Monday, May 13, 2013

Country's Gen X (Conversation)

My Country's Gen X Problem post initiated a Facebook dialog:

  • Bob McNeill:  Of course country has a 35-44 problem. The average age of a country listener has been right in the middle of that demo for decades and now, with the influx of pop, they're disenfranchised. We never learn.  Country has always been the only adult format that's sustained by current music. Balance is always the issue. And with that, the development of core artists that aren't disposable as they are in pop formats. Disposable songs and artists are a danger to the country format. I fear we're allowing the music business to drive the direction of the format which is problematic since radio and records do have divergent goals at some point.
  • Ralph CipollaClassic Rock PDs (and Sales folk) have been lamenting the inevitable march of time... now, they face what traditional Oldies stations did 15 years ago. The cell they owned - 35-44 - is now a secondary demo, as the format is firmly rooted 45-54. And each year, it gets one year older. The "newest" legitimately fitting songs in the format are now 25 years old, Led Zeppelin I is 44 years old and was the music of those who are now 60+ years old. Throwing in a category of polarizing Grunge & Metallica songs works for some stations with Rock roots and little competition, particularly in The South, but can be a disaster for others. I've always been interested in the Country airplay vintage v. audience age connection that appears to defy the typical music vintage to listener age if/then equation.  Is this a potential opportunity? A difficult-to-reach young cell appears to be coming along and could be welcomed into the fold, while a traditional core demo sees the ever-growing distraction of Sports/Talk & Talk & time-shifting tech that Arb can't yet measure - but they remain in attendance and need to be the object of a re-doubled engagement effort - assuming its not just a music issue (is it ever?)
  • Drew Edmundson:  I've always been more of a variety guy (mixing the classics in with the new) in pretty much any format. People 35-44 like new songs (I'm 44 and love Lady A, Zach BB, Aldean, etc). I think there needs to be a healthy dose of older songs so as to not alienate that demo.  I do nights on a country station as well as afternoons on an AC station and I see many crossovers. Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Kelly Clarkson, Lady A, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, etc.  I look at this as a good thing for the country format.
  • Leslie Humble As a DJ/Programmer of Country Music dating back even before my days at WSM and The Grand Ole Opry, I see several factors at play. A large section of the age group 50 - 65 hate the Pop country with the semi Country vocal over Rock/Pop instrumentation. The aforementioned 35-44 Cell is on the edge of being torn by the extreme fragmentation that is today's micro cell centric choices. Even 35-44 should be more incrementally targeted.  Two things: Going back to Jaye's original thought on capturing the 35-44 demo. Isn't it the same as it's always been? Lifestyle. Target your promotions, on air comments, remotes, to a 40 year old woman for that demo. Lifestyle. As far as the music....I must slightly disagree that Garth or 90's are as far as you can go. Even if it's testing that way. I do national voice over work mostly now and my shows are live ones. I see 20 year olds jumping up for Hank Jr., John Anderson, Mel McDaniel, Charlie Daniels and on and on. It reminds me of the story of how top 40 was discovered by Todd Storz by watching the same song played over and over on a jukebox. The music that demo and others will accept is also a self perpetuating thing. How many of us feel like we helped "break" or Make a hit record by playing it? Musically WE tell them what is a hit or good in many cases. The only distinction, to me, is that the PRODUCTION VALUES, must be of the level we expect today. 

    Jaye Albright
    : Thanks, to all of you.  Personally, I don't think that it gets solved by playing 90's or earlier for a mainstream or a "new country" station, since the majority of 35-44 available to country radio today were not listening to country music when they were teens.  It's about balance, as more than one of you have noted. The great majority of today's A artists, almost all of which have emerged in the last five years aren't crossover acts.  Right now, country has 18 touring acts able to fill arenas, which is an unprecedented development in the history of the format.  We do have a handful of them you'd call "crossover" acts, but still the vast majority get played only on country radio.

    PS:  If this piqued your interest and you want some specific advice on what to do next, click on the CRS 2013 session "
    Younger Country: Is 18-34 the New 25-54? and listen to very savvy panelists John Dimick/Lincoln Financial, Chris Huff/KSCS and Sean Ross/Edison Research share their perspectives on coalitions vs conflicts between tastes of the wide country  demographic targets.  It's an hour well spent, if you missed that session at CRS.
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