Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Speed Of Change

Old pal Tommy Carrera (Frogman Tommy from KFRG, "Inland Empire":
"My wife bought the baby an "anniversary" edition Fisher price telephone...My older sons had no idea why the thing had a rotary dial!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Country Sunshine" = Country Radio Four Decades In Front Of A "New" Trend

Forty years ago, country radio grappled with the issue of whether to play overt product plugs in songs (and we did, as long as the song was a hit).

Of course, it's nothing new for an established hit to be used in commercials when marketers found them to be perfect for their 30-second spot.

Next, came grey-area additions, like Fergie’s “Labels Or Love,” a track commissioned specifically for the Sex and the City movie.

Now, there’s Chris Brown’s “Forever,” which isn’t so much a Top 10 hit as it is a commercial for Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. that just happened to sneak its way onto the radio. And only now is Wrigley owning up to it.

"Reality TV should mean informing viewers about who is secretly pitching to them in the TV shows they are watching," said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. "The true reality is that news and entertainment alike are practically being turned into undisclosed commercials. Many current practices fly in the face of viewers' legal right to know who is pitching to them."

From that same item: "...some may argue that the current FCC rules that require some disclosure of product placement tactics are weak; decisions are left to the "reasonable, good faith judgment" of the broadcaster."

I don't do legal advice, but it seems to me that attempts to regulate this not-so-new trend are on pretty shaky ground, but just to be safe, music directors, you'd be wise to listen extra closely to lyrics - for what might be between the lines.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Country Music News & Gossip

From John Zarling:

* Taylor Swift received her high school diploma in the mail recently after completing 9th and 10th grade at Hendersonville High School and completing her junior and senior years at Aaron Academy, a private Christian school offering homeschooling based in Hendersonville. “Education has always been at the forefront of my priorities, so I’m really glad to have my diploma,” Taylor told the Associated Press on Friday. “I never expected that my senior year would go the way it has. There’s something really exciting about getting to live your dream and continue your education at the same time.”

* Trisha Yearwood recently performed for President Bush during a celebration of music from the Civil War in Washington DC. We asked the superstar what led her to perform at the event and if she got nervous singing for the Commander In-Chief. “I performed on the CD of The Civil War songs that came out about ten years ago,” notes Trisha. “When I found out that they were going to perform this show in DC at the Ford Theater, I was excited to be asked to participate. I’ve sung for three presidents so far in my life, and it’s always nerve wracking!"

*Jack Ingram and The Beat-Up Ford Band have had many chaotic moments on the road the past few summers, from multiple bus fires to Jack’s busted boots to band and crew members getting lost or passing out while running. Since it’s the middle of Summer 2008, we thought we’d check in with the rising star for an update in that regard on Martina McBride’s Waking Up Laughing Tour. “There are no bus issues yet…except that it smells like a foot!” exclaims Jack, laughing. He continues: “We are going to have a ‘Rip Stick Olympics’ with the McBride crew and kids. I don't know how to ride a rip stick yet but I am confident we will win.” Ever the optimist, Jack and the band may want to check out Wikipedia here to ensure his win against Team McBride. (stunt alert: keep this in mind for when the tour comes near you!)

* Jimmy Wayne will release his new album Do You Believe Me Now on August 26th. Wayne’s sophomore effort marks his first recording since his Top 10 self-titled debut, which included the hit singles “Stay Gone, “I Love You This Much” and the perennial holiday favorite “Paper Angels.” “Writing and recording this album was a true labor of love for me,” Jimmy said. “It did take a little longer than the process typically takes, but I really wanted to make sure I found the songs that would make this record everything I wanted it to be. And thanks to these incredible writers, I feel like I’ve met that goal.” His debut on The Valory Music Co. will feature 10 new tracks, each intensely personal, yet exploring universal themes of romance – unrequited, reciprocated and destructive - and the refusal to give up on one’s dream. Wayne, an accomplished songwriter, wrote five songs on the upcoming album.

