Friday, December 28, 2012

Country Music 2012 Year in Review Part 2: How 2012’s Music Compares to Years Past

2012’s music has something big going against it: 2011.

2011 of course was a great year for country. We saw new high water marks for a number of our metrics including overall Like A Lot and Total Positive scores.  So any comparison to 2011 has to take that in to account.

Having said that, 2012 was a good year for country although, in aggregate, A&O&B’s year-end scores were a bit softer than 2011’s and we saw more metrics off than up. 

Let’s look at two: Total Positive and Like A Lot.

Total Positive scores increased in 2012 making this the fourth consecutive year of higher scores. The growth was fueled by improved scores in the bottom 2/3 that more than off-set a slight decline in scores among the top 1/3 (ending two years of growing scores there).  As a result there was some ‘score compression’ as the averages for the top 1/3 and bottom 2/3 are closer this year than last, and the second most compressed since 2000.

Meanwhile, while our Like A Lot final average scores for the year’s top 1/3 are a bit lower than last year, they were not far from the average of the past 5 years. And, again 2011 was an extremely strong year.

However taking all the songs into consideration, the decline in Like A Lot scores is greater. And, unlike Total Positives, the scores from the bottom 2/3 of the list were much weaker. In fact, the overall Like A Lot average for the bottom 2/3 of our testers was the softest we’d seen in a number of years. 

That our Total Positive scores continue to grow is of course great news. More disappointing though is that the overall Like A Lot score for 2012 – arguably analogous to ‘must hear music’ and by extension ‘must hear radio’ – was soft compared not just to last year, but to A&O&B’s 10-year average.

Were there great powers to play this year? Absolutely – the top 1/3 was certainly strong.  However the Like A Lot difference between the top 1/3 and bottom 2/3 was widest we’ve seen since 2008, making not playing the ‘right’ powers potentially more costly.

It seems somewhat silly to say, “Make sure you’re playing the songs listeners want to hear.”  But tracking spins as your primary source of music information won’t provide the same data as asking your listeners how they feel about the music you’re playing.

Each year we see significant differences in the 'most spun' vs. the 'best testers.'

If you’re not already doing so, an important programming resolution for 2013 would be regularly taking your listeners’ pulse on the music you play.

A&O&B offers client stations online music testing, free, as part of our full service commitment. We’ll be glad to answer your questions about how it works.

Click here for Country Music 2012 Year in Review Pt. 1 Is Luke Bryan Worth of All Those Awards and Kudos?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Country Music 2012 Year in Review Part One: Is Luke Bryan Worthy of All Those Awards and Kudos?

Oh yeah. No doubt. 

Fueled by Tailgates and Tanlines, 2012 was Luke Bryan’s year.

This month alone, Luke racked up 9 awards including Male Artist of the year and Artist of the Year on the fan-voted American Country Awards December 10th on Fox (plus, earlier this year, an American Music Award). 

He also was singled out as Overall Artist and Male MVP in this week’s Country Aircheck.  Again, deservedly so.

He’d have won the Albright & O’Malley & Brenner’s “Best Testing Artist of the Year” award as well if we offered it (note to Fox producers).

Each year A&O&B produces a list of the top testing songs of the year based on call-out and online listener research. And this year, Luke led the list.

Luke Bryan scored 3 titles in our Top 10 for 2012. This is the fourth time this has happened in the past 10 years: Blake Shelton in 2011, Zac Brown Band in 2010, and Toby Keith in 2003.

Good company.

Besides Luke, Jason Aldean and Eric Church were the only artists to have three songs in the A&O&B’s top 30. Blake placed two in the top 20 as did Lee Brice. Dierks Bentley was the only other artist to place two songs inside the A&O&B top 30.

That Bryan, Aldean, Shelton, and Church all had big years mirrors data the February data we reported in A&O&B’s 2012 Roadmap online perceptual study where the “New Songs from Millennial Stars” cluster (where these artists reside) was the #1 25-54 music cluster among the 12 we tested.  

In all, 90% of songs in our top 1/3 were from Millennial Artists and there were no artists in the Top 10 whose discography (major label) precedes 2000.

Meanwhile, Historical Superstars (defined here as current or previous ‘Essence/Core Artists’ who had multiple chart hits prior to 1997) placed no songs in the top 10 (second year in a row) and just two in the top 1/3 – one each from Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith.

“New Songs from Historical Superstars” as a music cluster still was one of the top four 25-54 clusters in terms of appeal in Roadmap 2012, and Kenny Chesney (4 songs), Toby Keith (3), and Tim McGraw (2) did place multiple songs on the year-end list while George Strait and Alan Jackson had one each. However the overall presence of Historical Superstars in the top 1/3 has been trending down since 2008.

While we had more artist diversity in terms of the number of different artists overall, the top third had less. In fact, this is the second “least diverse” top 1/3 since we began tracking this in 1998.

Artists that were new to this year’s chart had a smaller footprint as well. Kip Moore had the highest chart position for a first-time-on-the-charts-in-2012-artist; Hunter Hayes made it to the top 20.

So back to Luke and his three in the A&O&B Top 10 joining a select group of artists. Listeners responding so positively and passionately to "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," "I Don't Want This Night to End" and "Drunk on You" puts a punctuation mark on what has been a great year. 

Next in Part Two: How This Year’s Music Compared to Previous Years 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Pandora Users And Radio's Opportunities

Ask Pandora listeners what they like most about radio and they’ll tell you it’s ‘feeling connected.’

Their big dislikes? Radio is boring and fatiguing.

Those are some of the findings Jeff Vidler, Sr. Vice President of Media and Entertainment Research, shares in a new Vision Critical report, “What Pandora Means for Radio.” The Canadian company surveyed more than 1000 US listeners 18+ in the September-October online survey where just under 1/3 identified themselves as Pandora users and 42% reported listening to some form of online radio.

Jeff shared a lot including the demographics of online listening (not surprisingly 18-29’s are the heaviest users), desktop consumption being more than that of smartphones and tablets combined and Pandora listeners spending more time with AM/FM radio than non-Pandora users (about 50% more - 19.1 vs. 12.7 hours).

That last finding got a lot of coverage (as an industry we're good at self-congratulation), but for growth and opportunity, this graph deserves our time and attention.  

The obvious first. The attributes Pandora most uniquely associate with AM/FM radio are “makes me feel connected,” “convenient,” and “easy” on the positive side and “boring” and tiring on the negative. Personal, local, live, and music discovery/curation were singled out elsewhere in the study as AM/FM attributes respondents valued.

While the distance between AM/FM radio and feeling connected is short in comparison to the other media shown. But if we were to draw ‘spheres’ of roughly equal size with Satellite and Internet Audio Services at the center, those two media are in proximity to a greater number of positive associations.

Imagine if radio were to occupy a slightly different space as in the graph below so that “puts me in a good mood,” “is for people like me” and “interesting” are also encompassed.

A&O&B’s annual Roadmap online perceptual has consistently showed the importance of “makes me feel good” and “DJs that sound like my friends” as core expectations/desires from AM/FM radio.

If you’re not already there, what will you do to move your show/station/cluster/group up and to the left?