Thursday, October 28, 2010

Can He Do It In San Francisco TOO?

Randy Stein, Executive Producer of Fitz in the Morning on Seattle's 100.7 The Wolf and San Francisco's 95.7 The Wolf writes to say:
"It's Official! Fitz in the Morning based in Seattle, WA and now syndicated in San Francisco, CA has won the Best of Western Washington Best Local Radio Personality Award for the 3rd year in a row!"

NBC KING 5 busted in to the studio yesterday morning to hand the award to Fitz and his staff (click to watch the video of it all)

Fitz has a way to go to catch up with Entercom's country night guy, Alan Kabel, who ranks in the top five 25-54 in Summer ARB estimates in Greensboro, Kansas City, Scranton, Seattle, Portland and Rochester.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Moncton Midday Guys And Their Listeners Are Amazing

XL 96.9's Shilo Bellis and Newcap sister station C103 personality Tim Cormier were hoisted 80 feet above a downtown intersection and planned on staying there until $4,000 in donations for the Food Depot Alimentaire could be collected.

Twelve hours later, they’d almost doubled their goal – $7,000!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How To Do Weather Reports

Ask NOAA's National Weather Service or The Weather Office's Environment Canada and their advice will be to read their official pronouncements verbatim, word for word.

And, lots of us do just that, making every radio station's forecasts almost identical:
"Partly cloudy today, some clouds tonight and considerable cloudiness tomorrow."

What the heck am I supposed to do with that info?

Then there's Canada:
"a mix of sun and cloud." Now, there's a forecast that has to be 100% correct at least 12 hours every day!
  1. Please, people, read those formal and official weather predictions from your government officials and carefully understand what they mean to your listener in the next few hours.
  2. Put the written forecast away and tell me in your own words - as few words as possible - what I need to do about what the meteorologists are saying is going to happen out there.
  3. Unless there's a major weather emergency, brief and clear is better. I can boot up my computer and get to before the meteorologist gets it out.
Can we just say "Sunny today 78, Clear 55 tonight and Sunny maybe 80 tomorrow"??

One sign that you're doing weather correctly: it should take about six seconds versus the 30 or more the average personality (and, I do mean "average" in the worst possible way) takes to do it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How To Do Traffic Reports

Westwood One's Metro/Shadow Traffic is a trove of research on what listeners want from radio's traffic reports over the many years they've been doing them.

The #1 complaint? Folks hate it when a radio reporter describes a terrible tie-up in great detail and strongly recommends avoiding the huge bottleneck and only at the very end mentions the place where it is.

The radio listener's ears perk up, suddenly realizing that is the route they drive, but also very annoyed that they missed the information.

Ask any listener who relies on traffic reports: mention the place where the jam you're about to describe FIRST and THEN give the details.

Smart traffic reporters even promote that they always do it that way so that listeners always know they won't miss anything important.

Incredibly, the majority of traffic reports are still not done this way in spite of the fact that it has been conventional wisdom for many years, driven by Metro research presented in city after city over the years.

It's still possible to stand out as the most user-friendly traffic reporter in your market by simply giving the location first and then the details of the jam. Every time. No exceptions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Your Station's Promo Inventory Is Finite

Think of every promo as a favor you are asking of your audience (attending an event, listening to morning drive, participating in a contest, friending you on Facebook, reTweeting your content, even thinking about the station in a new light).

The more you ask of your listeners, the less impact each request will have.

Network television provides an example of effective promo usage. Each of the major networks airs 30 to 50 different programs each week, yet they heavily promote fewer than a dozen.

Similarly, it is important to create priority and focus with your station promos.

Every week, there will be dozens of "priorities" that all seem to deserve promo mentions.

Unfortunately, the more "priorities" you promote, the more clutter you create and the fewer things your audience will actually remember and respond to.

Narrow the station's focus down to only the most important promo topics and devote your entire inventory to these.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

40+% Of Teens Do Not Have A Favorite Radio Station

Dave Van Dyke at Bridge Ratings has been tracking these things for many years and he's worried about our 12-to-21-year-olds, especially, as he reports today the percentage of all radio consumers that has a favorite radio station fell from 85% in 1998 to 72%.

Why might that be? Van Dyke has some recommendations on that too:

How well is terrestrial radio satisfying these needs?

According to Bridge's latest study, not very well.

  1. Only 24% of the sample were satisfied with the amount of lifestyle information catering to their lives that was offered by their favorite stations.

