Are college airwaves for sale?
Music rep tries to manipulate charts
By Dale Wyatt
For years, individuals who have refused to buy into mainstream music have turned to campus radio as an escape. In contrast to this spirit, a representative for the American division of Universal Records recently attempted to threaten that "escape" by offering favours for airplay.
Every week, Western's own CHRW 94.7 FM, along with hundreds of other campus radio stations in North America, submit their weekly charts, ranking the most played albums for that week. The charts are then collected and compiled by CMJ (College Media Journal), which then releases a chart which acts as a tally of all the other charts.
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, Justin Stewart, United States college representative for Universal Records, sent out the following e-mail to 29 different campus stations, including Western's CHRW (the e-mail is reprinted in its original form):
MDs [Music Directors] and PDs [Program Directors]
This is it... this is the hour...For you that have not submitted your charts yet...This is the week that Joseph Arthur's Redepmtoin Son will go #1 at CMJ Top 200, and we need your last minute help. As a personal favor to me, and I will get you anything you want in return. If you could chart that album in your top 30, or top 10, or even #1.I promise that I will get you what I can to compinsate. Thank you for the support of this album and this great artist.
Joseph Arthur's album, which appeared at number two in the charts the week before Stewart's e-mail, found itself in the number 1 spot on the CMJ chart at the end of that particular week two of the 29 stations who received the e-mail charted it.
CHRW station manager Mario Circelli, said he was not very surprised to receive an e-mail of such a nature. "At first, I thought it was a joke. It was filled with so many grammatical errors," Circelli said.
"We never see anything like this from the Canadian reps, but I know in the States it is not unheard of," he added.
In a written apology to CHRW's music director Andreas Gripp, Stewart defended his actions: "I never intended to have any implications of payola to any of my stations, nor have I ever... and I would never offer money or services to enhance chart position of a record. I know the way I worded things was questionable, but I am just a college rep that all I can offer to such stations anyways is an occasional giveaway CD... concert tickets or an interview for the station. That is all in the good faith of promotion in dealing with radio stations..."
Alternative media specialist for EMI Music David Worthington said he understands the importance of campus radio promotion for major labels. "We take aggressive measures to get our music into the hands of campus radio programmers because you have to. [It is difficult to get] your music into a campus radio environment," he said.
Worthington, who has seen the e-mail in question, says he realizes one cannot try to buy promotion from campus radio stations for major label artists. "There is no point in trying to buy campus radio. The moment you do, they will turn on you.
"The biggest difference between mainstream and campus radio is that campus radio is comprised of unpaid kids who play music because they love to," he added.
Despite numerous attempts by The Gazette, Stewart could not be reached for comment.
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