Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016: Country's Top 10 Songs, Top 5 Artists, and 5 Thoughts for 2017

We’ve made a list and checked it twice (actually, it’s more like a dozen times).

The “list” is our annual A&O&B Top Songs and Artists of the Year list for the year 2016.

Each year we create our research-driven list using a formula heavily weighted by our online and callout data, and data rankings for every song we played and tested for at least six weeks.

Getting right to it, here is A&O&B’s Top 10 for 2016:

Rhett, Thomas
Die A Happy Man
Swindell, Cole
You Should Be Here
Florida-Georgia Line
Bentley, Dierks
Different For Girls
Bryan Luke w/Karen Fairchild
Home Alone Tonight
Rhett, Thomas
Hunt, Sam
Make You Miss Me
Swindell, Cole
Middle of a Memory
Bryan, Luke
Huntin' Fishin' and Lovin' Everyday
Bryan, Luke

The Songs:

This year we could use "contrast" to sum up a lot of what we saw: many songs showing higher Like A Lot  scores yet lower Total Positive scores.

The Like A Lot average for the 88 songs we tested improved compared to last year.  However the Total Positive scores for the Top 1/3 of the best Like A Lot testers tied a six-year low. 

Also troubling this year was the decline in the percent of songs scoring well enough to be retained in one of our recurrent categories. In fact, the percent of 2016’s currents that went on to recurrent is the lowest percent since we began tracking this metric.

This should generate a number of thinking points.

The Artists:

Meanwhile on the artist front, based on our Top Songs of 2016, Luke Bryan was A&O&B’s Top Artist of the year. He placed the three songs (including his duet with Karen Fairchild) in the Top 10.

Rounding out our Top Five Artists for 2016 were Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood, Florida-Georgia Line and Keith Urban. With two songs in the Top 10, Cole Swindell had a strong year as well.

We always track the impact of New Artists, particularly those that break through with top testing songs – something that’s never been easily accomplished.

Without getting into speculation about why that may be, the fact remains that historically our Top 1/3 contains scant few first timers. This year is no exception as just three artists - William Michael Morgan, Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton – had songs that finished in the Top 1/3.


“We don’t have enough tempo songs!” was oft echoed in programming’s hallowed halls this year. In fact, one label was quick to point this out as they worked a non-ballad.

And yes, at least as far as the Top 1/3, there were a lot of ballads.

It was the second strong year in a row ballads have had. Four of the top five songs both this year and in 2015 were ballads. Top 10 ballad presence was strong too with ballads accounting for 6 of the Top Ten testing titles (seven last year, five in 2014, four in 2013 and three in 2012)

Whether the higher number of top testing ballads is coming from stronger ballads and/or story-lines, listener tempo saturation, or other issues, for the second year in a row and fourth time in six years, ballads indexed higher than non-ballads when it came to the percent of songs that tested in the Top 1/3.

Five Things to Do in 2017
  1. While an up-tempo presentation – music, talent, quick fun, etc. makes for a highly listenable station, don’t fear ballads; they have tested very well especially over the past few years.
  2. Give fresh consideration to the number of currents you’re playing and to their exposure. Similarly, review how you’re managing Recurrents.  Balance "churn" and "burn."
  3. Absolutely play today’s Core Artists but, as a current-based format, we need to develop the next group of Superstars to augment our current list (many of whom have now been Core Artists for a decade or more). But be selective; embrace those that polish your brand.
  4. Giving appropriate exposure to high passion songs while taking lower Total Positive scores into consideration will be a challenge in 2017.  Weekly, LOCAL music research is your secret weapon.
  5. Music coding will be critical as programmers need to manage higher passion/lower positive songs as well as control for the six different genres of music the format has. Revisit your existing coding and rules to make sure they reflect the current music landscape and work together to give you the sound you seek.

Thanks for the read.  Anytime in the coming months that you feel like having a conversation about the country format, your station, talent, or radio in general, we hope you’ll ring us up.