* Jewel has been closing her set on Brad Paisley’s PAISLEY PARTY Tour with an unexpected surprise that is leaving crowds on their feet: yodeling. For Jewel, yodeling comes naturally: “My dad is a cowboy and he taught himself how to yodel by listening to Jimmy Rodger’s records. When I was six my parents sang at dinner shows for tourists in hotels and part of the act was me getting up and yodeling,” recalls Jewel. “Yodeling took a lot of practice, which sure didn’t make me very popular in first grade…hearing someone learn to yodel is NOT pretty! What’s been amazing to me, is the response I get from audiences all around the world. It is a very traditional and almost dying art so I’m always happy when audiences respond enthusiastically and it sure makes up for all those years I was laughed at!” Fans can see Jewel on the PAISLEY PARTY tour for their chance to hear her yodel and pick up her latest piece of merchandise—a ‘Got Yodel?’ t-shirt!

* From Country Weekly: Toby Keith takes you to his Oklahoma ranch where he and his family share the good times. Toby reveals that the ranch offers an escape from the pressures of the music business. “It’s the perfect balance,” he tells Country Weekly. “When I cross through those gates after being out on the road, I know this is where I’m supposed to be.” Toby talks about his new movie, Beer for My Horses, which hits theaters Aug. 8. “I wanted this to be a character-driven movie,” Toby says. “I wanted every person in it to matter.”

* Some of your favorite country stars know how to stretch a dollar in tough economic times––they’ve all been there before. “We minimize trips when we can, only go out when we have to,” says Craig Morgan. Josh Gracin declares that he’ll be eating out less often. “You can lose track just going through McDonald’s or Starbucks,” he says. “Take a look at your debit card receipts to see where your money’s going.”

NYT: "Rethink Any Lingering Stereotype Of Country Music As Pop’s Most Conservative Format"

Reporter Alan Light is clearly a fan of Sugarland, and today's backstage interview with Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush from the CMA Music Festival in June spins some thought-provoking theories.

“Jennifer and I are both people who had lots of different kinds of friends, ergo, the kind of person who listened to lots of different kinds of music.”

You go, Kristian! You just became the first country artist I know you use the word 'ergo' in a media interview..

(could it be that a reason “All I Want to Do” is not testing as well as their recent "Life In A Northern Town" is because it fails to live up to fan expectations of more musical diversity and a distinctive musical identity?)

On the other hand, you can't blame their label for wanting the group to come back to the mainstream core a bit, given the boos Jessica Simpson heard last weekend as she took the stage in Wisconsin following Kellie Pickler.

Oh, what a tangled web of cultural and demographic crosscurrents the best of music is capable of weaving!

Friday, July 25, 2008

My "Favre" Stunt Of The Weekend

"We're faxing an offer to Brett Favre and comedian Mo Rocca, Monday!" -Star 102.5's Big Ken & Colleen

Saga’s KSTZ/Des Moines morning team, Big Ken and Colleen, are offering NFL Legend Brett Favre a contract to come and co-host their morning show for one week. Terms of the contract include numerous incentives volunteered by Big Ken and Colleen, as well as from Central Iowa listeners.

In addition, Big Ken and Colleen will donate $5,000 to the charity of Brett Favre’s choosing. Incentives of the contract include a variety of dairy products, a home to stay in while here in Des Moines, and enough spending cash to taste every fried food product at the Iowa State Fair.
“Brett is pretty much a free agent right now, so we thought we’d make a run at him. Radio is normally a lot less physical than football” said Big Ken. Additional items for the contract include: A personal driver, his own personal dental and health office, and concierge services, Free tickets to Des Moines events, Nightclub passes, Tickets to the Knoxville National Sprint Car Races. August 4th. Greta Van Susteren would be proud:
“Brett Favre, in the studio? Co-hosting our show? Yummy.” said Colleen Kelly of the STAR 102.5 morning team. “He plays football right?” -- Main Street Tattler

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.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Beer For My Horses" Exclusive Movie Preview

... Thanks to A&O's buddy Neil Haislop, who attended the Hollywood showing: Image Toby Keith's Show Dog records just released the first single from the Beer For My Horses The Movie soundtrack including the track list for the rest of the album. They also released the video clip with Trailer Choir singing the single, "Off The HIllbilly Hook," plus several cool and funny scenes from the film.

The movie is a road trip comedy starring Keith and comedian Rodney Carrington as sheriff's deputies chasing a drug lord and kidnapper. Written by Keith and Carrington, the film also stars Claire Forlani (CSI: NY), guitar legend Ted Nugent, Barry Corbin, Greg Serano, with special appearances by country icon Willie Nelson and Golden Globe nominee Tom Skerritt.

