Currently there are Sleater-Kinney, Panda Bear, Tv on the Radio, Parquet Courts and Alvvays on the charts as former number ones and usually it will be one of those that have been on the charts the longest. But the current longest running charter right now is Alt-J with an impressive 32 weeks( at #122) , with .04% of the stations reporting the record. ( for comparison sake FJM has 67% of stations charting him)

Speaking of charting. A lot of you out there continue to ask how it all works. I got a tweet from a reader last week asking if CMJ had a KEY of sorts so he/she would have a better idea of how we got the charts we get like the one here on Billboard. . I had never really thought of it before and asked CMJ about it.  And the general thought was that the billboard charts take into account so many other factors, where as CMJ is focused on just what is reported to them in each stations top 30.  I do agree that there are major differences between the 2 magazines and that Billboard needs to have a large key like this where it is simply not needed for CMJ.  CMJ is on a smaller level than billboard as well and can be contacted easily ( just email ) and I am sure they will be more than happy to help you.

With all that said, I think it would be helpful for a lot of you that might not know how the charts are made, are new to college radio, are curious, to know how, in general they are made.  So hopefully this helps.

How the Charts are Made.  Version 1.

It is pretty straightforward actually. A station that reports to CMJ submits a weekly chart during the reporting time period of Friday Morning until charts close at Tuesday at 2pm EST.

First question you might have right off the bat is who can report to CMJ. It is pretty much open to any radio station, be it internet, carrier current, AM/ FM that pays the yearly subscription fee. When you are a member of CMJ you are given a weight/ ranking. Any station that wants to know their ranking I believe can email the above email and ask. These change from time to time based upon many different factors such as market size and wattage.

So every station reports a weekly top 30 to CMJ. Now one of the joys of college radio is that every station can have their own criteria as to what gets placed on this top 30. Some stations report exactly what is being placed, and end up with records that happen to be 2 years old on the charts. Some have cut offs and say a record can only have the potential of charting for 4-6 weeks for example. There is no real wrong way to do it, there are preferred ways to do it but not wrong.  

When a station reports this top 30 chart the data gets combined with all the other stations data but think of it as each slot on the chart having a points value. So the #1 record is worth X number of points if you are a large station and is worth Y if you are a small station. Each space on the chart has a value and in the end all the numbers are added up and the record with the most "points" is your #1 record.

Of course when I am looking at the charts come in I only know an approximate number as the algorithm they use is secret to them but we have a general idea based upon the rankings of each station and where our records are charting on that station. Typically when you have the most #1's at college radio and the most stations charting you will be the #1 record. It does not always work like that but those are our guides to getting to #1.

On a side note there are other places you can go for college radio charts. is one but they give you no information as to how many people reported or their methodology as well. also has a chart that is smaller on scale but also gives you spin counts.

I like to compare sometimes but for the most part I use the CMJ numbers and the spins from Spinitron when talking to clients.

I think that covers as much as I can reasonably tell you about charting, again I would direct any questions to CMJ and I am sure they can help with any more.

If you want to continue the conversation feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on twitter. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Hey there friends. This is one of those weird weeks where a lot of kids are on spring break, a lot of promoters are off to SXSW and its just a lot going on.

I am on the road right now as well but just wanted to write a small post this week letting you know some of the things I have been thinking about.  The weight of stations seems to have struck a nerve with some people and I would love to look more into that over the next few weeks. Like what makes a 1 a 1 or a 5 a 5.

As far as the charts go this week Twin Shadow took #1 most added. It is weird to me only because the record I saw mentioned the most out there was Tobias Jesso Jr. and that only came in at #10 most added.  It will be neat to look back in a few weeks and see what from this ADD class ends up charting higher. I might take Tobias Jesso Jr. over Twin Shadow, Wand or Swervedriver.  Hopefully I remember to look back.

Father John Misty took #1 again with Dan Deacon and Jose Gonzalez close behind and Purity Ring creeping on up.  Reminds me a lot of the last few weeks when Decemberists were trapped behind Sleater-Kinney. Dan Deacon looks trapped in a similar situation where Purity Ring is in the best position to make a jump over both Dan and Jose. I would have more faith in any of this if there were not a lot of spring breaks right now.

Who you guys got in the NCAA tournament?  I thought about doing a bracket for the top college only radio stations but there are always to many brackets this time of year so maybe later, if thats something that you think would be fun let me know.

Thank you for reading! Find me on Twitter. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


The last few weeks have been so exciting on and off the charts that I almost feel let down writing this.  If you missed it check out the special post from Hannah below discussing CMJ.

San Cisco took #1 most added in somewhat of a surprise over Will Butler. I saw one tweet asking "Who is San Cisco" so I guess that makes that even more impressive.

