Category: Music Library

SUMMER REPORT CARD

SUMMER REPORT CARD

Half the year is over. The second half of the year is ahead.

I suggest its time to give your radio station a mid-year report card.

For your convenience you can print this section out and fill in the grades.

MUSIC

Check Your total active library size                                    A  B C  D  F

Check the turnovers of every category                             A  B C  D  F

Check the most played in every category                        A  B C  D  F

Check the least played in every category                        A  B C  D  F

Check your core artists for last 90 Days                         A  B C  D  F

Check histories of all currents                                            A  B C  D  F

Check histories of most played in every cat                 A  B C  D  F

Do clocks and logs have The right mix                           A  B C  D  F

Music computer specs and speed                                     A  B C  D  F

Overall music grade                                                               A  B C  D  F

MORNINGS

Aircheck entire morning show from today.

Were we local every half hour?                                        A  B C  D  F

Were we topical every half hour?                                    A  B C  D  F

Was there fun every hour?                                                 A  B C  D  F

Was there “ear candy” every hour?                               A  B C  D  F

Were the longest breaks short enough?                       A  B C  D  F

Phones?                                                                                      A  B C  D  F

Were the listeners the stars?                                            A  B C  D  F

Basics Time/Temp/Weather                                             A  B C  D  F

Image & Name Of Station                                                  A  B C  D  F

Overall Morning Grade                                                       A  B C  D  F

PROMOTIONS

Cluttered of uncluttered?                                                A  B C  D  F

Easy to understand?                                                          A  B C  D  F

Fun to listen to?                                                                   A  B C  D  F

Prize Appealing to the target?                                      A  B C  D  F

Promos fresh and interesting?                                    A  B C  D  F

Too many or too few?                                                      A  B C  D  F

Street level (how do we look?)                                     A  B C  D  F

Website and Social Media Space                                 A  B C  D  F

Overall Promotions Grade?                                           A  B C  D  F

INSIDE THE STATION – BUILDING AND STUDIOS

Studios clean and neat?                                                 A  B C  D  F

All equipment work correctly?                                   A  B C  D  F

Enough computers to get the job done?                 A  B C  D  F

HVAC right?                                                                        A  B C  D  F

Sound proofing?                                                               A  B C  D  F

Lighting?                                                                              A  B C  D  F

Chairs?                                                                                  A  B C  D  F

Conference Room?                                                           A  B C  D  F

Look that guests, winners and clients se              A  B C  D  F

Overall Studios and Building                                      A  B C  D  F

PEOPLE (Software)

Morale?                                                                                 A  B C  D  F

Feeling of Team?                                                              A  B C  D  F

Communication inside the building?                      A  B C  D  F

Management in the tranches?                                   A  B C  D  F

Is their leadership                                                           A  B C  D  F

Stress level?                                                                        A  B C  D  F

TECHNICAL (Hardware)

Transmitter health                                                           A  B C  D  F

Transmitter building (clean? cool? dry?)               A  B C  D  F

Audio Chain (loud, clean, no distortion)                A  B C  D  F

Automation (ease of use and health)                       A  B C  D  F

STL (clean and reliable?)                                               A  B C  D  F

Generators                                                                           A  B C  D  F

Software for air checks                                                   A  B C  D  F

Mic processing right?                                                      A  B C  D  F

Robust reliable internet?                                               A  B C  D  F

Streaming clean and reliable                                       A  B C  D  F

Alexa skill working correctly                                     A  B C  D  F

Overall Technical Grade                                                A  B C  D  F

Overall Station Grade                                                A  B C  D  F

Now there are many other things that can be on this list.  I think now is a good time (after the Spring book sampling period) to reflect and make a to do punch list of things to work on.

There are lots of things that will be station specific.  There is a lot to this one.

Is your station FUN?                                                A  B C  D  F

I’ll be writing more blogs about FUN being memorable and the factors that help to make radio stations big successful brands.  It’s difficult to win the Indy 500 with a car with several mechanical problems. Also tough to win when the driver isn’t tested, trained, rested and distraction free.

It takes personalites, connection to the marketplace, doing things that captivate the marketplace to breath life into radio.

Step One build a good strong house.

Step Two,  decorate it with shutters, landscaping, welcome mat, art on the wall and vase with fresh flowers on the table.  Perhaps a “Home Sweet Home” stitching are what’s for.