And, as we roll into another year, the entire A&O&B team wants to pass along our warmest wishes for health, happiness and success!

Read about 2015’s Top Songs and Artists here.

Read about 2014’s Top Songs and Artists here.

The extended Client Only version can be accessed here  (password required).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Country Format's 2015 Holiday Book: Nightmare On Elf Street

Last year country radio got a giant lump of coal in its Holiday Book stocking thanks in no small part to all-Holiday playlists.

Here’s how Nielsen trended the 6+ November-Holiday book change-in-shares for the past four years. 

This includes 2015's record 6+ and 18-34 shares for AC (12.9 and 11.5 respectively) as well as a 4-year tie for highest shares 25-54 (12.1).

According to Nielsen Audio's holiday music/radio report from this week, it's no surprise that for AC...

…holiday music significantly increases the share of listening for the format. Between the November and Holiday survey periods from 2012 to 2015, AC stations saw their share of audience among listeners 6 and older jump an average of 72%, compared to the rest of the year. And the combined audience to the top AC holiday music stations across the top 10 markets has grown from 27 million weekly listeners (6 and older) in 2012 to 30 million in 2015, an 11% increase. 

Historically, Country’s AQH tends to be softest during the last few months of the year (including the Holiday “month") and the first few months of the New Year.

While the format can take a hit this time of the year, Holiday listening patterns also can offer an opportunity against a competitor – particularly when fighting over fewer tune-ins where “must hear” content can be a difference maker.

So decorate your station like Dan Patrick’s holiday set and “gift” listeners with your best content.

Then check your stocking.

Thanks to Nielsen's VP of Audience Jon Miller for the data and PPM trend chart.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

A&O&B's Second Annual CMA Fun Facts Infographic

What's a country awards show without some "past winners trivia?" That's especially true this year as the Country Music Association celebrates it's 50th Awards show.

To that end, here's A&O&B's Second Annual CMA Fun Facts Infographics.

Enjoy the Show!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Looking Back Five Years: How Country Has Fared Since the Boom

It’s getting close to the time when year-end lists or links will start appearing in our in boxes. Depending on your interests, some are great - hopefully you feel that way about A&O&B's Year End Music Review released each year during the first week of December!

But before we start opening (or not) those "Top (fill in the blank) of 2016" lists, here’s a look further back – five years back - at some ratings data for both radio in general and country radio specifically.

The idea is to see where we've come over the past five years and why. Spoiler alert: we've saved the best news for the end of the blog.

Special thanks to Nielsen’s VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller who supplied A&O&B with the data we used to create our charts and graphs and help zero in on some specifics.

It’s old news of course that overall, radio has lost AQH over the years. As the chart below shows across all formats in the broadest measure, 12+, radio (red bars) AQH is off roughly 7%, with 18-34 AQH off just over 13% and 25-54 AQH down nearly 14%.

Comparing Country’s AQH losses to radio's as a whole, Country's losses were deeper 12+ and 25-54, losing roughly 10% and 15% respectively of the format's AQH. Meanwhile, in what could pass for a “tallest pigmy” illustration, country fared better than radio overall with 18-34 AQH though the format's AQH was still off 7.6%.

Country’s five-year share trend showed a similar pattern in that 18-34 was the format's best performing cell, growing nearly a full share.

To further drill down into the demos, this chart shows country’s AQH composition change from spring 2011 to spring 2016.

Again, we can see the same pattern of 18-34 vs. 12+ and 25-54. However the Composition grid shows that the 18-34 driver is 18-24.

At first glance, the increase among 55-64s might raise an eyebrow. However consider that in 2011, 45-54s accounted for nearly 20% (19.7%) of Country's AQH, and that over the past five years, some of those strong AQH providers have aged into the 55-64 cell.

All this presents challenges for country and its 25-54 target.  The 18-24 gains to date have not been enough to offset the AQH drop among 35-44s or the ‘aging out’ of 2011’s largest AQH cell 45-54.

