This last Tuesday, I was able to sit in on KROQ’s (LA’s leading alternative rock station) new music meeting. Once a week, Kevin Weatherly (Program Director), Miles Anzaldo (Music Director), and the team at KROQ gather with select members of the music industry (and the occasional lucky listener like me) to listen to 25 – 30 tracks that are in consideration to be put into rotation on the station.
Joining this week’s meeting was Amy Madrigali from The Troubadour (my favorite LA venue), Kevin Wolff from Deckstar (manager of The Interrupters, Rancid and Blink 182), and a rep from Red Music (lovelytheband, The Wrecks). Sandwiches, chips and drinks were served, and just after 1:00pm, the first track was played (Meg Myer‘s “Numb”). While a Spotify playlist (embedded below) is provided for people to follow along with what we’re listening to, those in attendance are sometimes granted the chance to hear a surprise, unreleased song or two. For us, it was the latest single from Death Cab For Cutie, “Gold Rush”, which was officially released later that night, and a new single from Sublime w/Rome, which is still weeks away from impact.
After listening to a block of songs, we would take a short break to share thoughts about what we liked (and sometimes what we didn’t). We would keep track of what we listened to on a checklist, writing down the band, song and rating 1 (worst) to 5 (love it). Aside from a couple 2’s, most of the songs landed between 3 and 4 with me, with two 4.5s and two 5s (I won’t bore you all with my individual thoughts on each band).
The most fascinating parts of the meeting were hearing from some of the attendees like Red Music and Kevin Wolff, discussing the plans and push for their artists who were on the list. Music is both an art and a business, and learning about the labels’ and managers’ promotion strategies was an interesting behind-the-curtain look on how artists are developed from unknowns to global phenomenons.
When I saw Lord Huron‘s “The Nigh We Met” on the playlist, an older song that has been given continued life through TV syncs, I was ready to ask why they were considering a song 3 years old when there was plenty of great material from the band’s latest album to choose from. But, thankfully the question was broached naturally by others in the room, which led to an interesting discussion on inserting older songs, not previously on KROQ, into (or back into) regular rotation when those songs are having “a moment”.
When we had finished the list, we were asked to tally our top five songs. My first four were easy: 1) Death Cab For Cutie – Gold Rush, 2) The Interrupters – She’s Kerosene, 3) Gorillaz – Humilty, 4) Interpol – The Rover. Picking number five was hard; I love the new Panic! at the Disco single “High Hopes”, but there were also smaller bands I thought were KROQ appropriate who deserved a shot in the spotlight (Just Loud). I eventually went with The Knocks new single (feat. Foster the People), “Ride or Die”. It just felt like a solid summer song.
Everyone’s selections were collected, and then we all went around the room to read off our top five, with any reasoning we wanted to include. Kevin Weatherly tallied the responses, and it looked like a tight race. Death Cab for Cutie, The Interrupters, The Smashing Pumpkins and Gorillaz all received multiple votes, but normally only one new song would get added- max three songs.
We went for the max today. After more discussions, Death Cab, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Interrupters were all put into rotation (hopefully next time Gorillaz!). Kevin proceeded to call the reps for DCFC and SP to give them the good news, and received great reactions from them. We were the first official add for DCFC’s new single. The best though was for The Interrupters – as Kevin Wolff was already with us, Kevin Weatherly first attempted to call label head Brett Gurewitz (also of Bad Religion fame), but unfortunately he did not pick up. So, they called the band directly – specifically Kevin Bivona. The three Kevins spoke, and when Bivona heard the good news, an excited squeal could be heard in the background. Bivona made sure to acknowledge that it was not him, but lead singer Aimee Interrupter. The group was overjoyed and grateful to hear the news. I’m planning on seeing them play a free show at Amoeba Music on June 27th, but am thinking I’ll have to get there much earlier than planned if their popularity keeps growing like it should.
As the meeting wrapped up, I stayed around a bit longer to chat with Kevin Weatherly and Miles, who were both completely open to answering questions and couldn’t have been friendlier. They told me a bit more about how they choose what makes it onto the Kevin’s Considerations playlist, and how they decide which songs stay on the general playlist overtime and continue to get heavy play.
Overall, it was a great and enlightening experience for a radio nerd like me, and one I hope to repeat in the future. Interested in going to one? Tweet at KROQ during their new music meetings and tell them why you should!