Thursday, May 29, 2008

"By The Numbers," But What Numbers?

R&R/Billboard/BDS and Country Aircheck/Mediabase (monitored spin) charts agree that this week Brad Paisley's "I'm Still A Guy" is #1 for the second week in a row and Phil Vassar's "Love Is A Beautiful Thing" is #2 for the second week as well.

Then, the two of them diverge as R&R/Billboard/BDS' audience weighting kicks in and makes James Otto's "Just Got Started Lovin' You" #3, whereas CA/Mediabase ranks Rascal Flatts' "Every Day" #3.

Julianne Hough's self-titled new LP ranks #1 on the sale-based Soundscan chart this week and #2 in the week's sales is Taylor Swift's LP, followed by Toby Keith's "35 Biggest Hits."

Big Champaige's tabulation of digital downloads/file sharing ranks Otto's single #1 this week with Carrie Underwood's "Last Name" #2, followed by Kenny Chesney's "Better As A Memory" and then Rascal Flatts. #5 on this chart is Miranda Lambert's "Gunpower & Lead," which comes from an LP Soundscan ranks #14 this week ("Crazy Ex-Girlfiend"), R&R makes it #16 and Country Aircheck says its #14.

#1 on I-Tunes country chart this week is Carrie, followed by two Taylor Swift tunes (#2 "Our Song" and #3 "Picture To Burn") and then #4 "Gun Powder And Lead."

Confused yet?

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Bill Virgin talked to KCMS (Spirit 105) music director/afternoon co-host Sarah Taylor, who was just named major market music director of the year at the Gospel Music Association's Radio Echo Awards and the subject of how she uses technology to help her find new buzz songs to add the the otherwise very safe/researched mix of her station.

She could have been talking about country when she told Virgin in an interview printed in today's paper:
"Back in the day, we had a core of artists such as Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael Smith. Now, I'm getting e-mails every day about music a listener has discovered on the Internet. My generation (folks in their 20's), they like to find things out first. When we hear artists on the radio, that's old news. It's more song-driven rather than artist-driven. There's more to chose from. It makes my job harder and easier. New artists are showing up in contemporary Christian music; Taylor cites names such as Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns. New approaches are showing up, too."

Sales and digital rankers do respond to new music fast, but are the people who are listed in those rankers listening to your station? Will they do so even if you play the songs on their digital players?

That's where your gut comes in. Will this song fit between the songs you know your core listeners love?

One way to double check your instincts quickly is with internet music testing making use of your local listener database. It's inexpensive and reacts quickly, but are your secondary users - the folks you'd like to get to listen more to you and less to your duplicated cume competition - in that database in proper proportion to the percentage you need them in your cume and average quarter hour audience?

Probably not, and that's where callout comes in. It's slower to pick up trends of course, but that's not because its inaccurate but because it is measuring responses from your heavy users as well as people who listen less -- but you want them to listen more -- so they are slower to become familiar with new things and their tastes may be quite different than your core on many songs.

A&O's weekly National AccuTest and even our quarterly gold research tracking updates, as with many of the researchers we recommend and work with, attempt to boil these variations down into one score, but it doesn't take much study of our client exclusive song reports to see that there are at least eleven metrics, if not even more, Mike and I recommend you trend on each song in order to understand national - and of course your local - audience's response.

Programming has always been a mix of art and science.

Too much reliance on any one side of the equation makes you vulnerable, so as more measures of success or failure, acceptance or rejection, become available, it's wise to track and trend them all in their proper perspective.

A&O is proud of the tools we provide to help you do just that, not the least of which is two very important tools we're delighted to share with you at any time for the price of a phone call ... our ears.

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