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POP MUSIC | Pop Eye

Internet Groundswell Boosts Ballad Onto Radio Playlists

September 10, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN

For all the talk about the Internet and music, we're still waiting for something to break directly from the cyberworld into a real hit.

It may be happening now.

"I Will Love You," a sentimental ballad by a Los Angeles duo called Fisher, was recently taken straight from the Internet by San Diego adult alternative radio station KFMB-FM (100.7) and instantly became its most-requested track.

The song hasn't been released on an album or a single, and is only available for download via several Web sites--just the kind of bypassing of the conventional music business that Web-ophiles have been predicting.

"I've never seen anything like this," says Tracy Johnson, KFMB program director.

The song was one of several on the Internet recommended to Johnson by Mark Nathan, a friend who now works in promotion at the Internet-oriented music firm Farmclub.com. Fisher has been signed to Farmclub, but its debut album wasn't scheduled to come out until early next year, and no official promotion had been initiated.

"I wrote down a few names Mark Nathan suggested and was talking to my staff, saying it's only a matter of time before the Internet and radio converge, and we should be looking for things of interest," Johnson says. "Next thing I knew, Mark Jagger, our afternoon guy, was on the air saying he'd found a song on the Internet that he wanted to play."

Johnson says that almost immediately after the initial play two weeks ago, the station's phones and e-mail were swamped by tearful women wanting to know what it was. Soon he was getting calls from radio stations in other markets asking about this unknown act at the top of KFMB's airplay reports.

"I Will Love You," written for but not used in the movie "Message in a Bottle," had already been among the most-downloaded songs on the Internet for the past year. Singer Kathy Fisher, who makes up the act with her husband, musician Ron Wasserman, says she's mailed more than 500 copies of sheet music to people who wanted to use it at their weddings.

"When we threw 'I Will Love You' on the Internet in the first place, it was just to see what would happen, and boom!" says Fisher. "And now this. The song's like the Energizer bunny because it makes people cry. I'm sorry. We'll need Fisher custom Kleenex."

The success caught both Fisher and Farmclub off guard. Without a single or album in the market, the only way for people to hear the song is on radio or the Internet--and there's no money in that. So the album is now being rushed to completion with release expected in November--right in the middle of the music business' heaviest season. An official radio single is on the way to stations now.

Can this new act get noticed at this time of year with so many superstar releases coming out?

"The thing that cuts through the clutter is a hit record," says Farmclub President Andy Schuon, who signed the act in the first place due to the song's Internet popularity. "There are a couple of records every year in the valley of all those giant releases that sneak through. This could be one of those."

ALBUM-ORIENTED ROCK: In a pop climate supposedly ruled by singles, Radiohead's campaign to get people to focus on its upcoming "Kid A" as a whole album seems to be having some impact. KROQ-FM (106.7) program director Kevin Weatherly says that though the contemplative atmospheres of the new music make any song from the set a tough fit alongside such hard-edged station staples as Papa Roach and Korn, he's planning to take the rare step of playing the entire album from beginning to end Oct. 1, two days before the collection will be in stores.

"We don't usually do this," Weatherly says. "But this an album meant to be heard as a whole and we want to give it a shot."

Weatherly expects the station to play the first single, "Optimistic," but says that its introspective tone may restrict the air times it will get.

The public will get its first official access to "Kid A" on Sept. 18, when it will be available to be heard--though not downloaded--via Radiohead's Web site, http://www.radiohead.com.

PILE DRIVER: Five kids from Delaware formed a heavy metal band called Fozzy in 1980s, went to tour Japan and were stranded there. They recorded songs in between working menial jobs but had no record deal. However, the songs made their way to the West, where they were recorded by such acts as Twisted Sister, Scorpions and Judas Priest, who never gave Fozzy credit for the material. Now the band is returning to America to reclaim its place in rock history.

If that sounds like fiction, it is. And if it sounds like some Spinal Tap-like concept a metal-loving pro wrestler would dream up, well, it's that too.

Fozzy is the project of World Wrestling Federation star Chris Jericho, who is fronting the band in the guise of flamboyant singer Moongoose McQueen. The band has a debut album, "Mega 1980," due Oct. 24 from Palm Pictures, along with a long-form "mockumentary" about the band, including testimonials from such real-thing stars as Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach. In essence, it's an '80s metal tribute act with a wink.

"I signed this because Chris is an incredibly charismatic character," says Michael Alago, director of A&R at Palm. "When I heard he wanted to do all these '80s metal covers, it was heaven to me."

The conceit will only be taken so far, though.

"When Fozzy is asked to do interviews, hopefully Moongoose McQueen will show his face," says Alago. "As a send-up it's incredibly funny. But people know it's Chris Jericho. We wanted to keep the tongue-in-cheek angle."

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