Disney exec takes control of radio station

When a band has a CD debut at No. 5, a single that shoots past Kanye West to No. 1 and a sold-out U.S. tour, you’d expect them to be a household name. But the Jonas Brothers are known only to households containing grade-schoolers. That’s because the act gets airplay only on Radio Disney, exposure that has propelled the trio to deals for a TV series, movie and concert special with the Disney Channel.

The difference is Jill Casagrande, a longtime Disney Channel exec who last year took control of the only radio station to target 6- to 14-year-olds. Radio traditionally doesn’t market to tweens, and as senior VP and general manager of Radio Disney, Casagrande helped maneuver the 53-station niche network into a wide-open market.

“Kids influence a great deal of purchasing, not just CD sales, but in all things,” she says. “When you see ‘Hannah Montana’ and ‘High School Musical’ sales next to the artists we (adults) grew up with, it’s what’s taking people by surprise — not that kids are consumers, but that they rival adult consumers.”

Both inhouse and non-Disney artists get a boost with promotions like “Incubator,” which highlights a new artist every two weeks (Keke Palmer, Jordyn Taylor and Emma Roberts have all been featured), and “DJ Takeover,” where guest artists pick the playlist and field questions from fans.

Most radio stations program for listening in 15-minute increments, but Casagrande is integrating Radio Disney into the daily lives of its young audience, while simultaneously assuring parents of good, clean programming.

“I want kids to feel they are part of the Radio Disney experience, that no matter where they are, this is their destination, and if they miss a day on Radio Disney, they’ve missed something important,” she says.

Recent breakthrough: The “Incubator”-hyped Jonas Brothers’ album debuted at No. 5, pushed by airplay on Radio Disney.

Role model: “It’s tough for kids to be talented performers and maintain some level of normalcy, but I’m incredibly impressed by Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.”

What’s next: Disney star Jason Dolley may host a DJ Takeover to promote his pic “Minutemen.”

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