"Some people expect U2 to come on like a political band. . . . Other people see us as prophets. Some see us as pop stars. . . . And we're not any of those things. We're probably all of them. I don't know what we are."
30 Years of October: Radio Airplay in the U.S.
October 17, 2011
One of the most surprising things about the U2 360 tour was when U2 began playing "Scarlet" at the first Auckland concert in November 2010. Whether you liked the song or not, you had to be shocked: This was a song that had only been played live once before, in a studio for a BBC radio performance in 1981.
U2 has barely played any of the tracks from October in concert over the years and, so it follows that radio stations have mostly ignored it over the years, too.
But you might be surprised to learn just how many October songs do still get played on radio 30 years later: Over the past year, at least seven October songs have been played on U.S. radio stations. Yep, more than half of the album was heard on radio within the past 12 months.
@U2 was recently able to see airplay statistics for U2 songs over the past 12 months on commercial radio stations in cities that are tracked by one of the primary airplay monitoring services in the U.S. To be clear, the data we saw doesn't cover every radio station in the U.S.; college stations and other noncommercial stations aren't tracked, so if they played any songs from October, it wouldn't be included in the data below. We're not allowed to share exact airplay counts, but we can share the information in general terms. So that's what we'll do. Ready?
October Songs Played on U.S. Radio (Past 12 Months)
Here are the October songs that did get radio airplay in the U.S., listed in order from most-played to least-played, but without exact numbers:
There's a huge disparity in airplay. "Gloria" was far and away the most-played October song and there wasn't a close second. "Gloria" was played 1,388 percent more times than "Fire" -- and that doesn't include airplay totals for the live version of "Gloria" from Under A Blood Red Sky.
How Popular Was "Gloria"?
Not only was "Gloria" the most-played song from October, but it also had more radio airplay than a number of other well-known U2 songs and singles, such as:
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" (live from Under A Blood Red Sky)
Overall, "Gloria" was the 36th most-played U2 song on commercial U.S. radio during the past year. But that doesn't make it one of U2's big radio songs. "Desire," for example -- the 10th most-played U2 song -- was played about 3,000 percent more often than "Gloria."
October Songs Not Played on U.S. Radio (Past 12 Months)
Obviously, if the seven songs above did get airplay, these are the October songs that didn't -- at least not on the tracked commercial stations.
Despite those four songs not making the cut at commercial U.S. radio, the October album as a whole was pretty well represented overall. For an album that U2 itself has mostly ignored over the years, getting seven of 11 tracks on the radio is pretty impressive -- and no reason to ask, "Is that all?"
© @U2, 2011.