Didn't Add Kenny? ... WTF?
June 27, 2014
Once, during my cup of coffee in promotion, I and my fellow promo staffers were challenged - charged, actually - with clearing the entire Mediabase reporting panel for an impact week.
On a new artist.
With a debut single.
I meekly raised my hand, making the point that NO artist had EVER done that, even the biggest stars in the format and wondered, how that might be humanly possible with a brand new act?
Horribly bad idea and strategically ill-timed as it turned out, because apparently, the last thing we need to inject into the conversation with an emotionally charged, passionate and magical thinking VP/Promotion is a dash of reality or (gasp!) pragmatism. Apparently, instead of being the voice of reason, I was the crazy, mojo-deflating buzz-killer of the room; the hedonistic non-believer of all things possible, good and kind; hater of unicorns, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, reliable data notwithstanding.
If Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan or Lady Antebellum can't do it, probably nobody can, but that group of stars has flirted with near-perfection.
Kenny Chesney has done it twice now, with last Monday's (6/23) 111 adds on "American Kids," proof that, if there were any shred of doubt about radio's confidence level -- or hunger for his presence in general -- Monday's (6/23) station total silenced that notion in resounding fashion.
That's a big day and a definitive statement about Chesney's continued relevance in a time when the format's musical treadmill is moving so fast. Jump off the train and you're yesterday's news, an especially slippery slope for any artist with 10 years or more in the format. Um ... Not so much with Chesney.
Triple-digit adds any day is rare as we've seen and impressive in this case, since it's been a minute since we've heard a peep out of Kenny Chesney, musically speaking. Okay, more than a minute. His last single, "When I See This Bar," peaked in August and he took a breather from touring in 2014, leaving the stadium-sized shows to Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Zac Brown Band.
But he's gone past 100 before and very recently too, with "Pirate Flag," which pulled in 102 adds on February 4th, 2013. The record for most first-day adds? Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" which amassed 116 adds on August 20th, 2012.
The other 100-plus first-day add-getters are a small list of huge superstars. Luke Bryan racked up 112 on August 5th, 2013 with "That's My Kind Of Night." Tay-Tay makes the list twice, grabbing 106 slots on August 9th, 2010 for "Mine" and Lady Antebellum's "Downtown" garnered 104 on January 28th, 2013.
I think Chesney's brief timeout worked in his favor, creating anticipation, curiosity and excitement about what was coming. And based on my ear - and more importantly - feedback from programmers, he knocked his return out of the yard with "American Kids."
I'm pretty sure If I were still in radio, I'd have been one of the 111, playing the song early and often. I know Clear Channel did an Artist Integration program on this and Cumulus was also on board quickly, which fueled the song's #31 debut, but this guy is still a superstar and it's fundamentally sound to simply play it immediately, in a rotation where people can hear it and tell you if it's a hit or not.
In fact, one PD I spoke to this week told me he'd likely be adding "American Kids" directly to power.
So I often wonder: WTF?
What were the other, 31 people thinking by NOT adding this right away?
Much like the day during my promo career, when I raised my hand, I did the same with radio this week, asking how come Kenny Chesney had to wait?
I promised anonymity, because I would never, ever call out a PD or MD by name on something like this and the truth is, every PD knows his station, market and audience better than any of us, so I therefore automatically respect their music decisions - even if I disagree with them.
In most cases, there was no issue with the song, but the station's current list had no room to breathe, as one PD told me: "No room for an add. That simple. Great song and great RADIO song! We are hand-logging it this week; just didn't know if we'd hit the seven spins needed to call it an add, so we really aren't 'waiting,' just a matter of math and mechanics."
Or this: "Basically it's tight right now. The song is pretty good, I just didn't think I needed it 'now' but I will be joining the party soon."
Said another: "I don't think Kenny's time off will have any negative impact whatsoever on his fan base. He will still fill arenas when he resumes touring, and in my opinion he's still one of our 'A-list' superstars. I think 'American Kids' is a catchy bit of summertime fun, but we'll have to see how it tests down the road. It may turn out to be more of a novelty song."
But there were some doubters: "We were just full. I didn't feel I could knock out another song, push it backwards and make it take a hit, so we could add a Kenny song that may take a few weeks to become familiar. As much as I'd like to be one of the 111 stations on it first, I didn't think it would hurt us to wait for now. As for the song, I know we've gone far off of Country but this one is too far."
Then there was the beyond doubt category: "I don't think it's a hit. I don't think it will ever test.
Right now, the last three or four #1 songs never tested and are no longer on the air and I'm not in any hurry to put a song on the air that has no chance in Hell of testing. I was expecting something better and different."
All of THAT said, our mystery PD finished with, "But we will play it soon, I'm sure of it."
So there is that.
I guess you can hate unicorns and still be pragmatic.