Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011: A Very Good Year for Country Music

This was a good year for current country music.

Actually, it was one of the best - at least when talking about year-end test scores. 

Across our metrics, nearly all scores were better than 2010’s and some were the best since Albright and O’Malley began year-end analyses in 1998.

Songs in the top third of course score better in all metrics than those in the bottom two thirds. This year though the Total Positive gap narrowed significantly. Not only were the Total Positive scores better for the top tier (the best since 2001), the scores for all songs were the best since our first year of tracking this in 2000.

Second-tier songs definitely had softer Like-A-Lot scores but many had very strong Total Positive scores. In aggregate these are the best Total Positive scores since we began tracking them in 2000 – good news for stations needing Millennial Variety.

Artists with top testing songs looked like the winners’ list at a 2011 awards show with Millennial Artists dominating the top 1/3. 70% of A&O’s top third were from mid/late Millennial Artists with Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean each placing three songs inside our top 1/3.

2011 also saw the most number of different artists place songs in the top 1/3.

Despite the prominence of Millennial Artists it continues to be difficult for new artists to break into the top 1/3. In 2011 only two new artists (previously without a significant chart position) cracked the top 1/3: Thompson Square and Brantley Gilbert.  2007 was the last year new artists made up a significant percent (20%) of the artists in the top 1/3.

While the footprint of Historical Superstars is smaller by comparison and none had songs in the top 10, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Reba and George Strait all had music in the top 1/3.

If you’ve followed Albright & O’Malley's Roadmap data and blogs over the years, you’re not especially surprised.  Earlier this year I blogged that the 2011 Roadmap showed that Top Millennial Artists are scoring well across the board but that listener passion is still very high for millennial music from pre-millennial artists like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and Alan Jackson.

Last year's Research Director Inc/Inside Radio study showed how a wide a demographic swath country cuts attracting roughly equal cume ratings 18-34 (16.6), 18-49 (16.5) and 25-54 (16.4). The broad strength of 2011’s currents is great news for a format where the cume ratings are nearly identical across 35 years.

While a stations will have differing strategies for this year's music, the good news of 2011 is that the benefit of a year of strong currents is not just immediate. Many will continue to live lives in recurrent and gold categories that can be leaned upon during times when the currents aren’t.

Friday, December 09, 2011

#accjms11: Smart, Passionate People Talking Radio

Fill a hotel ballroom with smart people and have them talk about a shared passion for radio for 2 ½ days and you can be guaranteed there will be good take-aways.

Here are some of mine (paraphrased) from the just-concluded Arbitron Client Conference and Jacobs Media Summit for 2011 in Baltimore.
Tripp Eldridge, President/CEO dmr
  • Social success = helping create and strengthen relationships. Connect, enhance, encourage and facilitate relationships; make the community feel special.
  • “Likes” are like cume. Engagement is like TSL.
  • Games can develop community. Community is what drives success.
Glenn Enoch, VP/Integrated Research ESPN
  • Two of ESPN’s seven cross-platform principles: New media creates new strata of users; Best platform at the moment.
  • A heavy user of one platform tends to be heavy users of others.
Edison Research/ Melissa DeCesare, VP
  • Moms balance traditional and modern media. 89% listened to radio in past week, 53% learn about new music first on radio (vs. 29% on Internet; 9% on TV), 60% would keep smart phone and give up TV if they could only have one.
Edison Research/Larry Rosin, President
  • In-car landscape is increasingly complex; the good news is cars don’t turn over quickly. Traffic information is being attacked by emerging technologies. Does/should radio care?
David Lebow, President/Revenue, Group Commerce, Inc.
  • There is no such thing as deal fatigue.
  • Radio Brands have e-commerce assets including the size of audience, brand trust, strong local voice and relationships with advertisers.
  • Relevance runs amok when there’s no targeting.
Warren, Kurtzman, President, Coleman Insights; Bill Rose, SVP Marketing, Arbitron; Philippe Generali, President/CEO RCS & Media Monitors
  • 93% of the lead-in audience is there at the end of a stop set (not necessarily the same listeners; includes listeners coming to the station during the commercial set as well as leaving it).
  • Commercial free sweeps may help the brand over time more vs. in the moment performance.

Michael Sheehan, CEO, Hill Holliday
  • Technology may be changing the game but people love great stories.
  • Radio needs to make music relevant – radio needs to re-assert itself as the relevant medium of discovery.
  • Relevance is the secret to sustained success. It’s the fuel to how far your content will travel.
Bob Pittman, Chairman of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Platforms
  • We need to tell our story better. If buyers don’t understand the value of radio, we’re doomed.
  • Don’t let advertisers 'test' radio with sub par reach and frequency. Have the courage to tell people they're not spending enough to be successful.
  • Radio is the beacon for the tribe
James Cridland/Managing Director Media UK
  • Radio Brands are fragmented making it hard for journalists to write about radio whereas it’s easy to call Pandora who’ll be happy to tell you why radio is dead. 
  • Improve the Internet look and feel. Radio needs to make the user experience look better, cooler. 
  • Multi-platform is the right platform. 
  • Why didn’t radio protect word ‘radio’ – Pandora isn’t radio. We failed to educate our audience that Pandora isn’t radio, it’s a music collection. 
  • The only reason commercials are annoying is that they’re not relevant.
Ed Schultz/MSNBC’s “The Ed Show
  • First question: is this talent killer-competitive.
  • Can they sell? Can they make listeners react and want what you’re selling? Can they sell themselves?
  • How connected with the clients are the talent? How often do they update their pages, site, feeds, etc.?
  • Expand your brand. Don’t let the show be small.“
  • Ideas are to be cultivated by people in authority.”
Jeff Pulver Chairman/Founder and creator of the #140 Character Conference  
  • New media would like to have the audience of old media. “Now media:” fusion old and new media.
  • Social media teaches you how to interact; you connect with people – like radio.
  • If you don’t know something, anything and everything is possible.
Jim Farley, VP/News & Programming WTOP/Washington, DC
  • Listeners are always telling us what they want. Check what’s trending and talk about it instead of boring things and when there’s nothing going on.
  • WTOP itself is only one vehicle to deliver the brand.
  • Don’t give up on HD. It’s coming. HD icons on the dash board are going to save our ass.
Ron Rodrigues, Arbitron Marketing, Arbitron Radio
  • Political consultants know that their campaigns can be more effective if their media buys target likely voters, or voters of a political persuasion. That’s a great advantage for radio and all of its formats. Each of them represent a lifestyle, and a such each of them represent a distinct group of voters that would be of interest to one political campaign or another.
  • Candidates can target voting lifestyles by format.
  • Spoken word formats represent the most enthusiastic voters. Opportunity for music formats: wider spectrum of voters, register-to-vote, GOTV efforts.
Walter Sabo, COO Merlin Media
  • The biggest competitor is our own audience.  (A child in school) can make a video and show to the world without anyone’s permission. And it’s free.  And they can get 10-million views in a day.
  • A computer is there to interact with. If entertainment isn’t interactive, it’s dull. Media is designed to be social.
  • The secret of digital business is nobody knows anything. Just hit refresh. Don’t worry about analogue things like what song goes next to another. Just hit refresh.
  • Sell radio’s biggest number.
  • Make listeners co-conspirators.
  • Experiment.
 Charlie Sislen, Partner, Research Director, Inc.
  • Finding places where you station does not meet format benchmarks can help you focus on ways to grow TSL.

Attend and have some take-aways you'd like to add?