Friday, August 30, 2013

"Gut Wrenching"

A&O&B works with all parties involved in yesterday's huge transactions and so all of us have been busy counselling buyers, sellers, executives, employees, all longtime coworkers at broadcast groups, radio stations and networks we have come to love and admire.

Mergers and acquisitions require adaptability and change.  Mark L. Feldman and Michael F. Spratt wrote the book on the subject back in 1998. 
"Increasingly, the companies that win are those that learn faster, act quicker and adapt sooner. They will compress time by making and executing early, informed decisions about economic value creation, ruthless prioritization and focused resource allocation. They will use these decisions to take early firm stands on management deployment, organization structure and culture. Their actions will increasingly be linked to long-term, sustained economic value creation."

As someone who manages or works for one of those companies, you know intellectually the truth of of that paragraph, yet your individual needs and fears add relationships and emotion to the personal calculus which can work against getting what needs doing done.

I have another time-tested book I recommend that everyone read at least once a year which helps me with that process.  @ParachuteGuy Richard Nelson Bolles is now semi-retired, but his work goes on as the need is greater than ever.

Recent graduate of Villanova Law School Andrew Dellaripa blogs that it's important to be cautious about giving advice in situations like this:  "Good advice sticks to your very soul. The kind of advice Obi-Wan’s ghost gives.  Bad advice, though, is outdated, archaic clich├ęs pulled from large-font posters of cats in baskets."

So, I'll go light on advice for you except to suggest that this weekend is a great time to think about your own personal goals, abilities and career.

The clearer you are on what makes you succeed the better communicator you'll be when that new leader you'll be working for begins opening up about your new role.

If you need a mentor to help with this process please reach out to any of the A&O&B team.

Your success is our success.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Did You Do A Summer Listening Contest?

With Inside Radio's report yesterday that Arbitron is running seasonal sweepstakes programs during the August and September ratings periods to help encourage panelists to wear their meters it's a good time for a reminder emulate the radio ratings giant.

ARB has long made use of radio's direct marketing experts as consultants to help them improve response and cooperation rates. 

What they learn can be a great primer for you as well (staying well within the rules of course!).

Arbitron's current program started this week and runs through September 8, following sweepstakes that took place from July 22-28 and August 5-18. 
“These programs are expected to have a positive impact on In-Tab rates,” the company says in a note to subscribers. 

It’s the time of year when a lot of normal life patters are shaken up,  and that includes people meter panelists, as Inside Radio's story notes.

If your station does online music testing, unlike ARB or BBM, you actually need to be doing two contests:  one, silently, to encourage participation in your own survey, thanking your listeners for doing it for you. 

And, of course, a second one on air (that's bigger, easier and more fun than your competition) designed to increase daily cume and daily occasions.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two Very Good Jerry Cupit Ideas

Jerry has worked with such artists as John Anderson, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., Lonestar, Tim McGraw, Ken Mellons, Kevin Sharp, Jo-El Sonnier and many others.

He's an accomplished songwriter, musician, author, producer, publisher, and manager who since he started Cupit Music back in 1980  has won awards for his songwriting talent from BMI and ASCAP, including the millionaire award for his writing contribution to "Jukebox Junkie" as well as the Tennessee Songwriter's Association Hallmark Award.

In addition, Jerry has authored two very successful books, Nashville Songwriting and a new gift book titled Daddy Always Said.

He's an inventor too.  The Cupit guitar is only 22.5" long and weighs 4.5 lbs. including the case.  That is idea #1, which he calls 'the travel guitar.'

Idea #2 is "Guitars For Soldiers," an organization dedicated to donating guitars to all military personnel 
desiring a small travel guitar.  Soldiers become eligible for a free guitar by simply entering their information at  Civilians & Corporations contribute by donating one travel guitar at the price of $399.00.  Cupit Music will then match the donation with a second guitar to a second soldier 
in the donors name.

For questions and all other inquiries please contact:
Dan Hagar
Senior V.P.
Cupit Music Group 
Nashville, TN

615-731-0100 ext.13

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Singing In Unison With Mark Lapidus

Any radio column that concludes with the recommendation to begin practicing this simple but powerful phrase: “Starting January 2014, we will stop giving away advertising of any kind, online or mobile. Instead, we will use these precious assets to generate money for our radio station” gets a "second" from me.

The Radio World promotions writer last week created a list of long-overused vehicles for mentioning client names along with routine programming elements, but the title of the article - Put Ads In Their Proper Place - rings my chimes.

Radio has no shortage of places to drop the names of advertisers within the context of what we do and listeners turn up the volume to hear.