  2. While 79% were feeling good about radio's music information offered, there is room for improvement in the area of Twitter communication (59%),

  3. And...Instant message access to air personalities (52%)

  4. Yet, the most obvious opportunity for improvement for radio's listener engagement and revenue is building Exclusive Social Networks, or social neworks like Facebook or MySpace for just your station listener community. Only 15% of those responding felt radio was delivering on this front.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Country's TSL: Still Strong Compared To Other Formats, BUT...

As markets become more fragmented and listeners have more diverse choices, loyalty is at a premium. The 2010 edition of Arbitron's Radio Today spotlights the country format's daily TSL as averaging an hour a day, 12+, less with younger listeners.

On a national basis, country remains a bastion of contented listeners with the country format national average daily time spent listening ranking #2, tied with Urban AC, and just 15 minutes per day behind #1 TSL format News/Talk among the 16 formats whose daily TSL was tracked this year. The format with the lowest TSL in 2010 (3:15 per day) is Alternative.

To put those stats in context, I went back to some old volumes of Duncan's American Radio, which tracked format trends from 1974 to 2004.

Country format TSL averages for a few random years two decades ago:

1989 - 96 minutes per day
1988 - 94 minutes per day
1987 - 94 minutes per day
1986 - 95 minutes per day
1985 - 93 minutes per day

These statistics, both old and new, are both comforting and frightening, since the country format's growth is clearly dependent on retaining long listening spans from a small base of very loyal listeners.

Research is important to stay abreast of changes in attitudes that might affect your audience share. Loyalty marketing (social, data base, telemarketing and target campaigns) should also be a cornerstone of any country broadcaster's long-term plan, but as TSL slips growing cume audience becomes more and more necessary too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is Lefsetz Mean? Is Lefsetz Famous?

Does Taylor Swift think so? Is that bald guy down below to the left really the subject of her new song?

All I have is fun questions today, and some fascinating links for you to click on and mull over (click to read the exchange which "may" have started it all - or maybe not).

"Mean" isn’t quite "You’re So Vain" and I’m not quite Warren Beatty, not by a long shot. Then again, people thought the song was about Mick Jagger, when everybody on the inside knew that was wrong, hell, he even sang on it. And only insiders would know who I am.

So here I am giving Taylor Swift the publicity she desires. She won.

But she still can’t sing and isn’t it time to start acting like an adult? To cast off the high school persona and fly as a woman instead of darting around like a little girl? That’s what’s got everybody’s eyes rolling, her aw shucks/ohmygod! look when she strides onto the stage to earsplitting applause.

Taylor got to live out her adolescent fantasy. Can she now be a woman singing about womanly issues? -- Bob Lefsetz (click his name to read his entire post!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mentoring & Inspiring Women (MIW) In Radio's 2011 Mildred Carter Mentoring Program

Officially launched in 2002, this outstanding program matches up-and-coming women in the radio industry with female professionals who are leaders in all aspects of radio.

A total of three candidates from the radio broadcasting industry will be selected for the 2011 program. Candidates from sales, programming, marketing and other related fields in radio broadcasting are encouraged to apply.

The current job level of the applicants should be no less than director or manager level, but can encompass all areas and departments of radio station operations or related fields.

Interested applicants must:

· have been in the radio industry for five years or more;
· agree to actively participate in the mentoring process;
· agree to total confidentiality during the mentoring program.

All candidates are required to submit a letter which addresses the question: “Why would I be a good mentee?” Please send it to Heidi Raphael no later than Friday, November 5th, 2010.

The three chosen mentees will be announced and begin the program in January 2011.

The program is named in the memory of Mildred Carter, who, along with her husband, Andrew "Skip" Carter, founded the first African American owned radio station in the U.S. in 1950, when they turned on KPRS Kansas City, Missouri. Mrs. Carter ran the Carter Broadcast Group for many years after the death of Skip Carter, before turning over control of the company to her grandson, Michael Carter in 1987.

The Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio group consists of top-level radio women across the country who are dedicated to using their influence and resources to help women in radio develop strong management and leadership skills. The MIWs are equally committed to advocating the advancement of women to senior positions in broadcasting.

Monday, October 18, 2010: The Day I Agree With Glenn Beck

.. and that doesn't happen very often, as anyone who knows my politics is aware.

