Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Honored by the Country Radio Hall of Fame Forever and Ever Amen

Tonight is a special night for Country Radio – it’s the night when the Country Radio Broadcasters honors some of radio's best with inductions into the Country Radio Hall of Fame and presentations of special awards.

One of the Honorees will be this year’s Artist Career Achievement Recipient, Randy Travis.

Randy, who was also announced as this year's Modern Era Inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame didn’t initiate the “post-Urban Cowboy movement” of the early 80's. That arguably started with the April, 1981 release of “Unwound” and, a few months later, Reba McEntire’s “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven.”

George would have 11 more top ten songs, Reba would have 8 more and the Judds would release their first charted single in 1983 - “Had A Dream (For the Heart)” - and begin their run of eight consecutive number one songs with “Mama He’s Crazy” before Randy released what would be his first Top 10: 1985’s “1982.” 

Through the rest of the decade, Randy would score 10 more number ones and one number two, and then in the 90's and 2000's 17 more top 10's, the streak ending with his final number one, "Three Wooden Crosses" in 2002. 

George Strait (2013), Reba (2003) and the Judds (2011) have all received the CRB's Artist Career Achievement Award.

This year, they’ll be joined by Randy Travis.


CRB Executive Director Bill Mayne and I got to know each other well in the early 80's when I was programming in Washington, DC and Bill was programming in Dallas. I asked him if he had a Randy Travis story and he shared this:

“I remember doing focus groups in Dallas/Ft. Worth when “Forever & Ever Amen” was a hit, many previous 'non-country' fans were brought into the fold 'specifically' by Randy’s performance of that song & the timing of its release. The public truly had a new definition on what the sound of country music was.”

Bill with Randy. 
As country radio programmers we’ve had the opportunity to champion some truly amazing artists - some, like Randy, have changed the game.

“Randy’s contribution to Country Music is beyond measurement," Bill added. “Country Radio & the Country Music industry were given a tremendous gift with Randy Travis as its beacon. This recognition for him, could not be more appropriate.

Congratulations Randy – and to all of this year’s honorees:

  • On Air: Blair Garner, Mike and Dana Schuff, and Lisa Dent
  • Radio: Mick Anselmo, Kerby Confer, Jack Reno, Tim Roberts, and Jim Slone
  • President’s Award: Carole Bowen

That you were acknowledged/“went in” with Randy Travis is in itself an honor.

As I wrote last year, "the Country Radio Hall of Fame is a reminder that excellence matters and is still acknowledged and celebrated.  At its best, the Hall and inductees inspire us all to make a daily, “significant contribution to the radio industry.” 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Country: Jumping the Shark and Growing the Beard?

We may look back on last week as a time when country “jumped the shark.” 

There was Pitbull (@Pitbull), Cheap Trick, Fifth Harmony and Pharrell (you could make a case for Pharrell given his collaboration with Little Big Town) on a country awards show

Then there were releases to country radio that had some programmers feeling the pop envelope had been pushed too far.

A the same time a “growing the beard” trend may also have started, rooted in conversations about the expectations of country P1s and P2s, what constitutes a balanced country playlist, and a “music line” which one crosses at their own risk.

The phrase “jump the shark” of course marks a point in time when something takes a noticeable downturn (see its origins here).

Meanwhile “growing the beard” (origins here) marks a moment of turn-around.

But before we go back down the rabbit hole of last week, perhaps we should first ask, “So what?”

The 18-49 numbers from last week’s CMT Awards Show came in with a 0.97 rating and 3.3 million viewers; and that was the combined audience on three different networks. 

This pales in comparison to both the most recent CMA Awards Show (3.8 rating,13.58 million viewers) and ACM Awards Show (2.3 rating,11.18 million viewers). 

Even May’s American Country Countdown Awards show on Fox had more eyeballs (1.0 rating, 3.8 million viewers).

But again, so what?  If a TV show disappoints the audience, that's on the television network, not on radio.

Similarly, if an artist wants to release something that we, as programmers and music curators believe in our heart of hearts is too far outside the parameters as our listeners have defined them and as we understand them, then so what? We don’t play it.

On this subject – music - listeners have given us solid guidance. 

In A&O&B's "Roadmap 2016" – our national online perceptual study of 9000-plus country radio format users - 18-54 format listeners told us that "current music from today's stars" is their preferred music cluster. 

