Thursday, June 30, 2011

A 24/7 News Source

If you are the lone person in your studios over the long holiday weekend and even the usual local sources are staffed lightly if at all, how do you stay in touch with "the news" locally?

Twitter has a few lessons in how to do that.

Which is very helpful, but is also a reminder of how easily local radio could be replaced by social media as a local information/buzz/interactivity source for your listeners unless what goes between the songs is immediate, in the know and in the now, 24/7.

Voice tracking is convenient and easy for YOU, of course, but what's in it for the listener?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Me? Consultant Of The Week? Why, THANKS, Mike McVay!

I have been reading the great interviews with the McVay Media Advisors Alliance team and learning a lot. Now, next week, I know I won't learn a thing, since Mike tossed the questions at me this time.

Here's a preview:

Mike McVay: What is the one thing that is universally concerning when you start a new relationship with a radio client?

JA: Establishing credibility and trust. Of course, it's impossible for someone you hire for their objectivity to get an honest and "can see the forest for the trees" view of your situation because they are an outsider who feels free to point out the things that "insiders" may not either be aware of or feel free to discuss to ever - by definition - be fully accepted as a company employee would,

Thus, sometimes, being politically-incorrect within an organization can be a reason why a consultant is brought it. Yet, the goal is to create long term success not just to shake things up. The more I can learn about the history and people involved and become a full partner, the more assistance I can be.

I work hard from the outset to strike that balance and understand exactly what the company that hires me wants from our relationship.

MM: What has changed about the way you program today from the days when you started as a consultant?

JA: Once upon a time, the consultant would set the agenda as a detailed action plan and expect the client to do most of the work involved. Now, I actually have more backup and support than many of the programmers and managers I work with. Thus, we provide prep, assist with researching the audience if you have no other way to do it internally, coach, create, brainstorm, write and produce. Though this change would not have been foreseen when I first went to work for Drake-Chenault in Los Angeles almost thirty years ago, but I like the much more hands-on approach a lot. It used to be that you'd meet, write a report and then move on, wondering if the client was executing your agreed-upon vision as well as possible. Now, I find myself much more involved on a daily basis and that is very gratifying, let alone being much more productive.

MM: What are the three things that broadcasters should be focusing on ... that they're ignoring or unaware of?

JA: 1. The quality of our streaming content. A&O's "Roadmap 2011" national perceptual study of country radio core users are gravitating to our streams especially on their fast-growing use of mobile media and they are aware that the quality of online audio is inferior to what they hear on FM and AM. They want to use us more online, and find our poor quality control of streams an impediment to doing so.

2. Building authentic personal brands which execute consistently and creatively and thus enhance the station brand. Leverage them across all platforms. Your "position" is no longer what you claim you do, it's what you actually do in real time.

3. Focusing on what goes between the songs as much as on the quality of the music. In the 80's, air personalities were told to shut up and play the hits. In the last decade, we taught them that what we want from them is as many voice tracked hours in as little time as possible. Tomorrow's audience can get music with little or no talk in many places, and will remain loyal to radio only if we understand how important fresh, topical, relevant, well-written, tightly-edited content is as well.

MM: You're viewed as a successful programmer ... what is the ONE thing that you're most proud of (to date) in your career as a broadcaster and consultant to the broadcast industry?

JA: Attending the annual Pre-Country Radio Seminar Country Radio Hall Of Fame induction ceremonies and seeing so many longtime friends and clients being enshrined in the Hall, based on work that we have done together. It's such an honor to be among the plaques hanging on that wall, surrounded by people who have been my heroes.

MM: What would you like to be known for as a broadcaster?

JA: A mentor, an effective trainer and motivator.

MM: What advice would you share with a 1st time program director who is entering your format of expertise?

JA: Listen. Thanks to streaming audio, it's now possible to hear every great radio station and personality in the world in real time. Don't become so busy in your daily life that you fail to listen carefully to the people you work with, compete with and admire.

MM: Anything that you'd like to add?