However, I have watched Glenn in action over the last quarter of a century from my perch on Bainbridge Island not far from his hometown and I greatly admire his courage and communication skills. Beck has a lot to teach anyone who wants to be successful in radio.

He ignored advice from colleagues and discussed private medical matters on his radio show Friday, telling listeners that his vocal chords were going into paralysis. Doctors haven't diagnosed his ailment.

"Think out loud, which is exactly what I did Friday," he told talk radio conference attendees over the weekend. "I took them on the journey."

He challenged broadcasters to do better than simply recycling “mundane” ideas, just because something worked well in the past: "Don't think, 'How can I be relatable today?' If you're afraid, tell 'em you're afraid. If you don't know, tell 'em you don't know." And don't be afraid to admit when you're wrong, he said. "That's not a flip-flop, that's being human."

Beck urged Talk radio personalities to “just be yourself” and told programmers, managers and talents in attendance to understand that “the world is looking for someone who is authentic.” Speaking to a full house at the Marina del Rey Marriott Hotel, Beck added, “A split is coming in America — that which is bogus and that which is real. When you are honest with yourself and your audience, the whole world changes."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Big Research: October Hot/Not = A Mixed Economic Picture

Big Ticket items continue to be a bright spot as the Christmas shopping season nears, compared to Oct-09, purchase intentions for “investments" in the home – computers, autos, TVs, and furniture – are on the rise.

It appears that consumers have a trick and a treat in store for retailers in October, according to the BIGresearch® Diffusion Index (click to see all of the data, including more on those who say they’ll spend less subtracted from those who will spend more). While most categories are up from September, Oct-09, and Oct-08, all categories remain DOWN compared to pre-recession Oct-07.
  • College Football and the MLB Playoffs top our list of what’s hot for October.
  • "The Social Network" and "Big Bang Theory" are hit among viewers.
  • Women also favor Zumba and Athletic Toning Shoes, while men 18-34 are opting for the P90X workout.
What’s Not?
While approved by young women, don’t expect too many consumers to try the Skinny Cargo Pant trend on for size.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Business Success Rules

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.
Be candid with everyone.
Don't manage, lead.
Change before you have to.
If you don't have a competitive advantage, don't compete.
Control your own destiny or someone else will.

- Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Call For Requests? Or, Excuses?

With Pandora nipping at our heels, at least in terms of their aspirations if not reality as yet, many listeners continue to feel like radio is their personal jukebox and the air personality's role is to play the songs they want when they want them.

That's why I strongly discourage use of the word "request" or "dedication" on the air. Request calls come from a VERY small portion of your audience and will undermine your music research and rotation systems. As a result, we prefer to call them "listener suggestion lines" or something similar.

However, since customer focus IS the key to success, what do you say when one of those "request consumers" calls with a complaint that "you never play my requests"?

Try this approach:

We receive many requests, sometimes more than we can actually play and still maintain what we perceive to be a popular music format. Due to the number of requests we get, if yours isn't aired right away, there are five possible reasons:

1. We may have just played that particular song or another song by the same artist.

2. We have a list of requests ahead of yours and we will eventually work our way up to yours.

3. We have literally hundreds of songs in our library and it may take some time to find the one you asked for.

4. The song you requested doesn't quite fit the mood of the program at the particular time, but it will be played later.

5. We simply don't have the song.

I see I have another song by the artist you asked for coming right up. How about if I play that one for you?

Most request line callers' motivation in phoning, texting, emailing and Facebooking has less to do with your actually playing their song on the air, than it does with their need to "feel special" to you.

Make them feel as good as possible -- without taking important time away from your show prep or without breaking the music for mat!

Then, you'll be serving the 95% of your cume who will NEVER call, but promptly will hit the preset or scan button of their radio if your music mix doesn't measure up to their expectations.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stable Numbers For Who?

It’s seemingly time to learn a new step in the PPM dance as Arbitron implements new panelist expiration rules (that now look a lot more like Canada’s BBM has been doing all along), promising less “bounce” in the estimates from month to month.

Obviously, if you’re the top station in a category, that’s a good thing. But, if you’re hoping to improve your share, waiting longer for a shot at new panelists may not be quite so attractive.

At present 46 U.S. and Canadian markets have country radio stations being measured by PPM.

Let’s look closely at one, where there are three radio stations basically tied for #1 6+ within four tenths of a share of each other. The next tier is two stations within another 0.4 of a share of each other, roughly tied for #2 rank. Below them in rank is three more stations, more-or-less all tied for #3, just 0.2 shares away from each other. Under them there are eight stations within 0.7 of a share apart from each other, statistically tied for "#4."