On the positive side however, Country's overall cume remains strong. Nielsen breaks Country and New Country out separately (Country is off slightly, New Country has nearly doubled), but the bottom line is that country's total cume is up more than 2.2-million over the past 5 years. 

Plus, as Nielsen has previously reported Country had the 3rd highest share 6+ and second highest 18-34 and 25-54 at the end of 2015.

Still, with cume up and AQH down TSL gets put under the microscope.

A&O&B counts 21 factors that can influence TSL of which music is just one -- albeit a very important one.

Interestingly the country currents from five years ago were particularly strong. In fact, our year-end research pegged 2011 as the strongest year for current music since we began tracking year-end song scores in 1998.

As in many current music formats, new music has cycles of greater and lesser strength. The softer the cycle, the greater the importance other key occasion-driving components take on.

If it’s been a while since you’ve evaluated - or better yet taken your listeners’ pulse on - your TSL drivers including station images, personalities, and individual music titles, it’s important to find a way to do so in 2017 – or sooner.

With two million more cume than 5 years ago, there are now better than 71 million reasons to make sure your on air product is the best it can be.

A&O&B strongly encourage local research. To that end we provide clients tools and expertise for online current and gold music testing plus our annual online perceptual “Roadmap.” Clients receive their local breakouts as well as national data. For more information on these and projects like listener panels and ratings analysis, or for thoughts on how to audit your station's TSL drivers, contact Mike@AandOandB.com or Becky@AandOandB.com for more information.

In a future blog we’ll look at how Classic Country data today compared to that of 5 years ago.

Again, a big thanks to Nielsen’s Jon Miller for providing A&O&B with this important data.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Quick: What’s down but up at the same time?

Answer: Country this summer. AQH up, share of pie down.

Country’s strongest months still happen over the summer, though looking at the latest trends (thanks to Nielsen’s Tony Hereau for providing A&O&B this chart) country is clearly off in share compared to the previous two summers. 

In discussing country’s summer, Nielsen’s VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller shared with me that, while country’s PPM share is in fact down, the format’s AQH is up.

“Country's PPM-market AQH persons has actually increased year to year slightly but the share is down. That's because overall radio AQH (or what we call PUMM) has increased to a larger degree…”

Jon credits eCBET as contributing factor to the larger total audience saying that while cume is up slightly for all radio, overall TSL increases have been significantly greater.

“Everything we have seen from eCBET is TSL driven, which makes total sense. Upgraded codes are not finding new listeners out of thin air - they are extending listening occasions, bridging gaps and thus building TSL.”

To that point, here’s a slide Nielsen presented at last year’s December Audio CLIENT Conference (blue bar = no AQH Ratings change Standard vs. Enhanced, red bar = higher AQH ratings Standard vs. Enhanced). A greater percentage of news/talk/sports stations (left pair of bars) had increases compared to music stations (right pair of bars on).

For Country, the news was worse.

This past February Nielsen posted year-over-year AQH Persons data that showed country as one of the formats that benefitted the least from eCBET (additionally, and not illogically, 6+ appeared to increase more than 18-34 or 25-54).

At music stations, TSL discussions often revolve around music; good TSL is equated with the music being “right” and vice-versa.

And there’s certainly been a lot of discussion about the current state of music for mainstream country stations.

Here’s A&O&B’s comparison of our music test scores through September 1, 2016 with our full year, final music scores of the previous 5 years. This year (at least so far) has produced softer numbers (A&O&B tracks 25-54 so there’s not a clean correlation between Nielsen’s 6+ chart above and A&O&B’s music chart below).

Average of All Songs Tested (LAL)

2016 scores are through 09/01 and refer to final Like A Lot rank as a current.
Because these are rankings, lower scores are better.

But music, while critically important, is still just one of more than 20 factors that can impact TSL.

Some of these are station-controllable (like music and talent performance), others are not (such as weighting or the percent of a format’s Lifegroup in a survey sample).

