Monday, December 31, 2007

The Music City Bowl Looks Like A Cakewalk For UK Over FSU

.. at least, that's how the LA Times' Helene Elliott saw it in yesterday's pre-game write-up:
"In the cradle of country music, where songs lamenting loss and hardship spill out the door of every honky tonk along Broadway, no one is singing a more mournful tune these days than the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles -- or what's left of them from an ongoing investigation into an academic scandal -- are scrambling to fill holes just about everywhere as they prepare to face Kentucky (today) in the Music City Bowl."

Meanwhile, the Gaylord-sponsored bowl's website is counting down to game time.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

There Must Not Be Much To Editorialize About In Vancouver

"Listening to country music could be pushing you over the edge?" -- The Vancouver Sun used their ink and paper to air that silly assertion Saturday.

The conclusion of their "learned" editorial?
"...we're not sure if country music is hazardous to your health, criticizing country music definitely is."

Lose Weight, Quit Smoking, New Job

Nielsen says that it's not just you with those 2008 resolutions: In January, consumers will spend more than $61 million on anti-smoking aids, and more than $47 million on diet aids. The Schaumberg, Ill.-based company says anti-smoking products generated 8.7% of annual dollar sales in January last year, while nutritional diet aids generated 9.9%.

And just in case you thought you were the only one ignoring the bathroom scale in December, last January's sales of diet products registered a 91% increase from the previous four-week period. But typically, resolutions are quickly forgotten. After a high of nearly $47 million in January, sales of nutritional diet aids dropped more than 14% to $40 million in February.

Typically, health and fitness resolutions are the most common:, a goal-setting Web site, predicts that 28% of all resolutions will fall in this "lose weight, quit smoking, get to the gym more" category, compared with 27% last year.

But thanks to economic worries, "we expect people to focus a lot of time and energy improving their careers and getting out of debt," the company says. It expects resolutions related to debt reduction to increase sharply as a percentage of all finance-related resolutions (to 52%, up from 26% last year). And it says resolutions related to saving money will rise, from 11% to 24% of all finance-related resolutions.

-- Sarah Mahoney

Friday, December 28, 2007

Trace Adkins Talks Politics In New Book, On Hannity & Colmes, But Never On Stage

Trace on why country music leans conservative (click to read the transcript of the entire Thursday night 12/27 interview):
"'s just .. that blue-collar connection.... It's Americana. It's the working class, working man kind of perspective on things. But I don't represent — I'm not trying to represent country music or anybody other than myself."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Rumor Mill Proves To Be Correct: Atlanta Gets A 4th Country Station

Clear Channel just turned it on (click to see what they are up to), as suburban (south end) signal WLTM turns off the "Lite" and joins "The Bull" in an attempt to unseat leader Citadel's WKHX and its own signal challened flanker, WYAY.

Here's what I'm thinkin':

1. Too many silly move-in's create troublesome situations like this, which are bad for all radio.
2. Too many country stations will only further compress shares, driving down rates and hurting billing for everyone.
3. Inferior signals don't hurt full market signals enough to be financially viable.
4. Rees and Trout's immutable laws still apply: being first in is a great position. Being 4th in is not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It Always Seems To Come To This

It started in 2004 as "Redneck Woman," "Live Like Your Were Dyin," and "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" ended country's latest 7-10 year malaise and catapulted the format forward with core and secondary cumers, women, men, younger and older listeners.  
Spring 2007 appears to have been the country format's latest peak.  The distance between the biggest hits by today's superstars and the rest of the pack of current songs has never been greater.  Now, just today, a couple of new 'country rock' fragmenters named the Rebel and Hank launched to join Earl, the Bar, et al.  

The rumor mill reports more are coming.  

Meanwhile, the top country station in Dallas just hit a 2.9 share.  

Fortunately, leading country stations from Seattle to San Diego to Charlotte are still solidly ranking #1.  PPM seems to love country in Houston and Philadelphia.  So, clearly, country is still very strong as a format, but - in many markets - it seems to me that there are just too many country stations trying to divvy up a "flat" (at best) share.

It baffles me why at this time in the format cycle anyone would go for anything but a WIN.  