This market has two very competitive country stations, with each one's cume just 3% away from each other.

Yet, one of the two is in the “tied for #3” ranker grouping. The other has a 6+ share 25% lower, amidst the “tied for #4” bunch, meaning that a buyer either really has to want to purchase two country stations OR be willing to go at least nine to seventeen stations deep to buy them - in spite of the fact that the two are separated in “share” by less than one point.

Drilling down to what gives the country leader in this market that 25% edge, there are 14 100+ quarter hour panelists which use one of the two country stations and each one is the favorite station of seven of them. The difference between them is that the top station gets about 25% more “time spent exposed” (TSE) from their heavy users than the lower-ranked one.

A few things that could change the ratings for either or both:
  1. A shift in the panel of one household.
  2. The lower rated station plugs the leaks in their panelists’ usage and improves their TSE and the other one fails to respond in kind (can you say commercial free hours?)
  3. One or both of them greatly improves their programming, drawing more cume
  4. One of them gives up on country and changes format, so that the other one gets all 14 country ultra core panelists and suddenly becomes the market’s #1 radio station.
  5. If the month happened to be September, one of the two stations’ panelists went away for a Labor Day holiday, while the other station’s panelists had to work that weekend.
  6. A heavy user of one of the two stations got the flu and stayed home for a few days.
I admire ARB for listening to their clients and attempting to minimize monthly wobbles, but more of these possibilities come from real life from from sampling issues.

And, if I rank in that “tied for #4” eight this month, I am actually hoping for a nicer bounce next time!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Peak Local Performance

What happens when a radio station commits $315,000 in development cash awards for local music?

Click here to see and hear the answer to that question.

The Top 20 are performing in the PEAK Performance Concert Series this Fall. The final three artists will be announced on Monday, November 1 followed by the final showcase and the crowning of the ultimate PEAK performer on November 18 at the Commodore Ballroom.

The 1st place artist will receive $100,500, 2nd is $75,000, 3rd is $50,000, 4th is $10,000, 5th is $5,000 and all 20 finalists will receive $3,500 each in initial artists development funding.

In addition to this, all of this year’s 20 finalists will receive a showcase spot at The Kelowna 2010 BreakOut West Festival presented by the Western Canadian Music Alliance October 21 – 24.

Last year the PEAK Performance Project awarded We Are The City with a grand prize of $150,000. The Left and Bend Sinister received second and third place, respectively.

The $5.29 million PEAK Performance Project is designed to educate, promote, develop and hopefully launch the careers of some of British Columbia’s top emerging artists. It also hopes to foster the province’s music industry and create a sense of community amongst music professionals. In addition to the rigorous six month artist development program and the $315,000 in artist development funding, The Pattison Group of Companies will also contribute an annual media credit of $1,000,000 in support of the PEAK Performance Project by marketing, promoting and advertising the PEAK Performance Project and the participating artists making it the largest individual radio station project in Canada.

The PEAK Performance Project is an initiative of 100.5 The PEAK and Music BC.

What could happen if your station committed a meaningful sum to help grow your local music community?

Hats off to
Jim Pattison Broadcast Group/Vancouver for having the courage to go BIG.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

We're All Statisticians Now

Doing an online, mail-in or telephone survey?

Thanks to the convenience and low cost of the many online tools now available to radio programmers, the task that once was the exclusive territory of people who specialized in research is now being performed week in and week out as we send out surveys to samples which may or may not be representative of the group of people we want to listen more.

Statisticians say that one response in 2,000 "WILL" be wacko, no matter how perfect the sample is!

That's where a very arcane calculation - standard deviation from the mean - comes in. It can't tell you if your entire sample was not the one you wanted to target, but if you know that the vast majority of your data comes from folks in the right age group, the correct geographical locations, a good balance of gender and qualitative profiles, it can help you find the outliers who can greatly skew your results.

Hand check each of your survey responses before tabulating them by computer. All it takes is one such form to throw otherwise very good data WAY OFF.

You actually may get more actionable and reliable research from a smaller, more consistent, cleaner sample.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Take This Job And Shove It

Gerry House, Mike Bohan, Richard Falklen, Katie Bright and Karla Lawson played the Johnny Paycheck/David Allan Coe tune on WSIX/Nashville at 7:35 yesterday morning in the midst of a hilarious phone topic, “Finger Songs,” as listeners and the House team made suggestions for today’s perfect song to tell someone how you feel.