JA: If you're good and want to get better, I'd love to get to know you. Call, txt or email me, especially if you have content you're proud of that you'd like to share.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Songs I'd Like To Hear On My Competition

Country Aircheck is becoming "the Swiss Army Knife" for country programmers, with very helpful and relevant programming features day in and day out. Like this, for example:
Here are a few songs to keep in mind as you set music for the Fourth of July Weekend.

• KEITH ANDERSON/Sunday Morning In America
• RODNEY ATKINS/It’s America
• BIG & RICH/Our America
• BROOKS & DUNN/Only In America
• JOHNNY CASH/Ragged Old Flag
• TOBY KEITH/American Soldier
• TOBY KEITH/Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue
• TOBY KEITH/Made In America
• WILLIE NELSON/America The Beautiful
• ELVIS PRESLEY/American Trilogy
• LEANN RIMES/God Bless America
SUGARLAND/Everyday America
• AARON TIPPIN/Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly
• JOSH TURNER/Firecracker
• CARRIE UNDERWOOD/All-American Girl
• PHIL VASSAR/American Child
• HANK WILLIAMS, JR./America Will Survive

Compiled with the help of the
Green Book Of Songs By Subject

I am sure that there are some brilliant folks who will find ways to use all of the tools in this musical Swiss Army knife creatively, but personally I'd like to use only the right tools for the job this weekend.

I'll play...

• RODNEY ATKINS/It’s America
• BROOKS & DUNN/Only In America
• TOBY KEITH/American Soldier
• TOBY KEITH/Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue
• TOBY KEITH/Made In America
SUGARLAND/Everyday America
• AARON TIPPIN/Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly
• JOSH TURNER/Firecracker
• CARRIE UNDERWOOD/All-American Girl

.. on "my" radio station and you are welcome to the rest of them for yours, if you want. (but I sure hope you don't cut yourself!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Freezin' For A Reason

Zoo Montana was going to have to close, due to financial pressures. (click to read the story)

Townsquare Media/Billings Program Director Larry Wilson devised a plan. Wilson, who also does an on-air shift, once did a promo called "Freezin' For a Reason" to bring awareness to the Haiti tragedy.

The idea was that no matter where in the world there is a tragedy, everybody can give back.

The concept: Sleep in the van, go on the air and try to raise money for a cause. And, keep in mind, Montana is not Florida.

The reason "Livin' Large Larry" made the sacrifice, of course, had nothing to do with winning an award, but last weekend at the MAB convention he won one, an E.B. Craney Award.

The "EB Awards" are named in memory of Montana broadcast pioneer Ed Craney. The "EBs" recognize excellence in local news, production, promotion and public service. The awards are presented annually during the Montana Broadcasters Association convention.

Congrats, Larry. Thanks again for proving that there's nothing like radio people and our listeners getting together to make big things happen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Radio Keys To Success

1. Signal
2. Potential market or format growth
3. Potential station growth
4. Price and/or terms paid for the facility
5. Promote: increase visibility and sampling, then build loyalty and time spent listening.
6. Concentrate on retail business. Emphasize local, direct sales.
7. Be flexible. Avoid bureaucracy.
8. Research consistently. Make sure the audience thinks you have the best personalities and the best music.
9. Attitude. Become positive and aggressive. Make your staff that way, and "take it to the streets."
10. Take risks.

You simply MUST have #1. Then, the more of the others you have, the higher your potential for success.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Glen Campbell Will Tour One Last Time

Campbell has revealed that he’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and will soon begin a farewell tour.

His only concern is that there may be moments during the tour that he may not remember a lyric or two...something he and his wife are talking about and hoping fans will understand.

Judging from the reaction to the news on the net already this morning, Glen, you don't have a thing to worry about.

We're all looking forward to giving you many more standing ovations!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Space Heater In The Well House

Water to my home comes from a well, and several years ago during a winter cold snap the pipes from the well froze. So, of course, I "winterized" everything. Insulation on all pipes. Heaters in every location possible.

Thankfully, we've never had our pipes freeze again in spite of a few days each winter of bitter cold temperatures.