But they've also told us to be careful with the mix - especially with music that is on the fringe.

For me, it's perfectly fine if an awards show or an artist wants to push or push past the boundaries. It's art, and art needs to be true to itself. I can choose to embrace it or not.

However there are boundaries on winning radio stations. While they may be unique across stations, they exist to help stations meet the desires and expectations of their audience.

Last week provided us multiple opportunities to thoroughly dissect, bisect, scrutinize and analyze all things country and non-country.

As we start this week, let's embrace the art and the boundaries and we'll all be helping to “grow the beard.”

Monday, June 06, 2016

Ten Take Aways from Hivio Audio Future Festival (20-Somethings and Radio? See #8)

Audience, content and platforms – notably podcasting – were some of the more frequently discussed topics at the Hivio Audio Future Festival 2016 last week (see Hivio word cloud).

Mark Ramsey Media's annual Hivio event is a “hive” of audio ideas and actions shared by people who normally wouldn’t collectively make up a typical radio convention agenda – from NPR to ESPN to content providers to podcast sellers.

Becky Brenner (@BeckyBrenner) attended the LA event in person, I watched via the online stream (thanks, Mark for providing that!).

Here are ten of our takeaways:

  1. Commercials: be relevant, funny and clever. Tell a story with a surprise. 15-second spots scored better than any other commercial length (Mark Ramsey and Novoodoo).
  2. Apply the “rat in a maze” approach – allow audience to shift platforms but keep them on your content (Howard Lapidis)
  3. The goal is to translate the best of what is happening in the talent’s life to Radio, TV and the web. Make a determination on how best to distribute content - from podcasts to building what the talent needs (Chris Balfe, Red Seat Ventures)
  4. The focus on digital has been transformative – radio is an amazing medium and we can still be vital and fabulous. Podcasting is not detracting from the Radio Listening.  It is actually growing the audience. (Anya Grundman, VP Programming and Audience Development for NPR)
  5. Rise above the noise by creating your own wave or riding waves around you. (Todd Beck, Beck Media and Marketing)
  6. Podcasts are generally too long, not “social sized,” and it is an increasingly crowded universe (1,400 new podcasts per week) David Silverman Co-Founder Clammr
  7. There is stupid money out there right now for these types of projects in video and audio. Peter Kafka, Senior Editor, Media, Re/Code
  8. I don’t have a radio at home. Radio is ancient – it is like having a laser disc – I have so many ways to listen to radio without having to have another device.  Convenient and compact is what everything needs to be, nobody wants excess baggage. (Heather, Millennial)
  9. Podcasting revenue been highly underrepresented in the press…probably $85-$100 million last year and it is going to be exponentially higher this year. Sarah Van Mosel, Chief Commercial Officer, ACAST @sarahvm
  10. Content, Content, Content.  You can’t say it enough, or focus on it enough.  It was lost in deregulation and it has to come back into focus. (Advice for radio from Traug Keller, ESPN Audio

Albright & O’Malley & Brenner’s Becky Brenner has full notes and slides in the Clients Only section of

Comments paraphrased.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Infographic: How to Create Amazing Content for Every Show, Every Day In Seven Steps

Facts are forgettable. Stories are sticky.

But going from that knowledge to daily creation can be challenging.

Here are seven steps to help you create and  tell a story that's both relevant and entertaining:

Try it out and let me know how it goes.

Friday, April 29, 2016

LES WAAS: MORE THAN JUST THE MISTER SOFTEE JINGLE CREATOR: His Thoughts on Today's Ads Plus Three Take-Aways For Better Creative

Like most of us in the business, you have my attention when you start talking about "creative" and about the people behind the work.

So it was predictable that I wanted to learn more about Les Waas who’s passing at 94 has been getting coverage everywhere. 

After a few hours of enjoyable research, I now know a lot more about the ad man who wrote the Mister Softee jingle in 1960.

For instance, he didn’t know how to read or write music.

That’s not only amazing for a man who wrote nearly 1000 jingles over his career, it’s courageous - even outrageous (in the best sense).

A spirit of courage and crazy-creative plays out in an interview Les did for the Pioneers of Philadelphia Broadcasting - particularly when he recounted some of his Philadelphia ad agency’s ideas and campaigns.

