July 21, 2006

American radio hangs up on Madonna

By Michael Paoletta

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Madonna is in the midst of a
sold-out North American trek that may end up being the
top-grossing tour ever by a female artist. But this on-the-road
success is not carrying over to American radio, which largely
snubbed the first three singles from her latest album.

"Hung Up" got middling airplay on mainstream top 40
outlets, "Sorry" was barely played, and "Get Together" has been
all but ignored by pop stations. (Her album, "Confessions on a
Dance Floor," has sold a healthy 1.5 million copies, according
to Nielsen SoundScan.)

Naturally, the disconnect has left executives at her Warner
Bros. label -- and more than a few fans -- wondering, what

More than 3,300 fans have signed an appeal at
http://www.petitiononline.com. The "End the Madonna on U.S.
Radio Boycott" petition is addressed to Clear Channel
Communications CEO Mark P. Mays.

Message boards at Entertainment Weekly and VH1, among
others, are rife with everything from support for Madonna to
conspiracy theories about why she can't crack the radio dial.

Warner Bros. was aware that the songs on "Confessions"
could present challenges at mainstream top 40 radio,
acknowledges Tom Biery, the label's senior VP of promotions.
"Top 40 radio is so hip-hop-driven," he says. "We were coming
in with a global pop star who made a dance record."

Guy Zapoleon, president of radio consulting firm Zapoleon
Media Strategies, calls it an "interesting dilemma for the
woman who certainly held the 'Queen of Pop' title for almost 15
years." Madonna's ability to redefine herself is
well-documented, and Zapoleon says that this has helped her
keep a "leading edge" to the new group of pop music fans that
comes along every three to five years.

But this time, Madonna may have turned left while the pop
climate was turning right. Other pop chameleons such as Nelly
Furtado and Mariah Carey reinvented themselves with recent
rhythmic/hip-hop-leaning singles. Madonna opted instead to
return to her dance-pop roots.

According to Dom Theodore, regional VP of programming for
Clear Channel and program director of top 40 WKQI Detroit,
today's programmers consider each Madonna song on a
case-by-case basis to determine if it fits mainstream top 40,
adult top 40 or both. Or neither.

For Theodore, the sound of "Confessions on a Dance Floor"
skews more retro-adult top 40 than mainstream top 40, while
recent club tracks like Rihanna's "SOS" have "more hip-hop
credibility." The Rihanna jam may reference an early-'80s dance
hit (Soft Cell's "Tainted Love") but Theodore believes it does
not have the same "retro '70s feel" as the Madonna tracks.

Madonna has had no such problems internationally. Since its
release last November, "Confessions on a Dance Floor" has
topped the charts in 29 countries and sold more than 8 million
copies worldwide, according to Warner Bros.

George Ergatoudis, head of music at BBC Radio 1 in the
United Kingdom, says that while U.S. mainstream top 40 radio
may be driven by urban, rock and straight-ahead pop, dance
records -- house music, in particular -- are very much part of
the top 40 radio culture in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Except for dance radio outlets like KNGY San Francisco,
KNRJ Phoenix and KNHC Seattle, Madonna is missing from the
terrestrial radio landscape in the United States.

As Warner Bros. gears up for the release of the album's
fourth single, "Jump," Biery remains optimistic, especially
since the song was heard in TV and radio spots for the hit film
"The Devil Wears Prada."