Monday, December 22, 2014

One More Year-End List: Country's Top 10 for 2014

This time of the year we’re tripping over “End of the Year” lists.

Still, we’re pleased to add one more – A&O&B’s annual “Top Songs of the Year.” Each year we publish for clients the final research-driven rankings of every song we added over the previous 12 months. There were 88 in all in 2014. 

Here are this year’s Top 10 songs:

Luke Bryan
Drink A Beer
Luke Bryan
Play It Again
Brantley Gilbert
Bottoms Up
Blake Shelton
My Eyes
Frankie Ballard
Sunshine and Whiskey
Blake Shelton
Doin’ What She Likes
Florida-Georgia Line
Dierks Bentley
Drunk On A Plane
Justin Moore
Lettin’ the Night Roll
Luke Bryan

This is the third consecutive year that Luke Bryan has placed multiple songs in the Top 10 and third time in four years that Blake Shelton has done it. To put that in perspective, the only other artists to have multiple songs in our Top 10 were Brad Paisley who had two in 2011 and the Zac Brown Band who had 3 in 2010.

“Drink A Beer” had the top “Like A Lot” score - a perfect 1.0 (the song’s rank average over the last 8 weeks of its life as a current) and spent 13 weeks as our number one testing song.  In addition to his Top 10 finishing titles, Luke also appeared on the 12th song of the year as part of Florida-Georgia Line’s “This is How We Roll.”

This made Luke Bryan our Top Artist of the Year.

Blake Shelton, who was last year's Top Aritst, finished number two to Luke. Blake had two songs in the Top 10 this year as well as one more in the 20s. 

This is the second year in a row that Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton had the most titles in the top 1/3 of all songs tested.

Meanwhile, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Florida-Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum and Cole Swindell had good years too with each placing two titles in the Top 30.

Notably absent from among the top test titles were Historical Superstars – major artists that had multiple yearly hits prior to 1997.

Total Positive scores were similar to what we saw last year. However “Favorite/Like A Lot” scores for all songs were softer again this year. Anecdotally, market-to-market, we’re seeing an increasing lack of consensus on the biggest hits each week making local research ever more important.

Here’s an Infographic with more.  Enjoy!

You can also check out our Top 10 lists for 2013 here and 2012 part one here and part two here.

And if you're fascinated by America's fascination with end of the year lists, you'll enjoy this from the Washington Post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gen X and Boomers: Biggest Holiday Spenders

Just ahead of Black Friday, Prosper Insights and Analytics released their November Consumer Snapshot which included projected holiday spending by demo. 

Some $135-billion is forecast to be spent this year with Gen X and Boomers projected to account for two-thirds of these purchases. 

While Millennials are often chased, they are projected to account for just 18% of all 2014 holiday spending.

If your target audience includes 35-64s, you might want to share this "holiday pie" with your advertisers and prospects:

Prosper Insights and Analytics also has a holiday spending video here and more data here in their "Retailers to Watch" report.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Value Added Plus-Plus: Client Edification Efforts from Both Coasts

When Entercom’s The End in Seattle cut its spot load this summer, it caused quite a bit of talk.  As you may recall in addition to lowering their hourly spot load to six minutes, breaks were limited to two minutes.

Inside Radio reported Tuesday on how that’s been going, including a chart showing steady growth 18-34 and 18-49 thanks to more occasions and longer listening durations.

While the spot load/break duration may have attracted the most attention, what The End is doing for its advertisers shouldn’t fly under the radar: being an information resource for clients on the station's target audience (Millennials). 

According to IR, the station has hired a Millennial marketing expert, built an accessible library of information on marketing to Millennials, and assembled an ‘on demand’ focus group program to provide clients with creative and strategic feedback.

