Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Pile Of "Change" On This PD's Desk

Last week, I was in Townsquare Media Albany's Cluster OM and WGNA-FM PD/MD Tom "Jake" Jacobsen's office and saw this pile of three year old "album download cards." 

Knowing that Blake's new LP is just a few months away and that there have been three albums out since that one, I had to ask what was up.

Jake says that he keeps that pile of unclaimed prizes from three years ago to remind himself every day of the pace of change.

He says that only about half of the folks who won those digital album downloads knew what they were, let alone how valuable they were at the time.  

The rest are still there waiting for the winners to realize what a cool prize they failed to pick up. When called by the station at the time, the winners said that if they couldn't have a CD, they didn't want them.

Today, he says, digital album downloads fly out the door and the idea of giving away a CD seems so "yesterday."

The pile sits on his desk to remind everyone at the station (and now YOU too!) of how quickly that evolution has occurred.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fire The Promotion Staff; That'll Fix It

The machinations of the music business have always been a mystery to me.

The business model appears so simple.  Find and record an amazing song.  Give it to a unique and talented artist.  Send it to radio and expose it in every other platform possible.  If listeners of the format you want to succeed in love it, you'll see immediate positive response.  It will sell.  You make money.

The radio stations playing it get great ratings.  We make money too.

Happy listeners, who can't wait to see the artist live and in person.


Then, there are situations like Andy Gibson's last week.  Label restructures and disappears, seemingly as promotion people are fired.  This is the second time in the last year the same thing has happened with James Stroud's labels.

I don't mean to single out Stroud.  He knows a lot more about music than I ever will.

This kind of thing happens all the time in the "record" business, so I suppose it's not really even anything new.

However from my perch in radio, it always looks like the morning show's ratings are bad, so we solve the problem by firing the sales department?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Less Than A One Percent Chance

It's been exactly a week since I ran an AllAccess "help wanted" ad and the applications are still coming in.

The first morning after I placed it, I checked my email and discovered 23 very good packages.
That evening, it was up to 47.
Next day, I had 71!

By that time, I started to realize what an uphill battle for this one job these folks were facing.

To begin with, I sent along a quick acknowledgement stating that I got their submission, would send it to the client PD who had the opening and promised to keep it in A&O's file for future possibilities. But, by the time I had forwarded 90 pretty good resumes and air checks to my client, it was hitting me that just one person was going to get this gig, assuming someone fit with the needs I tried to outline in my ad.

So, now that we're up to 114 responses to one ad, I have taken to letting folks who are now sending materials that the PD originally intended to go through the more than 100 he had received by that first weekend, so it's possible that he already has a short list from those and may be contacting potential hires, so their odds are long at this point.

In reply to that email, I got this one:
"It still amazes me how much you can be driven to a career that can break your heart so much. I think its similar to a drug honestly. You get so much of the rush, the perks, the highs, and when the lows of the business creep in, you forget them as soon as you get another chance at the action."

Talk to any actor or comedian. It's the same for them. And, at the end of the day, the joys when you're on mic outweigh all the difficulties and disappointments. Anything worth doing is worth competing as hard as you can to be able to do it.

Nobody ever said this job would be easy, easy to get or easy on the ego, but it's especially difficult right now.

Just don't tell me that it's hard to find good people.

They are out there, trying to stand out and not lose hope as they attempt to figure out how to make the most of their one in a hundred odds.

An Unconventional Method Of Letting Everyone Know You're #1

Lots of radio stations call themselves #1.

It used to be that young programmers were advised by the savvy old pros "the more you say you're #1, the faster you'll be #1.

Now, to be believed, your claim must resonate as truth with listeners. Otherwise, their BS detector blows louder than your claim.

Getting sued by Arbitron is one way to make sure everyone in your town knows that it's true, it seems, since ARB says that it wasn't the fact that KMX 106.7 said on their air "Thanks for making us the most-listened to radio station in the Wiregrass...” why they hit the station's owner with a $350,000 copyright infringement lawsuit. It was because the claim was true in the latest Arbitron survey.

KMX is a very unconventional radio station as their latest TV spot on You Tube shows.

A&O was the very first in our business to call our annual perceptual reports for clients, "Roadmaps" more than eight years ago.

However, if we ever hear from an attorney for Rand McNally, they'd have our full attention.

Something tells me that WKMX feels the same way right now.

I guess it's OK to say you're #1. Just don't BE #1 at the same time?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Going Out On A Very High Note

29 years at one radio station is a lot to be proud of and perhaps when you saw the amazing ratings in the last two months for Milwaukee's #1 radio station, WMIL, you were unaware of the fact that last month was the final one on the station for the venerable Mitch Morgan.