The charts were dominated by Father John Misty with Sleater-Kinney continuing to hold down #2.  Dan Deacon made the move we thought he would up to #3 and Purity Ring comes in at #8.  Of Montreal, last weeks #1 most added came in at #12.  Father John Misty looks like he will hold the spot as long as we saw Sleater-Kinney hold it before.   The thing that FJM has in his favor, more than Sleater-Kinney did is Spring break.  Spring break can reek havoc on the charts. It gets harder to get groups of stations on the same page. That coupled with SXSW next week makes any huge changes hard to gauge.

One thing that comes up a lot when talking about CMJ are the rankings.  I hear some stations think they don't matter at all because they are not a CORE station. I disagree with that but I see what they are saying. Do I treat a station ranked 4, 5 or 6 differently than a station ranked 1, 2, 3 ? Yes no doubt but not as much as you might think. The main difference for me is the amount of patience I have with the station. Being a higher rated station affords you that flexibility.  

Now I am not here to argue against the ranking system. I like it. I think some stations are worth more than other stations, as much as that will upset some of you.  However I do wish that there was an opportunity for stations to move their rankings more often.

For example what If a station ranked as a 3 had the opportunity, with improvements to move up to be a 4? I think you would see improvements galore with that 3 ranked station. Or to counter that if a station fails at being a 4 then they can get bumped down to a 3.   I think this would be a vastly improved system. I love the idea that stations that worked to improve themselves would be rewarded and those that did nothing would be punished.

I guess also within this discussion we could have the conversation about what makes a 1 a 1 and a 6 a 6? Maybe there should be a set number of each ranking so that 6 only means the top 4 stations in the country and the ranking of 5 means the next 15 stations. I think it would help stations if they knew what they were ranked and why they were ranked that way.

This of course is just a starting point but what do you guys think. Feel free to leave a comment or lets talk about it on Twitter. If you missed it we had a TON of great conversation on Twitter last week that prompted the below response.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 06, 2015

What is CMJ? An Uninvited Editorial That Dares to Finally Tackle This Annoying Question That Will Not Go Away.

(Yesterday on Twitter there was a quite lively discussion about the CMJ/Promoter/ Station relationship. Feel free to revisit It prompted this fantastic response) 

Thank you to Hannah Carlen Radio Director for Secretly Group   For the following. 

CMJ is not a scam.  

CMJ is not a vast conspiracy or even a minor one. It is not an exploitative instrument of payola.  It is, in short, the most efficient system in place to determine which student-run stations have what is known as “their shit together.”  It is an accountability tool that both drives and reflects a station’s organization level, which in turn drives and reflects how many people might be listening to that station. 

Because here’s the thing: there are more college stations out there than any of us — labels, promoters, artists — could possibly get music to.  My four year old database yields 650 stations.  My guess is the actual number is much closer to 1,000 or more. 

SO MANY of these stations are in disarray. Their libraries are long-since ransacked, and they have no reliability to whether/when/how much they even broadcast.  They have no one even opening the mail or the even their emails, and have no system for sharing new music. We cannot send music to stations like this.  The reasons are obvious and not worth explaining. Suffice to say: it is a total waste.

So we have to decide: Who gets music?  We can’t send music to 1,000 places and we certainly can’t talk to 1,000 people, so which 400 do we talk to?  We use our brains and CMJ to determine the answer. 

There are about 100 stations in CMJ’s general orbit that have proven they have a demonstrable legacy of real listenership, of ties with their community, of a commitment to making new music a part of their programming. They have a system for sharing it with their DJs, their listeners, or both. These stations will always get music from us, regardless of whether they report to CMJ.  They are the high water mark of this funny little ecosystem — we feed them music, they expose it to new ears.  They have listeners hungry for the most adventurous side of the airwaves, and we give them the music they need to feed those hungry listeners. It’s wonderful.  When it’s done well, it makes radio a joy. 

But what of the other 300? Who stays and who goes?  If there are 900 remaining stations and 600 of those are small, shoe-string stations with about the same social media presence, and with the energy to ask for music, how do you choose?  That’s where CMJ comes in. A station that reports to CMJ is sufficiently organized that it can add new music consistently, if not every week. CMJ reporters have enough shows to justify someone’s labor to make that music available.  They have enough going on that their student body or student government said “OK, here’s a few hundred dollars for a thing.”  They are ready to field some calls about what records are out for play, and how those records are doing. And sometimes they have enough money to come to the CMJ Music Marathon, where they meet other like-minded station staffers, and bring back more insights to run a better station.

