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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

It's Really Off the Charts

December 01, 1996|Steve Hochman

Christmas time is turning into feud time for KROQ-FM.

The Los Angeles rock station finds itself this year doing battle with the SoundScan music sales monitoring firm and Billboard magazine, as well as with ticket brokers and scalpers.

The first skirmish continues KROQ's dispute from last year when SoundScan and Billboard, which publishes SoundScan's figures, refused to include the station's annual charity Christmas cassette in its sales charts--despite the fact that the album's instant sell-out figure of more than 75,000 would have ranked it first in the local Southern California listings by a mile and No. 22 nationally.

"Last year we did everything they asked us to," says KROQ program director Gene Sandbloom. "We registered the [computer] bar code with them and released the cassette on a Tuesday [the industry standard] instead of Friday, which is better for our listeners."

Still, at the last minute Billboard ruled ineligible "How the Juice Stole Christmas," compiled by KROQ's morning team of Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter. It's not because of its low price of $1.67, but because it was available through only one retailer--the Wherehouse chain.

"We have a consistent policy," says Geoff Mayfield, Billboard's director of charts. According to Mayfield, KROQ is only the most visible of similar ineligible releases.

"It needs to be generally available at retail, since [retailers] use our charts to determine what they stock," he says. "I'm happy to give the Christmas cassette sales coverage in editorial copy, but if we chart something going through only one account, we have to chart every other one in that situation."

The late decision last year, he says, could have been avoided if KROQ management had informed him that the tape would only be sold through the Wherehouse chain.

Nonetheless, KROQ decided not to pursue it this year. For "Christmastime in the LBC" (the title is a spoof of Snoop Doggy Dogg and his Long Beach roots)--which features seasonal tunes and skits from artists including Beck, Poe and incendiary comic Bobcat Goldthwait, along with such station regulars as the fictional Mr. Birchum and the real Dr. Drew--they're not even going to try to work with the charts.

"This year, we're basically saying, 'Whatever,' " Sandbloom says. "We'll put it on sale on Friday [again at the Wherehouse for $1.67]. And we'll report the sales ourselves, so anyone who wants to know where it would have been on the charts can figure it out."

In battling the ticket brokers, though, KROQ is taking an aggressive stance to prevent them from acquiring and reselling for profit tickets to the Almost Acoustic Christmas concerts Dec. 13 and 14.

This year KROQ will take measures to restrict that practice, primarily by waiting until close to the show dates to put tickets on sale, thereby limiting the time resellers have to drum up business. The on-sale dates will be revealed just 24 hours beforehand via on-air announcements, with the idea that real fans will know about it first.

Perhaps the key move will be to handle record industry and press seats via guest list, with no hard tickets given in advance.

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