Tuesday, April 02, 2013

ITunes? MyTunes? WhoseTunes?

It was fascinating this morning to note who got credit for topping the week's country music charts.
As much as I admire Hunter artistically on this day when Clear Channel radio stations are flogging The Band Perry and Cumulus is playing twice as much Kix Brooks as any other radio group thanks to lots of extra overnight spins you simply can't disregard the role of shadowy influence in what is being passed off as factual information today.

Research funded for radio by the music business (Zac Brown's "Colder Weather" was #1 in one out yesterday and Lee Brice "I Drive Your Truck" was #1 in a different one just the other day), download charts (Darius Rucker's "Wagon Wheel" was #1, up 23% from last week). MScore, AirplayIntel, streaming and album sales  charts are topped by different ones.

As with baseball, country radio has no shortage of stats with which to make music decisions and, like the national pastime, just because someone counts it doesn't mean it really counts.

Look at iTunes data rather like we used to view record sales back in the day when all of us used to call local record shops to check on sales figures.  It's certainly an indication of passion for something when a person is willing to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy something.

That seems more credible than playing a song that helps Clear Channel get another act for their IHeartRadio Music Festival or a monitored major market station get an artist for their NTR

The challenge with any kind of retail data is knowing WHO bought it.

The #1 use of radio research is to TARGET what we play, to be sure we know that it appeals to the perfect mix of our core and lighter user prospects who might listen more to our station if we did more they liked.  And, of course, it's a mistake to reach too much in either direction.  Too much core focus, too much cume focus, too much male-appeal, female appeal, younger vs older, etc .. and we hurt ourselves.  No national chart can do that for you.

If you can't afford traditional callout and your local PPM music usage data, online testing at the very least is so crucial.  It's low in cost compared to traditional callout or auditorium testing and when you do it locally it provides a great snapshot of how our most loyal users feel about what we play and that feedback comes back in just a week or two so that we can look at every narrow demo we target, heavy users, light users, etc.   

It's the only data you absolutely know about the methodology behind it to be sure that it will affect your cume and usage.

A new source of "buzz" is YouTube and the fast-growing streaming audio portals.  In some ways, like with retail reports, they are also quite variable and manipulable -- how much did the track sell for, for example.  Is it fair to compare a $1.29 track download to a free fan club coupon offer?  This is a bit like the six track mini-LP vs full 12-14 track one's sales.  Certainly, it's more impressive if you sell 500,000 at $14.95 than it is if they cost $7.95.

SO, I do look at all of them, including Taste Of Country, The Boot and CMT views for example but sometimes - rather like Luke Bryan's spring break release, Kacey Musgraves album tracks or Old Crow Medicine show in the wake of Darius Rucker's success - you really have to listen and decide if it meets your needs and will draw your core closer or push them away. 

The top 30 on iTunes ranges from 75,000 sales in all of North America down to 25,000 fewer than that from #1 down to #2, and half that many by the time to get down to #10 and again half THAT many when you get down to #20, etc.  When you look at your LOCAL downloads, Soundscan or Hits, Street Pulse, Big Champagne streaming trends the numbers are very small for any one market.

Take it all with a grain of salt, but employ it to see if something very interesting is happening that you really like and believe might fit.  

Ultimately, adding anything new is a risk, so in spite of all the promotional tracker pressure to push you to go faster, go only as fast as your gut tells you your audience is ready for.  Then, test those things yourself with your audience as soon as you feel like 75-85% of your two hour a day listeners are familiar with it .. and learn from that, making your judgments better and better as you get to know "your" peeps better and better by age, gender and usage profile.

That should be the only #1 that really matters to you if your goal is to make sure your radio station will be a #1 too.

No comments: