As Billboard.biz previously reported, following the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Friday (Dec. 14), Ke$ha's "Die Young" has dropped in radio airplay.
A look at the last two days of airplay, monitored by Nielsen BDS, however, shows that decline to be steadying a bit.
Adult top 40 station WDAQ Danbury, Conn., located about 10 miles from Newtown, stopped playing the track after Friday's tragedy, with the station's program director, Rich Minor, telling Billboard (Dec. 18), "We've been playing it before Friday but not since and I think we're now done with it. Even though it's a fun pop/dance record about seizing the moment, all people are going to hear right now [are] those two words in the title."
Airplay for the song in the Northeast was noticeably lower after Friday, although not all stations in the region have dropped the song permanently. "We backed off 'Die Young' initially [but it's] back in regular rotation," Mainstream Top 40 panelist WODS Boston PD Dan Mason told Billboard (Dec. 18). "So far, no negative calls or texts from listeners about it."
"Out of respect to the victims, and to be sensitive to parents in our listening audience, we did pull ['Young'] temporarily from rotation. It will return [Dec. 19]," adult top 40 WSJO Atlantic City, N.J., assistant PD/music director Heather DeLuca echoed (Dec. 18).
Ke$ha tweeted yesterday that she didn't want to sing those lyrics but had been "forced" to, although she later deleted that tweet and expressed sorrow over the timing of "Young." "I'm so so so sorry for anyone who has been effected by this tragedy.and I understand why my song is now inappropriate. words cannot express," she Tweeted on Tuesday (Dec. 18).
A look at airplay for "Young" on Monday and Tuesday (Dec. 17 and 18) shows that it's actually trending back up nationally since the weekend. According to BDS, on the more than 1,200 stations monitored for the Billboard Hot 100, the song logged approximately 2,300 plays each day. That's up slightly from about 2,100 spins each on Dec. 15 and 16.
Notably, "Young" did begin to decline sharply from Dec. 13 through Dec. 15, which sandwiched the Dec. 14 tragedy. Over those three days, plays for the song fell from 3,000 to 2,700 to 2,100. Until then, the song was peaking at around 3,000 all-format plays per day. Its decline appears to have hastened due to programmer concerns about potential insensitivity but it's important to note that the downturn is also part of the song's natural chart arc. Additionally, RCA Records had already announced the release of the song's follow-up single, "C'mon," which is receiving airplay on more than 50 pop stations early into its radio promotion.
On the Hot 100 Airplay chart this week, "Young" dips 3-5, down 19% from last week's sum of 120 million to 97 million audience impressions. The fall marks the greatest plummet in airplay among titles in the chart's top five since Mariah Carey's "Don't Forget About Us" fell to No. 5 after spending five weeks at No. 1 (descending from 128 million to 105 million) the week of Feb. 4, 2006.
Going forward, "Young" is likely to continue decreasing in airplay, again through a combination of extra lyrical analysis from PDs and the typical decline of a former No. 1 pop radio hit.
Stations, especially those serving communities in Connecticut, meanwhile, continue to respond to the needs of listeners following the events of last week. Adult contemporary WRCH Hartford, Conn., PD Allan Camp says that the station has since made several changes in its programming. "Initially, we simulcasted our all-news AM sister station, WTIC. Once we returned to playing music, we adjusted our current all-Christmas playlist away from novelty cuts and added more comforting songs into power rotation."
"Psychologist Dr. Elaine Ducharme spent Monday morning with us and we put her breaks up in podcast form online, along with additional links to helpful resources," Camp says. "We're also posting videos of artists who've written songs in honor of the victims."
Camp feels that the role of radio is always to be about more than just the music, even more so during trying times. "It's a tender time and we continue to try and be there for listeners who need the escape from the news cycle, while remaining respectful and caring to the people of Newtown and the state.
"It's a big difference when something like this happens in your neighborhood. We are treading carefully."
Keith Dakin, operations manager of adult top 40 WEZN and rock WPLR and WFOX in Bridgeport, Conn., likewise says that recent days have been difficult. "It's been a very challenging time, that's for sure. Newtown is only about 20 minutes away, clearly in our listening area."
"On Friday morning, when we got the news, our general manager, Kristin Okesson, and I decided to flip the station to all-talk from about 11:30 a.m. to 10 at night," Dakin says. "Our morning show came back to the station and did six hours live simply with news, information and calls. We did the same thing on WPLR and WFOX."
Dakin says that by Friday night, WEZN returned to playing music, but with changes. "We tried to take out anything that was too 'up' or just felt wrong. We produced special promos and sweepers that ran all weekend. We also ran news at the top and bottom of each hour.
"By Monday, we were back to regular format but we dropped songs that felt insensitive, Ke$ha's being a perfect example. Also, no remotes, liners, contesting or silly morning show games and bits."
Going forward, Dakin says, the station is aiming to help in an even more tangible way. "We're focused on a radiothon that we will be staging on Friday (Dec. 21) to raise money for the Sandy Hook Support Fund. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., we'll be taking donations on all three radio stations.
"It's been a few days that hopefully we will never have to go through again."