Latin Music Week

Michael Jackson Returns To Radio

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In this handout photo provided by AEG/Concerts West Michael Jackson and choreographer/director Kenny Ortega rehearse for the 'This Is It' tour on May 6, 2009 in Burbank, California.

Just as radio stations flooded their airwaves with Michael Jackson's music following his death June 25, signals across multiple formats are wasting no time playing his newly-released track, "This Is It."

Made available to radio as of midnight yesterday (Oct. 12), the song has received 900 plays on 402 stations, reaching an audience of 10.4 million, as of 11 a.m. ET today, according to Nielsen BDS.

In its first day of airplay, the song ranked as the 35th-most played current title on all stations monitored for the Billboard Hot 100. It placed at No. 15 out-of-the-box at R&B radio. The track has received almost two-thirds of its spins in morning drive (6-10 a.m.), radio's most heavily-listened-to daypart.

A spokesman for Epic Records says the song will not be released as a digital single. Instead, fans seeking to purchase the song will have to wait until Oct. 27, when Jackson's like-titled newest hits compilation is released. Since the release of "This Is It," details have emerged that the song was co-written by Paul Anka in 1983 and first recorded by Sa-Fire in 1991.

Response among radio programmers to the song has been almost universally positive.

"There's definitely a curiosity factor and a lasting emotional connection to Michael," says Brian Thomas, program director of CBS oldies WCBS-FM and adult contemporary WWFS (Fresh 102.7)/New York, both of which played the ballad yesterday.

"People want to like the record, and listener response has been favorable."

Mike Mullaney, assistant program director/music director at CBS adult top 40 WBMX (Mix 104.1)/Boston, says the song warranted immediate airplay on the station, though he cautions against its long-term appeal.

"This song is an event, no question. It's right in line with his adult contemporary hits of the '90s, with a nice melody. Everyone is going to want to hear it at least once.

"While it's nice, it's a dated sound, and not likely to excite the 12- to 24-year-old top 40 crowd that generally passes judgment as to whether a song is a 'real' hit.

"We'll ultimately look to our audience as to whether they want new Michael Jackson music, or just that great catalog of hits."

"This Is It" has received 40% of its plays at R&B radio, with top 40, adult contemporary and even rock stations sampling the song.

Kevin Gardner, program director of Cox adult R&B WCFB (Star 94)/Orlando, says the station is giving listeners the chance to win tickets to a screening of "This Is It" on the film's opening day.

"We know people miss Jackson and love his music. This song will do well on both mainstream R&B/hip-hop and adult R&B radio.

"Long live the King of Pop."