That costs money, of course, and takes time, I guess, two commodities in short supply with many public companies these days.

The alternative, shooting for a 60% male audience with classic country, trying to turn country into a hybrid format or cutting back entirely on new music, has been attempted many times over the years and - up to now at least - country remains the format which simply doesn't fragment in these ways enough to build salable shares.

Each time we hit this point in the cycle I always say "maybe it will work this time and if it does, I am going to learn something."

Thus far, what I have learned again and again is that hybridizations are a very tough sell in an 18-49 and 25-54- domninated sales world.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lethbridge School Principal In A...Tutu?

Hear what happened on the Country 95 blog: Principal Miller promised he would, if school magazine subscription fund raising goal was met.
Country 95's Bobcat was there and ready with his camera and spoke with him about his choice of wardrobe..

Taylor Swift Is 18 And She Now Has A Brand New Pink Truck

Keith Kaufman, "Listener Advocate" (aka PD) at The Big 98 WSIX, reportedly sent his caption to this photo to Clear Channel's email list of programmers: "Barbie threw up on Music Row just now.."

$810 For A Very Special Hat

The Season for giving means more than just food for the Holiday’s for Pensacola’s Manna Food Bank. CatCountry 98 7 raised $810.00 for Pensacola’s Manna Food Bank.

Signatures on the hat..

Brad Paisley (CMA Male Vocalist of the Year)
Taylor Swift (CMA Horizon Award Winner)
Big and Rich (CMA Vocal Duo of the Year Nominee)
Montgomery Gentry (CMA Vocal Duo of the Year Nominee)
Martina McBride ((CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Nominee)
Trace Adkins
Aaron Tippin
Rodney Atkins
Kellie Pickler
Little Big Town and Many More

Country artists helped out by autographing a special hat that was put on the eBay auction website this week. The auction ended Friday at 10:00 am. 100% of proceeds from the auction will be presented to Manna Food Bank before Christmas. The winning bidder was John Peacock from Pensacola, FL.

This year the Manna Food Bank has had to dip into its reserves more than it expected. While they expect to meet the needs of the hungry in Pensacola this Christmas Season, it might be a hard Spring. Tim Evans, the Director of the Manna Food Bank says “People forget we are serving the needs of Pensacola 365 days a year. For us the tough months are after the Holidays, when people’s awareness goes down.”

Manna Food Bank is a private, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to alleviating hunger in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties of northwest Florida.

The Gratitude Campaign

It started here in the Northwest, with this story on TV:
I've been approaching soldiers in the airports and thanking them for serving for us. On several occasions I have noticed that it felt a
little awkward for both of us. There are several reasons, some of which I am even just now learning as I produce this film and talk to more soldiers. But they have always appreciated being thanked, and I have always felt better having expressed my gratitude. I started to think that it would be nice if civilians had a gesture or sign that they could use to say "thank you" quickly and easily without even having to approach. I did some research and found the sign that we are now using. Is this limited to the military? Not at all. If you look around you I'm sure that you'll find lots of people who are serving their communities, from local to global. If you appreciate their service, give them a sign. Say
"thank you."

Then, came the website, thanks to a long list of Seattle people:

Mike Flood, Seattle Seahawks;
Master Sergeant Michael A. Azevedo, US Army;
Master Sergeant Traci Williams, US Army;
Sergeant Daniel Forsythe, US Army;
Sergeant Andrew Kelley, US Army;
Sergeant Chris White, US Army;
Sergeant William Owen, US Army;
Sergeant Jeb Norris, US Army;
Specialist Michael G Pritchett, US Army;
Staff Sergeant Jonathon Alexander, US Army;
Sergeant Andrew Dibble, US Marine Corps
Corporal Vondarious M Johnson, US Marine Corps;
Master Sergeant Kevin Johnson, Washington Army National Guard;
Tech. Sergeant Natalie Stockhausen, US Air Force;
Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Lathrap, US Air Force;
Pamela Johnson;
Nancy Blanton, Port of Seattle;
Adrienne Sardelli, USO;
Dave Lester, USO;
Jay Hitt, Pike Place Market Theater;
Norm Heimgartner, Univ. of Puget Sound:
Film Maker Amy Sedgwick, Mouse House Productions;
Carrie Robinson, Photographer; Paul Yoo, Cameras