As Clear Channel implements its cost-efficient WAN-based Premium Choice national programming in more and more places, the axe finally fell on Mitch in Milwaukee.

They call it "retirement," and being the class act he has always been, that is precisely how he took it.

Do an internet search for his name and you'll not find a disparaging word either from or about this yoeman personality.

Whatever comes next for WMIL in midday, it has a very high ratings number to match in Mitch's final two months and the entire radio station performed very well. Clear Channel has a wonderful team in their Howard Avenue studios in Greenfield, WI. I hope the company appreciates that.

Mitch, you know you have many wonderful, devoted friends and loyal fans which have been built thanks to your great work on air, refined Music Director "ears," deep involvement in the Wisconsin community on the streets, constant support for thousands of artists and mentoring of other radio people who look up to you as a role model.

Count me among them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rock 101 And Corus Are Right, But I Still Don't Think I Am Wrong

Three cheers to Corus Entertainment's Classic Rock 101/Vancouver for banning the prize pig who was found selling his winnings on Craigslist.

I agree: that's a lot more than one step too far.

The 50-something “North Van Brad,” as some listeners have dubbed him, has prolifically competed in dial-in competitions across the Lower Mainland for the past three decades.

Reselling contest tickets are against most radio contest rules, but Williams — who insists he’s innocent — claims he’s being singled out for winning 500 times too much.

“You can only imagine how often I was in their (station) tower,” he jokes.

“I don’t really do it for financial gain,” said Williams, who works at home for his wife’s legal research firm. “I do it because I like to go to the concerts, the nice restaurants. I’ve won some trips. I’ve won some cash. I’ve won just about everything short of a house.”

I know the radio promotion people and our air personalities generally prefer to limit folks like Brad to "you can only win once per month" or similar limitations, but in spite of this excess, I still feel that's a mistake.

They are heavy radio users and, like Brad, if they can't win from you, they'll quickly go to another station. If that's the week they happen to have a diary .. or even worse if this is the year (or two!) that their household happens to have a meter (or many of them!) .. you lose.

Radio contests are about making it fun and rewarding to listen. Smart stations make it easier and simpler for the kind of folks who love to play radio games and contests + participate in radio research to win more often.

North Van Brad hasn't convinced me I am wrong about THAT.

Take the limitations off your contest rules, but you might want to lurk on Craigslist now and then as well as being sure that your prize rules prohibit reselling prizes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Was I Wrong?

The instant I heard about it, I felt pretty certain that Kenny and Tim would be featured 2012 artists on the next "I Heart Radio" music festival in Las Vegas.

It seems that I wasn't alone, as Country Aircheck's RJ Curtis turned to Clear Channel SVP/Programming Clay Hunnicutt to ask what was behind the company's unprecedented heavy first days' airplay of “Feel Like A Rock Star” and what CC received in exchange for what sounded like another "Artist Integration Project".

It looks like I was wrong.

Hunnicutt called it "more of a world premiere event with elements of artist integration. One of the key components of an AIP is utilizing unsold commercial inventory to build the brand of an artist. The plan for Chesney/McGraw, anchored around 28 straight hourly airings of the song didn’t include commercial inventory. That contrasts with the AIP run for Madonna earlier this year. With her, we had billboards in the markets, promoting and counting down to the world premiere of her video.”

Hunnicutt says he was not involved in that promotion. “It’s more than just saying the album is on sale now; it’s about telling the bigger story of the project and the artist. We all have an interest in creating hit songs and more core artists. It helps everybody: listeners, radio, labels, publishers, artists and touring. It was one of those times where everybody was excited about it, and that’s when things can really take off. The song wasn’t exclusive to us; everybody had it at the same time. We didn’t beat anybody to the proverbial punch and we were clear about that, but it goes back to whoever has the best idea wins. We sprung into action after that.”

What benefits does Clear Channel reap after utilizing its airwaves and other platforms to further an artist’s career?
Hunnicutt told Curtis on Monday: “I’ll sum it up in a simple way. A better listening experience for our listeners on the air and creating a moment. There are never any conditions on these, no quid pro quo. This is who we should be – contributing to a greater good when we have the opportunity to do it. We all benefit when there’s more music that is known, familiar and helping to support Tim- and Kenny-level acts.”

I think I'll wait until Clear Channel announces the artist lineup later this year for "I Heart Radio Festival" this year before fully admitting my skepticism was completely unfounded. Meanwhile, if you compete with a Clear Channel station and feel like you "own" reporting status and thus access to big artists exclusively in your market, it's time to step up your game in the same way too, and that is a good thing for all of us.

