Friday, July 25, 2008

Equal Time

This blog is primarily written by a radio person for country radio programmers and personalities.

So, naturally, my take on the types and quality of music coming to radio from the music business as well as the question of why indie artist and label music has such an uphill battle in a time when listener feedback in research is telling us to go even slower on songs and artists than the national top ten chart numbers reflect sometimes generates - to put it nicely - "confused responses" from my many good friends in the music biz..

I tell the promotion exec's who call and email all the time that I am so glad I have my job and they have theirs.

We in radio get to open the mail and click on the digital downloads, decide if we like it or not and move on to the next one, while the promotional pro tasked overcoming those objections sees powerful sales data that seems in direct contradiction to my contentions. As a result, they sometimes diss the whole concept of researching listeners, saying that spending hard-earned dollars for music is the best research there is and there's no need for any other.

For example, this week's Soundscan sales rank Taylor Swift's two LP's #1 and #2 with 44,652 and 34,622 units bar scanned at check out. Carrie Underwood's "Carnival Ride" is ranked #6 with 12,634, Sugarland is #8 with "Enjoy The Ride" selling 12,286 in the last week. Not far behind are Miranda Lambert and Jewel. Meanwhile on the digital downloads "singles" sales chart, Sugarland's "All I Want To Do" is #1, having sold a total of 260,114 and 48.923 in the last week. Next is "Should've Said No" by Taylor Swift, adding another 30,008 units to her current sales total of 376,114. Also high on the digital sales singles chart this week are Sugarland, Miranda Lambert, Jessica Simpson and Heidi Newfield tunes.

No wonder every label in the music business wants to have at least two hot, young female artists. They SELL.

Meanwhile, I just ranked a weekly test of 30 currents by a sample of 120 25-54 fans of a major market client when they were asked which songs they would like to hear less on the radio right now. The #1? Taylor's "Should've Said Yes." #2 was "Come On Over" by Jessica Simpson, followed by #3 "Bob That Head" by Rascal Flatts, #4 Sugarland's All I Want To Do," and then "Sounds So Good" by Ashton Sheppard. One-third or more of the listeners asked the question said they wanted to hear these songs "less" on this leading major market station.

No wonder smart programmers are scratching their heads these days. The songs by the very artists that sell the most look like they could hurt our loyaly and audience shares. So, what else is new? We've been having the old "too pop/too country" argument in country radio since some folks thought Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash's horns didn't fit the format.

While we all wait for a day when, as - thankfully - has ultimately happened pretty consistently over the past five decades of the country radio format and no doubt will again soon, the songs our listeners love most and want to hear more on the radio also are the top sellers, it's time for innovation and new approaches on both sides of the radio and records conversation.

A&O is trying some new things right now, and I bet you are too if you're looking at local research on music. Give one of us a call (732-937-5757 for Mike or 206-498-6261 for me) and lets share what's working. No one wants to miss a single powerful passion-driving song or artist which appeals to emerging younger demos, but let's also be sure, as usual, we balance that with the needs and wants of the age and gender groups who are listening to us a lot.

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