Toby tells us that once he stepped back and looked at the cast of players they'd gathered, he felt right then that the project was going to be successful.
"To have all these characters, all these human beings from different parts of the world is amazing. Like Claire (Forlani) she knows nobody in country music, she didn't know me, she knew Johnny Cash and that's it. And, she lives in Hollywood and a very liberal person and then you have Ted Nugent over here on the other side, who thinks everybody should have a .50 Cal. machine gun over the portal to their home, and you've got every other thing in the middle of those extremes from musicians to Hollywood and they all get along fine on the set and come away finding everybody adorable was the kind of set we had," -- Toby Keith

To catch just some of the excitement of the Toby's film check out the video clip of the first single from the soundtrack album for "Beer For My Horses."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Looking On The Bright Side Of ARB's Earnings Call

It's easy to be upset at Arbitron following company CEO Steve Morris' analyst call Tuesday. Instead, I've decided that I am going to try to be Little Mary Sunshine on their future plans to measure new media and possibly even TV.

Sure, wild sample quality control wobbles have seemingly become business as usual for ARB diary markets, creating constant heartburn for radio exec's, even as their ratings supplier's second quarter revenues went up 4% over last year (if only we could say that about radio nationally!) and now Arbitron reports that they will probably deliver an 8-10% increase in annual revenue over last year.

So, as Morris told Wall Street, they sure can't plead poverty as a reason for lousy sample consistency, as they try to hold the line on expenses in order to keep growing their profits: “Sample size is going to be an issue for us forever. That’s going to increase demands for more and more sample.”

Morris has to know that he's going to have a hard time renewing their current radio clients with the current accelerator clauses (3-4% annually in diary markets and 60-65% when a market goes to PPM) given today's economy. So, they hope to use PPM to grow their business by measuring new media and perhaps even television.

“We continue to see opportunity and strong advertiser support for more holistic measures of the media landscape. We’re talking to the TV industry. There is opportunity there, but it will get better as we have more [PPM] markets open.”

I'm confident that radio's story when compared by buyers in the same ratings data with television and new media is going to look very compelling. Hopefully, Arbitron will start sharing what they know from the new-defunct Project Apollo. Anyone inside a radio station knows that radio gets results and remains a bargain for the bucks. Did Nielsen pull out of the project because their TV clients would not have been pleased with what it was showing?

Radio has been paying much of the cost of ARB's moves to measure these competing media.

I am hopeful that radio's powerful reach and impact when directly compared to all other media, including TV, is a story Arbitron will start helping us tell .. and soon.

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.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cox Gets Aggressive In Louisville

Market watch alert: keep an eye on WAMZ and WRKA (check out their TV spot, not a new tactic for Cox, of course, but with Clear Channel redefining 'less is more' and reportedly adding units right now, the timing of this move is fascinating!) .. and an ear on both streams in the coming months.

Meanwhile, New Country - on its new, improved signal - is already starting to keep score.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Let's Only Call Them "Labels" After They Last Four Years

David Ross in Music Row online: "Eleven labels recently experienced change in their radio divisions — Country Thunder, Curb, Permian Records, Universal Republic, Sony BMG, Universal Records South, Nine North Records, Big Machine, Equity, Live Nation and Robbins Nashville—all have had staff arriving and/or departing. Additional changes are still likely."

Phil Sweetland, Country Insider/Nashville notes: "In nearly all cases, the same Promo folks are rehired by different labels."

R.J. Curtis in the 7/11 R&R, quotes Capitol/Nashville President/CEO Mike Dungan: "These (labels are) being funded by people who've made a fortune in another industry who have some kind of romantic notion about being in the music business... it's as if they're in show business. Then, they wake up three years later and say 'wow, I could lose everything here very easily.' I think that's happening a lot around Nashville right now."

In the same article, which looks into the use of the word 'label' to describe many of the new 'virtual labels' now working independent music to radio. Former WEA, former now-defunct 903 Music exec and now Fame Records consultant Bill Mayne: "Let's just say exactly what it is. Those are independent promotion companies that started calling themselves labels to get around (radio) corporate rules (against dealing with independent promotion companies) in light of the Spitzer investigation."

