Despite the enormous popularity of the television show and the huge sales of its albums and singles, “Glee” couldn’t catch a break at radio – until this week, when, courtesy of original songs, the show’s cast and Matthew Morrison each collect their first entries on Billboard’s Nielsen BDS-based Adult Top 40 and Adult Contemporary airplay charts, respectively. (All charts will be refreshed Thursday (April 7) on Billboard.biz).
The “Glee” ensemble bows on Adult Top 40 at No. 37 with “Loser Like Me,” a track premiered in the March 15 “Glee” episode in which the cast performed the first songs written specifically for the Fox series. On Adult Contemporary, Morrison, who portrays the McKinley High School New Directions show choir leader, arrives at No. 29 with “Summer Rain.”
The concurrent chart residences of multiple “Glee” actor/singers contrasts the troupe’s prior fortunes.
The cast has tallied a record 131 entries, including tracks featuring Morrison’s vocals, on the Billboard Hot 100, but only four had reached an airplay survey. (A quartet of Christmas songs decorated Adult Contemporary over the 2009 and 2010 holiday seasons).
“We’ve promoted ‘Glee’ music to radio for the past couple of years and week-by-week, programmers have embraced the show and its music more and more,” says Pete Cosenza, Columbia’s senior VP of promotion, adult formats. “[Adult radio] has created weekly — and in some cases daily — features and played snippets of songs. Now, more have put ‘Loser Like Me’ into regular rotation.”
The song debuted at No. 6 on the Hot 100 two weeks ago, marking the “Glee” cast’s second-highest rank, trailing only its debut release, “Don’t Stop Believein’ ” (No. 4), and has sold 314,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Adult Top 40 reporter WAJI (Majic 95.1)/Ft. Wayne, Ind., program director Barb Richards says that the “Glee” cast’s introduction of a new composition prompted the station to add music from the show at last; it spun “Loser” 16 times in the March 28-April 3 tracking week.
“The show is huge and its music is popular, as shown by the sales,” says Richards, referencing the “Glee” cast’s combined 21.9 million downloads and 5.2 million albums sold since the series’ May 2009 premiere, according to SoundScan.
“Still, I believe that people want to hear originals over remakes, so up until the ‘Glee’ cast’s original music it didn’t make sense for us to play each latest cover, other than to spotlight it the day of the show,” Richards says. “But new music? Yes! ‘Loser Like Me’ is a good song and its lyrics resonate with kids and parents. I liked it when I first heard it and I liked it even more when I saw it on the show. The song is good on its own, and having the ‘Glee’ name on it gives it a leg up.”
WPST (94.5)/Philadelphia program director Dave McKay echoes Richards’ consideration of the “Glee” cast’s sales track record as a reason to play “Loser” (27 times last week).
“Not many artists or songs enjoy the type of exposure that ‘Glee’ provides,” says McKay. “Plus, the audience that watches the show is the audience we target, so the fit seems perfect. And, since ‘Glee’ music sells, there is definitely an appetite for it. If ‘Loser Like Me’ were a bad song, then it wouldn’t matter whether it was original or a cover; we wouldn’t be playing it. That the song is good, and that it has the ‘Glee’ reach, makes it an easy song to play.”
WKDD (98.1)/Akron, Ohio, program director Keith Kennedy says that not only does it make sense for his station to play the new single 11 times last week — “It sounds great on the air. It’s up-tempo and has positive lyrics”, — but that it also made him second-guess having not rotated prior “Glee” remakes more heavily.
“I believe that we’ve made a mistake by not playing some of the show’s earlier tracks. How many times have you heard radio programmers claim that they use sales numbers to shape their stations’ playlists? Look at iTunes every Wednesday: ‘Glee’ often dominates the top 10. We have an appointment-listening feature at 3 o’clock each afternoon – we call it ‘Glee O’Clock’ – when we play one of the show’s songs. While some of the remakes have leaned toward show tunes, several probably should have received more airplay.”
Island Def Jam Music Group senior director of adult formats Manny Simon says that the adult contemporary chart debut of “Summer Rain” bodes well for the May 10 release of Morrison’s self-titled debut album, which includes duets with recurring “Glee” guest Gwyneth Paltrow and Elton John.
Morrison augments promotion for the set with a 22-date U.S. tour that kicks off June 18 in Minneapolis. The trek will feature songs from the album, “as well as ‘Glee’ fan favorites,” Simon reveals.
“‘Glee’ ranks as the number one entertainment program on broadcast television among adults 18-34, teens and female teens. Matthew comes with a massive built-in audience. He brings a familiarity to radio from the first spin.”
Bill Edwards, program director of adult contemporary WKJY (KJOY 98.3)/Nassau, N.Y., which played “Summer Rain” 15 times last week, says it’s as simple as, “I like the song and our audience loves the show. That’s a winning combination.”