“I would never do anything inside the box,” he said in the interview before sharing a story about a campaign for a car dealer that increased the dealer's business fivefold (the idea involved selling the dealer’s emblem to people who didn’t buy their cars at the client’s business).

He also shared a story about a car dealer that advertised such a low price it drew a huge crowd. However that didn’t work out so well once people discovered that the price didn’t include things like the engine.

While automotive was a subject he came back to a few times, Les had thoughts about the lack of advertising creative in general and radio ads in particular.

“It took a creative brain to get into advertising…I don’t think I could do something straight. That’s writing a commercial. And a lot of that you hear now on radio is just an announcer. And they do a good job and everything, but they don’t go into creativity as much as they used to…the ads or commercials don’t seem to grab your attention. Some do…but the percentage is very small.”

While listening to Les' recollections in the interview and time traveling to the advertising world of the 60s was fun and helped to tell a great backstory about the creator of the Mister Softee jingle, obviously many of these 50 year-old campaigns are, today, appropriately curiosities.

But there were relevant take-aways from this ad man, too: 

Les' litmus test for success: If you can't remember it after the recording session then it wasn't a good ad. 

To come coming up with new ideas, surround yourself with a lot of different people.

Act immediately when creativity or inspiration strikes. “I couldn‘t hold back coming up with a creative idea. I had to do it right away.”

Being creatively courageous requires letting go of fears that could otherwise hold you back.

After all, a man who didn't know how to read or write music created more than 950 jingles.

Oh, one more thing: make sure the advertised price for a car includes the engine.

PS: As you may know, Les Waas’ Mister Softee had lyrics (lyric sheet here

For a real treat, you can hear the jingle’s creator bring them to life in the last few minutes of this YouTube video.

You can hear the produced version of the jingle in the first of these black and white TV spots here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Best Jobs Survey: Entertaining on the One Hand, An Opportunity for Growth, Respect and Recruitment on the Other

Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about surveys like this, but the latest 2016 Jobs Report ranks “Disc Jockey” 197th out of 200 (we’ve apparently lost our bullet; in 2012 we were 180th).

Obviously if you love what you do, your job is at or near the top of your own list and no survey (other than consistently bad ratings reports or reviews if you're in radio) is likely to make you re-think your career choice.

Still, it’s interesting that many of the things that are most rewarding about being a Talent – such as competitiveness, having your work be highly visible by the public, and working in situations where you’re face-to-face with people – are seen as job negatives in the survey methodology

To compile the list, uses four “Core Criteria:”

1 - Job Factors including the emotional environment. The survey sees such things as competitiveness and public contact as potential negatives. Most talent would see these as positives.

2 - Income: OK, you’ve got us there. But, show of hands please, how many of us got into performing for the money? So maybe this is only worth half the negative weight.

3 - Employment and Income growth potential: Uh, let’s move on.

4 - Stress Factors: Again the survey takes such things as Competitiveness, Travel, Working in the Public Eye, and Meeting the Public as job negatives; hopefully we all see these as things to embrace not avoid.

Also, the survey's "Disc Jockey" job description is “Broadcasts Music for Radio Stations.”

That’s pretty narrow.

Running through the rest of the 200 jobs ranked, I found another 35 jobs that are (or should be) at least part of being a “Disc Jockey” including the survey's number one occupation, “Data Scientist” described as someone who “Combines information technology, statistical analysis and other disciplines to interpret trends from data.” Sounds like thoroughly breaking out ratings data to see how your show has grown.

Or how about career number 48 – “Social Media Manager” who “plans and directs online, social media presence.” Most successful talent are working hard at using Social every day.

Or Historian (61), Actor (112), PR Executive (121), Author (144) or Photographer - Instagram and Snapchat anyone? (162).

Averaging the ranks of all the jobs that are part of being a highly successful talent today would make our new rank 111. 

Adjust those aspects of the Core Criteria seen as negative to most jobs to positives in the world of talent and we'd rank higher still.

Of course no ranking should change how we feel about what we do - especially if we embrace challenge, competition, public performance, and relish the fact that our job allows us to be successful in at least 35 other jobs from Data Scientist (#1) to Advertising Sales Person (#193).

