Author Archives: Keith Hill

AN OLD FORD ECONOLINE VAN AND THE COUNTRY RECORD CHARTS

AN OLD FORD ECONOLINE VAN AND THE COUNTRY RECORD CHARTS

There has always been some level of manipulation in all music charts.  Why isn’t that the job of record promotion folks?

Promo Person on a call – “It just won song wars on KBBB 3 nights in a row and it beat star name!”

Another call – “hot phones in Parkersburg and Scranton”

Another call – “Joe Jones is testing it in Big City and it’s his #3 tester with 80% positive!”

Fast forward 35 years…   “Hello Rod… we want to talk about a cooperative venture.”  I can only speculate about the rest of that call.

I even suspect there is candor… “look my midline artist record isn’t testing well but I need a few more weeks so let’s talk about what we can do together.”

Now what does all of this have to do with a Ford Econoline Van?

Well many years ago in addition to my radio career I had several rental apartments.  At one point I had enough of them that I needed to buy a van to move furniture and appliances.  So I went really cheap.  I bought an old beat up extended van that had rust holes and ran really rough.  It actually barely ran.  Oh and it didn’t lock and the dashboard didn’t work.

With a dashboard that doesn’t work you just have to drive what you think is the right speed. The real trick is always topping off the gasoline because you never really knew how much gas there was in the tank.

As I look at the Mediabase and Billboard I see clear evidence of manipulation, jive, deals, and various kinds of olas.   I can only guess the compliance folks have found the loopholes, or are actually the sherpas giving guidance to the promo departments.

As I look at the charts these days it reminds me of that dash; it didn’t work on that old van. It didn’t give me any useful information.

Promotional initiatives with large groups of radio stations take rookie no name artists up the charts quickly while Mount Rushmore superstars climb like turtles with at least one broken leg.

Here’s what the charts do indicate today.  They indicate what the labels want country radio to play.  They in no way indicate the popularity of these songs with audience on America’s country radio stations.

I hate to sound like a presidential tweet but that’s “SAD.”

So, what do I do?   What can you do?   Do what I did with that old Ford Van with a dashboard that didn’t work.  Drive very carefully.

Do you know what to play WITHOUT the charts?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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BRAND IMAGES

BRAND IMAGES

Jack Trout and Al Reis are two of the smartest guys who ever lived.  They knew a lot about positioning products.

I heard Al Reis speak at Country Radio Seminar a few years back.  He told the story of when Jack and he had been invited pitch Burger King for their business.

The Burger King execs explained that they could have the account if they could solve Burger King’s Breakfast problem.  At that point Burger King hadn’t gained much traction in the breakfast lane.

Jack and Al looked at each other and discussed who would speak.  It was decided that Jack would take lead.

Jack Trout said, “the solution to your breakfast problem is not to serve breakfast.”

In the minds of Burger Kings execs they had all those restaurant locations and could make money by offering a breakfast fare.  The problem was the company name was and remains “Burger King.”  No eggs, pancakes, toast, sausage, oatmeal… King.. but BURGER KING!

I was on vacation last week.  Traveling through several states.  One morning I got up and made my way out looking for a McDonalds.  I really like their egg white delight sandwich and its calorie count is listed at just 250.

But I saw this!

I just thought to myself Taco Bell in no way means “Breakfast”

Made me think about the times I hear a radio station with a talky morning show position themselves as “More Music.”  Or multiple positions.. “New Country & The Best Variety.”

Which is it? Going into spot sets talking about music and then talking for 3 or 4 minutes.

My claim. Attack your own radio station like you have to compete with it.  What are you doing that you thought was a good idea at the time but now with the clear vision is really dumb?

Want help attacking your station and then fixing it?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888

 

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A 100% ALL FEMALE CHANNEL!

A 100% ALL FEMALE CHANNEL!

You know after being told by the folks unhappy with my statements that led to tomato-gate I see finally instead of just complaining someone has done something positive and proactive.

Kudos to Christa Williams for her launch of SHE! On Tune In She Radio is now streaming an all female singer country / Americana channel.  Also they point out its available for HD2 and Low Power FM content.  Why not full power FM’s too?

Now I wish her the best of luck.  Plus I hope this does advance careers and opportunities for women musicians.

Let’s see how it does. I won’t tell you how I think it will do.  Most of you can imagine my thoughts and could guess what my predictions would be.  I’d really like to see this on a full power FM station in a top 75 or top 50 market.  Then we could see ratings.

