So you’re in your car listening to your favourite station and a cut you’ve never heard before comes on.
You’re not sure how you feel about it at first, but throughout your journey the same cut comes on over and over and over again.
Before you know it you’re singing along to lyrics with the wind in your hair and its infectious melody seared in your brain.
A familiar scene? It is? Ok, now take that scene and multiply by say…a million. A million people listening to the same cut on a few hundred stations over and over and over again.
The end result? A smash hit single and a barrage of accolades thrown at the artist behind it.
“I had no idea it’d do so well!”
Unfortunately, said accolades soon lose their sheen when the truth behind the song’s success emerges.
Why Iggy Azalea‘s ‘Fancy’ has now been placed under scrutiny?
Find out below…
In an article named “Clear Channel’s ‘On the Verge’ program helped make Iggy Azalea a star”, ‘The Washington Post‘s Emily Yahr explains:
While companies frequently invent ways to spotlight rising stars (MTV resurrected “Total Request Live” just to plug Ariana Grande’s new album), Clear Channel has made a particularly striking move, taking advantage of its massive audience to promote new singers. When an artist’s song is named “On the Verge,” all of the company’s radio stations are required to play that song at least 150 times.
Given Clear Channel’s huge listener base — 840 stations, about 245 million listeners per month — it becomes increasingly likely that the song will catch on, particularly with those repeated plays. That type of success can have a huge impact on an artist’s career, not to mention the music charts.
Just look at Katy Tiz. The British pop singer wasn’t even signed to a labelwhen she was named an “On the Verge” artist in April. Then her new song “The Big Bang” soared on to the Mainstream Top 40; she soon landed a deal with Atlantic Records. Back in February, country crooner Craig Campbell’s single “Keep Them Kisses Comin’” was about to fall off the charts. A couple weeks on “On the Verge,” and it shot upwards, eventually cracking the Top 10.
It all starts with the brand managers at the top of the Clear Channel chain, who listen to hundreds of songs and filter them down to about five or six favorites from various formats (top 40, urban, country, adult contemporary, etc.) and send those selections to program directors across the country.
After a winner is named, stations are committed to playing the song at least 150 times. Poleman says that’s approximately the number of plays it takes for a wide enough swath of listeners to form an opinion about a particular tune. Each artist generally gets about six weeks in the spot, which gives the station enough time to rack up the required amount of spins. Before it’s played, the song is usually introduced as an “On the Verge” artist with a quick clip of the singer telling the story behind the single.
Of course, stations can go over 150 spins — and if the song becomes a hit, they certainly do. (Iggy Azalea’s inescapable “Fancy” was once “On the Verge”– and now, can you turn on the radio without hearing it?)
Okay, so are Clear Channel staffers inundated with label executives and publicists clamoring for their artists to win the spot? Maybe, but that ultimately doesn’t matter. “Everyone wants to lobby for it, but it’s purely [decided by] programmers,” Poleman said. There’s no strategic formula for choosing the artist — there doesn’t have to be a specific number of men and women or a balanced amount between any particular label. It’s all about the quality of the music, he said.
That sounds ideal in theory, but the whole premise has still raised some eyebrows, particularly as new songs get very high placement on the charts, thanks almost exclusively to “On the Verge.” Other radio executives say “On the Verge” is very unusual — while there are various programs to promote new artists, Clear Channel stands out as a company that’s powerful enough to give a song an unprecedented amount of success very early on.
In response to the article above, some Twitter users shared: