Hit Record Without Airplay? That’s Fake News, WSJ


It’s been an incredible two years for Billie Eilish, a 17-year-old singer-songwriter from L.A.

Thanks, in part, by a song on the soundtrack to Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” Eilish’s star is rising fast.

But, according to Anne Steele, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, it’s come “without radio.”

That’s not true, or as one radio industry veteran said while attending the 2019 NAB Show in Las Vegas, “What a moron, Radio was first and has been playing her for a while.”

If you’re not familiar with Billie Eilish, you’re probably over the age of 45 and perhaps run a Country station, or maybe an Urban station.

Eilish is a global phenomenon and hitmaker of the moment, with particular strength in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. Here at home, in the U.S., she’s on the rise. In 2018, she opened for Florence + The Machine. Now, she’s a headliner who scored the 2019 Best New Rock/Alternative Artist at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Yeah … her career is soaring “without radio.”

That’s not to say it has taken some time for Eilish to rise at certain radio stations, namely those airing Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40 formats. Her current single “When The Party’s Over” is hitsound No. 25 this week on the Mediabase Top 40 chart, and on the rise.

This is thanks to 2,746 spins of her song for the week ending April 2 — and just at stations in this format. “When The Party’s Over” is already over at Alternative stations monitored by Mediabase, with “You Should See Me In A Crown” a recurrent and “Bury a Friend” rising to No. 6 among all currents.

Funny how The Wall Street Journal negates those 2,293 spins, let alone CHR/Pop’s embrace of an artist Alternative stations branded as their own in an era where Ariana Grande commands two spots in the Top 10 and Cardi B and Bruno Mars have teamed for a huge smash that pretty much defines Rhythmic Top 40 in 2019 — not Ms. Eilish.


In New Zealand, Eilish is a phenomenon the likes of which pop music has rarely seen. As of this week, “Bad Guy” is No. 1, “Wish You Were Gay” is No. 2, and “Bury A Friend” is No. 5.

Wait, there’s more. “All The Good Girls Go To Hell” is ranked No. 9, while “When The Party’s Over” is the No. 7 song of the week.

The ARIA charts for Australia predominantly feature Eilish, with “Bad Guy” also at No. 1 on that country’s singles chart. “Bury a Friend” is No. 3; “Wish You Were Gay” is No. 5.

It is “When The Party’s Over” that is arguably her biggest global hit, and is now rising at Top 40. The music video for the song was released in October 2018; Top 40 radio stations were offered the track from Interscope Records, the label to which Eilish is signed, on February 15. It’s atypical for Top 40, and opens with an a Capella refrain before a piano builds along with voice. It’s free of the loud, EDM-styled beats so often heard on CHR/Pop radio in the U.S.

Yet, it’s a smash where it is being played — including WTOK “Hot 102” in San Juan, Puerto Rico; KZHT-FM in Salt Lake City; and hometown iconic Top 40 station KIIS-FM.

“You Should See Me In a Crown” is particularly popular at Entercom’s KNRK-FM in Portland, Ore., which played “Bury a Friend” before that track.

“Bury a Friend” is nearly inescapable in Honolulu, where KPOI-FM and KUCD-FM “Star 101.9″ played it a combined 132 times in the week ending April 5.

” … without Radio.”

In an era of “Fake News,” a topic discussed at the NAB Show in Las Vegas this week, The Wall Street Journal has engaged in pure fiction in both its print and online editions. At WSJ.com, a slightly modified headline is seen from what appeared in its newspaper dated April 9, 2019: Billie Eilish Has No Major Radio Hits. But She Does Have The No. 1 Album.

C’mon … Ms. Steele writes of how the album moved more than 313,000 copies in its first week and how “that was without a major radio hit.” She also suggests that Eilish’s success “marks a departure from today’s hit-driven landscape.”

Yes, that’s true. But, to suggest radio has had no part in Eilish’s rise is simply 100% false.

That’s where Eilish’s manager, Danny Rukasin, may have added fuel to the fire. He’s quoted as saying, “With Billie, this is a much longer-term project and radio’s not going to make or break her long-term career.”

With an attitude like that, Eilish may very well be the next Lily Allen or Lorde — hot stars that fizzled. However, CHR/Pop’s slow embrace of “When The Party’s Over” proves Rukasin wrong, as well as WSJ writer Steele, who covers the music industry for the nation’s business newspaper of record.

Steele’s piece appeared Tuesday. In Wednesday’s editions, a profile in WSJ Magazine penned by Culture Editor Thomas Gebremedhin offered more on Eilish, and how she “still sleeps with her stuffed animals.”

It’s a fluffy piece, akin to something one might find in Seventeen or a teen-targeted music ‘zine of yesterday.

“Aquaphor is another thing I can’t live without. I always have a tube on me because, dude, it works,” she says in this piece.

At least it’s full of the truth, unlike Steele’s report.



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