In all sincerity, Christa, best of luck.  I think you’ll need it.

The Story Above is From Lon Helton’s Fine Publication Country Aircheck

 

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LEGALLY UNPUBLISHABLE COMMENTS

CHART MANIPULATION

I could pontificate at great lengths about how the charts are not as meaningful as they used to be.

The folks at Country Radio look at these charts and see the records that iHeart or Cumulus all agree to play.  The iHeart “premiers” really can spike a record for a day.  They all play the song once an hour all day long.

We used to do that organically for Garth Brooks records back in the 90s.  Same for Michael Jackson records on pop and top 40 stations the day they were released.

Record reps used to hide a cd of the new Michael Jackson in both the Z100 building and WPLJ building.  They would call them at the same time and tell them where they were. That way it would be more likely that they would be played at the same time.  (Rather than one station jumping the gun on the promise to play it at a certain time.)

The folks at every label do various shenanigans.

Perhaps some folks at Warner Brothers will get upset with me but here goes.

A couple of weeks ago a Morgan Evans record jumped over songs by Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett.  That’s pretty impressive after a long chart life to have a big leap week like that at the very end.

#5 to #1 after 30 weeks!  WOW!

Now don’t they know we have the tools to see the station they convinced to play the song ever hour overnight to spike the numbers?   This one station wasn’t even playing it as a power.  They increased play of Morgan Evan from 18 spins in a week to 91 spins!  Must have been testing really well for them huh?

Another station went from 25 spins to 50 spins in that one-week.

Could it be the testing all happened to pop in that one same week?

Coincidence?

Plus those same stations had tickets to Kenny Chesney shows to support Kenny that same week. No it’s not connected.  But it is coincidence.

If I were in the business of building artist careers I suspect I’d drive the same 10 miles per hour over the speed limit everybody else does.  It does no good to drive the speed limit and have everybody pass you by and curse at you.

Just know this. After 30 years in a business you get to know it pretty well.  I know the business the record folks are in.  They build careers.  Fueled by stories, statistics and awards.  All of which are manipulated.  We’ve had award winners that we all said “What?????” to.  And certainly #1 songs that we look at and say… “huh #5 to #1 by Morgan Evans.”  Guess his label is really committed.

And sometimes comments are legally unpublishable.

For help with know what the hits really are for airplay on your station

call Keith Hill 956-874-8981

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USE YOUR EARS…  AND BRAIN!

USE YOUR EARS…  AND BRAIN!

Ed Hill programmed several radio stations.  Among them top rated country stations in Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Ed knows what he is doing.  He learned as a jock from the great program directors of years ago that he worked for.  Plus Ed is smart.  He never just imitated another radio station.  He thought about his station, it’s brand, it’s images, it’s fun factors and then created fresh locally meaningful content.

Ed’s been out of country radio for a couple of years but he’s still got that great brain. Here is his insightful post about listening to the one country radio station in Los Angeles.

I reprint Ed’s post here.

I have been out of country music and radio for almost two years. Listened to Go Country in LA and they have imaging on the air that is years old. I mean they mentioned “your iPod” who has an iPod?

Another big issue… The songs and the themes of the songs we’re all the same. Pure vanilla. Whoever is programming that station is not paying attention to the details. I never listen to radio anymore but decided to listen to see what has happened to the music.
This one jock said “ Here’s the latest from….
It was an act I have never heard of so I asked my 21 year old daughter who that was and she had no idea.

Then the female jock was promoting the morning show and she said… Set your alarm clocks . Clocks. Yes she said clocks. Yes CLOCKS.

Does anybody get reviewed anymore? The radio audience is shrinking. You have to be better than what I heard or you will accelerate
the inevitable slow decline into irrelevance.

Ed couldn’t be more right.

Might I suggest you take a full day outside of your own radio station and listen all day.

Attack your own station like it was your competition.  Think, “This station is programmed by an idiot.  Let me pick it apart!”

Make a list of every weakness.

Every anachronistic thing.

Every thing that is self serving and not listener benefit centric.

Then fix things.

It’s not just your career. It’s the career and welfare of everybody who works at the station.  Get it right!

Are you qualified to be PD of your station?

If you think so prove it!

Ed and I are not related.  We are brothers of different mothers.  Ed is that ok with you?

