Monday, September 05, 2011

Things I Don't Understand (A Continuing Series)

I scratch my head when a song charts #1.

.. and almost immediately the label puts out a "live" version.

.. once upon a time a programmer told a music promoter that he was dropping a #1 song due to "burn," (probably because he didn't want to admit that he was so stupid that he thought playing a song that ranked lower than #1 made more sense than playing #1 another week or two).

So, the label came up with a "live" version in hopes that would overcome the objection to keeping the #1 song in "heavy" rotation just as they were starting to get the biggest retail action of the release's "life at radio" on the tune.

I wonder...

1. Why drop a song just because it hits #1 on national spin charts? Isn't this the peak of its popularity, audience reach and acceptance?
2. Why test a hook for weeks and weeks, past the unfamiliarity and the polarity to the point that positives are at their highest, and then change the version of the song you play?
3. How could a song that is finally on 100% of the monitored and reporting panels and still growing spins to the point that it's capable of hitting the highest chart number be sufficiently "burnt" that you'd want to play it less?
4. If your recurrents - which is where songs like that move - test better than your heaviest rotation currents with higher positives and low negatives, wouldn't it help your targeting, cume and time spent listening potential to play them more, not less?
5. Has there EVER been a "live" version that listeners liked better on the radio than the "original hit?"


Anonymous said...

There has only been one live song in the past 25 years that I listeners seemed to love more than the single and that would be "Friends In Low Places" from Garth.

Steve Hamilton said...

Hi Jaye. Having programmed the very successful KOSI-FM in Denver for many years, I admit to being tempted to pull a song that was #1 out of Current and move it to Recurrent.

However, I would always "switch brains" to that of a listener. As programmers, we listen to our stations constantly with a very attentive attitude. Of course, the Currents will stick out because we're exposed to them so much.

It takes a longer time for listeners to burn out on #1 songs, I believe, because their full attention is not directed to the radio station constantly. Programmers are listening with a critical ear and saying, "Man I'm tired of that song." While the listener is often just getting used to hearing it.

Now programming Contemporary Jazz on an Internet Station (K-High), I treat the Currents and Recurrents in a similar fashion. The "lag" effect is even more prominent on Internet-delivered stations because of the technical challenges of the audience, and their listening habits.

Just when the programmers are burned-out on a #1 track, the audience is usually at the point of accepting it as a "Hot new song".

If it's testing well and not polarizing, I'd vote for leaving it in Current a few weeks longer, and not replacing it with a "live" version.

Steve Hamilton
Dial-Global (AC Pure Net)

Dave Savage said...

I was going to say "Friends in Low Places" too, but I'm not sure that one was bigger than the studio version, it was very close.

Now I'm dating myself and getting out of the country genre but all the hits off Cheap Trick's "Live at the Budokan" and Peter Frampton's "Frampton Comes Alive" were bigger than the studio versions. Also, Bob Seger's "Turn the Page".

But your point is well made, Jaye. All of my examples are ancient history.

Dave Savage said...

And one additional thing, I don't think any of my examples were hits on the radio before the live version came out.

So again, Jaye, your point is valid.

JJ Duling said...

IMHO, it's because MDs and PDs make these moves as viewed from THEIR perspectives. "Golly, this song's been in hot rotation for 7 weeks-it's gotta be fried so let's freshen it with the live version", and similar such thinking. All the consistently successful Programmers have always viewed things from a listener's perspective, understanding those in their audience don't 'consume' radio the way radio people do. They also understand jocks and AEs will complain about things being burned way before they really are.

And, let's face it... the lack of callout research hasn't helped in many large and medium markets, again skewing how PDs view things. And, there's just a little bit of "well, this is how we've always done it" mindset.