Meanwhile, Sunday's New York Times Magazine has a thought-provoking piece on where the music business (?) may be going. (i.e. '...those who choose to download “Feed the Animals” free are asked to take a survey inquiring why. About 3.5 percent have chosen “I don’t believe in paying for music,” 0.8 percent “I don’t value music made from sampling.” The top choice (about 37 percent): “I may donate later.”...') "The split of the Sony BMG merger is virtually a done deal. Well-placed sources say a Bertelsmann supervisory board meeting has been convened (July 11) to examine the sale of the German media giant's 50% stake, with a final decision on a deal expected to be revealed by the end of the month, following a meeting of the Sony Corp board."

Educated guess: The Sony label won't be sold by BMG to any of these new so-called labels. If that happened, it would end the argument over whether they are virtual this or that once and for all.

Instead, most likely, Sony Music will go back to being owned by Sony. And, I'd bet that the best of the 'virtual label' executives will go back to work for a real major label again, writing the latest chapter of Nashville's long history of independent music promotion.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Hot Country" Comes To Australia

David Rogerson, Managing Director (Phone: +61 (0) 2 9532 1299) writes: "Response to date has been amazing since the first stations started to roll out in April 2008, now we’re on close to 15 stations up and down the east cost of Australia."

Anyone who works to extends the reach of country music around the world is OK with me!

Radio's "Staycation" Problem/Opportunity

As Radio-Info's Tom Taylor reports that Arbitron is preparing for the impact of summer "stay close to home" vacations...
"It’s something to watch for in both diary numbers in the 100 markets that get Summer books as well as People Meter markets. But the heavy focus is on the PPM because of what happened last Summer, when Arbitron’s Bill Rose admits the sample “came up a little bit short.” The change in lifestyle (vacations and kids being out of school) produced some notable drops in the in-tab levels, and it also evoked strong questions from subscribers in Houston and Philly. So this year Arbitron’s ready. All PPM markets are now “over-installed, in anticipation of Summer vacation.” Of course the wild card is $4-a-gallon gas and the new phenomenon of the economy-induced “staycation.” But even if panel members stay in town instead of driving to DisneyWorld, they may well have different listening patterns. Speaking of listening patterns: is there a “heavy listening threshold” in the PPM, comparable to the never-revealed tripwires that make Arbitron scrutinize heavy-listening diaries? KYW programmer Steve Butler - a veteran of the early PPM testing and now live ratings in Philadelphia – poses that question. Arbitron’s Pierre Bouvard and John Snyder combine to say that the meter gives you the chance to look at “motion patterns” and other new factors, along with listening. Bouvard says “there are still ultra-P1 people, though there are fewer in the PPM than the diary.” But Butler was getting at a key question: if such a meter-carrier exists in your market, they can be on the panel for many months – unlike a diarykeeper who’s done in 7 days..."
..WXTU is surfing the trend, by giving away close-to-home "92.5 XTU Stay-cation Weekends" within driving distance of Philly.

Who knows? It might even help your rating numbers .. by keeping your core listeners inside the metro during their vacations!?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Country's Stars .. Lookin' Out At A Sea Of Video Cameras

Remember the old days? When concerts would forbid sound recordings and cameras?

Those days are long gone.

Brent Lane of the Cat Pak Morning Show in Pensacola reports:
"We had Joshua Stevens (in the yellow shirt) in to play for the first time ever on Pensacola Beach. We had about 500 people show to see the show. He signed autographs for about 2 hours. Pensacola loves "Rock -n- Roll and Pensacola"
(click to see a video). Notice all the video cameras up front, taking photos of Stevens.

Meanwhile, I was at Pat Green's show last Friday at Seattle's Show Box Theatre and observed the same thing there. Half the fans in Pat's mosh pit first few rows no doubt went home with video of his amazing show.

Colin Lovequist
, MD and midday guy at 620 CKRM, Regina was at Craven (crowd photo) all last weekend and predicts that the announcement George Strait is next year's headliner no doubt means the '09 event will probably be 'sold out by Christmas.' What did he post on the CKRM website? Pictures. Many of them taken by listeners.

Halfway serious prediction: the day is going to come when the performers come out on stage with video cameras to take pictures of the audience as they put on the show. And, of course, they'll all expect to see it on your station website within hours of the experience.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"People" Updates Shania's (Post Mutt) Story

Two months after her split from producer-songwriter husband, Robert "Mutt" Lange, Shania Twain has found strength in the two things that mean the most to her – her 6-year-old son, Eja D'Angelo, and her music.

