"Home" wasn't originally where rock radio PDs' hearts were. Phillip Phillips takes his introductory single "Home" to No. 1 on Billboard's Nielsen BDS-based Triple A chart this week, but the road to the top contained potential potholes in the form of programmer bias against Fox's "American Idol," known best for discovering pop stars.
When triple A prides itself on championing artists before they break into the mainstream, as evidenced by its track record with such acts as Adele and Mumford & Sons, how can it maintain rock cred by spinning a track by a singer that millions of people have seen and heard weekly; one introduced, no less, by the practical spokesman for pop culture, Ryan Seacrest?
"Oh, I was totally nervous about adding Phillip Phillips," KGSR Austin assistant PD/music director/midday talent Kristen Kurtis admits. "I was worried about the stigma that comes with 'American Idol.' After we got requests, we decided to add ["Home"] -- but instructed our jocks to not mention 'Idol.'
"To my surprise, we haven't received one negative message," Kurtis continues. "A woman even called me to say that she was grateful to hear it on KGSR because it fits so well with our sound."
WTTS Indianapolis PD Brad Holtz echoes that the folk-leaning sound of "Home" outweighs any trepidation about the station losing its identity as a tastemaker. "Similar to hits by the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons, this song has the sonic elements that are working right now, so it's a natural fit for us," he says.
Following Phillips' "Idol" coronation in May, "Home" received another boost from TV, but not one that carried the possible rock taboo of a reality show: The song accompanied NBC's coverage of the U.S. women's gymnastics team at the Summer Olympics in August. As the squad won multiple gold medals, drawing national admiration, Phillips kept winning over PDs. "The world became immediately familiar with 'Home,'" KTCZ Minneapolis PD Lauren MacLeash says of the synch. "Playing it became a no-brainer."
Following its Olympics usage, "Home" blasted 47-1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart with a 472% increase to 228,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. To date, it's sold 2.3 million. Based on the song's steady rise (it also bullets at No. 2 on Adult Top 40), Interscope triple A promotion and marketing director James Evans is optimistic about Phillips' debut album, The World From the Side of the Moon (Nov. 19).
"While there was edginess from some triple A PDs, ultimately the audience either didn't know or seem to care," he says. "They just loved the song. I think that when programmers hear the album and see him play they'll feel even more aligned with him as an artist than they already do."••••