As long as Clear Channel and Cumulus don't abuse the power given by their footprint in the format at the expense of the rest of country radio, several thousand individual comparatively mom- and pop-owned stations which don't have the power to act together to monopolize promotional airplay in the same way as the Goliaths potentially can.

Let's all watch their actions extra carefully in the coming year.

With unequalled size must come unprecedented additional responsibility.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Was Wrong (Lady Antebellum Edition)

Congratulations are in order for Lady Antebellum‘s Dave Haywood and his new wife Kelli Cashiola, who married last Saturday night (April 14), just outside their hometown of Nashville.


As "Dancing Away With My Heart" heads toward #1 in the next few weeks, it's probably time, as a bit of a wedding gift, to admit that I am the one who said that a song with the lyric "you headed off to college at the end of that summer.." would never be a country hit.

I was wrong.

No, Johnny Cash, Hank Sr., or George Jones would never have sung about heading off to college, but today's country listener qualitative has been evolving for decades. The fact that heading off to college seems perfectly normal as an authentic, relatable story line for country fans in 2012 reinforces that long time country purists are just going to have to adapt (as we always have to this transitional format).

Country music always moves forward, changing to incorporate the core values of real people now, coping with life, today.

About that, I am not wrong.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I Was Wrong

When "Love Like Crazy" - the title track to Lee Brice's 2010 debut album - spent 56 weeks on the charts, peaking at #3, setting a record for the longest run in the charts' history, ultimately becoming Billboard's Top Country Song of 2010, I predicted that would be the highest charting single of his career.


I have to admit that I thought he would succumb to the typical talented songwriter-singer tendency to release only songs he wrote himself.


“A Woman Like You” Hit #1 last week, thanks to the fact that Brice knows a big hit when he hears one, no matter who wrote it.

Congrats, Lee (and Johnny)!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You Don't Have To Have The Highest Ratings

The top ten revenue radio stations nationally, released by BIA/Kelsey yesterday clearly demonstrate that, while being top-ranked in ratings or being in a metropolis is nice to have, it's not essential to being a top biller.

Let's take two recently-released numbers that actually have no "real" relationship to one another and try to coorelate them to see what we can learn with some quick back-of-my-napkin-at-lunch calculations:

WTOP ranks #1 nationally in total revenues from market #8 DC with a 7.5 audience share and is in the top tier of three stations virtually tied in share of audience between a 7.0 and 7.5: $8.5 million per share.

KIIS ranks #2 in revenues from market #2 LA, but is only ranked #3 6+ with a 4.4. Still, KIIS is in that first tier of four Southland stations which have between a 4.2 to a 4.9. Almost $13 million for every share of total audience in the latest monthly.

KFI is #3 nationally in revenue rank, in spite of being #1 in share of total audience with a 4.9 in the latest monthly PPM data. $9.8 million for each of those 4.9 audience shares.

Also in LA, KROQ ranks 7th in national revenues with a 2.7 share of audience 6+ according to the latest month, amidst a group of seven other stations with between that 2.7 and 3.1 in the third tier of PPM-rated stations (the second tier is four with between a 3.6 and a 3.8), with a 2.7. K-Rock, for example, ranks behind Go Country, but out bills the Los Angeles country station, thanks to a big morning show, which is a magnet for young males, managing to bill an incredible $15.6 million per rating share.

WBBM FM & AM ranks behind Chicago's #1 radio station 6+, WGN (5.4) and is tied for #2-#3 with a 4.7, followed by two stations at 4.5. $10.2 million per share.

In New York, the nation's most populous market the top rated 6+ radio station with a 7.3 share is WLTW, but they are actually being out billed by WCBS-AM which has a 2.8 share and also WINS-AM with its 3.5 share. 3.0-share WFAN is only $1.5 million behind. The 6th highest revenues in the USA belong to WHTZ, which notched a 5.2 6+ share last month. Per their latest ARB 6+ share: WLTW = $5,753,424. WCBS = $16,964,285. WINS = $12,000,000. WFAN = $13,500,000. WHTZ = $8.8 million.

Rank by $$ for each 6+ rating share in the latest monthly
  1. WCBS = $16,964,285
  2. KROQ = $15.6 million
  3. WFAN = $13,500,000
  4. KIIS = $13 million
  5. WINS = $12,000,000
  6. WBBM FM & AM = $10.2 million
  7. KFI = $9.8 million
  8. WTOP = $8.5 million
  9. WHTZ = $8.8 million
  10. WLTW = $5,753,424
Obviously, there are more factors involved in great revenues than just share of listening audience.
  • Sell and position aggressively, command the best rates
  • More commercial units per hour (news, talk and sports can carry about 30% more spots)
  • BIG morning show which targets the most-desired demo
  • Men matter; if you can hold onto them, you get the gold
  • Making maximum use of all possible digital assets
  • Be in a high revenue major market
  • Have a very high cume (CHR and AC)
  • Don't target over 55; the younger the better.
Do you have a different read on these stats?

