Monday, March 17, 2014

Admit It. They Are Right

When the most dissatisfied core country radio listeners complain that we seem to play the same songs over and over, they are not wrong.

The conventional wisdom says "if they're not complaining about repetition, you're not playing the hits often enough."  

It's time to question that and look at what's been happening.

Risks of Increased Song Repetition at Country Radio are Real

For the past several years, the Albright & O’Malley & Brenner annual Roadmap reports have identified that song repetition is country radio's heavy users No. 1 “dissatisfaction” issue. In fact, in CMA Insiders panel tests and Edison Research CRS studies also replicate results that seem to show that playing songs too often consistently far outpaces other concerns such as “too many commercials” or “irrelevant or too much DJ talk” for country radio heavy users.

A clear majority has shared this view every year over the last decade, with the proportion of thousands of Country listeners surveyed holding this opinion ranging between 54-62%. The January 2014 client exclusive report shows 58.8% cite song repetition as the top negative impression they have of Country radio.

Despite A&O&B’s clarion call to Country programmers to pull back on playing current singles too often and national research documenting decreases in time spent listening to radio (including Country radio), stations seem to be content to maintain business as usual. Perhaps PDs dismiss the risks, regarding such complaints as shop-worn issues that have always persisted in the minds of listeners and which run contrary to studies that indicate listeners want to hear the hits as much as possible.

How real is this consumer perception? The Stone Door Media Lab offered to examine the issue of repetition at Country radio, comparing spins at different chart milestones from August 2006 and January 2014. The Stone Door study’s results show that Country stations are playing currents far more than ever.

The spin frequency for charting Country singles is rising. Here’s proof:

And, it takes more spins than ever to achieve a No. 1, too – up 24% since mid-2006. The average number of weekly spins for No. 1 singles:

2013-2014                  48.32
2012-2013                  48.20
2011-2012                  45.37
2010-2011                  43.38
2009-2010                  42.13
2008-2009                  40.70
2007-2008                  38.87
2006-2007                  38.95

Even though A&O&B’s 2014 Roadmap report shows that nearly 72% of Country listeners are still “very satisfied” with their Country stations, these consumers are demonstrating a steadily growing appetite for alternative music discovery and entertainment options. Nearly a quarter (24.9%) cite a “pure play” online choice as a destination “where they go” when they leave their favorite Country station, instead of another Country station. That’s up from 20.4% in 2013.

As the saying goes, perception is reality. But in this case, reality supports perception.

Bottom line: Country radio needs to seriously consider this No. 1 negative. 

Tomorrow:  why is this happening?  Will cutting back on big current hit spins hurt PPM station ratings?

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