July 22, 2014

Clear Channel’s ‘On the Verge’ Program Made Iggy Azalea a Star

Iggy Azalea and T.I. at BET Awards
Black Artists for the most part are not On the Verge 

Iggy Azalea’s Fancy was one of the songs targeted for Clear Channel Radio’s “On the Verge” program, according to an article in The Washington Post. Once a song is chosen, it is required that each of Clear Channel’s 840 stations play the song at least 150 times. (We are sure that means if the song fits a particular format. That was not mentioned in The Post.) 

In the article, Tom Poleman, Clear Channel Radio’s president for national programming platforms explains how the program works. 

He says, “Everyone wants to lobby for it, but it’s purely [decided by] programmers. There’s no strategic formula for choosing the artist...

The “On the Verge” program has had a major influence on the chosen artists' careers. Some of the unsigned artists were able to secure a record deal; while others had songs that lingered at the bottom of the charts, shoot up to the Top 10. To choose the artists, brand managers at Clear Channel selected songs from different genres and had program directors vote on which songs they believed their listeners will respond positively to.

African American radio listeners have been taken aback with the success of Iggy Azalea and what appears to be the whitewash of Black music. Iggy has little support from the hip-hop community or from black people not invested in her brand. However she is generally thought of as the number one female rapper today having become the only artist since The Beatles in 1964 to have their first two singles occupy the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Nicki Minaj has yet to claim the No. 1 spot. These results have not only been puzzling to listeners but the rappers and artists who push and grind to get their music played on hip hop and rhythmic Top 40 radio. Minaj even supported their angst with her comments at the 2014 BET Awards.

What's clear here is that Clear Channel managers (pun intended) are looking for the artists that will generate the most buzz and connect listeners to the Clear Channel and iHeart Radio brand. They are looking to appeal to the "Selfie" Post-Millennial Generation. So the question remains: Have Hip Hop and Urban Music performers that generally look like the community from which they come from taken a back seat to the perceived more marketable artists? (Yes.)

Read Also: Why Iggy Azalea’s music is so popular and problematic

The 'On the Verge' roster has included R&B singer Jhené Aiko; British quartet Rixton; country singer/songwriter Sam Hunt; rock group Bleachers, The British pop singer Katy Tiz, country crooner Craig Campbell.  The roster also includes Aloe Blacc, the only Black artist on the list, who in many programmers opinions doesn't fit any urban or urban contemporary format. Here are the list of Clear Channels' On the Verge artists. A list that foremost has a mainstream appeal. In terms of imaging and marketing, the lists sends a very powerful message. Positive for some, but not positive for many.

From the Washington Post Style Blog
Clear Channel’s ‘On the Verge’ program helped make Iggy Azalea a star. Here’s how it works.
It’s harder than ever these days for a new singer to break into the music industry. But things just got a little easier for a lucky few: Those who land a coveted spot in the iHeartRadio “On the Verge” program run by Clear Channel, which has the largest reach of any radio outlet in the country.

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 label when 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.

Those were the types of scenarios execs hoped for when the “On the Verge” project was created this year, explained Tom Poleman, Clear Channel Radio’s president for national programming platforms. Though Clear Channel had spearheaded new-artist initiatives in the past, the company was brainstorming dynamic ways to break new singers — particularly by taking advantage of its multi-platform structure, which include the radio stations combined with the company’s popular iHeartRadio streaming Internet radio service and app.

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