Bluegrass 101 ("Still Chugging Along")

A nice Justin Faulconer-penned update on the state of the folksy mountain music that has thrived in Central Virginia for centuries. Bluegrass itself only dates to the 1940s, but it evolved from the music of the early Southern settlers. And the music is still passed down to young people by older generations.
"They keep the tradition alive because it makes them feel alive, said Zack Gilmer, Hard Drivin’s banjo player. “I feel great when I’m playing bluegrass,” said Gilmer, 16. “It always puts me in a good mood. It doesn’t matter where I’m at.”

Dan Hays, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association in Nashville, said that a fresh generation of pickers is adding to the mix of a genre that has seen many changes throughout its lifespan.

But Hayes said young peoples’ interest in the music, coupled with the technological advances of the Internet, has doubled the bluegrass audience since the turn of the century.
“Bluegrass has never been as healthy as it is today,” said Hays. “There’s a new generation and a lot of the pioneers are still alive."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Made In The USA = Hot. Helio = NOT

New data: Consumer confidence is weakest reading in last five years. Meanwhile, (HOT!) 84.9% of consumers are on the lookout for items “Made in the U.S.A.”…additionally, wishing others a “Merry Christmas” is a welcomed sign of the season (according to 83.7%). Going “green” and giving eco-friendly gifts is also a top thought among the majority and even more so among females, while those 35+ admit they still rock out to the Eagles. The peace may be disrupted in households this season when picking out a Christmas tree, men are more prone to prefer live, while women opt for the artificial variety.

What’s Not? He may have won Dancing with the Stars, but 80% say Helio Castroneves can two-step it straight back to the racetrack.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mr. Chesney Goes To Houston. KILT and KKBQ Listeners Go To Mr. Chesney.

Kenny Chesney’s latest album went on sale across the continent at midnight on September 10, 2007. Since Houston is a strong sales market, the BNA artist previewed the LP and visited with listeners of the two Houston country stations playing current music for an hour each the afternoon before the on-sale date. Both stations invited a room full of fans to come in to see the event live in their pre-promotion and KILT’s Rowdy Yates talked to the superstar and played his music from 2:45-4:30 pm and then KKBQ’s Cactus Jack did the same, starting with a sweep of eight of Kenny’s biggest hits building up to the in-station visit from 4:15 to 6:15 pm.

Arbitron’s PPM currency sample in Houston, which estimates the minute by minute movement and station choices of radio listeners throughout their day 24/7 combined with the technology of Media Monitors, which can produce a minute by minute log of almost everything (they missed a few of the non-hit album cuts played during this period) and also an audio online playback (which didn’t miss a thing) makes an evaluation of what the stations did with the opportunity and how the PPM sample country listeners responded possible in ways which have never been possible previously.

On Thursday at Arbitron's Annual Consultant'f Fly-In, and then on Friday at the Country Music Hall Of Fame in Nashville during Country Aircheck's PPM Seminar, I will be drilling into the data to answer some key questions:

· How did these specific hours compare to the average afternoon drive hours (at the same time) on these stations?
· Was it better to have Chesney first or last?
· Before the drive home at the end of the workday?
· Or, while listeners were in their cars on the way home?
· If you couldn’t have the artist first, was it still worth doing?
· Was this a good thing for BNA Records, KILT and KKBQ to do?
· Is there anything Rowdy and Cactus Jack can learn for the next time something like this comes along?
· How did commercials and other ‘interruptions’ in the event perform?
· Could the stations charged a premium for them?
· What percentage of the two stations’ total audience during this time period changed stations when Kenny Chesney went from KILT to KKBQ?

A&O has carefully studied the audience flow using ARB PPM data and the tools provided by Media Monitors at granular levels never available to us before and I’m very confident that we have what seem to be very reliable answers.

Click here for our notes from the presentation (including our answers to those questions)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

What's a HIT? Who's a STAR? What's a LABEL?

