Five songs. Twenty minutes of stage time. Free eats. (No pay.)
That was the "deal" for the retro song and dance team of Nancy and Beth, alter egos for Will and Grace star Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt of Friday Night Lights fame, to "work" the Non-Comm radio convention, held last week in the showrooms of World Café Live from Wednesday through Friday.
Yet the opportunity was enough to inspire the duo, their band, and road crew to haul their collective selves from Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles for a pricey two-night stay, bassist Andrew Huffman said.
And they were hardly the only musicians who felt compelled to court the Non-Comm crowd. The gathering drew nearly 300 radio program directors, air talent, and industry professionals from the adult alternative and mostly noncommercial radio world, represented here by 88.5 FM WXPN, the confab's hosts.
Even the most popular artists are no longer a "slam dunk," program directors said. And some old ways of radio are having to make way for the new.
That's why Dan Auerbach -- identified by XPN air personality and conference organizer Dan Reed as "the number-one artist on the format" -- felt compelled to pop in, to talk up his forthcoming album and producer pursuits.
And why a surprisingly robust Deborah Harry and Blondie kicked off their summer comeback tour at Non-Comm by praising the assembled power brokers.
Format faves Laura Marling and Gov't Mule landed in town early, to squeeze in Non-Comm appearances with other Philly dates.
Paul Schaffer, of Late Show With David Letterman fame, brought in his World's Most Dangerous Band for a convention showcase, saying, "I heard this was a good place to plug my album."
And heroic rocker Tommy Stinson of Bash & Pop (and the legendary Replacements) testified: "Without you people, we'd be nowhere."
Well, not exactly. In today's music world, listeners have many new places to "self-select their own media channels, make up their stations as they go along," said David Macias of Thirty Tigers, a label that manages and distributes music for Jason Isbell and Patty Griffin.
Bill Burrs of the indie label 300 Entertainment said the curators who assemble the playlists at Spotify and Apple Music "have to be visited every week," as they now have as much clout as pop-radio programmers.
YouTube -- with music operations now run by Burr's former label boss Lyor Cohen -- is yet another new media monster, he said. "My 15-year-old son, who finds all his music on YouTube, is constantly on me -- 'Dad, you really ought to sign this guy. He's got three million hits.'"
So how is noncommercial radio responding?