It seems that I wasn't alone, as Country Aircheck's RJ Curtis turned to Clear Channel SVP/Programming Clay Hunnicutt to ask what was behind the company's unprecedented heavy first days' airplay of “Feel Like A Rock Star” and what CC received in exchange for what sounded like another "Artist Integration Project".
It looks like I was wrong.
Hunnicutt called it "more of a world premiere event with elements of artist integration. One of the key components of an AIP is utilizing unsold commercial inventory to build the brand of an artist. The plan for Chesney/McGraw, anchored around 28 straight hourly airings of the song didn’t include commercial inventory. That contrasts with the AIP run for Madonna earlier this year. With her, we had billboards in the markets, promoting and counting down to the world premiere of her video.”
Hunnicutt says he was not involved in that promotion. “It’s more than just saying the album is on sale now; it’s about telling the bigger story of the project and the artist. We all have an interest in creating hit songs and more core artists. It helps everybody: listeners, radio, labels, publishers, artists and touring. It was one of those times where everybody was excited about it, and that’s when things can really take off. The song wasn’t exclusive to us; everybody had it at the same time. We didn’t beat anybody to the proverbial punch and we were clear about that, but it goes back to whoever has the best idea wins. We sprung into action after that.”
What benefits does Clear Channel reap after utilizing its airwaves and other platforms to further an artist’s career?
Hunnicutt told Curtis on Monday: “I’ll sum it up in a simple way. A better listening experience for our listeners on the air and creating a moment. There are never any conditions on these, no quid pro quo. This is who we should be – contributing to a greater good when we have the opportunity to do it. We all benefit when there’s more music that is known, familiar and helping to support Tim- and Kenny-level acts.”
I think I'll wait until Clear Channel announces the artist lineup later this year for "I Heart Radio Festival" this year before fully admitting my skepticism was completely unfounded. Meanwhile, if you compete with a Clear Channel station and feel like you "own" reporting status and thus access to big artists exclusively in your market, it's time to step up your game in the same way too, and that is a good thing for all of us.
As long as Clear Channel and Cumulus don't abuse the power given by their footprint in the format at the expense of the rest of country radio, several thousand individual comparatively mom- and pop-owned stations which don't have the power to act together to monopolize promotional airplay in the same way as the Goliaths potentially can.
Let's all watch their actions extra carefully in the coming year.
With unequalled size must come unprecedented additional responsibility.