Get Your Music Right!  Get Everything Right!

If you need help call Keith Hill 252-453-8888        

 

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A NEIGHBORS QUESTION ABOUT MUSIC ON THE RADIO

A NEIGHBORS QUESTION

So this past week I was on the road to a great local cluster of radio stations.  Live local mornings, middays and afternoons on stations that serve the community.

When I got back it was relaxing to go over to a neighbors for a nice home cooked dinner, wine, and conversation.

“So what did you do this week?”  I was asked. Well a lot but what I said essentially was “we freshened the music libraries of the Classic Rock  and Country stations.  The country station we tuned to be a little newer or a little less gold.”

My pal is a chemical engineer and his wife works for a realty company.  So what they know about radio is that there are two knobs. If they don’t like a song they switch the station.

He said.. “do people’s tastes change?  I mean once you get the music right … why do you have to change it?”

I explained that even if you have research on the market tastes folks who listen to the station do change how they feel about those songs.  I  explained call out research and auditorium music testing. It forced me to explain “hooks” and how that it is simply stimulus to response research.

Once you sort in the songs that are best to play often, midrange songs to play some and lesser songs play rarely and poorly testing songs are taken out, then you put that tested music on the air.  Like anything organic as you play those great testing songs your P1 (preference one) audience over the time of three to six months will begin to fatigue on them. Different folks have different responses.  Some folks never tire of hearing their favorite songs.  Others literally will say.. “I love that song and its one of my all time favorites but BIG 109 plays it every hour and has worn it out.”

Now they don’t play it every hour.  They might play it every day in a different hour but you listen to the station so much that you are exposed to those same 450 songs a bunch!

So I explained to my chemical engineering friend that while folks do have feelings about songs those feelings change as we run up the odometer count on those songs.

One of my analogies is that songs have a color.  When they are fresh they are green.  We often call fatigue of a song “burn.”  The phase is “folks are “burned” on a song means that they have tired of it because of the many impressions or exposures of plays of the song.  I explained “Power, Medium, and Light” rotations.  I call burned songs brown.  We rest them to “re-green” them.

I even explained platooning as a thoughtful system of resting a small number of those power songs that are most played.  We might rest them for four weeks.  When we bring them back we might rest another chunk of say 8 to 10 songs for 4 weeks.  That way there are always songs that are resting.  We pick the most played by the “odometer” count, in that category, to rest.  When we return the songs there is a library play “odometer” that doesn’t change.  It never resets.  It’s always cumulative.  However, the plays in category “odometer” we reset to zero when we move it back to play after resting.

My chemical engineer friend said, “huh, I didn’t think it was that involved.”  He added, “I thought once you put in the best songs you were done except for adding new ones.”

Then after some more wine I learned more about the making of chemicals.  It involves chemistry which is much more complicated than radio programming.  But I did hear about giant mixers.  Think of the mixer you might have in your kitchen but the size of your house instead.  I’m glad my friend makes oxo and glycol.

Apparently I need all those chemicals for the radiator of my car and somehow the oxo ends up being important in plastics for the steering wheel, taillight lenses and faceplate of the radio.

Two friends had dinner and talked radio.  Sort of.

Is your music right? Fresh?   Stale?  Burned?

Get your music right call Keith Hill 252-453-8888   

If you need oxo or glycol I know a guy.

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AN HOUR OF ALL FEMALES ON COUNTRY RADIO

Women of iHeart Country

Bobby Bones just got a promotion.  He will be VP, Creative Director of iHeart Country.

You can tell Bobby works hard.  Bobby has invested lots of long hours of work for iHeart Country stations and their collateral platforms and festival promotions.  He’s an asset for the company.

iHeart like many other larger broadcasters use shows to save salaries on the local level.  Plus in many cases you could never get that level of talent locally.

On the down side it isn’t local.  While there is technology where Bobby can record liners for a station in Bakersfield and they can play them back.  So to some it sounds like Bobby is actually there when he talks about Whiskey Flat Days.

Local jocks can not only talk about these things generously and intelligently but they can make live appearances.

But in the same way we loved David Letterman it is possible to have radio network syndication work to some level.

I also say BRAVO to more “creative” on radio in general let alone IHeart radio.

Some of my radio buddies and me would go on Rock N Roll and Country field trips!

