Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rotations: What I Think They Mean

I hope you have been as interested as I have been in Country Aircheck's series on what PPM is teaching country programmers about rotations.  Now that they used a quote from what I told R. J. Curtis in this week's edition when he requested that I spill my guts on the topic, I hope you'll be interested in everything I said to him about it:

PPM shows us that almost universally the average time spent exposed per listening occasion is very close to 10-11 minutes.  Heavy users give their favorite stations maybe three or four times that much.  And, that that we've seen those realities, there are some folks, like Cox's K92/Orlando, who have upped their spins on a very small number of extremely popular songs to levels previously unheard of and - guess what? - those songs do not "burn" and in fact often test better faster.  Is 50 spins?  70 spins?  100 spins? right for you?  I'd say to try it only if you have extremely reliable weekly music testing to precisely monitor reaction on a consistent basis.  It's even better if you also have MScore data as well, so that you can pull anything that could be hurting you very quickly.  Since A&O is proud to works with OM and PM Len Shackelford, I can testify that it is working.

Stations which do that appear to be finding that cume can go up more than we might have previously thought possible without hurting "time spent listening" as calculated by old diary metrics.  This is because only a very small number of country panelists are ultra-core.  In a top ten market I looked at recently there were four panelists who were listening to radio nine hours per day or more.  Obviously, if one of these people is in your panel sample, you need to be extremely cautious about spinning anything they don't love regardless of how much.  Another 75 panelists used radio between 100 and 200 quarter hours a week.  Again, if you have several of those panelists, you'll want to be cautious about hyper-spinning anything that would lose them.

However, after those folks, the vast majority of radio users spend time in fairly fixed amounts of time and instead give their daily cume and daily occasions to stations with exceed their expectations musically and that's not normally unfamiliar new music.

The more stations sharing very similar playlists the more crucial song quality becomes.  If you're the only station playing your type of music, you of course have more leeway as long as you don't have any interest in stealing listeners from your shared-cume competition.

To me, this means "tight" is "right."

I know that there are some very successful country stations in non-competitive situations who seem to get away with playing everything being promoted to radio, but I strongly believe that if you're dropping more than one or two songs a month because either they never got enough airplay for your listeners to become familiar with them or because they never tested or charted very well you're not using radio correctly.  That's like an advertiser buying 10-15 spots a week and expecting good results.  We'd never allow sales to take that person's money, but for some reason no one questions the music director on a 10-15 spin a week category that's never going to see the light of day.

My advice is to play songs you feel have a good shot of going top ten as soon as you feel that way and keep playing them heavily as long as you retain that confidence in them.  Use local music testing to validate your instincts and then learn from it and make fewer and fewer wrong judgements.

Any station that's exposing very many songs that fail that test had better hope they're in a situation where no one else can possibly go country against them, because they are extremely vulnerable!

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