"She's spending as much time with Eja as possible and hasn't put down her guitar since the split," a source close to singer tells PEOPLE. "The songs are pouring out of her."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hello, Wal-Mart. How Many Taylor Swift Albums Can I Buy?

Taylor Swift’s limited edition Wal-Mart exclusive release, Beautiful Eyes, will be released this Tuesday, July 15th.

The CD/DVD collection contains exclusive content never-before-released, but Taylor wanted to make sure her fans weren’t confusing this release with her sophomore album, set for release later this year. In a recent MySpace blog, Taylor notes:
“I wanted to let you know about this limited edition release that's coming out at Wal Mart called ‘Beautiful Eyes’. This is NOT my new album that I've been working on all year. It's a two disc set, one CD and one DVD. The CD has two previously unreleased songs, “Beautiful Eyes” and “I Heart ?” ( I wrote those songs when I was 13) as well as alternate versions of “Should've Said No”, and an acoustic version of “Teardrops On My Guitar”. The DVD has of all of my videos, the ACM Performance of “Should've Said No” (in the rain!) and a video created for “Beautiful Eyes” with footage from my 18th Birthday Party. I'm only letting my record company make a small amount of these - the last thing I want any of you to think is that we are putting out too many releases. I'm not going to be doing a bunch of promotion for it, because I don't want there to be confusion about whether it's the second album or not. I've gotten so many emails from people asking for new songs, and I thought this might tie them over till the new album comes out in the fall.”

-- John Zarling, Big Machine Records

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Big Research: 54.8% Feeling Less Wealthy Than They Did One Year Ago

We’ve got good news and bad news regarding consumer confidence in Julywith gas prices resting not-so-comfortably at above $4/gal as well as the faltering housing market, the war in Iraq, the credit card crunch, etc. etc. etc., fewer than one in five (18.8%) are confident/very confident this month in chances for a strong economy…while this is 29 points lower than 47.8% one year ago (the BAD), it’s flat with June’s record low reading, ending the confidence freefall that began in October 2007 (the GOOD).

With the Presidential battle just beginning to heat up, consumers are feeling a bit more skittish about political and national security issues…almost one-quarter (24.4%) continue to worry, up a point from June (23.3%) and rising 6+ points from a year ago (18.0%).

With no relief from gas prices in sight, spending sentiment echoes the post-Katrina era…half of consumers (50.0%) contend they’ve become more practical in their purchasing, rising several points from June (45.9%), more than 10 points from July ’07 (38.8%), and the highest reading since October ’05 (50.1%). It appears that retailers hoping to ring up sales for the back-to-school season may have trouble persuading consumers to put more than the basic pencils and paper into their shopping carts.

Consumers don’t appear to be willing to give into the gimmes anytime soon…almost three in five (58.1%) say they focus on needs over wants in spending, up from last month (53.8%) as well as last year (47.4%), and again the highest reading since a post-Katrina 58.5% (October 2005).

While the tight economy may have practical parents schooling children on the value of a dollar, it seems that many of us are learning our “green” lesson…more than one in five (21.6%) contend they’ve become more environmentally responsible in their daily lives.


1. Sebastian Bach, Irene Cara, Mikalah Gordon, Jermaine Jackson, Chris Kirkpatrick, Lorenzo Lamas, Sean Young and John Rich = the new cast of "Gone Country."

2. Bobby Brown, Carnie Wilson and Maureen McCormick = CMT is reuniting them for a second series, "Outsider's Inn," premiering on Friday, Aug. 15.

3. Laura & Sophie, Ashlee, Melissa, Coffey, Shawn and Gabe = the 'still active' contestants on NBC-TV's version of Nashville Star, hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus and fellow judges Jewel, Rich, and Jeffrey Steele. (and they wonder why the ratings have been so dismal?)

4. Laura Byrna, Joshua Stevens, David Nail, Emma Mae Jacob, Jason Brown, Jason Matthews, Trailor Choir, Jeff Bates, Steve Holy, Emily West, Lance Miller, Cody McCarver, Justin Moore, Eric Durrance, Roger Creager, Todd O'Neill, Last Light Band, Shooter Jennings, Cowboy Crush, Stoney Larue, Mulch Brothers, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Brynn Marie, Randy Rogers, the Stickers, Corbin/Hanner, Ashley Gearing, Madison County, Dan Adams and Darren Kozelsky = the names of people being promoted to country radio and standing in line right now.

