We promoted them as “WMMS Weekend World Premiere Exclusives.” It wasn’t an original idea. Top 40 radio in the sixties scrambled to be the first with a new single by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, or the Rolling Stones. The station landing the exclusive would play and promote it with great fanfare. To keep our competition from taping it off our air – we’d had a spoken-word “WMMS World Premiere Exclusive,” which we’d run a couple of times within the “hooks” of the song.
The labels reviled exclusives. They wanted airplay – but on their terms to coincide with the album’s release and their promotion and marketing plans for it. Exclusives also strained relationships with the labels and the other stations that didn’t have the advance.
We would begin promoting our exclusive for the weekend – or on rare occasion – exclusives – Friday morning with Jeff and Flash on the Buzzard Morning Zoo. By the afternoon, Kid Leo teased the premiere in every break. We never announced the artist or album we were going to premiere that evening – since we didn’t want to clue the label or completion on our illicit acquisition.
Shortly after 6 PM, when the local offices of the record labels closed for the weekend, Denny Sanders gave the exclusive its first spin. If a rep from the label called the studio or sent a cease-or-desist telegram, corporate rules dictated that I was the only person authorized to respond, And I made sure tp be impossible to reach. We’d play – and play up – our exclusive hourly throughout the weekend.I deliberately came in late – just before 10 AM – on Mondays, acknowledge the cease-and-desist, and then Jeff Kinzbach would read the cease-and-desist on-the-air and tell listeners that we couldn’t play the exclusive any longer, which made the labels look like the bad guys spoiling the party.
“WMMS World Premiere Exclusives” weren’t limited to weekends. Often, we’d get an advance track that wouldn’t be officially released until a day or two later – but before the weekend. In late April, 1984 we landed Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Kid Leo wanted to make it a special event. I told him of the time I heard Larry Justice on WMEX in Boston play “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys for the first time. When he the song ended, he said, “That’s so nice, I’m gonna play it twice.” Leo did one better. He played “Dancing’ In the Dark” three times in a row. A week later we got our talons on the entire Born in the U.S.A. album, which we had exclusively for the entire three-day long Memorial Day Weekend. Its official release was June 4. For a time I had an entire wall in my office papered with cease and desist telegrams from record labels and artist managers.
Some of our exclusives caused national – and even international – problems for the labels, which were compounded by an increase in our world premiere exclusive output when chief engineer Frank Foti built our secret weapon – The Switch. This cease and desist is for the Who’s Face Dances album, which we premiered on March 11 – five days in advance of its legitimate release date.
More on WMMS World Premiere Exclusives and the Switch in Chapter 12 of The Buzzard