IF you radio station was a house is it correctly decorated?

Need Help?  Get Your Music Right! Get Everything Right!

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888        

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WE NEED A RADIO STATION THAT PLAYS 50% FEMALES!

WE NEED A RADIO STATION THAT PLAYS 50% FEMALES!

So I write a blog saying country radio should hire more women General Managers, Program Directors and lead morning show air talent.  I posted it.  Put links to it on Facebook and Twitter.

Three years ago I responded to every post I could for about 5 months.  I also would respond in the discus and comment sections of web sites for famous newspapers and online publications with stories about “tomato-gate.”

I came to a few conclusions.  I was correct about the metric I had suggested to country radio.  My strong feeling was advocates of women in country music just wanted me to fold my tent and go home.  One of my mentors told me to shut up and go in a hole.  This too shall pass.  I rejected that advice.  I stayed with it.

The opposition started to go away.  The last ones to stay just started posting foul language and ad hominem attacks.

Yes there were death threats.  One was from a female who had been air talent on a CBS Country station in a large market!

Every year on the anniversary of “tomato-gate” the topic gets dusted off and written about. The annualized questions now are “is it better or worse for women?”  And  “what is percentage of females country radio is now playing  X number of years after the controversy?”

To me it’s not a controversy it’s a metric.

There are folks who want to see my research.  It’s really very simple the radio stations own the ratings research from the Arbiton and Nielsen companies.  It’s proprietary.

I have pointed out that the 12+ and now 6+ data for many markets are posted on websites like Allaccess.com or Inside Radio.com.

With a subscription to Mediabase  you can get playlists of stations with a an elegant set of dashboard metrics and tools.

I say my metric is empirical.

Look at the playlists and the ratings.  You’ll see.

I have been asked, “what happened when you removed males?”

Well we do remove both males and females to tighten a library to be just the best hits. However just removing males would make the female percentage go up unless we opted for instrumentals, dead air, tones or songs from genders other than men or women.

One thing I’ll say about the fine folks who proclaim, “You don’t know what would happen if you played 50% females now do you?”

Well I do know what would happen but you are right it’s NEVER been tested!

These women ask me, “well, then tell us how we can improve the plight of women in country.”

My answer has always been we play great songs.  So write, record and promote more songs like “I Hope You Dance,” “Automatic,” and “The House That Built Me.”

I return to the idea that there NEVER has been a radio station that has played 50% females.

So I make a plea here for a station in a top 75 market that is PPM rated with full market coverage signal to play 50% females for six months so we can empirically see what happens.  (That’s a test AND empirical)

It would seem to me the Change The Conversation folks Beverly Keel, Leslie Fram, and Tracy Gershon and voices like  Marissa Moss could find a consortium of women to purchase one radio station and prove it.  Heck women are half of America and go fund me is out there.  Get to work and buy a radio station with the parameters I have listed.  Get the Suffragettes to join in.  Sell shares of a corporation.  Might I suggest, “The Keith Hill is Wrong Corporation.”   No.  Go ahead and call it “The Fairness For Women In Country Radio Corporation.”

Hire a staff of the best programmers.  Run TV commercials for it.  Have Billboards for it.  Give away prizes.  Do concerts to promote the station.

SHE FM.

FEM-FM

YOU GO GIRL 103!

Make sure that you play at least 50% of the songs by female singers. Expose all that great talent you talk about.

Then six months later WE will have ratings results.

Until then I endure twitter.  It’s a cesspool of foul language.  Anyone can say anything.

Other topics to help derail us from the issue.

Well Bro Country has ruined country.  Wearing baseball caps backwards blah blah blah.  Ok, but what does that have to do the 15% metric I claim?

Marissa Moss wrote a fine article for Rolling Stone about sexual harassment and misconduct in the country music industry.  Imagine Harvey Weinstein in Nashville running a record label.  There are also stories of CRS and promotion people taking artists to radio stations. Moss details the harassment that female artists and female promoters are subjected to.

I do not deny that these wretched behaviors exist.

Ms. Moss did research. I take it that means she made calls and interviewed folks.

I don’t know how many calls.

I have no doubt these things have happened and continue to happen. However, harassment is a different issue than what are the best metrics for composition of music that will yeild optimum time spent listening to country radio.

Flat tires and broken transmissions are both issues with cars.  They have the car in common. However, they are separate maladies.