With our music arguably not as strong as in years past and country's share of the AQH pie smaller given the latest PUMM information, managing those TSL influencers that we do have control over has taken on even greater importance.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Some Labor Day Thoughts and Songs for Those Who Labor In the Greatest Business in the World: Radio

Labor Day honors the contributions workers have made to better our lives.

It became a US federal holiday in 1894 – though 30 states already officially celebrated Labor Day.  In Canada, Labour Day (also celebrated on the first Monday of September) has been a holiday since the 1880s.

While we celebrate in song many occupations, radio jobs tend to be maligned - especially by those who apply rather limited evaluative criteria (read about that here).

But even for those of us who still find this the most exciting and rewarding career we could imagine - and are still amazed that we get to do this every day - the grind the industry extracts on us can take its toll.

Fortunately singers and song writers have left us inspiration to encourage us when the going gets challenging.

You no doubt have songs that personally inspire you; feel free to add them to this list by commenting.

Here are a few from the country format that remind us of why we continue to do what we do.

Your Impact on Others:

“What a difference you’ve made in my life. What a difference you’ve made in my life. You’re my sunshine day and night. Oh what a difference you’ve made in my life.”

"What A Difference You've Made In My Life"
Written by Archie Paul Jordan, © Universal Music Publishing Group.

In the hundreds of focus groups I’ve done through the years, talent is the subject that listeners most want to talk about.  

I’ve seen listeners express real appreciation for talent who remembered their names or the names of their children. 

I’ve seen them recall the impact of meeting a talent in person – perhaps years ago though they share in detail this cherished memory as if it happened last month.

And I’ve seen listeners tear up while recalling something a talent has said that touched them personally.  

As talent we have opportunities to ‘make a difference’ with every mic break.  Don’t waste a single one.

Your Work Ethic Matters

“Hey, I’m not bragging or complainin’, I’m just talking to myself man-to-man, this mental fat I’m chewin’ didn’t take a lotta doing’, But I take a lot of pride in what I am.”

I Take A Lot of Pride in What I Am
Written by Merle Haggard; © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

It’s easy to blow off a break or two (or not put your heart into a piece of copy you have to write, or to fall back on something safe rather than suggest something out of the box to a client, or to not want to do an air check session with your talent).

And sometimes it takes a conversation with yourself to bring about what you know needs to happen. Perhaps it's a personal pep talk or maybe reminding yourself that you have knowledge/ideas/creativity/talent that's worth sharing. 

Of course going ‘half in’ doesn't cut it.

Full throttle, wide open
You get tired, you don’t show it,
Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more
That’s the only way I know

"The Only Way I Know"
Written by Ben Hayslip, David Lee Murphy • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Lots of people around you will quit at "good enough." But not you; you know the benefits of digging deep.

The bottom line is that pride in your work is what will separate you from the rest of the pack.

“I Feel Like I Know Him/Her”

If you want to know the real me, just turn the page in my dirt road diary.
It’s right there for you to see, every kiss, every beer, every cotton field memory.

"Dirt Road Diary"
Written by Luke Bryan, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Ask listeners about talent they most connect with and you’ll usually hear something about being real, being an open book, etc. 

But what they’re really saying is that the relationship they have with you the talent is the same type of relationship they have with their best friends. 

That’s powerful.

Follow Your Dreams

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance....
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone

"I Hope You Dance"
Written by Tia Sillers, Mark Sanders • © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone you care about is encouragement and support as they follow their dreams. 

Just like you did.

Take a Risk

I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance

"The Dance"
Written by Tony Arata; Copyright ©  Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

The performing arts are a risky business to begin with and today’s environment has only amplified that risk. 

Still, the risk-reward is something performers willingly sign up for knowing that there's a cost to bringing happiness/insight/entertainment with the world. 

Don't Forget to Enjoy the Ride

If you're coming with me you need nerves of steel
'Cause I take corners on two wheels
It's a never-ending circus ride
The faint of heart need not apply

"Mi Vida Loca"
Written by Jess Leary, Pam Tillis • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Sure, other careers may pay more handsomely, have more security, etc., etc.  But probably none of your non-industry friends have met Garth, been on Luke Bryan’s bus, or had a drink with Blake Shelton. 

