What The Lineup For Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio Music Festival Says About Radio Formats In 2011


Today the radio behemoth Clear Channel announced a festival celebrating the relaunch of its online service iHeartRadio, which currently allows listeners to tune into the chain’s terrestrial-radio outlets from all over the country (as well as about 150 digital-only stations) and which will eventually allow listeners to personalize their stations, a la Pandora. The two-day iHeart Radio Music Festival, which will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on September 23 and 24, has a star-studded bill and prices that are surprisingly decent for the amount of talent on display (single-day tickets start at $45 a pop before service charges). But what does the lineup say about the current status of each format in Clear Channel’s arsenal — pop, hip-hop/R&B, country, adult contemporary, and rock?

Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Steven Tyler, The Black Eyed Peas, Kenny Chesney, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, Jane’s Addiction, Nicki Minaj, John Mayer, David Guetta, Rascal Flatts, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, Sublime with Rome, special performances from Usher and Sting

On the bill: Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Lopez, David Guetta, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson
Notable omissions: Adele, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Rihanna, LMFA(ugh)O
No discussion of pop music in 2011 would be complete without Gaga, and Lopez’s recent successes seemed pretty improbable immediately in the wake of the loud thunk made by “Louboutins” and “Fresh Out The Oven” a few years back. But Adele’s been the true pop star of this year, ruling the sales charts with an iron fist and crossing genres like other people cross the street — perhaps she’ll be added later. And you’d think the bookers at Clear Channel would strike while the iron was hot and announce the group with the current No. 1 single in the country as being part of their festival — even if “Party Rock Anthem” will be more spoiled than a dropped ice cream cone by mid-September.

(Also, weren’t the Peas supposed to be going “on hiatus” as of Thursday? Did suddenly land a sponsor for their comeback, one who had a really tight deadline for disbursing funds?)

On the bill: Alicia Keys, Usher, Nicki Minaj
Notable omissions: Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chris Brown
Or really, anyone who gets played on the chain’s urban-leaning stations while spitting rhymes, and not unfurling melodies. (Even Minaj’s biggest hits have seen her singing as much as, if not more than, rapping.)

On the bill: Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts
Notable omissions: Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum
Yes, the Idol machine has shifted labels, but Kelly-not-Christina and Carrie-not-Blake make me wonder if there’s some sort of subtle anti-The Voice agenda being put forth here. As for the other country artists included on the bill… well, at least the presence of Chesney has the potential to turn part of the MGM Grand into a beach for a night.

On the bill: John Mayer, Sting, various other artists who have made songs palatable enough to be spun on your local Delilah-syndicating outlet
Notable omissions: Adele (again), Train
So many pop stars from all over the dial get drawn into the orbit of the Wonder Bread-baking machine that is adult-contemporary radio that it seems silly to isolate Mayer and the guy otherwise known as Gordon Sumner from the rest of the group. (Seriously, the only artists on the bill who might not be able to make the AC cut with material they’ve already released are Jane’s Addiction and Sublime, and I swear I’ve heard “Santeria” at least once on a Lite-branded outlet somewhere.) But let this be known, John; if you don’t keep your sense of humor alive, you might someday find yourself taking medieval instruments really really seriously.

On the bill: Steven Tyler, Coldplay, Jane’s Addiction, Sublime With Rome
Notable omissions: Any rock band that put out its first record during the 21st century
Seriously, maybe it’s time to follow WRXP’s lead and put the radio version of “rock” out to pasture. And I don’t even mind Coldplay all that much.