The key question is:  are you getting enough money for the ones you currently do?  If not, why wait until January to do the right thing?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Seeing With Your Mind's Eye. Are Drop In Ads Spoiling The View?

Thanks to Blaine Thompson at Indiana Radio Watch for spreading the word on this from CNN:
Stop for a moment, click the link and ponder the ramifications:
It shouldn't be surprising that this is happening. Baseball has always been a relentlessly and unapologetically revenue-seeking enterprise. Have you ever seen photos of the outfield walls in big-league ballparks in the early to mid-20th century? Even NASCAR's marketing strategists would have been envious of the don't-waste-an-inch commercial clutter.

"And baseball on the radio -- distinct even from baseball itself -- is durable and steady in ways that can't be easily spoiled. Baseball on the radio is one part of the sport that somehow, despite everything, still manages to feel good."

"How good can it get? For a gold-standard example from the history of the sport and of the medium, listen to the KMOX radio broadcast of Stan Musial's final at-bat for the St. Louis Cardinals before his retirement."

"Take a good look, fans. ... Take a good look.  It's possible, on summer nights, to see most clearly with your eyes closed."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Music City Math

Running Mediabase's "five day" chart on a Saturday is a weekly habit with me.

Seeing Monday-Friday spin rank without the distortions of weekend airplay can be a good indication of next week's label priorities. 

For example, it already appears that next week's #1 is going to be Carrie Underwood and then the likely chart-topper the following week will be Keith Urban.

With this week's #1, Brett Eldredge heading downward in spins after taking 44 weeks to top the spin charts, will Easton Corbin have the staying power to be all powered up the week of 9/2 for a #1 on 9/9?

You can be sure that his advocates are already battling for that place on the ranker.

As of this week, "All Over The Road" has been on the charts for 33 weeks (which seems like a youngster compared to the 56 weeks it took Lee Brice's 2010 debut "Love Like Crazy" to ultimately get only to #3.

Since radio power rotations are usually five to seven songs, the actual difference from radio's perspective between a #1 and a #7 is just a few spins per week on the average monitored station.

Don't tell that to a promotion person!

The best ones play the game weeks in advance, creating strategies and tactics designed to outrank competing artists, publishers and labels, all of whem have plenty of skin in the contest.

No one wants to end up at #2.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Call Me Don Quixote

Is it just Bob Struble and me?
Digital radio developer iBiquity projects HD Radio receiver sales will jump 63% this year, forecasting 5.4 million units will be sold.  That compares to 3.3 million receivers that entered the market last year.

A&O&B has been chronicling the tortoise-like pace of North American radio's movement toward digital in this space for many years.  (click to read eight years' worth)

I suppose the fact that 61% of Inside Radio readers now see a "tipping point" somewhere in our medium term future is a positive sign.

Hey, 38%:  read this one (It's About Time) and see if it makes you change your tune as well.

There was a time when FM seemed like an uphill battle too.  HDRadio is our best hope for a big place in the coming digital dashboard.

Don't give up on it.
Digital radio developer iBiquity projects HD Radio receiver sales will jump 63% this year, forecasting 5.4 million units will be sold.  That compares to 3.3 million receivers that entered the market last year. - See more at:
Bob Struble
Bob Struble
Bob Struble

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Gold Has More Than Just A Familiar Sound

A&O&B's Fall 2013 gold research composites are being tabbed and categorized now and probably the first thing most client stations will note as they placed the new gold recommendation on the air is the return of some “older” titles. 

Top of the ranker, by "net positive" among A&O&B USA client stations

Top of the ranker, by "net positive" among A&O&B Canadian client stations

In fact, two factors combine to make this development less startling then it first appears. 

The very small proportion of the library that now comes from the 1990's is songs that test very well 25-34.  

These young people may not even know that these tunes aren’t new country songs! 

They see them as a return to more traditional sounds, which is universally appreciated by the core. 

And, due to careful categorization of them, this well under 10% of your updated gold music library actually gets played less 5% of the time.

It's all about "variety," and research continues to reinforce that is highly-prized by most of the target, while their primary demand is to hear their favorites more than anything else.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creating A Positive Brand Image

In radio, while the image of ‘just doing good for the community’ is seldom sufficient to win the ratings race for a station (especially in PPM markets where actual usage trumps all), the positive passion and powerful emotions that strong community involvement generate CAN often improve audience loyalty and station memorability.

Once we get beyond musical images, is there anything more important than being the station that helps kids or wounded vets?

In fact, there is.