I just received one of the myriad Nashville-based promotional email newsletters which arrive daily and this one made a unique claim for an artist: "The featured article is on XXX XXXXX, who is a Myspace country star with over 3 million visitors to her page and has just signed a recording contract with a major independent, XXX XXXX Records."

Huh? Myspace star? Page visitors? "Major" independent?

A&O has a lot of "visitors" to Mike's and my blogs, to, to my Myspace, Facebook and Linkedin pages and we do daily emails to clients, so I think we're pretty web savvy since we get lots of responses to all of these and yet I've never thought of myself as a web star, which to me means that not only do people view your page but it creates measureable buzz and impacts the culture in ways which are felt by even non-internet users. Matt Drudge is a web star, for example.

In music, just because even lots of people know your name doesn't make you a star. You need to have some hits, which drive people to attend your concerts and turn up the radio when they come on.

Ideally, a "hit" is undeniable. It penetrates successfully in all avenues. It gets exposed nationally on the radio so at least 75% of the population is familiar with it.

Listeners begin to respond to it by calling and emailing air personalities about it after early radio, video channel and online spins.

National monitored charts measure that airplay, and it ranks in at least the top 40 on a consistent basis, showing 6-8 weeks of upward momentum so that it ranks in the top 20, which means that finally a majority of the monitored stations are starting to play it. Then, it starts to sell ($$!) in all the download outlets to the point that it ranks high in the web measurement tools (these are the "singles" of today). It starts to be called "a favorite song" by at least 35% of radio listeners in both local and national callout and online music research and it has at the very least 65% total positives by station fans. It ranks top 15 on the national radio airplay charts. Next, it becomes the title of an album which probably needs to contain at least three such songs unless the first song is a blockbuster. The LP sells at brick and mortar retail and ranks high in the scanned sales charts (still the high profit margin sales location).

A wannabe "star" has hits. But, for me, they aren't a star as yet. Star status comes with touring, performing in concert, drawing and entertaining crowds.

A "C" star can draw 500 people in venues anywhere they perform across North America. Get get some TV and print media exposure too as a result of this. A "B" star's name shows up on the national entertainment TV programs and magazines, has between three and seven radio hits and their name alone makes it easier for stations to put their music on the air because enough listeners know the name and like the past music that that're interested in hearing it. A "B" star can draw 2,000 people on the power of their name in live appearances. An "A" star can draw 10,000 people, gets top billing on marquees, TV video channels and shows up at the top of net buzz metric tools, TV entertainment shows and on the cover of gossip magazines, has at least seven "hit" songs which have gotton so popular that they get played at least five times a week on country radio nationally.

Stars have hits, and I don't just mean hits on their web page.

In this challenging world, why any company aspires to be a "label" escapes me. Major labels are struggling to hold onto existing but declining revenues as their historic distribution and retail model has been disintegrating.

The "star" now has a direct relationship with their "fans" and is able to sell ($$) their creative output to an even larger audience than ever. James William Buffett wrote the book on this.

To maintain market share in this challenging financial environment where it's a lot easier to spend money than it is to make it, the major labels have consolidated, making it harder than ever for an artist to get signed by a major label.

I checked the national monitored charts this morning and here are the labels which seem to have earned the term "major" due to the number of songs they have in the top 30:
Arista - 5, Lyric Street and MCA - 3, Asylum-Curb/Curb, RCA, BBR, and Warner Bros. Nashville - 2.

The ones I'd call "major independents," since they have one song in the Top 30 this week: Big Machine, BNA, Capitol Nashville, Columbia Nashville, Mercury, Pearl/Big Machine, Show Dog, ERC/Mercury and Midas.

Where does that leave an artist who signs to any independent?

.. with an expensive PR and promotion team and, unless your indie label is owned by Mike Curb, Disney, Toby Keith, Benny Brown, Ron Clapper or run by Scott Borchetta, I fear, still on the outside looking in.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Las Vegas Goes Country For The 23rd NFR

You simply have to feel "sorry" (yeah, right!) for Las Vegas country radio promo people and personalities, who will be making an attempt to be visible all over town for the next couple weeks.

Brooks & Dunn's song “Cowboy Town” has been adopted as the official song of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) at UNLV's Thomas and Mack Center for the next two years.