Do you have a plan to grab more than your share of your market's dollars in the next year?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In 1989, All It Took Was Seven

In 2012, we have at least 12 so far (in alpha order):

Jason Aldean
Luke Brian
Kenny Chesney
Eric Church
Toby Keith
Lady Antebellum
Miranda Lambert
Tim McGraw
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood
Zac Brown Band

.. and that's not counting Reba, George Strait and a few others who were filling arenas just a year or so ago.

So, the question for me isn't "do we have enough new names who can sell 10,000 tickets on the strength of their own brand power and drive the marketing of country's new generation of music to the new generation of new listeners", but can we possibly find room for any more right now?

No matter how many new artists come through the funnel, we can still only play 14 or 15 songs an hour unless everyone starts releasing 2:30 hits, which would be extremely nice, but shows no signs of happening.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Presumptions Are Holding Us Back"

Catherine Kelly, VP/Western Region for BBM Canada made that statement recently during a day-long session with the Lower Mainland media sales and buying community which was laden with thought-provoking trends and stats.

"One of the largest values with PPM data, yet largely unexplored, is the ability to really get to know your audience and how people use your media. In Radio, we’re still dealing with dayparts that were defined by a methodology designed to measure it…rather than using our new methodology to help us design better stations, campaigns and advertising.

"It is unrealistic to look at old behaviour models and expect that they will continue to apply. 18-24 is the one demo that BBM receives the most questions and concerns about – whether the market or station is measured by diary or PPM. Every research company has issues with A18-24.

"PPM has these:

• Docking – I’m out late and I don’t dock til’ tomorrow
• Females – I couldn’t find a way to wear it with my dress
• CONTACT!!!! – reaching these people is IMPOSSIBLE
• And of course…..“Uhm…I (lost it, dropped it in the toilet/pool/shower/lake, had it but can’t find it, forgot it, left it in my friends car…..)”

"This is Reality…

"The 18-24 year olds THEMSELVES drive variability in audience numbers. They go in and out of the sample quicker and more often than older more ‘stable’ panelists.

"During these years, an 18-24 can experience one or more of these, perhaps several times, all within a year:

• Leave to go to school
• Then come back to parents house for summer
• Leave again
• Get a job, quit a job
• Buy a car, write off a car, etc.

"Nevermind what they can do over the course of 7 years..

"It is often assumed that radio listening and television viewing is a daily habit with slight variability over time. However, when you look at minute, hourly, daily, weekly and monthly data for 18-24 year olds, its clear that variability is the norm for this age group.

"Other factors that contribute: Co-Listening/Co-Viewing. Don’t forget that PPM captures ‘exposure’ and that means there are instances of co-listening or viewing, that are going to occur.

"This is particularly true during ‘holiday’ periods where the likelihood of an A18-24 being in a co-viewing/listening environment increases.

"Market events affect 18-24 year olds and drive variability in audience numbers. (psst..this is true of all demos!)

"Consider the following, especially when examining this group:

• What time of year is it?
• Did this happen last year?
• What could be happening in their lives?
• Market?
• Other media?"

Some folks will say that it must be "be nice to a ratings company day" at Breakfast Blog as I recap this, since I more tend more often to tweek our associates in the media research business given my innate and deeply ingrained sympathies with our programmers, talent and sellers.

However, anyone who shares an abode with an 18-24, a teen or a 25-34 knows that what she's telling us - like it or not - has considerable inconvenient truth in it.

It's time to learn new selling strategies.

Monday, April 09, 2012

If You Don't Understand This, You're Not A Media Buyer Or Planner

"Media is the New Creative", targeting media buyers and planners in English Canada is phase two of the ongoing national multiplatform trade advertising campaign from Canada's Astral Media (click here to watch them all).

The campaign is entirely web based and consists of three videos and one "making of" that all playfully highlight some of the stereotypes of our industry; the messages recognize media planners as the creatives they truly are, but not always recognized for.
Derev Antikacioglu, Director of Branding and Corporate Marketing: "This aims at raising the awareness of media buyers and planners of the near unlimited creative possibilities that Astral offers to reach targeted consumer groups multiple times a day."