Of course, doing a radiothon or a personality trip to a needy part of the world to dramatize the urgent need for them to lend a hand is often seen as a great way to activate your community and be experienced as a truly well-rounded Country station.

Savvy programmers understand that raising a large amount of money can require programming tactics which harm audience retention even as they build a brand.

Of course, in the long run, it is worth it and I encourage you to weave doing big things for your community into the fabric of everything you do year round, but there's another - often forgotten - way to achieve powerful brand depth without sacrificing a single quarter hour of listening or one cume listener.

It's simply being as responsive to everything your listeners care about in brief, meaningful ways all the time.

Get involved.  Share their stories.  Help.  Provide leadership.  It's what radio - voice tracked or live and local - does best, every day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What's Your Music Scheduling Philosophy?

You can have the finest, newest, state-of-the-art music scheduler software available, but if you don't have a strategy behind your use of it, the output isn't going to be any better than a 1970's-era card file.

Here's a place to at least begin:
  1. 50% of the average station's most-exposed categories contain songs by unfamiliar artists, thus I'd code for "major superstar," "familiar to the core but unknown to many of the cume" and "new to even the heavy users," making sure ever other song is from a well-known voice.  Yes, that causes the music scheduler to groan but the exercise is worthwhile - the listener is never far from a familiar voice.
  2. Tempo is the second major issue.  Almost every category averages 40% slow, if not even more.  The tempo, energy and mood rules we recommend make scheduling tricky, but are important.
  3. Repetition is controlled by use of extremely restrictive tight hour-repeat rules.  This also presents the potential of scheduling nightmares, but it's worth doing.
I think we can be reasonably flexible with all other parameters, but these are the big three…familiarity, tempo and repetition.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chuck Buell

He is a headline selection this month on the largest radio show aircheck archive around,
 Chuck Buell, for 45 years adapting his content and style, a perfect role model for talent wanting to remain relevant decade after decade.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's Good For Public Radio, Is Good For You Too

"Essentially, we're raising the number of segments per hour," Arvid Hokanson, deputy program manager for KUOW tells Morning Fizz, in an attempt to keep up with the way audience surveys say people listen to radio—in short bursts, while they're making breakfast or in the car. "Our frequent listeners now are people who listen more times per day."

KUOW will effectively condense four hours of daily local programming into two.

Do the math.  If you want to keep up with a top-rated public radio station in PPM, it's time to say the same things in HALF the time!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Best In Class

I love this job.  One reason:  I listen to a lot of radio which exposes me to lots of mediocrity, of course, but now and than something really stands out.

Brilliance is taking the things everyone has access to and doing something extraordinary with it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

P.D. In Absentia

Another Jay Trachman Treasure:

What a beautiful phone call I got today.  "You were my PD."

The caller explained that the PD they had wasn't very bright or experienced, and my writings taught him about how to be a real personality. "I was his PD????"

I thought... I hope I did the job well...

Did I impress upon him the importance of having something to say? It should be so obvious, but it isn't -- not to a lot of young jocks and their PDs: the importance of entering the studio each day with more material than one could use. Last week, I ran into Chuck Carson at the post office. He was morning man to my mid-day "housewife" shift when the two of us were both brought to Fresno by Triangle Broadcasting, decades ago. After not seeing Chuck for many years, practically the first reminiscence we Shared was about how we were suddenly required to do show prep. It was probably the most important thing we learned, on that job.

Did I help him to understand that entertainment is about helping another to experience emotions, and that one emotion is as good as another? At that very job, on KFRE, I started out hiding behind jokes and "oddities in the news." Then, one day, I happened to look out the window while walking between the on-air studio and the news room, and saw the most magnificent double rainbow I'd ever seen. I Shared it with my listener -- I must have gushed all over it -- and the phones lit up like I'd never seen them before; everyone had his or her own descriptive phrase or impression to add, and very quickly I learned that there were better ways than comedy to affect -- and infect -- my listener.

Did I teach him how to talk to one person, and why it matters?  I remember Mildred, the older woman who had the "hots" for me; she was out of the target demographic and her devotion sometimes bordered on frightening... But, needy as I was, I found it easy to talk directly to her on the air, knowing that she understood -- not just my words -- but my emotional tone... Over time, I realized that when I spoke directly to Mildred, many people felt like I was talking to them. At later times in my career, my Personal Listener was Bonnie, and then Steve... It mattered not; it was the idea of talking to one specific person, that made me sound intimate and real, and "liberated" me to show the spectrum of my emotions.