Unless they were your guest.

Why It’s All Worth It

The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind.

"Satisfied Mind"
Written by Jack Rhodes, Red Hays; Copyright (c) BMG Rights Management US, LLC, Carlin America Inc.

If it was about the money, we’d have done something else. But performers play by a different set of rules.  Sure, it’s about the applause, but it’s more about knowing that YOU made people feel something. 

Parting Thoughts

I laid in bed that night and thought about the day
And how my life is like a roller coaster ride
The ups and downs and crazy turns along the way
It’ll throw you off if you don’t hold on tight…
I love this crazy, tragic,
Sometimes almost magic,
Awful beautiful life.

"Awful Beautiful Life"
Written by Darrly Worley, Harley Allen; Copyright (c) Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Ten Ten Music Group Inc. 

Happy Labor/Labour Day!

Monday, July 11, 2016

16 Bullets from Podcast Movement 16

There’s nothing like spending two days with people who are “over the top” passionate about something.

In this case that something was podcasting with the excitement surrounding it on display at “Podcast Movement 16” in Chicago this past Thursday and Friday.

Some of our radio clients and friends have been asking questions like:

Is podcasting a “thing?” (Yes).

Are there revenue opportunities? (Yes, there are many - though they may be different than ones you’ve been considering).

Will it build my brand and my relationship with my listeners? (Yes, if it becomes a “must hear” – and that’s not easy).

Will it bring me higher ratings? (Maybe – it could introduce the station or talent to new listeners or it could give you another edge over a competitor. Again, it depends on the strength of the creative as well as other factors like focus and deadlines).

While radio attendees were clearly in the minority, the convention offered our industry ample food for thought - especially when it comes to jumping in.

Here are 16 bullets from Podcast Movement 16 that are worth considering in today's on-demand environment (comments paraphrased):

  1. Define the show with 300 words; use this to pitch the show and to keep it focused as you execute it.  (Anna Sale, “Death, Sex and Money” podcast)
  2. 35-million people over the age of 11 have listened to a podcast in the last week; that’s 12% of the US population. Among (Edison Research) diary keepers who listened to a podcast on the day they kept a diary, their podcast listening accounted for 32% of all their listening that day.  (Larry Rosin, Edison Research)
  3. What content marketing is supposed to be is solving a problem that your business solves.  Through your podcast, prove that you’re s passionate about solving the sample problems the listener is. (Jay Acunzo, Traction)
  4. Most commercial broadcasters haven’t jumped in because music radio doesn’t lend itself to podcasting. However many morning shows have a feature which listeners would like to time shift. A podcast is about a show. Radio is about a format. There’s a conflict between the show concept and the format concept. NPR already knew how to make shows. (Larry Rosin)
  5. “It’s an incredibly robust time to be in the audio business…if you put out good content, you’re going to find a pathway to someone’s ears.” (Traug Keller/Sr. VP ESPN Audio)
  6. We do good audio content and let it flow to the various platforms. That decision left us free to be a multi-platform entity. (Traug Keller)
  7. As dynamic ad insertion increases, many different products will emerge. There will be shows created for ads that will command a premium dollar. (Sara Van Mosel/WNYC, Acast)
  8. Less than 1% of all podcasts come from radio. (Steve Goldstein, Amplifi)
  9. The vast majority of listening to pure plays is about 75% via the phone. For broadcasters, it’s now 50% on the phone. There’s going to be more phone consumption because there are more opportunities. (John Rosso/Pres Marketing Dev Triton Digital)
  10. Scale doesn’t have to be about thousands, but about fifty or a hundred. (Erik Harbison, Aweber)
  11. Build an audience that loves what you talk about, then sell them your solutions to their problems (Tim Paige, Leadpages)
  12. When it comes to monetization, “many streams make a river.”  Grab a little money every month from different sources. (Aaron Mahnke, @amahnke; creator of “Lore” which is a very successful podcast that is now headed to TV)
  13. CPM goes away when you’re doing local. (Rob Walch, Libsyn)
  14. When they advertise on podcasts, local businesses don’t need to spend a lot of money on production; they just have to talk to you. (Bryan Moffett, NPR)
  15. The Spanish language podcast audience is under-served. (Mignon Fogarty, Quick and Dirty Tips, Grammar Girl)
  16. Always remember you’re forming a relationship.  (Anna Sale)

