Friday, August 22, 2014

A&O&B Poll: We're Open To More Country From Taylor

Taylor Swift may have left country a “goodbye note” but the majority of the more than 60 Country PDs, MDs, Talent and Station Executives who took part in Albright & O'Malley & Brenner's quick, and admittedly unscientific straw poll this week said they’ve left the light on for her.  

By more than 4:1 the panel hoped that Taylor Swift would cut another country song in the future with 30% feeling country radio would miss Taylor. 17% said they didn’t think they would play any new Taylor Swift songs now that she’s “gone pop.”

Regarding “Shake It Off,” the first single from Taylor's new pop project, 89% of our panel had heard the song /watched the video. When asked to think about it not as a country song but as a piece of music, 60% said they liked it “A Lot” while 27% liked it “Some.”

72% said their station had talked about “Shake it Off” on the air with 41% saying their station played all or some of it.

We also invited comments. Among the most common were 1) she’s been a cross-over artist for some time, 2) that her music wasn’t any more or less country than what’s being played on country radio now, and 3) an expectation that she will record something country in the future.

There were several “ambivalent” opinions on Taylor’s past or future impact on country and country radio listeners, but no one in the poll expressed anything negative.

Not that I expected to see that from our stations, but I’ve moderated enough listener panels where respondents were quick to dis on Taylor.

So I loved this from Facebook post from Cumulus/Dallas OM J. R. Schumann/@JRSchumann1

"Every time Taylor Swift puts out a new song/album it's amazing to me the hate speak she receives. Grown men and women say terrible things about a girl making music - music with a positive message, mind you. Music that tells kids in their most formative years to be themselves and not let the world get to them. Year after year...Taylor Swift (who has never been pictured drunk, partying, doing drugs, arrested, or anything) remains the subject of so much hate, and we wonder why the world is the way it is. 

Let's just hope the kids of today listen to her lyrics and not what the adults around them are saying."



Apparently he's struck a chord. J.R. says this has been favored over 1500 times and has 1400 re-tweets.

Much success, Taylor.

If you decide in the future to cut something country, there will be people in the format who will want to hear it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Country in the First Half of 2014: How This Year’s Music Compares to Last Year's at the Half Way Mark

Earlier this month Inside Radio reported that “no format had more momentum than country” heading into the second half of 2014 and that the format had already matched its PPM high of last July during the “summer of country.”

Also in that article partner Becky Brenner referenced A&O&B’s “balance” philosophy when she stated that “a balanced menu from Music Row is seen as essential for growth.”

So how is this year’s music shaping up so far compared to the first six months of last year?

To explore this, A&O&B looked at our music testing data from January 1 to June 30th of this year and compared it to our data for the same time last year. We focused on two metrics: “Total Positive” and “Like A Lot” and compared songs completing their life as currents in the first six months of each year. This included all songs played in the first half of each year, whether or not they went on to be played as recurrents.

First, the Total Positive and Like A Lot scores for the first halves of 2013 and 2014 were nearly identical.


Total Positive Average (higher is better)
Like A Lot Average (lower is better)
All Songs First Half 2013
72.6
9.1
All Songs First Half 2014
72.7
9.0

Digging a bit deeper and looking only at the Top 20 Testers, the scores again were nearly identical.


Total Positive Average (higher is better)
Like A Lot Average (lower is better)
Top 20 Songs First Half 2013
77.7
4.2
Top 20 Songs First Half 2014
77.5
4.2

Finally, we compared the Top 10 Testers for the first six months of each year.  Here, with smallest sample – just 20 titles – 2014 scores were slightly softer than 2013.


Total Positive Average (higher is better)
Like A Lot Average (lower is better)
Top 10 Songs First Half 2013
78.9
2.4
Top 10 Songs First Half 2014
76.6
2.8

Looking back over the past several years (as a company we've been tracking and trending music data since the late 90s), year-end scores have softened slightly since the peak of 2011. 