Listening today to the new tunes from this group of "who cares?, get the hook" calibre talent, I not only worry that country music radio's truly bankable superstar list is starting to look like an endangered species, but unfortunately we're going to continue to be bored by these, who fail to make it to even "B," let alone "A,"- list status, for the rest of our lives = thanks to reality cable TV and summertime "fill" programming on the major (?) networks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dierks Bentley Pays A Surprise Visit To Mark Patric

MountainFest - Canada's Number 1 Country Music Festival is in full swing right now and at least two A&O clients are broadcasting live from the event.

Click to view: Here's a look, thanks to the JRfm Facebook page where they are posting videos of their viewpoint on the event.

A Vacation Reply Made Me Cry

A&O emails daily prep ideas to all of our clients, and at this time of the year one of the prices we pay for that is a string of repetitive vacation replies, like...
Hi... I'm out of the office until Monday July 21st. I'll get back to you then.
-- Chris Coburn, Assistant Program Director/Afternoon Drive
New Country 93.7 JRfm Vancouver
I'm currently out of the office and will return Monday July 21st. If you're emailing on music we'll be freezing the playlist through July 28th, 2008.
-- Rick Taylor, MD-APD-Midday, KUPL, Portland
then, came this one from Kimo Jenson, afternoon guy at KSON, San Diego:
Sorry I'm out of the office till July 21 helping fight fires in Goleta.
have a great week

After reading that one, Kimo, you can be sure I will. I absolutely will... thanks to folks like you.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Great Stunts Live On Forever

Don Riggs retired from KMPS earlier this year and he was awarded a Crystal Soundie award in May by the Puget Sound Area Broadcasters Association.

I went to the ceremony but had to travel right after it, so I was doing an internet search to read the news coverage of it when I came across this newspaper article from 1998!

Is it worth it to spend the extra time creating fun stunts takes? You bet. Great PR just goes on and on.

The Radio Website Of The Future

When you put the dedication to doing it right of Bonneville Radio's team + former-consultant and experienced programmer Dave Beasing + marketing guru Sammy Simpson + the competitiveness of the LA radio market, you know you're going to get something impressive.

Click here and be prepared to say "WOW."

Simple, uncluttered, focused image, easy to navigate to what most listeners go to a radio station website for and cutting-edge interactive. Be sure your webmaster checks this out. I think it's the direction we'll all be going, if we're smart.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick, Call Your CBS-TV Affiliate

If there's not a radio stunt here, I'll eat kibbles and bits..

"In a new campaign to promote the new summer reality series Greatest American Dog, the CBS Marketing Group unveiled pack of promotions designed to fetch the attention of dog lovers and enthusiasts through targeted media outlets and outreach in the environments where they hang out - both online and out-of-home. The show, premiering today (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS, is supported by an integrated marketing campaign spanning online promotions on, a pet destination on the Internet; video displays in selected supermarkets; branded hot dog stands and dog walker street teams in New York; and advertising on cable and radio, and in print and movie theaters. has created pet profiles for the contestants, allowing users to find out more about the dog stars. Visitors to can also participate in fan club groups featuring chat, forums and weekly show highlights and teasers. In addition, the show will be promoted on's "Dog Blog" and newsletter. The primetime show will also be supported by cable, radio and cinema advertising targeted to families and dog enthusiasts, as well as a full-page ad in the July issue of The Bark, an upscale monthly dog culture magazine sold in Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, PetCo, and other national and local specialty retail chains." (RBR-TVBR)

I Was Speechless. Thank Goodness R&R's Kevin Carter Wasn't.

I can't top today's Street Talk item:

NAB’s Head Explodes, Film At 11
For its 1,000th issue, Entertainment Weekly compiled a ginormous list of the coolest stuff of the last 25 years — movies, TV shows, books, albums, etc. Imagine our surprise to also see a “tech” category featuring “the 25 innovations that changed entertainment” ... and congrats to our pals at Sirius and XM, who snagged primo placement at No. 9 under the title “Satellite-Radio Stations,” scoring even higher on the list than such huge culture-shaping inventions as MySpace, Netflix,, PlayStation 2 and the Game Boy.