These oft unnoticed abilities we have, the work leading up to a performance, and the new growth challenges we take on and attempt to excel at daily should be a source of pride - and dare I say, be an opportunity to showcase what we do as an attractive and exciting career.

No disrespect at all to the work does. In fact, their survey points out a very real truth.

If you're a Disc Jockey and all you do at your job is “Broadcast Music for Radio Stations,” then perhaps a rank of 197 is appropriate.

The last time I commented on this survey was 2012; you can read that blog here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New From Nielsen: The Replacements for Maximi$er and PD Advantage/Desktop

Starting this week, many programmers will be breaking out their quarterly ratings for the first time without Maximi$er.

Nielsen has just retired the legacy software along with PD Advantage Desktop and Data Express (ADE). Former Maximi$er clients will have access to PDA Light (the Max replacement) while former desktop PDA Advantage clients will have access to PDA Web.

If you are a programmer upgrading from Tapscan or E-Book only access, you’ll love the deeper dive into your numbers that you can take with these two programs.  Long-time Max/PDA users should feel comfortable fairly quickly – especially with PDA Web.

For a quick overview of what to expect, here is Nielsen’s summary of the new products: 

Besides delivery, there are several changes and additions in the online version of PD Advantage Light and PD Advantage which too has migrated from the desktop.

In both cases, station data lives online rather than being available for download (thus the automatic retirement of ADE). This means of course that users must be online to generate reports. 

Navigating the online version of PD Advantage will look very familiar to users of the desktop software. PDA Light’s navigation on the other hand is different from Max although it's intuitive – especially if you were a regular user of Maximi$er’s Programmers Package. 

Now, here’s a closer look at PDA Light and PD Advantage Web.

PDA Light

After logging in, the user is presented with a new reports screen (legacy Maximi$er on the left and the new PDA Light on the right). 

All the Maximi$er reports are in PDA Light with the exception of Report N (Total Day-To-Day Listening) and Report O (Specific Day-To-Day Listening). 

Format Norms and Top Performers (formerly a PD Advantage-only report) will be added to PDA Light later this year – a nice addition for comparing local vs. national performance.

Some of the “clunky” parts of Maximi$er have been streamlined. For example in PDA Light, demos and other report criteria can be selected using “blue links” at the top of report pages; this makes comparing demos and dayparts easier since users won’t have to leave a report screen to change parameters as in Maximi$er.

Meanwhile the process for changing base weeks is nearly identical to that in Maximi$er. And, just like in Max, you can trend up to 5 books on one screen.        

Report formats, like this for Daypart Trending, can look a bit different though the important content is nearly identical.

In another change, Diary Comments will now be released simultaneously with the quarterly data eliminating the CD delivery method. If you’ve reviewed your diaries in person, you’ll find the sorting options familiar, enabling you to quickly see your comments separate for the entire market.

With the exception of Diary Comments which date back only to fall 2015, all other data will go back 3 ½ years for trending purposes.

While it was not the most critical of the Maximi$er reports, I’ll miss report N which was an easy way to check Horizontal Cuming.  Plus, for travelers, only having access to data online will be an inconvenience.

Still, there are a number of Maximi$er upgrades that I like a lot, particularly the addition of Format Norms and Top Performers.

PD Advantage Web

For former desktop users of PD Advantage, 16 reports from the legacy version have migrated to PDA Web with some reports having new looks or additions. One of these is the Cume/TSL Report (“Grid of Pain”) which now offers multiple cume and TSL scenarios on how a specified ratings goal can be attained.

The Leading Indicators Report has a new graphing option and there’s also a new Audience Sharing report that expands on what’s in PDA Light. Also there is a newly added HD/Streaming Station report.

At this point “Workplace Zip Code” and “Mostly Spanish Breakouts” reports are presently unavailable in PDA Web though the latter is available in Tapscan.

As you go through your first analysis using the new software, feel free to call for help either in interpretation or execution. 

And of course we’d love to hear/share YOUR observations and experiences with this new software. 

Special thanks to Nielsen’s Jennifer Bratten, Manager Client Support, who provided me with a guided tour of both products, patiently answers my questions, and generously shared her slide deck so that A&O&B stations could be better informed. Also, Jennifer hosts Nielsen’s online training sessions. She’s an excellent presenter with a wealth of information on how to get the most from Nielsen’s products. Nielsen Audio clients can see and sign up for future sessions here.