Hal Ketchum, Sawyer Brown and Ray Scott perform at the free Fremont Street Downtown Hoedown. Trace Adkins and Big & Rich are at the Las Vegas Hilton, Keith Anderson at Santa Fe Station, Rodney Atkins performs at the Boulder Station, Terri Clark, Clay Walker, Ronnie Milsap and Charlie Daniels Band are at the downtown Golden Nugget, Phil Vassar's at Green Valley and also joins Larry The Cable Guy at the Orleans and that's just a few of the country artists in Vegas this month.
Sleep? What's THAT?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sara Evans Helps The White House Kick Off The Holiday Season Tonight

It's the 84th Annual Lighting of the National Christmas Tree and President George W. Bush will be on hand to continue the tradition begun in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge who lit the first tree in President’s Park on behalf of all Americans.

During the ceremony, Evans will perform “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” accompanied by The United States Air Force Band and the St. Albans and National Cathedral Schools Choir.

Major League Baseball In Nashville For The Annual Winter Meetings

All week long, is visiting some of the hot spots of the country music capital of the world and the posts appear to have been written by a combination of the Nashville Chamber Of Commerce and the CMA to help the execs and reporters as they spend the week. (Photo: Jay Orr, the Country Music Hall of Fame's senior director of museum programs)

Today, they quote Josh Turner, the 30-year-old country star with the unmistakable baritone voice who struck gold -- and platinum -- with hits such as 2004's "Long Black Train" and last year's "Would You Go With Me" and "I'm Your Man:" (who grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan when they won the World Series in 1990 but switched allegiances, like a lot of Nashville residents, to another very successful team).
"I started collecting baseball cards, and just really getting into what all the players were like, and as I got older I became an Atlanta Braves fan. My wife is actually from just outside of Atlanta, so we try to go to a game every chance we get."
Turner was a high school outfielder before taking his guitar and his voice from his native South Carolina to the mecca of Nashville:
"There's so many people all across the country that move here every year to try to get a record deal and try to make a record and get their music out there."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If You Can Understand Brad Paisley's Lyrics, You Can Understand Anything

This will give you a smile: (click) learning English through country music...

Rana Lee, a recent arrival from South Korea, listens to Brad Paisley's fishin' song and quickly gets the drift - the guy loses the girl. It is a country and western song, after all. One line perplexes her, though: "I spend all day out on this lake and hell is all I catch."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another Ratings Slip .. For Country (And BBM Quality Control!)

Winter (S1) and Fall (S4) are the most comparable annual books for country stations in Canada, since so few markets are surveyed in late Spring (S2) and Summer (S3), but even looking only at those survey periods it appears that, like America's Summer 2005 ARB national trend, country has slipped (5.7% from last Winter and 11.8% from last Fall) in the latest survey, just released yesterday.

12+ 9.2-9.0-9.3-9.0-9.3-8.7-8.2

The country format's share of heavy radio users' listening fell 25% from last fall!

In S4 2006, country had an 11.5 share of heavy users' tuning and in S4 2007 that share fell to 8.6.

Gaining heavy user share at our expense was 'everything else on the FM dial playing music,' compared to a year ago: AC (18.1 up to 20), Hot AC (8.1-12.0), classic rock (7.0-9.9), Mainstream Top 40-CHR (6.9-8.2), mainstream rock-AOR (5.7-7.1), classic hits (4.0-5.8) and modern rock-alternative (2.6-3.7)

The only other major format which was also off in their share of heavy users' time was news-talk, which fell even more than country, 17.8 to 10.4% of all fifth quintile hours.

Here's one reason why: only 17.4% of country's national share of total hours came from at work listening, the lowest mark in several years.

It had been 20% in S1 2007 and 18.8% a year ago.

Is this real? Or just a fluke? A little bit of each, in my opinion.

Anyone doing testing of current music in Canada can tell you that very few of the current hits of the last six years have done very well with males. I think that if Canadian country music radio wants to do better in 2008, it's going to look at this factor very hard.