“Entercom Seattle has recognized that The End doesn’t just compete against other radio stations in Seattle, but is part of broader media landscape,” said Jacobs Media’s Fred Jacobs (@fnjacobs) who consults the station. “Understanding changing generational tastes is a major step and a really smart move.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the GMs from all five major clusters in Norfolk, VA - Max Media, iHeart Media, Entercom, Saga and Sinclair - hosted an educational seminar for some 300 advertisers called "Navigating the New Media Landscape." 

Together with Gordon Borrell, the GMs' discussed the impact of combining traditional and digital media (Max Media Market Manager Dave Paulus will give us all an inside look at the process of creating this event and its end result at A&O&B's annual pre-CRS seminar on Wednesday morning, February 25th.)  

"Value added" often means some sort of spot bonus or web freebie. But helping our station clients (and, perhaps in the process, ourselves) to better understand and serve the audience is a longer-lasting, far superior value that "connects the dots" in a way where everyone benefits.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tale of Two Bar Graphs: Country Shares and Music Scores

If you want to see just how long the current ‘up’ ratings cycle has been going on for country, this just-released Nielsen bar chart and This Week In Music article affords a nice 10,000 foot view:

According to Nielsen, country is the “top national format among Millennials (aged 18-34) and Generation X’ers (aged 35-49). And audience share has grown 17% with teens (12-17 year-olds) over the last two years…Among Boomers (aged 50-64), it’s the second most popular national format after News/Talk radio."

To get an idea of how music scores corresponded with this chart, I pulled A&O&B data from 2006 to 2013 to compare our music research with the Nielsen shares (at A&O&B, we’ve been tracking music research scores since 1998).

While our data is primarily from 25-54’s, it’s still easy to see parallel growth and the difference between the right and left sides of both graphs.

Compared to our music scores from 2006-2008, those for 2011-2013 averaged eight percentage points higher (visualize the chart without the two middle bars, 2009 and 2010).

Overall scores for both the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of the year were also higher.

In 2013 however, the gap between the Total Positive scores for the year’s top 1/3 testers vs. the bottom 1/3 widened slightly helping to explain the softer scores.  

More significantly, for the second straight year, the Like A Lot ("passion" score) gap between the top and bottom 1/3 widened as well.

Now, as the current Boom approaches its 6th year, the ongoing challenge for programmers isn’t finding songs listeners will like. Overall scores are still good – certainly compared to the pre-Boom years.

The challenge is identifying and aggressively exposing those high passion songs for an ever widening cume and fan base.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TSL: Profiting from a Limited Time Only Strategy

“The problem with your business,” the consultant explained, “is that your customers are saying, ‘If I don’t buy from you today, I’ll buy from you tomorrow.’”

That discussion wasn’t about radio, but it certainly could have been.

Each time a listener decides to listen tomorrow instead of today, the opportunity for an additional listening occasion is not only gone now, it's a possibility/probability that there won’t be any listening tomorrow either – especially if the decision to not listen today was rooted in too many “average” experiences.

On the one hand, predictability is important:  imaging (packaging), brand personality, talent, delivering and occasionally exceeding expectations, etc.

On the other hand, if the content never changes and yesterday’s show sounds pretty much like last week’s and last month’s and last year’s, a lack of listener enthusiasm can be manifest in “I’ll listen tomorrow” behavior.

The solution? The PSL – Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Metaphorically of course.

The PSL is a Limited Time Only (LTO) event. It gets attention and creates urgency, while combining the familiar, traditional brand expectations with something fresh.

The result for Starbucks is increased traffic.

How much? According to, in the 4th quarter of 2013 Starbucks saw 5% more foot traffic and 7% more sales - roughly $800-million worth of PSLs.

Knowing anything good deserves pre-promotion, Starbucks allowed some of their best customers to buy the drink early.

Taco Bell is also adept at the LTO strategy marrying familiarity with fervor via limited time menu items. They're also pre-promoters. Fans of the Beefy Crunch Burrito already know that its long-awaited return to the menu will happen nationwide on December 20th. Check it out on Facebook.

Radio’s LTO time line is different of course - it may only be a couple of breaks.