Sexual harassment and the percentage of songs by female singers are separate issues in the same industry.

I wonder the (N) of Ms. Moss’s research?  How many people did she interview?

When we do research in radio we want it to be statistically reliable within a confidence interval. We do studies where the (N) of the study (N is the number of folks in the survey) is as low as 700 but up to 2000 respondents.

I estimate there are well over 20,000 folks employed in the country radio and record promotion industry.  I think to be statistically reliable and then extrapolate the data to represent the behavior of the industry you’d have to talk to at least 400 people.

I don’t posit a complete set of solutions for harassment.  I will say there are laws against assault and sexual assault.  I’d suggest women who are assaulted in the manner that Ms. Moss’s article uncovered use the laws that exist. File complaints and use the law.  If you have been harassed the law is on your side. My claim would be thes call to the police and complaints should be made right away.  Do not wait 6 months or year or two or ten or more years.

On twitter folks will post,  “can you believe that asshole!”

What do YOU want done… instant death without due process?  I suspect there are those who want just that!

Then in previous articles I used the term “mom filter.”  Women on twitter scoff at this as if it’s some kind of slam.  Inside radio stations we discuss our content. We ultimately do not want that 38-year-old mother of two children to be embarrassed by the content on her favorite radio station.  We don’t want the child exposed to the content to ask, “mommy what does blank-blank mean.”

But on twitter I am an insensitive man with NO understanding.  Uh I had a mother, aunts and have nieces.  I have programmed free radio aimed at women for 38 years successfully.

“Hill must think all women have to be mothers!”  No.  I want ALL women to listen as long as possible.  I’m fine with listeners whose family looks like “Eight is Enough” or women who do not have children. To me they are all listeners with ears. (A genderless feature of this)

Twitter is a cesspool. Some discourse starts out civil. Then I believe out of frustration it often turns away from the core of the discussion.

I make a post. Then folks tweet back to me. Then when the logic tightens in on them in the advocacy of their position they then claim I am “trolling” them!  Hey you tweeted to me first!!!!

Then “I see you only follow five people on twitter and all five of them are men!”

One is my local TV station.  (Male?)  One is my local newspaper. (Male?)   One is the president of the United States. (Who is famous for tweeting but yes he is a male)  One was a writer for the guardian who coined the term “tomato-gate” (yes he is a male)

I un-followed that TV station and Newspaper that are uh… male.  I added Marissa Moss who is female and made this complaint about me.   Now I have parity on twitter.  I follow one male and one female.  ( I took males? out because lord knows we want parity in who I follow on twitter!)

Now back to my cheerful suggestion for those who want to advance the women in country music.  Come together.  Get funding.  Buy a radio station in a top 75 SMSA with a full market signal.  Then play 50% (at least) females.

One more idea while I am making suggestions.  Start a campaign to encourage the major country music labels in Nashville to drop already established pop females for country duets.

Instead of Pink, Tori Kelly, Bebe Rexha why not go over to the Listening  Room and take in some Suffragette shows. (Monday Nights)  I am sure you will find female performers who could sing those duets elegantly.

Wait… do I see this tweet directed at me in my future?  “Hill says take off crossover pop females from country radio too!  Clearly misogynist Hill should be dragged by his male parts behind a pick up truck!  Bastard!”

Lastly, I claim oddly that radio airplay is the only Enterprise on planet earth where 50% parity won’t happen.

It will and can happen in elected positions, being doctors, lawyers, pilots, sales, management, creating visual arts, writing, home construction you name it.  We have equal opportunity and the possibility of the real outcome that women can occupy 50% or more of the jobs in all of these spaces.

Songs played over country radio will be selected based upon the ear traffic of the listeners. It’s not up to the gatekeepers or creators of the music product itself.  It’s up to the listeners.

Expected Tweet “Hill refuses to force upon the market place what they need.  What the listeners want Be Damned.”  (Expressed in other ways)

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Bankruptcy! Because we didn’t play enough females on Country Radio.

Bankruptcy! Because we didn’t play enough females on Country Radio.

I was in a twitter discussion this weekend where someone posted that the reason Iheart and Cumulus had to file bankruptcy was they had not played more than 15% females on their country stations.

My first response was to laugh.

Twitter is such a cesspool.  Anyone can say anything at anytime.

I believe there are some principal factors that caused Iheart and Cumulus to seek bankruptcy protection.

