Music Article

The Hot Singles Radio Never Played

EW's open letter to the radio industry -- We ask radio station bigwigs to pay attention to critical faves like The Walkmen and Rilo Kiley

Dear Radio Industry Bigwigs:

We like music. You like music. That's one thing we agree on.

We're not playing the blame game. After all, there was some excellent music on the radio in ' 04 — Green Day, U2, and anything with Kanye West on it. Much respect.

But here's the hammer: You're sleepin', dudes! There are a ton of great hit singles waiting to happen that never made headway on the radio.

During the past 12 months, we've been obsessing over a fistful of tracks that should have and — more important — could have been radio smashes. And we can prove it. Really.

Meet the Promosquad. Founded by music-industry vets Guy Zapoleon and Rick Bisceglia, Promosquad works as a predictive song-testing tool for record labels, and it's got a darn good track record, too —like a Magic 8 Ball, powered by statistics and data.

We sent Promosquad six songs we love by the Walkmen, Phoenix, the Faint, Rilo Kiley, Simple Kid, and Ambulance LTD. They're a mix of indie- and major-label tunes, all with great hooks, smart lyrics, and tasty production — hit material, baby!

Promosquad asked 1,000 of its online members (anyone can join at Promosquad.com) to listen to the songs at its site. The members rated each clip, and Promosquad then gave each song a corresponding score between 1 and 100. The higher the ranking, the more likely the track is to become a top 20 radio hit.

Here's what they discovered — drumroll, please! For an 18-24 audience, no song tested strongly enough to crack the top 20. But for an older audience (25-34), Phoenix's ''Everything Is Everything'' scored a 71.5 and the Walkmen's ''The Rat'' got a 75.1, which, in the words of Promosquad's Bob Smith, would make either of them ''a smash'' (a.k.a. a top 10 hit) in that demographic.

That means there are a whole lotta radio listeners out there who aren't being served. Not everyone who deals with monthly mortgage payments and carpooling duties wants to hear sleepy-time fave Norah Jones.

Instead, they're ready for snarling rock kiss-offs (the Walkmen), peppy French discopop (Phoenix), and all sorts of eclectic sounds that aren't being spun by the average Modern Rock corporate radio behemoth. Call it Adult Alternative. It's a real demographic and worth wooing.

To sum up: It's all about bringing a more diverse palette to the grayscale color of American radio. So how about it? Take a chance on something new. Okay, maybe we are playing the blame game. But ''The Rat'' is a really good song — a hit, even — and we're not the only people who think so.

BFF and KIT.

Your pal,

Originally posted Dec 20, 2004 Published in issue #798 Dec 24, 2004 Order article reprints
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