There's a Crock, Then There's KROQ

A couple of weeks ago, before he played the Killers' unreleased single "Sam's Town," 91X morning DJ Chris Cantore asserted that it was a "leak"; the song's airing was unauthorized by the record company.

"That was nothing but smoke and mirrors," says Garett Michaels, who works mornings at competing FM-94/9. "We could have done the same thing. The record company also gave us a copy. I just don't think that the new Killers album is a big deal."

Michaels recently infused a little drama into his morning show before playing music from the new Bob Dylan CD. He told listeners more than once that he'd get into trouble if he played songs in their entirety; he then played portions of songs.

When record companies do allow "leaks," San Diego stations tend to be lower on the rock-radio food chain than our northerly neighbors.

"KROQ usually gets [an anticipated new song] on a Friday and everyone else in the country gets it on Monday," says a radio-industry insider who recalls the mid-'90s airing of a Depeche Mode song.

"KROQ did a world premiere with that song, so we just taped it off the air, cut out the part where they say 'KROQ,' and started playing it on our station. The record company got really upset and said KROQ was screaming at them since they were supposed to have the exclusive. I told them it was just too bad and that we were going to still play it."

The insider says record companies have responded with cease-and-desist letters that threaten legal action.

"I ignored them. We could have countersued for restraint of trade. Besides, no record company in its right mind would actually follow through and sue a radio station; they couldn't afford to piss off the station."

Legal threats to keep stations from airing songs "are just worthless pieces of paper," the insider continues. "Because of the Internet, the songs are now everywhere [before the record is released]. There are a lot of ways to find the music, like fan websites. The person who first leaked the song broke the law, but once the song gets out there, it becomes public domain. Besides, radio stations are proud to get cease-and-desists since it proves they got the song before KROQ."

On September 29, KROQ debuted "Anna Molly," a cut from the new Incubus CD that won't be released until late November. Other rock stations received their copies three days later.

"Whether you like it or not, KROQ is the biggest rock station in the world," says Michaels of FM-94/9. "But I think it is unfortunate that the bands' and labels' marketing plans are not taken into consideration. It could be argued that playing a song too much in advance could be detrimental to future sales."

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