Yesterday, a lovely mid-70's summer day, I discovered that the space heater in my well house has been keeping the temperature in there in the mid-80's, driving up my utility bills, for at least the last 90 days, if not longer.

Do you have any "space heaters in your (programming) well house?"
  • That 60's and 70's weekend music show which worked very well when 60's and 70's variety was important to your strategy, a decade ago?
  • A value-added short form feature you agreed to run when a prospect dangled big bucks in front of sales, but the client no longer remembers that you run it to get his business?
  • Morning show benchmarks which seemed like good ideas once upon a time, but haven't been freshened or tested in a very long time?
Summer started this week, so it's too late to encourage you to do "spring cleaning" of your features, contests, promotions, mentions and other programming elements.

Instead, like I did yesterday, maybe it's time for you to turn off a few "space heaters" that only cost resources and have outlived their usefulness.

Monday, June 20, 2011

July 4 Ideas

1. The biggest Independence Day 'blowout' of all time. Award a prize to a listener who can blow out all 235 candles on an "America's birthday cake."

2. Have a 'red, white and blue picnic.' Every food item is colored either red, white or blue (food dye).

3. On air fireworks - accompany local displays with patriotic tunes at dusk.

4. Boombox
parade, with station t-shirt-clad listeners.

5. Uncle Sam Lookalike contest.

OK, what have YOU got going?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Letter From Vancouver

.. from "special guest blogger," Gord Eno, PD of JRfm and The Peak, Vancouver, B.C.:

While watching TV coverage of the Stanley Cup celebrations inside the arena, CBC cut to video of a burning police car outside their studios. From that point on, I was scanning the channels seeking more information.

My mistake Wednesday night was not digging deeper than the #canucks and #nhlplayoffs hashtags I was following on Twitter for the game or searching Facebook for updates. I defaulted to what I was watching on TV, the tried, true and dependable CBC.

It appeared their coverage was struggling, resorting to sensationalizing events they couldnʼt support with video.

Finally, when I was able to find other sources, the images were of police were guarding empty intersections and video of stragglers trying to find their way out of the downtown core.

One channel even included night shots of street cleaners peacefully making their way down Georgia. Those images did not even come close to what I saw early the next morning. Nor did it have the impact of the aggregated videos and pictures that began spreading yesterday afternoon.

The real story of the rioting was portrayed online, much of it through social media. Thousands of images and videos were taken from hundreds of perspectives. In fact, there was criticism that the people who passively stood by to document the destruction and violence were part of the escalation.

As it turns out, the very same documentation that may have been a catalyst to the crime is now evidentiary in arresting the criminals. Blogs, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook pages are posting the faces of thugs caught in the act in order to publicly expose and identify them. It is working with a vengeance. The public has provided names, backgrounds, even phone numbers of the identified. Apparently some have already been arrested.

Now, today there are fears expressed that the vigilance has devolved to vigilante with inaccurate accusations and intense personal attacks on people whose status updates are deemed contrary to current popular opinion. Young Offenders Act infringements have also been cited. But it was also Twitter and Facebook that created the ground swell movement to motivate hundreds of volunteers to team up and clean up the mess left by rioters.

Through this, a wall of positive reinforcement rose from the sheets of plywood covering broken windows.

Heartfelt comments written by real Vancouverites, ensuring us and the rest of the world that the ugly Vancouver they were exposed to Wednesday night is not the beautiful Vancouver we all saw, experienced and loved during the 2010 Olympics. I suspect social media will play a big part in our understanding of what happened to us Wednesday night and how we will move beyond the tragedy and feel optimistic about the future.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Country Music Soup

Here's another sign of how powerfully-compelling and universal the core values which drive country's success are: prolific author Jack Canfield and his crew of co-authors have been making best-selling "soup" of all kinds since they first tossed a chicken metaphor into a word processor "pot" many years ago.

"The Inspirational Stories behind 101 of Your Favorite Country Songs. Songs tell a story, and now many of country music's most famous singers and songwriters are sharing more of the story! These artists reveal the inspiration, influence, and background, and when and why they wrote their most famous songs, in this fresh collection of stories. The book also includes great photos of the songwriters and lyrics of many of the songs. A great gift for anyone who loves country music!"

