Friday, July 12, 2013

Researching Music: Ages And Stages

This week's Billboard Top 40 Midweek Update had a fascinating Rich Appel overview of SoundOut, HitPredictor, RateTheMusic and Mscore, spotlighting the many research tools available to programmers these days.
  • CBS Radio VP of research and audience measurement Gary Heller: “It wasn’t long ago when all radio had was callout, requests, sales and gut to help determine a song’s potential.”
  • Mediabase/Clear Channel executive VP of integrated music marketing worldwide Alyssa Pollack, who oversees the service used by 200 stations, “Rate TheMusic is usually four to six weeks ahead of the curve. If PDs want to know what songs work with women 25-34 listening in afternoon drive, we can get that deep.”
Thanks to Bullseye Research and Billboard, the country format gets a weekly look at both callout and listener database online test data and, due to the format's high proportion of heavy users compared to the pop formats, the differences between the two doesn't seem to be driven by the age of tunes.

The newest titles on the database online test were eight (Florida Georgia Line) and nine (Lady Antebellum and Chris Young) weeks.  The callout test's newest song was only four weeks old (Taylor).  Swift didn't make the top 20 with the database members.

The #1 song in the callout is 15 weeks old (Carrie Underwood), whereas the top one in the online poll was 27 weeks (Jake Owen).

Average age of the top 5:  callout = 24 weeks, email databases = 25 weeks
# 6-10:  26 vs 22 weeks
# 11-15:  10 (driven by Taylor) vs 20 weeks of airplay
# 16-20:  17 vs 12

The average number of weeks of national airplay of both top 20 rankers is practically identical.  Callout = 19.25 weeks vs database = 19.75 weeks.

There are differences between the two music test methodologies, but I think they reflect more the nature of country station loyal listener club members compared to the more random characteristics of country radio users reached by phone and their preferences than merely how long a typical song has been exposed.

Conclusion:  there are more research tools available today and a programmer would be getting only a part of the picture if she or he didn't look at all of them.

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