And, while this year’s top-10-to-date are scoring slightly below those from the first half of last year (we are talking small changes not dramatic drops among a tight group of titles) overall the format remains in the strong music cycle that began in 2009.    

Still, tenths of a shares matter and identifying and giving maximum play to the songs that mean the most to your listeners is a no brainer.

For many stations the budgeting process for next year is getting underway making now an appropriate time to explore ways to make music testing part of your budget for 2015 (disclosure: A&O&B stations have access to free, online current and gold online music testing using the company’s software).

And while you’re at it, why not have a discussion about the many ways you can interact with listeners and commit to a plan of action.  

Keep the momentum going.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Dublin Concerts May Be In Doubt, But Not Garth's Superstar Status in Ireland

Garth Brooks has sold some 400,000 tickets to five scheduled shows in Dublin, but the concerts may not go on thanks to wrangling between concert organizers, the city, and residents who live near the Croke Park Stadium venue.

Negotiations to save the shows continue and things are expected to play out in the next 24-48 hours.

Meanwhile though what is NOT in doubt is that Garth is a mega-star in Ireland and that pre-show excitement is off the charts. 

In fact, it was hard not to run into “something Garth” in Dublin last month.  Here are a few examples (with apologies for the window reflections):

Garth CD posters were in storefront windows.




Stores were selling "Garth is coming to town/Garth is in town" T-shirts more than 6 weeks prior to the scheduled shows.























I saw this pub ticket promotion in Cahir, some 2 hours away from Dublin.





















And then there are those roughly 400,000 tickets.

Of course there’s excitement when any of our current superstars come to town to play, but the anticipation for Garth in Dublin was at a different level.

The fate of the shows will play out this week and hopefully there will be a satisfactory resolution. 

But if the shows don’t come off, it certainly won’t be because of a lack of fans, sales, excitement, hype, publicity, and good old opportunism.

And oh yes, Garth's rock star status.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

For Country Radio Holidays Are An Opportunity to Connect

A few years back A&O&B asked Arbitron what we could learn about July 4th listening.

The company's Jenny Tsao was kind enough to dig into this for us and shared some information that is worth revisiting. 

From the data we learned that:

1 – Compared to a full week, 12+ listenership for the 30 PPM markets in the sample was notably lower on the 4th and adjacent days.

2 – The drops were primarily due to lower levels of out-of-home listening (dark blue bars) while in-home listening (light blue) remained comparatively flat. 

3 – Isolating Country however and 25-54, the format's AQH ratings (pink bars) fluctuated far less across the week than for the market overall (green bars)



This year, Jenny and fellow Nielsen researcher Tony Hereau updated the data for us and again, while total market listening fell to weekend levels on the 4th and the days after, the top country stations maintained more of their audience.




Thinking about this week you might want to consider the following:

1 – Knowing that country’s audience is less likely to suffer a big holiday drop, how will you be staffed (especially if you’re in the southeast which looks like it will experience a tropical storm during this time)?

2 – How will you promote your station’s out-of-home consumption?

3 – How will you take advantage of “simultaneous homogeneity” – events that bring us together – that the 4th provides and use it to demonstrate that you and your listeners are “on the same page?” 

Whether you consider it good programming or not, you can see what Pandora has planned here

And, for Independence Day inspiration, here are nine screen shots of both businesses and stations I grabbed two fourth of July's ago.

Imaging, content, social, promotions - the further your station goes beyond playing “God Bless the USA” and a couple of dozen patriotic-themed titles, the greater your opportunity to delight, connect, bond, and reaffirm that you’re the station that best reflects your listeners' values and lifestyle. 

Happy 4th!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

5 Ways McDonald's Can Help You Raise the Bar


What if every break you did, or every piece of imaging you aired, or every idea you gave to a client was subject to a 1-10 scale where 10 meant “set the world on fire?”

Exposing ideas to such a scale is one of the steps in the creative process for McDonald’s lead advertising agencies DDB, Leo Burnett and TBWA (read more in Adweek’s How to Sell a Sandwich").