What a wonderful idea!

And, even better, they didn't just "think" of it. They did it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Radio Remains On Arbitron "Radar" Bigtime

Radio Broadcasters Add More Than 1.9 Million Weekly Listeners in the Past Year According to RADAR 109 Radio Broadcasters Add More Than 1.9 Million Weekly Listeners in the Past Year According to RADAR® 109

Radio Attracts More Listeners aged 18 to 34 than a Year Ago

It's truly amazing how stable radio's reach has been for many years, and in spite of all the new media and mobile choices out there, audience behaviors continue to prove how radio usage is a habit driven by regularity, consistency and loyalty.

Those big gains among 18-34's and teens bodes well for the future.

Of course, we can't take this growth in diversity for granted and will also need to keeping working on the quality of our content and levels of engagement of all kinds.

However, it's a solid validation to see that what radio does every minute of every day keeps growing regular usage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hits? Or, Mechanicals?

Tom Roland's Country Update "takeaway" this morning from last week's second annual Billboard Country Music Summit - that the business is simply upside down as CD sales slipped another seven percent - in spite of CMA market research director Greg Fuson's report that "the majority of North America's 95 million country fans are an attractive and growing target which defies traditional stereotypes" - contains more than a small clue as to why both things might be the way they are.

Roland quotes CMT senior VP of music strategy Jay Frank equating a celebration of the CD to cheering for the rotary phone.

"The CD still has life in the marketplace," Frank said, "but instead of thinking of it as the primary source of business for Music Row, it should be considered just one of numerous revenue streams, including digital sales, online streaming of music and videos and—thanks to 360 deals—partnerships in other segments of the business. Ten years ago," Frank said, "a major label might have six forms of product on an artist. Now, that same artist might be the source of 300-500 product formats. Each of those products is likely to bring in a fraction of what the label previously received, but the small bits and pieces added together have the potential to make up ground."

Nashville Songwriters Assn. International executive director Barton Herbison responded to that optimistic future view, complaining that with fewer CDs selling, non-hit album cut mechanical royalties are a smaller part of the equation.

Somehow, he equated that factor to a need for radio to pay performance royalties — the payments that songwriters and publishers receive for the public use of their material, primarily from radio, which elicited this quote: “You could have a song on [a] CD and make a living with a song that never went to radio,” songwriter Rhett Akins said, reflecting on the ’90s, when such artists as Shania Twain and Garth Brooks routinely went multiplatinum. “Now it’s hard to get a songwriting deal if you’re not getting songs on the radio, because the amount of sales doesn’t add up to enough for your publisher to keep you around.”

So, let me get this straight.

Radio needs to pay for the people who write songs we don't play?

Listeners not wanting to buy albums anymore because of all the songs they don't want to pay for because they don't add sufficient value to the CD means that radio must pay performance royalties so that songwriters who don't write hits should continue to make a living?

Upside down is right. Upside down thinking.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Trachman Treasure

Jay Trachman continues to influence many personalities around the world through his writings, which were a regular, weekly guide and mentor to many of the best among us for more than three decades. Recently, someone asked me if any of his books ("The Art Of Personality Radio") are still in print. Sadly, I don't think so, but if you know where they might be available, please let me know. Meanwhile, it happens that I am a pack rat who was one of his first subscribers and format editor/contributors and this kept a lot of Jay's articles. Occasionally, I plan to reprint his evergreens as an ongoing tribute to my friend Jay. This one was distributed on January 20, 2003.

"The Really, Truly Basics"
--by Jay Trachman

To my understanding, people turn on the radio for two primary reasons: 1. to provide some stimulus to brains which are not totally occupied with what they're doing, and 2. to sense some kind of connection.

Let's look at each of these a little deeper...

When people choose a music station for their "stimulus," it means (among other things) they don't want to be constantly involved. Talk radio is much more demanding; you have to pay attention to get any satisfaction out of it.