Did I help him to develop the self-confidence to show his real self to his listeners? Perhaps it was the day when I was just coming down with the flu -- I wasn't sick enough to stay home yet, but I felt like death re-heated. I told my listener about it, and invited everyone to phone in with their own special versions of "poor baby" for me. It was one of the most powerful bits I ever did; there were offices full of people saying it in chorus; someone doing it in Spanish, someone else serenading me, and the phones stayed lit beyond the end of my show. Tell your listener you feel crummy? It worked so well for me, I was ready to risk trying a few other emotions...

Did I impress him with the idea that radio is a business, as well as an art? Oh, what a tough lesson that one was for me. I was "Jay Trachman, DJ hero!" Don't mess with my programming, don't try to tell me what music to play, and don't bring me spots thirty minutes before they're supposed to air, on a Friday afternoon. Ultimately, the station was sold, the new owners deemed me more trouble than I was worth, and I was shown the door. The saddest, most embarrassing thing about it was, on reflection years later, I understood that they were right.

Did I teach this successful radio manager, back in his early days, well enough to help him become successful in a rough business? Oh, I hope so.  Being a program director -- even in absentia -- involves a great responsibility to the people you're trying to "direct." One needs, not only to lay out the ground rules and formatics, but to help them to put forth their best each day, to celebrate their job, their work, and each other, and constantly, to grow better at what they do. I hope I was up to the job.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Ray Martin

The longtime CBS MarketWatch columnist is one of those voices that keeps writing things that I save and read over and over again.  I'd like to combine some of his "keepers" from over the years and put a radio spin on them for you:

1.  Don't do what you are told.
More precisely, never "settle" for doing "only" what you're told; always try to do a little something extra.  Ask yourself, "Why did he/she request this of me, and what can I do to deliver more than they want?" As Martin puts it, "The way you get promoted is not by doing what you are told, but by taking the initiative to do more..."

2.  Under promise and over deliver.
The idea is to get your manager to recognize you as one who frequently exceeds expectations. My old friend Jay Trachman used to brag that one of his proudest achievements as a beginning jock was to empty the "in" basket in the production studio each evening before going home. He didn't steal other people's voice work, but anything routine that simply required dubbing to cart, or copying with a tag -- he finished. Not only did he get a rep for doing something extra, but he also learned production. By the time he was ready to seek his next job, he could sell himself as a "production Wiz!"

3.  Always make your boss look good.
One of my favorite old sayings: "There's no limit to what you can achieve, if you don't care who gets the credit." And when the person getting the credit is in a position to reward you with a promotion or a pay increase, well -- that sounds to me like the best kind of rational selfishness.

Top qualities of people who get promoted:
  • They work for a company and for leaders they respect and admire.  In part, this means quit whining about the lousy outfit you work for, if you do, and find something more to your liking. It may not happen in a day or even a year, but if you're unhappy where you are, and settle, you're settling on your own hopes and aspirations.  Never stop looking until you find someone you can devote your heart and soul to.
  • Always keep the "big picture" in mind. Understand how the things you do every day fit into the whole picture. We on-air talents tend to have an inflated view of how important our work is to the company: "Without me, they wouldn't have anything to sell." (Sales people have the same inflated view:  "If we didn't sell, they'd starve!") It takes both sides, along with management and support staff, to make the station "work." It's wise to be seen as one who can bridge these gaps -- one who communicates well with all the various departments of the business.
  • They have strong technical skills and work hard on technical projects.  How many things do you know how to do at the station, besides your own principle tasks? In the age of multi-tasking, the more things you can do, the more valuable you are to the company, and the more secure your job is.  It's to your advantage to learn how to sell, create logs, manipulate a data base, etc.
  • They work beyond "nine to five" - not just on the work of the day, but by taking classes, reading books and getting extra training that continuously increases their human capital. This is a tricky one for radio people: I don't suggest you "live and breathe" radio, because it's to your advantage, as a performer, to mix with other people and to "have a life." The more different things you do, the more well-rounded a person you become, and the more interesting you are, potentially, on the air. Still: you've heard it a thousand times.  This is not a forty-hour-a-week job. Never was, never will be. When things need to be done, the one who's there to do them will be the one the management values. And if, between going to the movies and concerts, and watching the popular TV shows and being active in civic or religious organizations and all the other things we need to do to become a visible member of the community, you also find time to read the trades and an occasional book on how to improve your skills, so much the better.
Thanks, Ray Martin, for career advice that stood the test of time.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

George Madden

He was named GM of CJJR/Vancouver after doing a masterful job managing Canada's Expo '86.  He hired me as the first consultant to the fledgling country station.

