I called Country Aircheck last week to chat with Lon Helton when their ace statistician Jeff Green happened to be answering the phone.
Jeff’s encyclopedic knowledge includes songs, artists, music, radio and many other things, not the least of which is Arbitron ratings data.
He had the sound of slight panic in his voice as he asked if I had been watching the PPM trends of country radio cumes in the 13 markets now currency. I had, of course, and we both agreed that country’s cume in all of the markets was higher six months ago before the data was currency.
Now, with extra sample for ethnic populations and 18-34’s, and the markets having officially said goodbye to diaries, country radio cumes have been slipping across the board.
Green asked if I thought the trend was due to ARB methodology or to country music trends.
Both things play a role, I believe. It seems to me that the image of country is absolutely great among listeners thanks to lots of exciting media coverage of our hottest stars, but the fact that Tim McGraw was moved last fall to issue an apology to his fans after his label decided not to release new material and went with a “Greatest Hits” collection says a lot about how conservatively Nashville’s labels are responding to the economic slow down, making our current music fare a bit less exciting than it was in 2007.
“If That’s The Case,” he opined, remembering the mid-1960’s when The Beatles reinvented pop music and the group had three of the top ten charted songs, maybe country radio should start listening to the best-selling albums and just play the best songs, perhaps two or three at a time.”
Personally, I think most A&O clients do a very good job at keeping listeners passionately-excited about our best music and artists, which is why they generally do very well, but then I got to thinking about what else we could do...
* How about asking your audience to vote pro or con on whether we should play nothing but Dixie Chicks songs during the hour of Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony and do what they vote for whether it’s yes or no?
* How about creating a Randy Travis-Carrie Underwood duet mix of “I Told You So” then and now?
* How about digging into all of the Grammy-nominated country albums to see if there might be some hidden gems for you to “break exclusively?”
* How about doing something as risky as those things on a regular basis?
It might make some conservatives in our core upset. But, who knows? It might build your buzz a bit, getting that cume growing again.
What do you think?
I was going to ask Lon Helton when I finally got a chance to talk to him, but by that time I had forgotten why I had originally called him.
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