We went to see the places where Lynyrd Skyryd, Otis Redding, Ricky Nelson, Bill Chase, Jim Croce, Stevie Ray Vaughn and others had come to life’s end.

I came up with the idea that we would each make cds of music we would play for the others in the car. We chose themes.  One guy did famous songs and the songs they were stolen from.  I did a cd with two versions of every song.  One version was fully produced and one acoustic.  As we played our cds we told stories about the songs.  It occurred to all of us that this is what radio should be like.  It was a group of experienced radio folks.

I am a music scheduler.

Yes, I am the guy who gave a metric of the amount of women I’d suggest on country radio and called them tomatoes in the salad.

There are countdown shows and they work.  Even though typically you’d never play one to four hours of nothing but currents.  Under a specialty umbrella various concepts can work.

One of the things the women who advocate more women on the radio say is that “it’s never been tried!”

Bobby also announced he will be launching a new show the “Women of iHeart Country.”  I guess from the name it will be only or principally on iHeart stations.

I’m glad Bobby will be trying an hour of all females.  Then we can see how it does.

How do YOU think it will do?   Post your thoughts on Facebook at The UnConsultant

Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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SOMETHING MORE THAN MUSIC!

SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN MUSIC

I have spent most of my adult life doing one thing.  Getting more folks to tune into free radio and spend more time with it.

That means I spend lots of time working on music, morning shows, promotions and all the elements that together make up a positive radio listener experience.

I have a good radio friend who said to me one time, “you give me a hurricane and I’ll build you a big radio brand.”  The reason he said that was he and his crew knew what to do when bad weather or disasters occurred.

Many years ago in a fairly large market an operations manager and I had launched a new country station.  We had our morning hire narrowed down to three top choices.  We had all three in for one additional interview.  I asked similar questions of each morning show candidate.

I asked the question that would allow them to close the deal with me.  That question was, “give me the one reason we should hire you!”

The guy we hired answered this way.

“You can be sure that I will execute what you ask of me.  I’ll sell the key images.  I’ll create compelling content.  I’ll hit the streets.  I’ll do everything you would expect.  But when, God forbid, another September 11th happens I’ll know exactly what to do.”

He fleshed it out to include floods, fires, tornadoes etc.  The key was he communicated that he was a seasoned veteran and knew how not to play music!  He knew how to open the phones, call the Sherriff’s department, and change the radio station into a giant CB radio of the airwaves.

In the Outer Banks of North Carolina I heard a station I work with do this elegantly during a hurricane.  The storm had passed but there were lots of folks without power.  One call came in from an 83-year-old lady who couldn’t leave her driveway because a tree had fell across it.  She needed to get to a pharmacy for an oxygen tank replacement.  The radio station sent out an all call for some good ole boys with chainsaws.  They got several out there and the path was cleared.  One of them also went and got her oxygen tank for her.  Someone else went over with food for her.

All of this play-by-play built the image of the station as more than just caring but life saving.

If you’re radio station is voice tracked you are at a disadvantage.  In Reed Bunzel’s book Clear Vision he recounts the story of a Canadian Pacific Train that derailed near Minot, North Dakota. It happened at 1:30 in the morning and there was no live announcer at the stations to broadcast information about a cloud of ammonia gas covering the city.

One person died. Eleven were seriously injured and in total there were minor injuries to 332 people.

School shootings, bus accidents, train accidents, terrorist events, acts of God all happen.

I was PD at WMID in Atlantic City in the early 80s.  It was a MOR/Big Band hybrid.  Our biggest core artist was Frank Sinatra.  I wrote a memo on how to handle the death of Frank Sinatra. It didn’t happen during that era and format.  But we were prepared.

I don’t want to kill off any of our core artists or superstars but do your folks know what to do if one passes away?

I was on the air at WSYR FM (94 Rock) a Burkhart-Abrams album rock station.  Syracuse is a college town and 94 Rock was the second most listened to station at the time.  The PD Howie Castle had never called me on the hotline.

However, Monday December 8th1980 Howie did call that hotline.  When I picked it up he told me to get the album Shaved Fish and track it.  I got with AP wire copy and read it on the air.  Howie told me how to sound and what to say.  I knew how to handle it because he was clear and practiced it with me on the phone.

