Five ways to fix annual radio shows such as Cali Christmas

Diversify the bill, give artists longer sets and other ways to improve radio festivals

Hours after the nominations for February's Grammy Awards were unveiled Friday, some of the year's biggest, award-worthy hits were being performed at two different L.A.-area venues. 

Pop audiences packed Staples Center for KIIS-FM’s Jingle Ball concert, at which Grammy favorites such as Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea, Meghan Trainor, Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams took an early victory lap. In Inglewood at the Forum, urban radio rainmakers such as Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Big Sean , T.I. and J. Cole topped Power 106’s holiday bash, Cali Christmas.

Unfortunately, each year these annual Christmas jams offer much of the same.

The lineups, impressive as they may be, are predictable (often repetitive, even), and acts don't exactly give it their all in what are relatively short sets. Instead of turning into the Grinch, I'm offering up five things shows such as Cali Christmas should consider for next year (KROQ, take note before Saturday's Almost Acoustic Christmas).

1. Be mindful of the competition. Cali Christmas and Jingle Ball may appeal to different audiences, but lines between pop and urban genres continue to aggressively blur. Most of the acts could have performed at either show, so why have both on the same night? Big Sean even pulled double duty, hitting both Cali Christmas for his own set and Staples Center to perform with girlfriend Ariana Grande.

2. Give more room to rising talent. Major draws understandably received the bulk of stage time, but considering radio plays a massive role in launching acts to stardom, it would have been nice if buzzy talent was given the opportunity to shine. Alt-R&B siren Tinashe had a tiny warm-up set, and G-Eazy was already offstage before the crowd settled into its seats. Sure, both will be back in town in the coming months, but it was baffling that they were carted out before, say, a DJ set from Lil Jon, which would have served as a better launch.

3. Diversify the bill. The night’s Cali Christmas closer, J. Cole, was a major act on last year’s bill, and Trey Songz anchored Power’s summer concert, Powerhouse, this year. Radio shows will always have the ability to snag heavyweights, so use it to shake things up and stray away from the predictable choices -- especially considering fans are loyal and likely make these shows a must-buy ticket each year. Don't make it a rerun.

4. Don’t become a marathon. Acts might only be playing truncated sets and are carted out quickly, but 25 minutes here and 45 minutes there start to add up. Consider having less acts and beefier sets that would give the show a festival vibe. 

5. Push artists for more. One of the most anticipated R&B tours for 2015 is a joint trek between Chris Brown and Trey Songz. It was wise for the pair to use Cali Christmas to preview the tour with their joint set, which certainly drummed up anticipation. But it was more than just a teaser; it was the all-too rare moment at a radio fest in which fans were presented with something new. 

Twitter: @gerrickkennedy

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