Winter (S1) and Fall (S4) are the most comparable annual books for country stations in Canada, since so few markets are surveyed in late Spring (S2) and Summer (S3), but even looking only at those survey periods it appears that, like America's Summer 2005 ARB national trend, country has slipped (5.7% from last Winter and 11.8% from last Fall) in the latest survey, just released yesterday.
The country format's share of heavy radio users' listening fell 25% from last fall!
In S4 2006, country had an 11.5 share of heavy users' tuning and in S4 2007 that share fell to 8.6.
Gaining heavy user share at our expense was 'everything else on the FM dial playing music,' compared to a year ago: AC (18.1 up to 20), Hot AC (8.1-12.0), classic rock (7.0-9.9), Mainstream Top 40-CHR (6.9-8.2), mainstream rock-AOR (5.7-7.1), classic hits (4.0-5.8) and modern rock-alternative (2.6-3.7)
The only other major format which was also off in their share of heavy users' time was news-talk, which fell even more than country, 17.8 to 10.4% of all fifth quintile hours.
Here's one reason why: only 17.4% of country's national share of total hours came from at work listening, the lowest mark in several years.
It had been 20% in S1 2007 and 18.8% a year ago.
Is this real? Or just a fluke? A little bit of each, in my opinion.
Anyone doing testing of current music in Canada can tell you that very few of the current hits of the last six years have done very well with males. I think that if Canadian country music radio wants to do better in 2008, it's going to look at this factor very hard.
To maximise our performance, country needs at least 40% of its quarter hours from men and hopefully 45% of its cume from males. So, a little free advice for programmers to consider: look closely at the balance between female and male preferences as you program music and content.
There is another wild card in the deck too.
BBM's national performance in getting ballots back from key demos was very disappointing this survey, even among cells that historically have returned diaries very consistently.
Men 25-34 returned diaries in just 58% of their proportion to their share of actual population, which was worse than men 18-24 (69%).
Even men 35-44 (77% of their proportion of the population) came up short in their percentage of the national sample, meaning books from these cells needed to be weighted upward very heavily.
BBM also had trouble getting books back from young women as well. 18-24 females returned only 60% of their proportion of the actual population and 25-34 was not much better (68%).
Statistically, an acceptable proportion (index) for any cell is between 90 and 110.
The under-performance nationally in these younger cells required that ballots from 35+ demos be weighted downward - men 45-49 by 9%, men 50-54 by 24%, men 55-59 by 32%, men 60-64 by 35%, men 65+ by 26%, women 45-49 by 35%, women 50-54 by a whopping 46%, women 55-59 by 43%, women 60-64 by 47% and women 65+ by 17%.
Those upper demos are country's core, especially in Canada.
If BBM missed their sample return targets by this much NATIONALLY, it makes my hair stand on end to contemplate how far off many local samples must have been!