With music, your attention can be anywhere from oblivious to totally focused and singing along.

For most people, it wanders between these extremes, depending on what's going on in their lives (when the phone rings, the radio recedes into mental background), and the particular music on the radio.

Presumably, most will pay more attention to a song they know and love, than to one they don't care for, especially if it's unfamiliar.

We offer other stimuli, from informational features like news, weather and traffic, to DJ raps, contests, right down to the commercials.

How effective are they? It varies, of course; sometimes we invite our listeners to pay total attention; at others we bore them or offend them so much that they tune out -- mentally or physically. Naturally, we should be looking for ways to maximize the former while minimizing the latter.

I'll leave it to you to figure out which is what...

The area of connection fascinates me.

There are two main divisions: first, connecting people to the world-at-large. Much of this occurs by implication: if a 9-11 happens again, or worse, listeners know we won't keep playing music
and commercials, doing business as usual. When the clock radio comes on in the morning and they hear a song playing, or a coupla' zany jocks bantering, one knows the world is still solid. Most adult listeners want some real information too -- traffic, weather, news -- but it can wait a few minutes.

The other aspect of connection is -- not with the world, but -- to an individual. I hear it again and again: "There are a lot of lonely people out there..." John Naisbitt said it in "Megatrends": the growth of "high tech" generates the need for "high touch." And this is, in my opinion, our most important function.

We are the companion; the connection to another human; the thing that keeps the listener from feeling alone... Provided we take the trouble to achieve it. Our mere presence isn't enough. People aren't likely to feel connected to someone who mainly spews liners cards. It's the Sharing of our lives, our responses to events such as the music and happenings of the day, that make us sound "real," and it's the intimacy generated when *we* believe we're talking to one person, that enables us to play on people's emotions; to help them feel less alone, cared for, secure.

It's an illusion, to be sure. But it's one which works when we offer it, because it's satisfying to the listener. In the theater, they call it "the willing suspension of disbelief"; that is, if the listener takes the trouble to think about it rationally, he or she knows you can't possibly be talking only to him or her, just as the movie goer knows the actors aren't being blown up or rocketing into space. We buy into the illusion *because it's satisfying to us*. Because that's how we can lose ourselves in what's being offered.

That's what entertainment is -- making others *feel* something... In our case, that something is primarily "being with a friend."

It doesn't come from liner cards; it doesn't come from slogans or promos. Those may be necessary, but I hope that we can put things in perspective: in a universe where everybody is playing the "right music" and plenty of it, where listeners keep telling us that radio is boring, where new technologies keep siphoning off our listeners, where average time spent listening continues to slide... it would seem that what's really important is not the jingles, not the positioning statements, not the promos, but the actual human contact you make with another individual.

It's time to start devoting our energies to it, to making sure that this One to One contact with our listeners is the most effective it can be.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What’s Hot? Saving a buck or two (or even a thousand!)

If you, like me, are addicted to Phil Rist's monthly tracking of consumer attitude trends, here we go again:

Chalk it up to being par for the course…consumers aren't going to let a good old-fashioned Twitter scandal elevate their concerns for political and national security issues. This month, fewer than one in five (18.9%) say they continue to worry, down more than a point from May (20.4%) and more than two points from a year ago (21.1%).

Perhaps due to the lack of solid improvement in the economy, practicality is creeping upward in June…nearly half (48.5%) report that they’ve become more sensible and realistic in their purchasing, up from 44.8% in May, 46.3% in Jun-10, and the highest June reading in our survey’s history.

In similar fashion, focus on the necessities climbs high in June…55.2% (also a record for June) are simply sticking to what they need when shopping, up slightly from last month (54.9%) and rising more than a point from last year (53.8%).

With the official unemployment rate inching up to 9.1% this month, consumers’ outlook for the job market darkens in June…this month, 28.1% predict there will be “more” layoffs over the next six months, rising from 26.6% 30 days ago. The majority (54.6%) contend that layoff levels will remain the same (up from 53.3% in May), while under than one in five (17.4%) expect “fewer,” down nearly three points from last month.