THAT’S IT. IT’S REALLY THAT SIMPLE. THAT IS THE WHOLE STORY.  It’s not the CMJ subscription, it’s what a CMJ subscription signifies. Accountability matters, and CMJ provides it.  

It’s a tried-and-true, thoroughly tested methodology.  I’ve tested it myself.  For years, whenever I encountered a new station requesting music, I’d send the same reply: I can happily start digital service immediately, but in order to start hard-copy servicing I’d need to know more about the station, and I’d need them to start by being pro-active about providing feedback or a chart, regardless of whether it was submitted to CMJ.  Eventually, I said, servicing would kick in and we’d be on a regular cycle of records, calls and emails.  But with only a handful of exceptions over years and years, it never got that far.  I might get one reply, and maybe even one email after that. But inevitably the self-directed stations would fall back off the map in less than a month, so it’s a pretty good thing that I didn’t send them a dozen records in the mail. Again, there are exceptions, but here the exceptions prove the rule.  

Which is to say: Nobody’s claiming that CMJ is the best system because we have some biased interest in supporting CMJ.  It is actually the best system available. 

Can we go back to arguing about ADDs now? Or Digital?  Something fun, please. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Lots to get to today! I love when College radio is exciting.

We had another tight week on the charts with incumbent Sleater-Kinney looking for week #5 at #1.

Last week The Decemberists dominated the #1s but came up short when it came to the Core stations.

Father John Misty being the hot new record looked to have an easy path towards the top.

I really thought that The Decemberists would of been done a few weeks ago. But they kept on pushing. It looked like they were bridging the gap and making some real strides with CORE stations.

It was much like last week. Every time I checked the race between the 3 was incredibly tight. I thought early on that it would be either Sleater-Kinney or Decemberists and found myself pulling for the Decemberists as if it were a sport of some type.  In the end though Father John Misty is the new #1. It is hard to hold off a new record with momentum.  While the Decemberists had another great week of #1's and improved core, Father John Misty also had a great week with #1's and had slightly more Core under its belt.

That brings me to the rest of the top ten. I can't remember a top 10 this tight. Nothing seems be moving.  This week only 2 records in the top 10 changed and six of the records are six weeks or older.  I have been expecting some of the older records to start falling out but the newer records don't seem to have enough behind them. Is it that the older records are bigger names, or that the companies pushing them don't want to let go?

How long does Father John Misty hold the top now. Is Jose Gonzalez a contender? Last weeks #1 most added Dan Deacon could see itself in the FJM role and shoot past Jose for a clearer shot at #1.

This weeks most added race while not all that close did produce three 100 ADD records. The top add Purity Ring will likely shoot up into the top 10 next week. Will the other 2 Of Montreal and Matthew E. White join them? Are either of those top spot contenders?  I think our next best bet for #1 has to be  Dan Deacon followed closely by Purity Ring. We shall see though.

Over the next few weeks I would love to write more about changes we as a college radio community would like to see CMJ make. I have been at this for a while now and for the most part there have been very few changes recently.  There was once a CORE chart that gave us a look at what just the larger stations were playing. There was a spin count chart that helped to legitimize a lot of stations charts. There was a print magazine that had reviews, interviews and profiles.  These changes are neither wholly good or bad but they are up for discussion.  Lately though,  I find myself wishing CMJ would try some new things, and perhaps as a community we should let CMJ know what it is we need and might be missing.
Should we be asking for a CORE chart to return, should we look at which stations are CORE or not, should we be looking at some new chart that we haven’t even thought of yet (some new genre, or a specific chart just for non-CORE stations to see what’s bubbling under at the 100s of smaller stations out there)?  What would you change?

The question I wanted to pose this week involves what you can and cannot chart. Should there be a set of charting standards or should stations be able to chart whatever they want?  This question came up specifically a few weeks ago when a station pointed out to me that somehow Iggy and the Stooges and The Kinks both made it on the HIP HOP top 40 chart.
(You might remember back to early last year when Sharon Jones made it onto the Hip hop charts and that also had some people up in arms. )
But should these stations be able to chart those records? I have reached out to CMJ and they are aware of the station and I have reached out via twitter and email to the MD of the station to see what they have to say about it and will update if I hear back.

My stance is that yes there should be standards by witch stations have to adhere to. The specialty charts lose their credibility when records like The Kinks make it on the Hip Hop chart before artists that are trying to make a name for themselves at the genre. I would go way beyond that though. Not only would CMJ be vasty improved, in my opinion, if there were genre constraints but time constraints as well.  A station 3 weeks ago charted records that were over 10 years old on their CMJ chart.   I am sure there are arguments for allowing the station to do this.  I would LOVE to hear them.

Thank you for reading, let's continue the conversation on twitter! 


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