But, like the PSL or Beefy Crunch Burrito, our version of the LTO should:

  1. Be in-sync with and polish core values
  2. Have sufficient crave-ability to generate traffic and word of mouth
  3. Appear on a regular cycle
  4. Be well-promoted
  5. Have an anticipated arrival and be missed when it's gone
One break or one month of something special, radio LTO’s are anecdotes for to the ennui-driven decision to listen tomorrow instead of today.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Legacy Challenge

Like any good New York Yankees fan, I spent this past season trying to exceed the Minimum Daily Requirement of Derek Jeter.

Lately that hasn’t been hard to do, especially these last few weeks with all the videos - from the Re2pect commercial, to the Made In New York Bronx walk-through, to Jeter’s farewell to the crowd at the Stadium   

But the “Legacy” spot may be the best tribute of all, as players (kids and adults) paid their respects by modeling themselves after someone who inspired them.

That spot reminded me of why so many of us got into radio: because of a talent we connected with. 

Just like the players in “Legacy” we emulated our heroes’ styles, recreated what they were famous for, and perhaps envisioned ourselves doing their job along side them one day.

Admittedly I can find a baseball analogy for just about anything, but I frequently use this one about coming to bat and opening the mic.

No one in the majors is invisible when they come to the plate. Tens of thousands of fans are watching from the stands and ten times that or more are watching on TV or listening via radio. And they have high expectations. 

Perhaps because we seldom have the opportunity to make a visual connection with listeners while we’re on the air, it can be easy to forget that tens of thousands of our station’s fans are focused on us and what we say when we ‘come to bat.’

And they too have high expectations.

You can bet no major league batter walks to the plate without a plan. Yet, just speaking for myself when I was on the air, I know there were too many times when I opened the mic and wasn’t as prepared as I could have been.

I’d like to have those breaks back.

I’d like to have another chance to run as hard as I could to first on what inevitably was going to be just an infield groundout.

Being on the air is easy.

Being great on the air is not.

What’s your unique skill? What’s your plan for every break? Will you give it all you have, knowing that those listening could number between four and six figures, and that they're hoping for something great to happen when you open the mic?

What will you do on your upcoming breaks that will motivate today’s listeners to want to be a part of your show tomorrow… and perhaps even inspire others to follow in your footsteps?

That's the great Legacy Challenge.

PS: A tip of the cap to Paul Konerko of the White Sox – another great player who retired this weekend.  Here’s a nice piece on Paul from the Chicago Tribune.

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
All Songs First Half 2014

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
Top 20 Songs First Half 2014

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
Top 10 Songs First Half 2014

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." 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Polishing the Brand with Shared Values

"Does this polish the brand?" 

That's a question we encourage our stations to ask themselves as they consider any additions (or subtractions) to their products.

It's a good question that encompasses:
  • Is this “on brand” (i.e., consistent with the station/brand values?)
  • Does it match the values and expectations of the audience?
  • Does this enhance or detract from the brand?
  • Will this surprise and delight users?
  • Is this the best ‘camera angle’ or execution we can use?

A&O&B has always been a believer in paying serious attention to listener values. Understanding these values is a key to connectivity.

For a non-radio example of in-sync product and consumer values, visit and you’ll see a tab for ‘Responsibility.’ 

The drop down menu includes Community, Environment, Ethical and even a Global Responsibility Goals andProgress Report.

So it was no surprise to see this on a recent Starbucks visit.

On brand.  Value-appropriate. Enhances. Delights. Doable.

It's a good example of how to evaluate an opportunity based on values as well as inspire thinking that can polish your brand.

Have a story about something you've done to polish your brand? 

We'd all love to hear about it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hearing vs. Listening: Providing Quality Feedback to the Question, “Did you hear the show today?”

“Did you hear the show today?” is an oft-asked question talent poses to programmers, managers and consultants. Their expectation is usually for a “yes” followed by some feedback.