First the Communications Act of 1996 significantly deregulated radio.  It lifted some previous caps on ownership of radio stations.  Ownership of radio and television stations has changed quite a bit over time.

I worked for WSYR AM & FM in Syracuse in the late 70s and early 80s.  The Newhouse Corporation owned them.  They owned a newspaper called the POST STANDARD along with WSYR AM, WSYR FM and WSYR TV.  While I was there the regulations changed and they had to sell either the newspaper or the television station. In fact they owned TV stations in Birmingham, Alabama, St Louis, Missouri, Elmira, New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  They sold all of the TV stations to another newspaper company that did not have papers in those markets. All were sold to Times Mirror Corporation. WSYR TV 3 became WSTM TV 3. The radio stations moved from the building with the TV station on James Street to Clinton Square downtown. That then satisfied the new rules change.  Then the rules changed again where newspapers and radio stations could not be co owned. WSYR AM & FM was sold to KATZ Communications of Connecticut.  When I started at WSYR one company could co-own radio, TV and newspaper in the same market.  By the time I left Newspapers could not own TV or radio stations.

The communications act of 1996 was a huge set of regulations regarding telephone, cable, broadcasting and Internet companies.  It started out as a framework to deal with all of the regional “baby” Bell telephone companies.  Lots of things were de regulated.  The ownership caps in radio and TV were reduced.  The concept was that would allow for a wider array of owners of radio and TV.  The honest hope was that it would foster more competition as well.

We seem to live in a world with lots of unintended consequences.

Instead of a wider array and variety of broadcast owners the result was fewer owners who would own larger numbers of stations.

Companies like AM/FM, Evergreen, Jacor, Clear Channel, SFX, Sinclair, Bonneville, Beasley, Greater Media, Susquehanna, ABC, Capital Cities, New City, Cox, Viacom, CBS, NBC, Westwood got to work acquiring more stations or sold to those doing the “acquiring.”

Lowry Mays, Larry Wilson, Lew Dickey and others started buying radio stations.  Lew got money from the State of Wisconsin. The State Of Wisconsin Investment Board to be exact.  They invested $50 Million to get started with Cumulus and help them grow.

Lew was actually a little late to the party and had to play catch up.  One thing he did was nearly eliminate the protracted time it took to negotiate the agreements to buy radio stations.

Typically there is an offer.  Will you take 10 million dollars for XYZ Broadcasting?  The seller comes back and says the price is 12 million.  Six weeks later a revised purchase offer of 10 and half million is made.  You get the idea.  Five to Six months later they close at a price of 11 million.

Lew truncated the time factor by doing this.  “How much do you want for XYZ Broadcasting?”  They say 12 Million.  Lew says, “SOLD!”

That had a strong effect in driving the prices of radio stations upward.

For years radio stations would sell for 8 times cash flow.  Perhaps 10 times cash flow.  After the communications act of 1996 it got into the teens and there were some 20 times cash flow prices paid for radio stations.

In 1996 the future of radio was bright.  It was a robust medium and what possibly go wrong?

The Internet

There was the dot.com euphoria followed by the dot.com bubble and the burst.  Who could see advertising revenues going to the Internet?

Advertisers moved some of their advertising budgets to the Internet.  It was slow at first.  Then incrementally advertisers continued to move more money from radio to digital.

2008

Lehman Brothers, regulations designed to make mortgage money easier to get so home ownership rates would increase all came to play.  In 2005, 2006 and 2007 you could get over 100% of the money needed to buy a house even if you had filed personal bankruptcy.  Drive slowly past a bank with your window down and they would throw the mortgage contracts at you to sign.  The so-called housing bubble burst and banks hemorrhaged. The stock market plummeted. Wall Street fell and Main Street suffered.

Local advertising on radio got squeezed.  In tough times lots of local advertisers cut back or eliminated their radio marketing.

Radio’s response was to lower rates.

In many markets Clear Channel and Cumulus were across the street from each other and it was a race to the bottom.  When radio becomes more of a “commodity” price is the only remaining issue. Inside those radio stations managers and sales managers went to operation sponge up the money.  Get the buy by offering a rate deal the advertiser cannot refuse.  Advertisers soon came to realize if they waited they’d be able to name their own price.

Lets recap here.

-Consolidation because of regulation changes.

