Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Is The Country Format Ignoring Its Listeners?

You are, if you're placing the top ten chart songs into your power rotation without looking at local research on all of those songs. (shown clockwise, l to r, R&R's chart this week, A&O's crosstab report from Rate The Music where they rank well by "favorite" but also have extremely high negatives and burn scores), and the Bullseye Callout ranker from R&R. To enlarge, click the item.)

After making such a radical claim, I think I need to put A&O's "bias" right up front: research is not something to be feared, it's a guideline to what listeners are saying they want/don't want to hear. Properly conducted and interpreted, research is simply the process of systematically asking random listeners what they think and then carefully analyzing their opinions, applying what you learn. This approach was new and untested thirty years ago, but for three decades it's been proven to improve targeting, cume and time spent listening growth.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, three of the top 10 charted songs this week do not appear on most of the national callout and internet rankers higher than #13. 30% of the top spun songs this week are by females, meanwhile all ten of the top ranking researched Rate The Music and Bullseye Callout songs, to pick two of the many widely-available national research rankers, are by male artists.

Theory #1: so many copies of the Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift albums have been sold over the past year that core listeners are already tired of hearing them before radio got around to adding them. Fly in the ointment for this theory: Sugarland's "All I Want To Do" is off the brand new "Love On The Inside" collection and yet in this week's Mediabase national callout, conducted by Clear Channel-owned Critical Mass Media, it already has 20.9% total negatives in spite of being a favorie of 36.3% of the CMM national callout panel of 844 25-44 year old country music radio listeners. When ranked by net positives (total positive percentage minus the total negatives), Sugarland is #11, with familiarity at 87.4%.

Theory #2: listeners are telling us they don't like the newest songs by Taylor, Miranda and Jennifer when compared to the new ones by men like Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Blake Shelton, Jason Michael Carroll, Jimmy Wayne, Josh Gracin, Keith Anderson, The Lost Trailors, Gary Allan, George Strait, Craig Morgan and Keith Urban.

Who knows if either of these guesses/theories is correct or if it is something else entirely, but I do know this: we should be asking ourselves why we aren't playing the songs listeners rank so well a lot more than the ones which they rank a lot lower.

Researched music drives ratings; thirty years of history has proven that. Will country's national ratings slip this summer? If so, I'll "know" why.

It's a very nice feeling when other stations are down, but yours is UP! Hopefully, you're listening to your listeners, not the charts.


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU....I totally agree....

Anonymous said...

apparently- you don't keep up with popularity too well- maybe too much breakfast bloging and no radio?

Ed Salamon said...

Thirty years ago, call out research was my "secret weapon". I credit it as a major factor in Country WHN's success in New York, as well as at KTNQ (10-Q) in LA, when it beat KHJ. Then everyone started to use it and it became the price of admission to compete. Oddly enough with so few stations in any format currently asking their customers what they want, it is just as powerful today.