Here are five McDonald's take-aways that you can use to help raise the bar for your content or serve as a theme for a future staff meeting:

1 - Create value in peoples’ lives with communications that are stimulating, interesting and relevant, and help develop a deep relationship.


2 - Simplicity, optimism, inspiration, and welcoming are powerful themes that take precedence over execution.

3 - Rate your creative/content on a 1-10 scale where 10 is “the kind of work that sets the world on fire.”

4 - Focus less on what you have to offer listeners and more on “why they will love it.”

5 - “I’m lovin’ it” is an “aspirational statement" that should sum up a listener's response after hearing a piece of content. Make what you do "earn the right to use those words.”



Thursday, May 22, 2014

A PD's Most Important Question

“Nash Icons” has been a hot topic around the A&O&B offices this past week.

I shared some thoughts with Inside Radio last week noting that, “Almost anytime there is something that is extremely popular there’s an opportunity in doing the opposite.”

I also noted that a perceived decline in the quality of any current music format can spark an interest in library material.  That happened to country in the late 90s which gave birth to the hits/legends approach.

Today however conditions are different as the current product is considerably stronger despite some fatigue from certain genres.

Jaye blogged about the relationship between appeal and age (read it here) and makes some excellent points including that while 45+ listeners know and enjoy 2-3 decades of songs, “the majority of upper end country fans seem to like the new music as much or more than they like more familiar past favorites. This has kept country music from meaningfully fragmenting in spite of predictions from very wise radio experts with experience in multiple formats.”

Case in point, A&O&B’s annual online perceptual Roadmap 2014 found that even among 55-64 year olds, six in ten like new country from millennial stars “a lot.”

And, while the percentage of respondents saying “country has gotten better over the past 12 months” is higher than among younger demos (51% of 18-24s vs. 32% of 55-64s) the negatives that “country has gotten worse over the last 12 months” are much closer: about one in seven 55-64 year olds vs. about one in eight 18-24 year olds.

While age is a factor in the format’s music preferences it is neither the only factor nor a guarantee of any era’s acceptance or rejection.  The Like A Lot scores for some Classic Country clusters averaged around 25% for under-35 year-olds and is a good example of a genre not bound by demography.

Semantics too have become a part of the Icons discussion with CHR/Hot AC comparisons and talk about possible format fragmentation (any giddiness about this by mainstream country radio is nothing short of shocking).

And there’s been considerable speculation / that heritage artists missing from mainstream today will be enthusiastically welcomed back.

Most of this talk is interesting however a far better in-station music discussion would be centered on:
  • What are my listeners’ primary and secondary music lanes and am I satisfying those preferences?
  • How is my station’s quarter-hour-to-quarter-hour music flow?
  • How balanced is my exposure of country’s various genres?
  • Are power songs and artists being played to the degree they should be?

As programmers, we should always be answering these questions.

But perhaps the best question is, “Does the Entertainment Value of my station exceed the Cost of Listening?”

As far as the music and everything in between, the greater the left side of the EV>CL equation is, the stronger your station will be.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pressed for Time: A&O&B Quick Links

It’s rare to talk to a GM, OM or PD who isn’t pressed for time.  

Perhaps why this post from Seth Godin caught my eye: running out of time is a euphemism for "it wasn’t important enough."

I’ll bet if we polled 100 programmers and talent, most would place "their show" or "what’s on the air" at or near the top of their "This Is Important" list. And what listeners hear would be a daily reflection of this list.

But, things happen. 

Which is why it's imperative to regularly step back and make sure what's most important is actually getting done.

If you want some radio-centric time management tips, A&O&B has some. 

Read Jaye Albright's recent blog about "near-time" time management here. A while back I posted a piece on having a long plan as well as a daily list;  read that here. If you're needing help re-engaging in show prep, you'll want to read this from Becky Brenner.

Paraphrasing Thomas Edison, avoid being "consumed by the urgent at the expense of the important."