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Climbing the Charts

Book Description

Despite the growth of digital media, traditional FM radio airplay still remains the essential way for musicians to achieve commercial success. Climbing the Charts examines how songs rise, or fail to rise, up the radio airplay charts. Looking at the relationships between record labels, tastemakers, and the public, Gabriel Rossman develops a clear picture of the roles of key players and the gatekeeping mechanisms in the commercial music industry. Along the way, he explores its massive inequalities, debunks many popular misconceptions about radio stations' abilities to dictate hits, and shows how a song diffuses throughout the nation to become a massive success.

Contrary to the common belief that Clear Channel sees every sparrow that falls, Rossman demonstrates that corporate radio chains neither micromanage the routine decision of when to start playing a new single nor make top-down decisions to blacklist such politically inconvenient artists as the Dixie Chicks. Neither do stations imitate either ordinary peers or the so-called kingmaker radio stations who are wrongly believed to be able to make or break a single. Instead, Rossman shows that hits spread rapidly across radio because they clearly conform to an identifiable style or genre. Radio stations respond to these songs, and major labels put their money behind them through extensive marketing and promotion efforts, including the illegal yet time-honored practice of payoffs known within the industry as payola.

Climbing the Charts provides a fresh take on the music industry and a model for understanding the diffusion of innovation.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Contents
  5. List of Figures
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. 1. Introduction
    1. 1.1 The Diffusion of Innovation
    2. 1.2 The Production of Culture
    3. 1.3 Organization of the Book
  8. 2. How Songs Spread
    1. 2.1 Record Release Dates
    2. 2.2 Corporate Radio
  9. 3. Buying your way onto the Chart
    1. 3.1 A History of Payola Scandals
      1. 3.1.1 The 1950s Scandal and the Rise of Rock and Roll
      2. 3.1.2 The 1973 Drugola Scandal
      3. 3.1.3 The Gambino Family and “The Network” in the 1980s
      4. 3.1.4 Corporate Radio, Professionalized Payola, and the 2005 Spitzer Investigation
    2. 3.2 Suppressing Payola
      1. 3.2.1 The Robust Logic of Payola
  10. 4. Can Radio Stations Break Singles?
    1. 4.1 The Role of “Opinion Leaders” in Diffusion
    2. 4.2 The Distribution of Connection in Radio
    3. 4.3 Diffusion of Pop Songs and Radio Stations
    4. 4.4 The Role of Influentials for Endogenous Diffusion
  11. 5. The Dixie Chicks Radio Boycott
    1. 5.1 Corporate Censorship
    2. 5.2 Social Movements
    3. 5.3 Genre
  12. 6. But which Chart do you Climb?
    1. 6.1 Trends in the Differentiation of Radio Formats
    2. 6.2 Classification and Art
    3. 6.3 Crossover
    4. 6.4 New Genres and Formats
      1. 6.4.1 Reggaetón Comes to the Mainland
      2. 6.4.2 The Development of the “Hurban” Format as an Artistic and Market Niche
  13. 7. The Future of the Chart
    1. 7.1 General Lessons of the Book for Diffusion of Innovations
      1. 7.1.1 Particular Lessons for Diffusion in Pop Music Radio
    2. 7.2 Centralization and Distribution of Decision-making
    3. 7.3 The Struggle to Control Publicity
    4. 7.4 Structures of Salient Information
    5. 7.5 Genre
    6. 7.6 The Emerging Structure of Popular Culture Industries in the Twenty-first Century
  14. Appendix A. Datasets
  15. Appendix B. Robustness to Assumptions about Volume of Airplay Constituting an “Add”
  16. Notes
  17. Bibliography
  18. Index