Says EW: “Boasting countless ad-free, uncensored option, the tunes-and- talk outlets were a godsend for a society that demands anywhere, anytime entertainment.” Hark! That distant “boom!” you just heard....

.. so, I won't even TRY.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

When You Hear The Same Thing Twice

.. from two different people and in two different places, either the two of them have been talking to each other or you may have gone two-thirds of the way to triangulating the location of the truth:

Mark Ramsey:
"Why shouldn't we be moving listeners to websites that solve their problems, whatever they may be, and do so by leveraging our strong relationships - especially our strong local relationships - with audiences and advertisers, both."

Steve Marx
"Legacy media properties require a brand-extension Website in order to remain viable. Don’t hide your brand online—let it blossom proudly as your legacy property’s service bureau. And don’t stake your entire future on that brand-extension site—or believe you can maximize your online opportunities by running everything through a single portal: The Web is a place for boutiques, not department stores. Understand that the Web is a vast network of networks. Use network effects to build new, independent Web 2.0-based businesses. Build high-value, high-engagement, integrated marketing solutions for your current clients. Anticipate less revenue from intrusive advertising, and build advertising-on-demand businesses. Own the thinking, not the channel. Tomorrow’s invoice will be for expertise, not distribution."

.. and now that I have underscored the importance of this new thinking, that makes THREE!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

So, "Sports franchises are a new Arbitron customer base"?

Frank Saxe at Inside Radio reports the Super Bowl champion New York Giants will get custom pre-, post- and in-game listening reports of its play-by-play coverage on CBS Radio flagship WFAN, New York as part of a deal between the NFL team and Arbitron.

Giants spokesman Mike Stevens says “PPM data will provide us with game-by-game insights that we were never able to see before.” One motivating factor to sign a PPM deal for the Giants — it owns the inventory in its game day coverage. Stevens says “We can now deliver valuable insight about our audience base and demonstrate to advertisers that sports radio is a unique format for reaching one of their most valued demographics.”

Preliminary New York PPM data from last fall showed WFAN’s average game-day cume among Men 25-54 (194,600) was even higher than its typical morning drive cume (188,000). Arbitron’s Giants deal follows a similar agreement struck with Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies in January.

Hmmm. Do you suppose they're paying the agency rate for the data? Or, the 60% increase over current diary rates radio stations are paying??

...Just askin,' (since I keep wondering if radio clients are helping Arbitron extend its business into non-traditional media, and you can't blame ARB for trying to do that but hopefully they're constantly assurring current clients what's in all this new business for them).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

1) .0568%, 2) 12%, 3) 18%

1. What percentage of recipients unsubscribe after receiving an email?
2. What is the average open rate for HTML emails?
3. What percentage of emails are read more than two times?

4. Have more radio email questions? Click here.

Country's Content Has Always Been About Storytelling

So, the only question is: why didn't someone write this book a long time ago??
You don't have to be a country music fan to enjoy these stories, but it doesn't hurt. Among the familiar names: Charlie Daniels ("The Devil Went Down to Georgia"); Tom T. Hall ("Harper Valley PTA" and "Song of the South"); and Kris Kristofferson ("Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make it Through the Night," "For The Good Times," "Sunday Morning Coming Down"). Plus a host of music makers whose work you've undoubtedly heard whether you're a novice or a veteran. But this isn't just a good ol' boys' club. Four contributors are women: Marshall Chapman (the first woman to front a rock band); Janis Ian (who wrote "At Seventeen" and has been part of the larger musical template for a long time; Tia Sillers (who co-wrote "I Hope You Dance" with Mark D. Sanders, another of this book's contributors), and Hazel Smith (who coined the phrase "outlaw music").

Friday, July 04, 2008

My Advice To All Personalities: Adopt A Cause And Champion It

.. I didn't mean LITERALLY adopt, of course, but CBS Country WYCD/Detroit set a record last weekend for pet adoptions during their annual Pet-A-Palooza. More than 500 pets were adopted in conjunction with more than 30 local animal rescue shelters at the event, which was hosted by WYCD night personality Jyl Forsyth.

Hey, Jyl: here's a friendly lick in the face from A&O! Thanks for making a difference in your community.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

If You're Going To Buy A Segment, Why Not Buy A Big One?

The new media cheerleaders are always worth reading, of course, since radio does such a great job driving new media usage, so I read with interest this Media Post item: Segment Driven Target Marketing Facilitated by Online Advertising.