No doubt, it was pure coincidence that the bit came after the shocker Monday from KGO/San Francisco GM Michael Luckoff resigned.

Bohan reminded House of bad career decisions he had made in the past, going to Florida for awhile and California but always coming back to Music City to greater success.

House admitted that he left for those jobs more because he was getting away from someone than going to anything attractive.

And, of course, hanging in the air is the fact that Gerry leaves WSIX in several months, leaving a vacuum in Music City mornings that no one can possibly fill in even close to the same way.

How did he find a job that was so perfect for him, which lasted so long?

Lots of people are looking for jobs, lots more changes are rumored, so that's more than just an interesting question.

A quick word of advice: whether you’re hiring or being interviewed, do the legal background checks, conduct the drug testing, take the Myers-Briggs. But, also, don’t neglect to check personal references, not particularly searching for skeletons in the closet but just looking for things the person excelled at and also talk directly about what the job requires and experience in doing those things.

Too often a wonderful person possessing certain skills is put into a job which requires a completely different skill set simply because the interviewer and the interviewee failed to tell one another exactly and honestly what they wanted in an employee and what they love doing well in working for someone.

Take the extra time to find your next job/hire and LOVE it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Are you using "silence sense?" Are you using it properly?

This is written to help you do just that. (apologies, if I RANT a bit along the way)


The purpose of an automation silence sensor is to catch “machine failures.” These days, thanks to the reliability of digital equipment, it more often than not catches more human errors and can compound them.

The silence sense feature on your “sequencer” is set up to catch minimum sound or noise levels and prevent any pregnant pauses that might result by automatically triggering the next event "immediately." (see below for the reason behind the quotation marks)

Easier said than done!


The sensitivity level of your silence sense should be set significantly above the noise floor of the equipment in use (this can be critical if any limiters precede it). Too high of a threshold setting will result in "nuisance trips" from soft passages in songs, low recording levels etc.

Too low of a threshold setting will result in the silence sense not catching equipment failures due to noise being detected as audio. The usual practice is to select the noisiest audio source (excluding unsquelched receivers and glitching digital CD or hard drive players - failures in these sources must be detected by other means), set the threshold to just barely detect this noise level, then turn the threshold up 6 db or so.

The silence sense should not step the automation immediately upon sensing silence, because short pauses in the audio occur frequently without machine malfunction. The silence sense delay should be set long enough to avoid nuisance trips, yet short enough to limit the amount of dead air which will be tolerated in the event of a machine malfunction. There is no standard setting here that always works - it is dependent on format, equipment reliability and market competitiveness. The delay must be set longer than normally occurring pauses in the programming. A setting of somewhere between two seconds and five seconds is common. Classical and some Oldies formats may require longer. Shorter settings will result in nuisance trips in almost any format.


Back in the pre-consolidation era when dinosaurs still roamed the earth (early 1990’s) when I was GM at Broadcast Programming (now a part of Dial Global), programmer Kelly Hart received a call from a client GM who said he needed his silence sense to be adjusted VERY tight, since his production staff was very sloppy in placing "cue" tones on commercial carts.

That is what originally inspired today’s post. The memo Hart wrote at the time has been sitting in my files since then and I just heard a client station in a syndicated daypart, playing three things on top of one another, making the very same mistake, which reminded me of it.

Silence sense simply is not a backup to EOM tones, particularly on “cart walled” audio, and it simply can't be used in this way without causing problems.. Setting the delay short enough to keep stop sets flowing will no doubt result in nuisance trips.

A better solution would be to train operators to properly place the tones on the message and maintain the entire system so that the tones work.


And, in spite of all attempts to "do it right," there are occasional songs that a produced containing pauses that are longer than anyone would have expected when setting up a station silence sensor.

For example, with those AC formats still playing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You", the threshold must be set at least 15db below the operating level (-15 VU), and the delay must be set for at least 2.9 seconds. 

Higher thresholds or shorter delays will result in the song tripping the silence sense (more than once!) during the intro, stepping the automation into the next event before the song really even gets started.

Here is the actual step by step process that the Whitney Houston song "I Will Always Love You" puts your automation through so you can better understand what happens.

What follows is the song passage, the length of time of the "low" that could trip your silence sense.