Many years ago I talked with Ed Henson in Louisville, KY.  We talked about my coming to program WAVG AM.  He honestly told me about a 13 minute broadcast on WHAS of a tornado that went through a well to do neighborhood.  WHAS AM had play by play of that tornado via a WHAS TV helicopter.  That 13-minute broadcast changed a lot of the fate of WAVG and WHAS.

I guess it’s possible to say that hurricanes are to be expected in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.  It might be the case that tornadoes in the heartland are likely.  The question is do your people know what to do?  How to sound?  What to say?  What resources to use and leverage?

Don’t be caught playing 10 in a row or announcing “a slight chance of rain” when all hell breaks loose.

 

Need Help Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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FUN FACTOR – CHRISTMAS IN JULY!

FUN FACTOR – CHRISTMAS IN JULY

This blog is going to be FUN!

Your mission if you choose to accept it is to listen to KKBO Bismarck on July 25th.

KKBO is 105.9 BIG RIG COUNTRY.

The excellent PD / Morning Man is Sid Hardt.   Great voice, great with listeners, cares about the community and understands that building a radio station audience involves making things memorable.  Often that comes as the result of being FUN!

Tomorrow on the BIG RIG it will be “Christmas In July!”

You’ll definitely hear “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”  and if you listen long enough I suspect you’ll her Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and Gene Autry.

You’ll hear Santa Claus!  (if you recognize who Santa is voiced by post in on The UnConsultant Facebook page.

Ho Ho Ho. Prize, Christmas records and FUN!

The best way to communicate this FUN FACTOR today is listen to 105.9 BIG RIG COUNTRY!

http://streamdb9web.securenetsystems.net/v5/KKBO

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BIG SUCCESSFUL RADIO BRANDS

RADIO BRANDS

Last week I was at Conclave in Minneapolis.  It’s always good to dust off your brain and go to class to learn.  The first panel was the best for me.

Jim Ryan talked about WCBS-FM.  It had been a big brand in New York for years.  Then it was Jack for a short run.  Then back to WCBS-FM, in part because that brand was so BIG.

Jim told the story of needing to update the 60’s and 70’s based station to become an 80’s station. Who was the personality who played those songs as currents?  Why Scott Shannon recently jettisoned from Cumulus WPLJ.

Jim felt that the addition of Scott along with that 80’s product would be a combination that worked.  Boy has he been right. WCBS-FM has been in the top 3 rankers 25-54 all the time.

Jim also told the story of Patty Steele being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Jim encouraged her to take it to the airwaves not only as bonding and sharing with the audience but to help other women going through this.

Ratings spiked. It turns out our personalities being real is important.  Furthermore those cume numbers we look at are more than numbers they are real people.  They have lives. They have life hassles too!

Jim also shared the truth of Fresh 102.7 being a poor brand.  They went out and asked folks what kind of radio station Fresh 102.7 is?  No one could really articulate a clear singular message.

Now it’s been relaunched as NEW 102.7.  It’s up against Jim’s old home of WLTW (Lite FM) he knows Lite’s strengths for sure.

WLTW is Iheart and they are playing two very long stop sets every hour.  (sometimes 9 minutes)

NEW 102.7 has some commercial free hours and limits the non-commercial free hours to two 5-minute stop sets.  I think if WLTW doesn’t respond they will be given a hair cut of some kind for sure.

Jeff McCarthy of Midwest Communications talked about the mega CHR he has WIXX-FM.

One of his stories is about partnering with the iconic Green Bay Packers.  When the Packers won the Superbowl the WIXX-FM van was the first thing in the victory parade.  WOW!

Scott Jameson shared stories of the 50-year legacy of 92 KQRS.  It was clear that while there are thousands of reasons for KQ’s giant successes.  None more prominent than the long tenure of powerful morning man Tom Barnard.

I’ve been in sessions in the past where air checks of Tom doing top 40 at WDGY were played. Tom was also the booth announcer for KSTP-TV 5 in the Twin Cities.  Hometown boy slays dragon.  Bravo Tom.

Big personalities. Being real.  Giving back to the marketplace.  Thinking BIG!

When asked how to build a successful radio brand Jeff McCarthy said, “THINK BIG.”

Is your station thinking BIG?

Card tables and duct tape won’t do it.  Voice tracking won’t do it.  Standing in the back of the room at remotes won’t do it.

It’s a lot of work. Be prepared to get tired and achy. You can be very successful 30 years later.

Wanna Build A BIG Successful Radio Brand?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888          

 

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