Despite rising pessimism for the employment outlook, those currently on a payroll seem secure about keeping their jobs…in June only 3.4% are concerned about being handed a pink slip, down ever-so-slightly from last month (3.6%).

While paying down debt (31.4%) remains the top priority for consumers, fewer are planning to do so compared to one year prior (32.5%)…instead, decreasing overall spending (30.1%) and adding to savings (26.4%) are the rising stars this month, up from 28.7% and 24.7% 365 days ago, respectively. One in five (20.6%) intends to pay with cash more often, on trend with Jun-10 (20.9%).

It’s progress, people…despite the fact that more than two in five (43.0%) currently say they disagree that they are saving enough for future needs, this figure has improved three points from a year ago (46.4%). More than one in four (26.6%) agree that their piggy banks have the heft to bear expenses in the long-term, up more than two points from Jun-10 (24.2%).

With pricing at the pump easing over the past month, fewer (77.9%) are feeling a major impact to their wallets compared to last month (80.3%), but let’s face it – that’s still A LOT of people…simply taking fewer shopping trips (45.6%) appeals to the most penny pinchers as an option to defray fuel expenses. Shopping closer to home (43.4%), hunting up bargains (42.8%), and using coupons more (40.5%) follow.

Though gas companies typically exercise their freedom to raise prices around Independence Day, consumers seem cautiously optimistic about the short-term direction of the cost of fuel…while the largest group (45.7%) still contends that pump prices will rise by the close of June, this figure is a great deal lower than sentiment recorded a month ago (74.2%). More than one in three (36.1%) say the price per gallon will remain the same, while nearly one in five (18.2%) are hoping for further declines, much brighter than in May (7.0%). Drivers are anticipating an average price of $3.91/gal by June 30th, lowering from the $4.25/gal expected at the end of May.

Saving a buck or two (or a thousand, if you are featured on a certain TLC show) is what’s hot this month, according to the 61.6% who voted for the Extreme Couponing trend. Saving gas with Hybrid Automobiles (59.6%) is in vogue, as is X-Men: First Class (56.9%). Men are also looking forward to Green Lantern, while women are watching their Community Gardens grow. What’s Not? It’s tough when you’re less popular than Arnold “The Adulterator” Schwarzenegger, but January Jones failed to achieve “It Girl” status this month.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Facts You May Find Interesting

(More) A&O's Dan Van reports ‘Live’ From CMA MUSIC FEST:
Yesterday was a classic Dan Van moment. My wife and I bumped into Shania Twain. I was chatting with her husband when Shania came up and made sure he was doing well.

That was when I said. “Thank you for your time” and Shania extended her hand. I then proceeded to tell Shania that I was thanking her husband Fredric for the conversation.

Dan Van Note: “Awkward!” Shania was very sweet and I can not wait for the new music project. Shania was awarded a plaque for selling the most records by ANY female artist even beyond country by her record label.


I mentioned in Jaye's Wednesday blog that there is a surprising amount of free stuff at the CMA Music Fest. So much free stuff that you could have a problem getting all in your suitcase if you are limited with space.

Thus I would like to tell you about a really cool perk!

The US Postal Service is setting up shop in the Fan Fair Hall (Room 107 at the Nashville Convention Center)! They are on hand through Saturday (9:00 AM to 5:00 PM) with materials to package and ship your prized possessions for a low ("if it fits, it ships") fee.

It’s a feature available to all 4-day ticket holders, so they don't put a limit on what they take home... and don't pay excessive baggage fees to the airlines!

Dan Van Note: “What A Great Idea!”

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Scan This

A&O is betting you have a QR code reader in any Apple device you have. Scanning this takes you DIRECTLY to Today's Country Online on Blogspot in a MOBILE viewer.

If you don't have a QR reader, there's a freebie available in either the Android market, or Blackberry App Store.

Make it that easy for your listeners to get the latest music news from your website.