If I

1.67 Sec

Should Stay

2.9 Sec

I would only be in your way

1.4 Sec

So I'll go

.77 Sec

But I know

1.73 Sec

I'll think of you every step of

1.33 Sec

The way

1.87 Sec

Total of 5.87 Sec if silence sense set for -15db.

If in the above case your silence sense simply cannot be changed, the only solutions are to A) not play Whitney Houston, B) edit out a portion of the longest silent stretch, or C) re-record the song with a subaudible tone mixed in during the intro.

What other songs in your library do the same thing? Why don't we simply place subaudible tones behind all such songs when we record the digital master?

At least three reasons I can think of:

1. Subaudible tones can cause problems with older analog automation players, still in use at more stations than you’d think. 

2. PPM’s encoder lives in subaudible tone spaces too (and may also be audibile in those long silences if you try to cover them with a different tone). PPM encoding is programmed NOT to play during any silences.

3. The tone must be low enough (in frequency) to not false trip the 25 Hz EOM detector, yet high enough to pass through the recording and playback equipment without distortion. Many older devices will distort subaudible tones, and the distortion products then become audible.

As a result, my advice is to place the best quality audio, direct from a digital source whenever possible, onto the hard drive/player.

Your goal is, of course, to give listeners as high quality as possible: a faithful, exact copy of the original hit (yes, I know... they probably listen to it today as an mp3, but don’t get me started on THAT!).

After all, you are also going to crunch it, EQ it, compress it, expand it, if you’re like me, using aggressive audio processing so that you’re the biggest, loudest thing on the dial locally (which is more equipment that wants to mess with those pauses of Whitney’s, of course, but, that’s at least one other blog post for another day!).

Saturday, October 02, 2010

What I Said In St Vincent

Travel is one of my favorite parts of this terrific gig and yet the weekend exceeded even my expectations. At CRS in Nashville, I met two guys in the exhibits area who told me that they were starting a new organization, The Caribbean Country Music Association with the hope of getting members on every island nation to work together to promote the growth of country music in the area. They came from a radio station, to my knowledge one of only two in the entire Caribbean to play country music full time (if you know of any others, let me know!) and they invited me to come to their official opening ceremonies as a guest speaker. Go and promote country music? In the Caribbean? You bet! So, there I was Friday morning, extremely impressed with the people undertaking this task at the kickoff festivities which started with a formal affair and ended with an outdoor dance and party under the stars including karaoke and a live band (“The Country Relatives” from nearby Bequia Island).

It’s hard to believe it now, but CMA was started in 1958 with just 233 original members and was the very first trade group to promote a music genre.

Country music flourishes today as America’s #1 music format on radio according to the new ARB “Radio Today,” report and does very well all across Canada, Australia, Scandinavia and continues to grow in the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand, all of which have their own national Country Music member organizations now.

Johnny Cash was "fired" (according to legend) from the Grand Ole Opry because he wanted to use horns in his band, Garth Brooks was also told that he wasn’t country as he started to mash his Oklahoma cowboy roots with his love for KISS and other hair bands. Now, as Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney routinely use steel pans and drums in their music, no one seems to even bother to ask if that’s “country” enough or not!

For me, country requires only these elements: authenticity, talented performers who write their own stories in song, playing their own instruments and incorporating humor, gospel influences, partying, family values and rebelliousness, genuine human relationship joys and pains in universally-relatable ways that speak to emotions in words its fans find say what they’d like to say in simple, clear melodies and lyrics.

Both artists and the fans feel a direct connection to one another in ways no other musical art form seems to possess to the same degree.

Core values of truth, no hype, real not an ideal, understanding and treating people with dignity, like individuals, empowering them so that they feel a sense of ownership and loyalty which connects us all with an attitude of faith, hope and charity.

They all, fans and creative talent alike, take pride in their plain and simple roots. They work hard to make life better for their children and families. Belief in a Higher Power is a part, as is engagement in their local community as well as civic as well as national pride which takes different forms and words in each country where it exists, but seems to exist everywhere, as country music fans want “their” music to reflect their values. (including, of course, "cryin', lovin', partyin' and leavin'" too!)

That is why it’s so easy to be proud to be a member of THIS “Country Club.”

Country is the "REAL" thing (pardon me, Coca Cola!)

Sony Music uses two words as their company position statement: “Make Believe,” and I read that as encouraging us all to make our own unique brand of country and then believe in its power and strength to connect us all together in common humanity.