George was the consummate gentleman, brilliant and an excellent communicator.

In fact, he was so intelligent that he knew after several years that the Lower Mainland Jim Pattison Broadcast Group stations needed a more broadcast savvy individual to do the job.

He went to work for an executive search firm and the first executive he found was today's GM at JRfm, Gerry Siemens, whose approach launched a quarter century of consistent growth.

George Madden was very wise.

He knew what he didn't know.

So, he got to know people who did.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Becky Brenner

She had already done traffic, middays, production director and promotion director duties by the time I arrived at KMPS and I subsequently worked, first as her boss and then later as her consultant, with her for most of the 25 years she was there, spending 16 winning literally every radio programming accolade possible.

So, there are innumerable things I have learned from her.

Let me highlight one that just happened today.

Some of us, after numerous years of listening to new music and being pushed to add things that don't sound bad on the air by aggressive promotion, many of us become somewhat jaded and adopt the point of view that since almost anyone can be auto-tuned, Pro-Tooled, reverbed with those great Nashville backup musicians and singers to the point that even a mediocre song can "test" well enough and a vocalist can sound good enough that you develop a "heck, it won't hurt me that much" attitude.

Maybe they'll beg and plead, catching you on a good day.

Maybe the artist will do a free show for your listeners.

Maybe you overlook on "just this one" that performance and star power matter.  What rings the bell for all elements of the business is to reserve radio airplay for potential stars who understand "performance," who release only amazing songs that resonate to the point that in a year or two the artist has four or five songs plus a reputation for delighting in-person audiences so that they can pack a large arena.

Keeping your standards that high requires a passion for and understanding of all aspects of the music business.

It means recognizing that you go to showcases and live shows not to get your ego stroked, but to see how an act commands the stage, moves the listener.

That takes time and effort.

This morning Becky was a four hour drive from our Seattle offices in Central Washington where A&O&B clients and listeners had attended Watershed Music Festival

The event's three day passes had been long-since sold out.  No one day tickets were ever available, due to the three-day-pass sell out.  Becky felt that it was her duty to spend at least one day at the event and yet wasn't able to spend more time than that due to other professional commitments.

I told her to skip it.  Our clients could fill us in on how it all went on the phone, but that's not Becky  Brenner.  She wanted to experience as much of it as possible.  A music FAN, she sees it as part of her duties.  She paid for a three day pass so that she could go for at least the final day.

I've learned how to be a passionate country music fan, even after four decades in the business, thanks to the example of Becky Brenner.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Michael O'Malley

Mike and I have known each other for more than three decades and have been business partners for coming up on twenty years.

When a friend and I planned a month-long trip to Italy a few years ago, I invited Mike and his wife Wanda along.

I've never invited a coworker on even a week's vacation, so I wasn't sure if it was even "proper," but I was so delighted when they agreed to meet us in Rome and go with us for three of the four weeks.

The four of us traversed Italy in a rented car from the capitol, through Tuscany, Umbria, up to Venice, all the way down to Sicily and then Sardinia, followed by Corsica in a whirlwind adventure.

During those three weeks we got to know things about one another that we had never known, even after many years of working very closely together.

For example, we had a chance to visit the small city near Naples where Mike's grandfather was born before his family emigrated to the USA.


What I learned from Michael O'Malley:  deepen the relationships with your coworkers.  There is a lot more to all of us than what we share in even a large number of busy workdays.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Jim McGovern

The names I am going to drop in this post need no introduction from me.  Both of them are better known and have done more big things in their radio careers than I could ever hope to do.

Jim McGovern was the GM at KMPS who made me a Seattle PD.

Pat O'Day told a very revealing story at Jim's wake:

When Les Smith and Danny Kaye owned WUBE/Cincinnati, Jim was the manager and Pat went to visit his old Seattle friend over a long Memorial Day weekend they decided to drive up to see the Indianapolis 500.

The instant the idea came up, O'Day got on the phone and started calling in favors.  Eventually, he was able to pull strings and get a pair of passes to both the pits and the press box.

As they were walking from the car to the track, McGovern asked O'Day to wait a moment so that he could try to sell the pair of tickets he had in his pocket all along.

Pat exclaimed, "you let me go through all that and you had tickets????"

McGovern replied, "sure, because what you were getting was much better than what I had."

The lesson I learned from Jim McGovern:  don't micromanage.  Your team will often exceed expectations.

Jim always had a "plan B" -- which the people who worked for him seldom found out about (as long as their "plan A" was superior to it).