Two thoughts:

1. Radio has been specializing in market segmentation forever.
2. Country radio reaches (40+ million adults across North America every single week, as I read BBM, Media Audit and Arbitron (Download Radio Today 2008 Edition) national data) a huge and affluent segment very efficiently.

Or, as SCBA Exec Director Mary Beth Garber puts it:
"Radio reaches 92 million more people each week than Google reaches in a month."

In fact, Radio reaches 44 million more people each week in the U.S. than the entire Internet reaches in a month. According to ComScore's May 2008 ratings, 143,389,000 people logged into Google in the month of May, and 190,858,000 logged onto the internet in the U.S.

According to Radar, Radio reaches more than 235 million listeners over the course of the week per the Radar ‘97 June 2008 Radio Listening Estimates.

Did you Radio today? Nearly all of your customers did.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" Airs Sept. 8 on ABC-TV

Filmed during the 2008 CMA Music Festival, the special features today's most exciting Country Music stars during a four-day party and music celebration in Nashville.

Airing nationally Monday, Sept. 8 (9:00-11:00 PM/ET) on the ABC Television Network, “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” is hosted by “Dancing with the Stars” champion Julianne Hough, former “American Idol” finalist Kellie Pickler and reigning CMA Horizon Award winner Taylor Swift.

The television special is executive-produced by Robert Deaton and directed by Gary Halvorson and was shot in high definition and will be broadcast in HDTV format, with 5.1 channel surround sound.

PS: Tickets for 2009 CMA Music Festival, June 11-14 in Downtown Nashville, are available now.

A Classy Thing To Do

Thank you, Blair Garner! We should ALL be doing this .. and more.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tsk! Tsk! (It's Not Nice To Try To Fool 'Mother Arbitron')

The Fresno Bee's Rick Bentley dug into the story of ARB's reissue of the Fresno trends last month and got specifics about what happened and who did it (Darrell Dahlberg, an AE had filled out two ratings diaries) you seldom see in print:
"...At first it looked like a ratings slide was over for KISS Country with a slight increase in the March numbers, but it was impropriety affecting the Arbitron ratings.."

Jessica Benbow of Arbitron press relations, explains that the ratings company tries to avoid such situations with their initial calls to potential diary keepers. If the person says he or she is with the media, no diary is sent. Benbow calls such a distortion "very rare."

Dahlberg's diaries also impacted the rolling April averages of course, but those ratings numbers had not been released before Arbitron took action to correct the problem. As soon as Arbitron became aware of Dahlberg's action, the company removed the two diaries from the mix. Benbow would not say if Arbitron caught the bad diaries or was tipped off by an outside party. The adjusted ratings have been sent to local radio stations.

Before the bad diaries were caught, KSKS had a 4.5 share of the listeners 12 years old and up for the winter ratings. A share is the percentage of listeners tuned in to a station in a given period. This came after ratings of 5.7 in the spring 2007 Arbitron book, 5.0 in the summer and 4.4 in the fall.

After the diaries were removed, KSKS dropped to a 4.0. That may not sound like a lot, but it was enough to drop KSKS from a tie for fourth place to 10th place in the competitive Fresno market.

The effect is more dramatic with specific demographics. The initial Arbitron ratings showed that KSKS went from a 4.7 share for women age 18-34 in February to a 17.0 share in March. The new numbers show that KSKS actually went from a 4.7 to an 11.3. The two books were part of the 1,074 returned to Arbitron for analysis for the time period. Arbitron sent 1,704 books to this market, one book for every 430 people in the market.

A Blog Every "Image-meister" Should Check

Thanks to Cat Country 98.7, Pensacola production whiz Paul Orr for calling it to my attention:
"I kind of hit a creative block with a couple other projects I was working on at the time, so I was looking for a way to try some new things, and also for a way to sort of develop a little more discipline in my composing life."

(From NPR) Today, composer David Morneau finishes off an ambitious year-long musical project. And to celebrate, he's doing the same thing he did every day for the past year. Morneau, a doctoral candidate in composition at The Ohio State University, has been writing (and posting online) one 60-second piece of music daily during the past 12 months.

Ask ANY writer: the only solution to a creative block is to just start writing. So, what did you create today to make your station's brand imaging more topical and fun? And, like Morneau (and Orr), what did you do to share it with other people?