Drive 105: The tallest midget at the party

Dan Haugen

Last week in this column, I wrote about hearing a Drive 105 DJ call the new Wilco single, “Heavy Metal Drummer,” a “Drive 105 exclusive.” I’d personally heard the song played on Radio K and KFAI, and called up Cities 97, who confirmed that they, too, have been playing the new song. So why was a Drive 105 DJ calling the song a “Drive 105 exclusive”?

Well, I didn’t get a call back from anybody at Drive 105 in time to include their side of the story last week, but after the column ran last Tuesday, I got a call from Drive program director Jeff Collins.

“I think it’s all just a misunderstanding,” Collins said, in the Lens exclusive interview. He said that Wilco’s management gave him an advance copy of the album four weeks ago and told him that Drive was the only station in town that had a copy of it.

Nine times out of ten, he said, that’s the basis for calling a song “exclusive.” Record labels or artist management tells someone at the station that it’s theirs only. The station also subscribes to monitoring services, most of which track the playlists of other commercial stations only. Collins insisted that “it’s not that big of a deal,” and that his station was not trying to lie to its listeners.

“I was just unaware of any other station in town playing the product,” he said. (Throughout the Lens exclusive interview, Collins repeatedly used the word “product” in place of “song” or “music.”)

I emailed Wilco’s management last week to get their side of the story. Paul Brown responded by saying, “Both [Drive 105 and Cities 97] had the Wilco at the same time. One station chose to put it on the air. At that point they started calling it an exclusive. It’s exclusive because they’re the only one playing it. It’s not like one station was given it, and the other wasn’t.”

So, it seems that Drive 105 was quick to call “Heavy Metal Drummer” an exclusive when it beat Cities 97 to airing the single first, but it was slow to correct the claim once it was no longer true.

Getting back to my exclusive interview with the Drive program director, after explaining his station’s policy on the word “exclusive,” Collins asked me what I thought about the station. I told him that seeing the number of commercial radio stations whose playlists are dominated exclusively by major label acts, I can’t help but get cynical and suspicious about all of them. What I like about Drive 105 is that they seem to be breaking that mold a little by playing some independent and smaller label bands like Mason Jennings and Grandpaboy, even if it is just a trivial percentage of their overall playlist.

“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment,” Collins said. “Basically you’re saying that we’re the tallest midget at the party?”

Yeah. I guess that’s what I’m saying.

Dan Haugen is the Lens music editor. Please send
comments and correspondence to [email protected].