As Forbes noted this spring, “…podcast content lives alongside music.  This is important to note, as it means users with no deliberate intention of seeking out podcast content will now encounter it…”

As an industry, we have some of the greatest talent and story tellers in the world who deserve to be “encountered” on the podcast platform as well. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Remembering the Great Dan Daniel: Six Principles Behind the Success of One of America's Premiere Air Talents

Dan Daniel was one of the great air talents in America, being a standout in New York City for 42-plus years before he passed last week all too soon at 81.

With minor edits, this is a piece I wrote at the end of 2002 when, while still at the top of his game, “Dandy Dan” chose to retire from doing a daily show. At the time I wanted to share some of what I believed to be pillars of success of one of America’s best talents.  Now I’d like to share them again as part of Dan’s legacy: a gift to everyone who puts their heart into their work every day – because that’s what Dan did.

Thanks, Dan for the joy you gave us through the years on the air... and off the air for the priceless gift of friendship.

Miss you, “Trip.”

For 42 years he'd been "king of the hill, top of the heap, a-number one" in New York, New York. 

WCBS-FM midday host Dan Daniel (5th from left), one of America's greatest talents and a fixture in New York City radio for 42 years, chose to relinquish his daily show Tuesday while still at the top of his game.

The effect will be as impossible to ignore as a person with a missing front tooth.

Dan left an indelible mark on me during the nearly five years I was privileged to be his Program Director at WYNY-FM in New York City. In the 11 years that have passed since then, I've thought a lot about the things that made Dan such a great talent (they're also what make him a great human being). I've distilled that rather long list down to six principles I believe not only contributed significantly to Dan's incredible success but also helped define him as a person.

Put your heart in it.

Dan never sounded like he wished he were anywhere but on the air. Every show was like a gathering of close friends who you were truly glad to see, and it was only when Dan was there that the get-together was complete.

No one knew this better than listeners. They'd call. They'd write. They'd show up at remotes to see him even though it may have taken them hours to get there and even though they'd already met him dozens of times before.

And they'd tune-in faithfully. Dan's daily passion for his show became our daily passion for listening. We loved listening to him because we knew he loved being with us – which is pillar number two.

Love your listeners.

Early on I concluded that Dan loved his listeners just about as much as they loved him. And like any relationship, he worked at keeping the bond strong.

He tuned in to what was important to them and paid attention to what they said.

He was patient with them, faithfully answering the same questions they'd been posing for years ("Hey Dan - who's size 9?" referring to his sign off "Love you all especially you size 9." With a hearty laugh, Dan always said, "My wife thinks it's her!") with such genuineness and enthusiasm that you'd swear it was the first time in his life that anyone cared enough to ask for his input.

Dan made it a point to seek out listeners at appearances - not that this was necessary. Listeners would have found him even if he tried to hide. One time when the Marlboro Country Music Show was in New York, I accompanied Dan as he worked nearly all of Madison Square Garden. It went on for hours! Every smile from Dan was genuine, every handshake an appreciative "thank you" for listening.

Simply put, Dan Daniel made people feel special. He made them feel as if they were the only ones in a sea of thousands. He made them feel that in fact it was he who wanted to spend time with them, not the other way around.

And it was the same way when you listened. Dan's cume may have been a quarter-million, but on my radio it always seemed like it was just Dan and me.

Be an observer.

Dan could research anything for his show and regularly did, but his greatest content was more often rooted in the things he saw around him, what he thought about those things, and how those things made us all feel.

"All" and "feel" are key words.