If you'd like to know how you could use Today's Country Online to help do that, give Michael O'Malley a call at 732-937-5757.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A&O's Daily Prep Producer Dan Van ‘Live’ From CMA MUSIC FEST

The CMA Music Fest will get underway ‘Officially’ tomorrow, even though activities featuring some of country music names have gotten underway.

As an example of the Grand Ole Opry show last night with Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Darius Rucker, Oak Ridge Boys and Jerrod Niemann and new comers Eden’s Edge.

Numbers that give you a scope of the size this music festival brings:
  • 65,000 attendees each day expected. (Last Year Stats).
  • Official attendance will be posted on Monday (June 13)
  • Fans from all 50 states and 26 nations will attend
  • Approximately 130 Music Acts will make up the Fest
  • There are approximately 80 different vendors/activities
  • All of the artists who appear at CMA Music Festival do so for free.
  • As a result, much of this hometown country music festival is free for everybody!
Free things to do at this four-day (actually five-day) country music celebration: 
  1. I love a parade. The festival doesn’t officially start until Thursday, but at 11 a.m. Wednesday, there is a parade along Broadway from 10th Avenue to First Avenue with the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps, various marching bands, inflatables, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, a Harley Davidson group of 300 bikes, and 40 Chevy vehicles all occupied by celebrities including Billy Dean, Mark Wills, Bill Anderson, Josh Thompson and more. The Budweiser Clydesdales are expected to participate in this parade, which winds up with a 1 p.m. block party at Riverfront Park, where you can see performances by Josh Thompson, Lee Brice, Uncle Kracker and Randy Houser. All free.
  2. I love free country music. There are several stages with free continuous music during the daytime hours Thursday through Sunday. For example, the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage will have Gary Allan, Sammy Kershaw, Emerson Drive, Phil Vassar, Bucky Covington, Bill Anderson, Jo Dee Messina, Darryl Worley, Lonestar, Mel Tillis, Billy Ray Cyrus, Josh Kelley, Crystal Bowersox, Terri Clark, The Bellamy Brothers, Roy Clark, the Gatlin Brothers and more. There is also the Lays Stage at Bridgestone Arena Plaza and the Bud Light stage in the Sports Zone next to Schermerhorn Symphony Center — all with strong lineups all four days.
  3. I love free CMA food. Thursday is “Family Day” in the Family Zone (Walk of Fame Park, Fourth to Fifth avenues), and there is a free picnic sponsored by White Castle with free hamburgers and cheeseburgers and such for the first 500 people. There are also free samples in the Fun Zone (Broadway between Fourth Avenue and the river). One of the most popular is the Blue Bell Ice Cream giveaway. I’m told that last year 50,000 samples were handed out.
  4. I love the giveaways. Socks and T-shirts (Gildan is one of the sponsors) will be handed out in the Fun Zone. In the Sports Zone (Schermerhorn parking lot, off Fourth Avenue, across from Family Zone), visitors will have a chance to drive a Chevy and get a free T-shirt.
  5. I love children’s activities. The Family Zone is offering free books to children and will have an arts and crafts booth where kids can create. There will be free finger-printing for children and free temporary tattoos, storytelling and more 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in the Family Zone.
  6. I love seeing interesting animals. I have no idea what they have to do with country music, but you can get up close and personal with the Budweiser Clydesdales in the new Power Zone (parking lot at Second Avenue and Church Street), and I highly recommend seeing the Ultimate Air Dogs in action. These water-loving canines run and dive and are great fun.
  7. I love an auction. The celebrity auction of clothing and personal items that Martina McBride hosts on Sunday to benefit the YWCA is not only fun but might even feature some Ms. Cheap-worthy bargains.
  8. I love it that the festival site is so compact. All the zones are within walking distance of one another, so put on your walking shoes and check out all of the free fun.

    -- Dan Vanlandingham

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Am I Good Enough?

Insecurity plagues us all.  And, who hasn't stepped on a vocal, rambled on too long about something you knew was going nowhere and ended a shift saying, "that was the worst show of my life!"?

