Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On Second Thought...

I just looked again at my 'considerations' stack, the pile of incoming very viable songs by talented artists which are absolutely strong enough to become top ten hits if only they can get a fair share of the spins it takes to develop familiarity and positive acceptance.

Counting only the ones I genuinely believe could be hits, I come up with at least 15, some of which have been waiting for an opening on the first team for many weeks. And, that's not counting the many, many more which I have listened to and simply don't understand why anyone would waste the money to record or the 30 songs on the front page of A&O's weekly Accu-Test national research which we provide to all clients.

Of that 'could be, maybe even should be' pile, seven are by females and eight are by males. Sadly, as I documented here on June 9th, the odds of those eight guys of making the chart's top 20 are two or three to one better than the hopeful ladies.

Which makes it tempting to ask, "why do they waste all that time and money?" As Bob McNeill, PD at Entravision's KNTY (101.9 the Wolf)/Sacramento, asked R&R's R.J. Curtis a couple weeks ago:
Why is this happening? Is it the copycat mentality of labels' A&R departments trying to get the next Taylor Swift? There ís certainly nothing wrong with Taylor Swift. She ís an extremely talented breath of fresh air in the format. But how many do we need given the percentage of female music that the format has historically had? This format depends, to a great degree, on songs about life experiences. What kind of life experiences does an 18-year-old girl have? It is about boys and relationships that aren't mature. Meanwhile, the people who listen to country music on the radio (whose average age is somewhere around 45) are longing for lost loves and longing for the way things used to be. They are reliving their life experiences, good and bad, through the lyrics of songs that relate to their lives. Does the country format need more female artists? I don't know. Do we need to change the historical male/female balance of the country format? I don't know. What I do know is that history is a bitch. You either understand it or get kicked in the ass by it.

It's easy to agree with the very savvy McNeill, who has successfully programmed country in Dallas and Washington, D.C., among many other places over the years.

Why NOT just ask Nashville to slow down the flow, save the development dollars, just send us the very best of the best? That would sure save PD's and MD's a lot of time, not to mention a lot of label money too.

However, for those of us who love the process of listening, deciding what surprising new music will make our listeners stop, spend a few more minutes with our stations and then say "wow.. that really touched me, that was awesome" - after all, every Nashville wannabe now has production tools on their laptop that once upon a time only a handful of major studios could afford, so even the average indie artist effort is at the very least 'pretty good' - I vote for more choice, not less.

It's a difficult task, picking the golden needles from haystacks and then breaking the news to the promoters that we don't think their song has a realistic chance of being a hit.

The fun is listening, being Simon Cowell for your audience. Telling the truth of how you feel about their latest product to the very nice people who call and email every week with hope in their hearts can be difficult and not fun.

However, that's the price we pay for the luxury of lots of things to choose from and I'll take that every time.

Males, females, duets, instrumentals.. bring 'em on!

Ultimately, the listeners will let me know if my gut agrees with theirs and the more I have to listen to each week, the more 'turn it up loud' experiences I can give them each day.

That's what it's all about.

1 comment:

Sean Harding said...

Playing only to the "longing for lost loves and longing for the way things used to be" demographic creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If young people can't relate with the music they hear on country radio, of course they won't listen. The audience is the way it is because the music is targeted at them, not vice versa. If country radio wants to grow its listener base, it needs to play music that appeals to a variety of people. That includes stuff that kids in high school can relate to as well as stuff that adults understand. This doesn't seem complicated to me....