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.

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