Later that same day, a listener recognizes you at the grocery store and tells you how terrific today's show was .. because you just happened to play their favorite song right when they got to work and turned the radio on.  They wanted to know who sang it and you related the title and artist right after it ended, precisely when they wanted that info.

This is a lesson in expectations and perspectives.  What we expect from ourselves is not the same thing as the average listener expects.

Take it easy on yourself as you critique your work.  Get on base every time to come up to bat and stop trying to swing for home runs.  Make it sound effortless and have fun.  Give listeners what they come to radio for.

Once you can do that consistently, you're "good enough."  Relax and live there.

However, to build a "better than good enough" reputation, the next step is to be occasionally great.  Meeting and also exceeding expectations is what makes a talent stand out from the crowd and drives consistently great levels of daily listening occasions.

Ron Chapman at KVIL/Dallas must have had one of those "am I good enough" moments back in 1988 when on March 31 he asked listeners to send him $20.  $244.240 later, he and his audience made a meaningful donation to local charity.

It still works.  Classical KING-FM/Seattle, newly incarnated as a community supported classical music station, just asked its audience to help them qualify for a Bill and Melinda Gates foundation grant by donating to the station.

7,000 listeners got out their checkbooks, giving a total of $1.8 million in just a couple weeks.
Could you do something like that?  How would your audience respond?

You'll be surprised.

More than good enough, I predict!

Monday, June 06, 2011

There’s Taylor and Lady Gaga. Then, there’s everyone else.

That fact was proven last week as just one-sixth of Lady Gaga’s massive 1.1 million debut for Born This Way, Brad Paisley’s This Is Country Music landed at #2 on the SoundScan Hot 200 Albums chart with his tally nearing 153,000 copies sold. 

Country albums continue to dominate sales figures, week after week.

Gaga’s drive to do every possible tactic to achieve record-breaking first week sales was, we hear, as a result of seeing Taylor do it late last year.  She was determined to outsell Taylor’s first week and get in the “record” books too, it’s said.

The gossip mags claim that Gaga is Taylor’s guilty pleasure and Taylor makes music Gaga enjoys too.

Both of them have to understand the demands of fame and the dreams-come-true compromises that the other one no-doubt has made to get to where they are.

Another sign that these two first-week million sellers are at the pinnacle? 

Weird Al is parodying both of them in his new LP.

Don’t look for that one to sell a million.

The numbers we’ll never - but I wish we could - see:  it would be fascinating to wait a year and subtract the returns in the pipeline from those first week sales figures to see who won the real race, not just for first week publicity but how many of those million sold are in the collections of record buyers, which one made the most money from scanned sales.

Doing what it takes to win the one week sales sprint is what it's all about, of course, and not about sharing real numbers only their accountants will eventually tabulate.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pandora: Profits And Prophets

I will leave it to Mark Ramsey and Jerry Del Colliano to post daily sarcasm-laden advice to terrestial radio.

Instead, as you wait for "Hear 2.0" and "Inside Music And Media" blogs to load on your other browser tabs, I'd like to humbly direct you to Jim Edwards' blog (Pandora’s Business Model Looks Like a Suicide Pact).

Pandora is locked into a Catch-22: The more users it has, the more advertising it can sell against those pairs of ears. But at the same time, the more ears that are listening and the longer they listen, the more songs they hear and the more Pandora must pay out in music license fees. The company seems to realize that its business model, for the next 18 months at least, is a mutual suicide pact between its music costs and its revenues:

Content acquisition expenses increased $16.5 million due to increased royalty payments driven by increased listener hours and by higher revenue.

While we had net income in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 and the second and third quarter of fiscal 2011, we expect to incur losses on an annual basis through at least the end of fiscal 2012.

Meanwhile, good ole fashioned local radio reaches more than nine of ten Americans every week and has solid profits on a station by station basis in all market sizes.

Someone may get rich owning Pandora in the near future (can you spell LinkedIn?), but the company's viability in the short or even medium term remains a question mark.

"Scale" can be a good thing ... as long as you're not scaling an immense wall of growing debt, and your operating costs aren't accelerating faster than your revenues.