It sounds nit-picky, but the better question would be, “Did you listen to the show today?” Hearing is passive but listening is active and Critical Listening involves thinking about and evaluating what you heard.

We do a lot of Critical Listening at A&O&B and if you’re a programmer you no doubt do as well.

A while back I spoke to a group of GMs and Market Managers on “how to critically listen to your radio station.”  The goal was to help these GMs and MMs be better critical listeners of their stations by identifying key programming elements and creating a framework to help them evaluate what they heard. 

This could then be turned into a coaching tool for their PDs as well as helping the sales department better communicate the station's benefits to clients and prospects.

Of course these ideas are appropriate for programmers as well.  If you’re a long-time programmer, you’ve probably internalized much of this making your critical listening and feedback more ‘automatic’ than a step-by-step process. 

However if you’re new to critical listening or have moved to a new format, you might consider developing a joint GM/PD plan to help insure you’re both on the same page.

STEP 1: Create a listening roadmap.

“Critical listening” means evaluating what you hear. But because there are so many components to the final product, your critical listening will be more effective if you have a plan that will serve as a reminder of what’s important and help you focus your listening. It will also keep you from becoming sidetracked by any single thing, good or bad.

Later the plan will help you assess what you’ve heard and discuss it with the talent.

Start your listening road map by completing the following:

1. Broad and narrow target demos and ratings goals

2. Lifegroup values and interests

3. The needs/wants/likes of the station’s cumers vs. partisans

4. Unique value positions or advantages of the talent and the station and how these are leveraged (keep the list short)

5. Music position and focus

6. Most important activities going on at the station this week

7. The big 'talk-abouts' for listeners

STEP 2: Record specific evaluations and observations as you’re listening. Make notes on how closely the on air product matches each of the items in your listening plan. Consider:

1. Overall, how aligned is the product to the target listener’s tastes and values?

2. Are the music position and music focus clear and reflective of the overall strategy?

3. Is the talent content and focus in sync with the target and ratings goals?

4. Does the imaging reflect the right attitude and communicate relevant messages?

5. Can you readily discern the station’s unique advantage(s) and core benefit(s)?

6. Are today’s most important station elements and tactics receiving the most attention?

7. What other factors (service, community commercial load, imaging, etc.) are important to consider in your competitive environment?

8. How organized did the show sound? Was the content spread evenly throughout your listening? Were there quality teases that made you want to hear the pay-off? Were there social components?

9. If you’re listening to a morning show, how well did it help define the station?

10. If there were multiple players on the show, how was the chemistry? Did each get to stand in the spotlight?  Was it easy to understand each player’s role and why they are important to the show?

11. Did what you heard meet the three major wants of country users: 1) plays the best music, 2) makes me feel good when I listen, 3) has talent that sounds like my friends and not like disc jockeys?

12. What did you hear that would make you want to listen again tomorrow?

STEP 3: Using specifics from your listening, discuss what you heard and take any necessary actions.

If the listening met or exceeded expectations, can the envelope be pushed further? Can what we did well in one area be applied to another?

If the experience didn’t match the expectations, did the disconnect stem from a lack of knowledge, difference in vision or interpretation, action/execution, or something else?

Write a few sentences to summarize what you heard and the actions you’re taking; this will be useful in your next critical listening session.

If you’re going share the results with the talent in a formalized setting, it’s always helpful to have the audio available to play.

Have some tips on critical listening? Feel free to share them here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Music Discovery Spans Country Demos Though Who Is Being Discovered Varies Considerably

A & O & B’s Roadmap 2014 - our just-released annual online perceptual of some 9,000 country fans – included an in-depth look at music discovery.

Nearly 58% of the 18-54 respondents said they had “discovered a new artist in the past 12 months that is becoming one of their favorites.” 90% said they had discovered a new artist via FM radio though discovery via social is certainly trending up.

It gets quite interesting when you break out discovery by demo.