Watch 'em and ultimately, I'm betting that like me you need to go back and reread the press release to fully understand what the campaign was trying to communicate ("...that the rapid evolution of today's media landscape is transforming the media planner's role. Media planning and buying has attained creativity in its own right. Being at the table at the onset of the ideation stage, media's involvement in the ideation process is becoming increasingly intimate.")

Here's hoping these creative types don't decide to produce a series designed to "playfully spotlight" the contributions of programming consultants to the biz.

I might have to join that media rep at that bar, just contemplating the possibility.

The mind reels...

Friday, April 06, 2012

Radio Journalism VS PR

When two different trade media cover exactly the same story on the same day, that's not "news," that's reprinting press releases.

There's certainly nothing wrong with a competitor sending out PR each time they close a deal. Both Sirius and XM did it a decade ago. They also bought placement in movies and TV shows, all of which drove a growing impression back then that satellite radio was going to replace terrestrial radio among local business leaders.

"Local radio" is still standing and still wins the battle 10+ to one.

This is not to say that analog radio shouldn't worry about Pandora and all the emerging new media.

It's just to encourage you to tell your success stories in PR as well, while acknowledging that our value proposition on offer to both listeners and media buyers is under attack from new places.

So, what else is new?

Thanks to new media, we have two or three times the inventory to sell that we once did given all the platforms at our disposal.

1. Be sure that our clients get more than the results that expected by being better, more engagingly effective than any competing media's creative.

2. Give listeners more of what they come to us for and less of what they don't. Of course, doing so will mean that traditional "over the air" revenues will be flat to down unless we're able to aggressively raise rates, which in this economy and new media age is an immense challenge.

3. A more sustainable business model is to lower commercial loads "over the air" - making our analog products more listenable - and replace that revenue with money from all possible non-traditional sources.

Long term success requires long term thinking, and courage.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bark If You Want To Cohost A Morning Show

WAXX/Eau Claire's Alex Edwards is in the midst of a very public search for his new co-host and as a part of the promotion he set up a survey for listeners to describe what they want to listen for on radio in the morning.

Ideal Qualities

What should they be able to do?

What would be ideal hobbies for the next door neighbor?

What's the one thing you expect out of the next door neighbor?

If the next door neighbor was a dog, what king of dog would it be ?
84 votes LABRADOR
65 votes SCOOBY DOO

Thanks, Alex, for sharing these results with us.

Now, "sit," "fetch," "shake."

Monday, April 02, 2012

Be Nice To Your Voice

For almost a decade back in the 90's, I was a partner in an assistive listening device business and so over the years I received more than my share of professional journals with information of both hearing and speech - subjects of no small interest to me as well, given my lifetime in radio.

In perusing one recently, the Journal of the American Speech/Language and Hearing Association, I found the following piece - reprinted (and adapted a bit) with their permission:

It's baseball season. The excitement of the game and the noise of the crowd make you use your voice at a higher pitch and louder level for a longer period of time than usual.

What you may not realize is that cheering play after play may be damaging your vocal chords.

Yelling at a ballgame is only one way to strain your voice. Singing at very high or very low pitches, smoking, talking in noisy environments, excessive coughing or throat-clearing, or talking excessively can abuse your vocal chords.

When you continue to talk after you have strained your voice, your vocal chord become more irritated. Your voice may sound hoarse or you may have laryngitis. This condition occurs when your vocal chords are so swollen and thick that they cannot produce sound.

Although laryngitis usually goes away after a day or two, you should not ignore the problem. Keep your vocal chords moist with drinks such as lemon, lime or cranberry juice. And try to keep quiet. Don't even whisper!

If resting your voice doesn't work, you may need voice therapy from a speech-language pathologist. In severe cases, you may need surgery.

To keep your voice in good shape for Little League and even World Series cheering later this year:
  • Avoid constant throat-clearing, coughing and loud talking.
  • Don't strain your voice by yelling or lowering the pitch of your voice too much. If you feel strain or tension in your throat, neck or shoulders, you're too loud.
  • Breathe correctly. Sit or stand up straight and breathe from your diaphragm as you speak. Place your hand on your abdomen just below your lungs and speak. You should be able to feel the vibrations if you are properly supporting your voice from your diaphragm. If you are cheering your favorite team, inhale deeply to fill the lower part of your lungs.
  • Go easy on your voice when you have a cold or sound hoarse.
  • Don't try to talk over the problem.
  • Rest your voice. Don't even whisper.
  • Drink lots of clear liquids when your throat is dry.
  • Don't irritate the vocal chords more by smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages.
For more information, contact Consumer Information Division, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.