To maximise our performance, country needs at least 40% of its quarter hours from men and hopefully 45% of its cume from males. So, a little free advice for programmers to consider: look closely at the balance between female and male preferences as you program music and content.

There is another wild card in the deck too.

BBM's national performance in getting ballots back from key demos was very disappointing this survey, even among cells that historically have returned diaries very consistently.

Men 25-34 returned diaries in just 58% of their proportion to their share of actual population, which was worse than men 18-24 (69%).

Even men 35-44 (77% of their proportion of the population) came up short in their percentage of the national sample, meaning books from these cells needed to be weighted upward very heavily.

BBM also had trouble getting books back from young women as well. 18-24 females returned only 60% of their proportion of the actual population and 25-34 was not much better (68%).

Statistically, an acceptable proportion (index) for any cell is between 90 and 110.

The under-performance nationally in these younger cells required that ballots from 35+ demos be weighted downward - men 45-49 by 9%, men 50-54 by 24%, men 55-59 by 32%, men 60-64 by 35%, men 65+ by 26%, women 45-49 by 35%, women 50-54 by a whopping 46%, women 55-59 by 43%, women 60-64 by 47% and women 65+ by 17%.

Those upper demos are country's core, especially in Canada.

If BBM missed their sample return targets by this much NATIONALLY, it makes my hair stand on end to contemplate how far off many local samples must have been!

A Really Bad Idea

R&R Country Editor R. J. Curtis put something in print this morning which A&O has been hearing for several weeks but refused, until now, to believe:
"R&R has heard the news reverberating up and down Music Row about a newly announced music policy for Cumulus country stations. Reportedly, PDs were given a safe list of 17 currents to play, with instructions to drop anything not on the list. Additionally, the list was said to be final, with no discussion allowed. R&R reached out to (format captain) Bill Jones, but did not receive a return call. Cumulus PDs aren't talking (would you?). We'll continue to keep our ears and eyes open for more details."

This isn't the first time Cumulus has made some really arrogant, incestuous, self-destructive and stupid decisions, of course, but it gets my vote for the dumbest one so far!

Now that it is in print, watch in early '08 for John Dickey to be called again to testify before Congress at the next consolidation/localization hearings, certain to come as a result of this alleged action.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Garth Sells 85,677 In 59 Minutes, Kenny Sells Out Gillette Stadium In 15

The stories:

* Garth Brooks Los Angeles charity concerts sell out in an hour

“It’s a beautiful thing when everyone pulls together. “California just raised a ton of money for their own. I’m so proud to be part of this.” -- Garth

* Kenny Chesney sells out first stadium show of '08 in 15 minutes

" It's amazing how people everywhere like to get together, have a party, forget about what's bothering them. I try to make these shows be the kinda thing people can build a summer around - all the memories, the friends, the good times. Boston, when you guys buy all these tickets so fast, you make me feel like we're connecting just the way we hope we can.” -- Kenny

.. Promising signs for a great '08 for country on tour!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Kurt Hanson's Blog Is Getting Interesting

If, like me, you drifted away from Hanson's newsletter because it became too much of a cheerleader for internet radio issues and became less relevant to 'our' concerns and problems, it's time to wake up and pay attention again, at least to his blog:
Suppose we used to survey 10 Chicagoans every week to find out what percentage are Chicago Blackhawks fans. That means over the course of a calendar quarter, we’ll talk to 130 people. That’s probably a decent sample size to answer a question like this. (I could do the math on standard deviation and margin of error, but let’s save that for another day.) The analogy for Arbitron’s new approach is to survey maybe 30 Chicagoans — but survey them every week. “Hey, that’s 390 data points every quarter! Better than the old system’s 130 data points!” No, it isn’t. In week #1, 30 people is too small a sample size for the question — we could get a result that’s way off of reality. And surveying the same people every week for 12 more weeks is going to give us, basically, the same wrong answer every week. Yes, the results will be more stable than under the old, 130-person system, but that doesn’t mean it’s a better approach... ...Because Arbitron was too cheap to throw around a few $2,000 bills toward consulting contracts, their stock price took a $200 million hit yesterday — and they’ve put a not-insignificant portion of radio’s annual $20 billion in ad revenues is now at risk, too.