Discovery is higher among 18-24s with nearly 70% saying they’ve discovered a new artist in the past 12 months vs. 52% of 45-54s. 52% is no small number but 70% is big.

Who listeners have discovered also looks different by demo.   

Luke Bryan, The Band Perry and Florida-Georgia Line have some pretty significant discovery differences 18-24 vs. 45-54. 

These differences are less dramatic but they certainly exist for Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell and Jason Aldean. 

There are many other examples.

A take-away for programmers is, given country’s wide demos, that while listeners may be on the same page for things like artist discovery, they are not necessarily reading the same paragraph.

A &O & B’s annual Roadmap online perceptual is a free service to clients who also receive a separate, local report with feedback from their market’s listeners. For information, contact or  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quick Tips to Get the Most Out of CRS from A&O&B and Lori Lewis

New to CRS this year? Perhaps you haven't been often or been in a while? How about a few tips to get the most out of your visit?

That was the question that CT Weekly put to a few of us.  Here's how Jaye, Jacobs Media's Lori Lewis (Lori also works with A&O&B stations) and I responded.

Jaye Albright:

Be sure your mobile phone's batteries are fully charged and prepare to grab audio and video with artists you run into and at their shows. Tweet and Instagram the photos and short video. Make all of that available each day on your station blog and Facebook, etc  too.  

Buy all of the sessions (it's not that much more expensive if you buy the whole package).  That way you can make networking your #1 priority.  You can listen to the sessions later when you get home, but you may NEVER see label execs or major artists so close up ever again.  Build relationships and preplan who you need to see - ie your regional reps for every label - and make sure you do that.

Don't skip all sessions and just go to the entertainment.  Yes, it is possible to go 24/7 at CRS and have a great time getting really drunk, but the sessions attract the people you really want to get to know if you hope to grow your career.  

Prepare a GREAT question to ask in every session you attend and ASK it.  One, you'll learn a lot from the answers, but maybe even more importantly, there will be people you don't even know you need to know in the session too who say to themselves "wow, that was a good question.  who was that?"
Relax and have a great time.  There is no WRONG way to do CRS!

Lori Lewis:

Carry your phone charger with you, everywhere.

Showcase Country radio, the music and CRS by using the event’s official hashtag, #CRS2014, with every piece of social communication on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Follow the #CRS2014 stream on Twitter. This is opportunity to meet other CRS attendees and discover nuggets of knowledge you may have missed out on.

Retweet others using #CRS2014 when appropriate. This is opportunity to raise the profile of country radio to those not attending.

Be positive socially. There’s enough anger and trolls online – let’s have a higher standard for our community.

Mike O'Malley:

Identify the sessions you feel will help you grow the most/learn the most and make those a priority. There are lots of great sessions, but 'coming back smarter' should be your number one goal.

Plan on buying audio from sessions that are going on concurrently with those on your list. Also you can share notes with someone you know that is attending a conflicting session. 

See as many new acts as you can. You'll be ahead of your competitors who didn't attend.

Target new friends and mentors. Make a list of people you would like to learn from/share knowledge with and introduce yourself. Putting yourself in the midst of smart people will pay dividends now and down the road. 

Share what you've learned with others. We'll all be better as a result.

You can read CT's other tips here. And of course feel free to share your own suggestions by leaving a comment below.

PS: At the risk of a little self-promotion, we hope you'll be able to join us for our 20th annual Pre-CRS Seminar, Tuesday afternoon from 12:30-4:30 at the Country Music Hall of Fame's Ford Theater. We'll have presentations on hosting and making money with your own music festival, the art of negotiating, Lori Lewis with social media advice for country, a conversation with the great Gerry House and a performance from Republic Nashville's Eli Young Band. Plus we'll reveal top line data from A&O&B's online perceptual Roadmap 2014. It's free and open to clients as well as those in markets that don't compete with A&O&B but you'll need to RSVP: Just let Becky Brenner know. 

And you can still register for CRS here.