Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Three? Two? One? Zero?

As it has become increasingly obvious that Clear Channel and Cumulus have both been rolling out standardized, duplicate playlists across an increasing number of their very largest market stations, I've been speculating where that leaves the trade charts today, hoping that it will open opportunity for all of those highly successful stations to somehow still be represented - as networks, perhaps - while also opening up the chance for additional stations to be monitored and report as well.

In response to that, yesterday, Scott Fuller added this comment...

I'm sure you may disagree Jaye, but I personally feel that the gradual dismantling of the 'chart system' would be the best thing to happen to country radio moving forward.

Of course, I use charts to verify music decisions I make.

But ask the question: 'what if they weren't there tomorrow?' We still have a log to schedule, full of what the audience wants to hear and separates us from the other guys.

It might force we radio programmers to do something that's deeply fallen from our daily routine: caring what our own audience has to say. Sure, we'd still play the A+ from Nashville, but I'll bet we'd give a lot more spins to the B- in our own backyard over Nashville's third or fourth tier.

And just imagine the thousands of different 'types' of country radio 'mini formats' that would follow in their wake. Call letters with character once again.

I don't hate charts, and I'm not saying tomorrow, but it is starting to look like the way the business is going in general.

I certainly understand Scott's point of view and it's tempting to agree totally with it, but I still feel that the country format needs multiple trades and as many more reporters as possible.

The shrinking size of the monitored panel seems to me to be one of the factors hurting the speed that new music by unknown artists can move. This week's Billboard Country Update proves statistically that the hits still find a way to cut through and endure, a testament to the weekly efforts of Wade Jesson, Lon Helton, David Ross and their country chart teams' concerted efforts to be judicious.

The rules of the whole system, which admittedly can sometimes be exploited by knowledgeable promoters simply because they are so clear-cut, are well-known. Though no one likes to be the umpire, we think they are generally applied by in an aboveboard, even-handed manner.

Today, it is these forces that have created the need for independent consulting firms to do research, gather objective data from stations and listeners, keep at arms-length from the record promotion business and offer dependable, objective guidance on music to radio based solidly in listener reaction.

Frankly, the consulting business is GREAT right now partially because of these very actions that consolidated groups are taking in the face of incredible promotional pressure. Their competition is increasingly looking for believable help in separating the honest hits from the hype (of which there is plenty).

Country stations want and need trustworthy data more than ever, and we work hard to maintain high ethical standards in the information we provide to our clients.

A&O thinks the future of the formats and radio broadcasters we serve depends on it.

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