When it became obvious that the decision on what to do on a country radio station was so highly polarized on a national average basis, perhaps driven somewhat by religious preference, CRS stopped including the question in the national format tracking studies because every individual market is so unique, depending not only on theology but also many other factors ranging from how many country stations slice up the pie, the age of the market, if you can afford the luxury of going six weeks without playing any new music so that in January you must completely refamiliarize your core with all of the country hits that came out since mid-November, whether other format stations like Christian AC or mainstream AC fill the void, etc.
This week, Billboard's midweek Top 40 and Country update publications provided a reminder that 70% of the country listeners that participated in those CRS studies have now aged into the next older target cell and 45-54 seven years ago is now largely 55-64.
Writer Rich Appel: This year top 40 has been gifted with new and original songs from at least two core artists, Kelly Clarkson (“Underneath the Tree”) and Ariana Grande, who’s taken a page from Bieber’s playbook and releasing a new song each week for four weeks, two of those being originals. Republic Records executive VP Charlie Walk feels the four-song strategy for Grande, fresh off her new artist of the year win at Nov. 24’s American Music Awards, fills the void for top 40’s audience. “There haven’t really been many contemporary artists putting out modern holiday music, and in the digital space we’re able to move quickly to bring it to Ariana’s massive fan base in time for the season.”
The CHR programmers Appel interviewed while noting that "Christmas begins with CHR" worry that even the best-known traditional Christmas favorites don't fit between the hits of today.
Journalist Phyllis Stark focused her attention on a country station in a market where two of the city's three country stations target younger, leaving the upper-demo one to go all Christmas again this year: When KFKF Kansas City, Kan., flips the switch on Thanksgiving Day at 2 p.m., it will become the second country station this year to go all-Christmas, following KEGA Salt Lake City’s similar flip on Nov. 22. And like KEGA, this will mark KFKF’s third year stunting with all holiday music, a move that has generated huge ratings gains. Other than its St. Jude Radiothon Dec. 4-5, KFKF will be churning out the holiday fare nonstop.
As country's target straddles both of the larger population groups on either side of the smaller Gen X cohort the decision of how much Christmas music to play at all and when to do it is making stations who target 18-44 more like Hot AC and CHR in this regard, while that seven year old research on it probably still holds true for you if your station's target resembles a traditional mainstream oldies based AC and is now largely 40+.