When I'd go with Dan to an appearance, I could count on hearing listeners recite edited versions of Dan's breaks. They'd wait in line to retell Dan something they'd heard him say perhaps months earlier - and then often they'd remark that when they heard it, they were just thinking or feeling the same way. These weren't soapboxes or rants they recalled, but Dan's observations and brief asides on life that cut through the noise of New York and found a home in listeners' hearts and memories.

What seemed to come so naturally and effortlessly for Dan is, in fact, a skill not easily mastered.  But Dan had it honed and perfected, the result no doubt of a lifelong practice of observation, being in the midst of listeners whom he well understood, and weaving these moments into stories and points-of-view.

Paint local pictures

Think it's hard "being local" where you are? Try it in New York with over 14-million people 12+ and 20 metro counties. Dan did it with word snapshots of neighborhoods, by referring to products by their local brand name rather than their generic categories, and by using New York-isms as naturally as any native (which Dan wasn't).

Dan talked the way we talked (albeit with a slight drawl sometimes) and talked about what we were talking about.

He rooted for the home teams, always using just enough information to let you know he was a fan like you. But Dan talked less about the score or facts you could find out anywhere. Instead, Dan helped you experience the fans' reaction when Bernie hit the game-winner. He'd let you feel what it was like on the subway there and back.

Dan painted accurate pictures because he knew his market and his listeners so well.

Be real

Dan was always "one of us." His words and attitude let you know he was your fellow commuter and your walk-to-work-pal, trudging through slushy winters and sweating through sticky summers.

For years he defined afternoons in New York, and drives home on the Turnpike, the L.I.E., the Sawmill, the Belt and the Major Deegan were tolerable only because you had Dan going through it with you.

Dan actually DID commute like so many of us, taking the train into the City and walking to the station from Grand Central; he walked the walk.

He was compelling because he was real.

Be a Cheerleader

Dan championed the music he played, the stations he worked at, and the people he worked with.

Frequently his song wraparounds would include a piece of a lyric with a tie-in to something relevant. Or he'd point out a previously unknown fact or share a positive comment about the song or singer.

I swear that there are some songs I began to like only after hearing one of Dan's intros or outros.

Station events and promos received the same treatment. No hype, just the right phrasing delivered with genuine enthusiasm and a specific reason or two that would make me want to participate.

He never failed to mention his fellow on-air talent - whether it was something he heard on their show or something that gave listeners a peek behind the curtain. It was always positive and heartfelt.

What you got on the air you also got in the halls. As a programmer, I can't recall a time that I didn't look forward to one o'clock, because that would mean I'd see Dan in the building. He never failed to elevate my spirits. We could talk about anything together - from family to business. He was as great a listener and observer inside as well as outside the building,

In every conversation I recall having with Dan, it was evident that I had his complete attention. This had nothing to do with my position because, PD or part-timer, you were all the same to Dan - special. He was never above or below your level. Never hot or cold. Never asked for any privilege that 42 years in New York radio entitles one to. To do so would have been way out of character.

Dan frequently told me that he wasn't interested in reliving his past glories (trust me, if he ever wants to do so, he has enough to keep him busy for years). To him it was the excitement of today and the promise of tomorrow that mattered.

As of today, I'm just one of a quarter-million New Yorkers who already misses hearing Dan Daniel on the air. But maybe our loss will be another town's gain.

Around the country perhaps some PD or talent who is very passionate about their craft will read this and be inspired by Dan, just as I have been.  And maybe soon, listeners in these cities will experience some of Dan's "secrets" subtly woven into their favorite jocks' shows and appearances. 

Now wouldn't THAT be some cume to brag about! 

Huffington Post writer David Hinckley who for 35 years wrote for the New York Daily News has Dan's career highlights here.

Related posts: The Kings of Radio here; Traits of Market Icons here.

Photo credit: Joanie Chin @Joanie_ues. L to R: WYNY Team Members Jay Michaels, Mike O'Malley, Bill Rock, Shelli Sonstein, Dan Daniel, an unidentified person, Randy Davis and Jim Kerr