-Overpaying for Radio Stations

-Highly Leveraged Purchases of Radio Stations

-The Internet

-2008 Bust!

You’ll notice the number of songs by females on country radio isn’t one of the reasons for Iheart and Cumulus filing for Bankruptcy.

Yet it was posited to me that if those stations had simply played more females they wouldn’t have filed for bankruptcy.

Almost makes me wish for God’s Xerox machine to make two exact copies of the world and see how much faster they would have had to file using more songs by females plan.

Today Iheart owns over 850 radio stations, Cumulus 446, Townsquare 310, and Entercom now owns 235 stations.

In the United States right now there are a little over 15 thousand radio stations.  As you can see those four companies own well over 12 percent of America’s radio stations!

Now fasten your seat belts.  Radio is still strong and clawing to maintain and growing a little bit in some places.

In some places smaller owners are actually doing “local” content and street level things that are meaningful.

Advertisers are seeing less return on their Internet and digital marketing investments. Some are returning to radio.

We still sell our spots way too cheap.  It will take time to get rates to rise.

The FCC’s current thinking.  They are thinking about no caps.  One company could own every radio station in a market.  Oh and they can buy or be bought by the Newspaper.

Good Idea?

Iheart is opposed to it.  Huh, maybe it is a good idea after all.

I wonder if Newhouse would want to buy WSYR back?

(Newhouse today is Advance Publications.  They own Newspapers, Magazines, (Conde Nast) Websites, a third of the Discovery Network and 13% of Charter Communications.)

Keith Hill suggests your music metrics make a significant difference in the economic fate of your radio stations.

Is your music right?   You don’t know?

Get Your Music Right. Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888     

 

 

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MISOGYNY IN COUNTRY RADIO?

MISOGYNY IN COUNTRY RADIO?

Three years ago I said “tomatoes” and all hell broke loose on planet earth.

Every year on the anniversary of that event the press dusts it off and looks at measurable metrics and proclaims nothing has happened or perhaps things are “oh my God” slightly worse for female country singers.

I have decided to cause more problems.

You see this article is broader in scope regards females in Country.

First I want to address the radio programming side if things.  I feel its well established that contemporary formatted country radio stations break slightly in favor or women in terms of cume audience composition.  (Cume is the unduplicated head count listening to a radio station) Much like when they announce at a major league baseball game that today’s attendance is “48, 375.” That’s the cume of that baseball game.  Country radio’s cume can be 55% to 65% female.

Furthermore there is a “currency” upon which we use to measure the value of radio listening and that is the almighty “average quarter hour.”  For simplicity sake I will describe it as 15 minutes of listening or exposure to a radio station.  The reason why I call it a currency is because it helps create an equivalency for us to value the total listening to radio.  Think of those quarter hours as our “dollars.”

One person who listens one hour gives a station four quarter-hours.  Four other people listen fifteen minutes each and that also yields four quarter-hours to the radio station.

Hence, a station might have 100,000 cume listeners and 578,372 quarter-hours.  It’s that total collection of quarter hours that is the important metric of value.

Most country radio stations generate north of 65% of their quarter hours from women. Sometimes the number of quarter hours generated from women on country radio can go as high as 85%.  So you see why country radio programmers think about programming that women prefer and will listen to for longer periods of time.

My claim (and real world experience) is that women listen to country radio stations longer when the mix of songs broadcast is about fifteen percent female.  When that percentage is higher without conscious thought they simply fatigue faster and automatically respond by listening less.

Now that being said I have to weigh in on something else about country radio and gender. Because country radio depends on appealing to women and generating the maximum number of quarter hours possible from women I’d suggest that we employ more women General Managers, Sales Managers, Program Directors, Promotions Directors and Morning air talent.

Years ago I consulted KXKC in Lafayette, Louisiana.   It was a country station that launched and attacked a heritage country station KMDL.

The program director for KXKC was Renee Revett.  I remember meetings early on where a team was assembled and Renee was the only female.  A bunch of men were discussing promotions for KXKC and Renee stopped the meeting and said, “would you like to have a woman’s point of view on this?”

Renee gently but firmly proceeded to euphemistically beat us with a two by four and wake us up. The filter needed was, “what does more than half our audience think of this?”

While I think managing a radio station is principally a from the neck up proposition I do think that more female managers would be a good thing.  There are decisions that will be made where empathy, understanding and point of view could make a difference.  The greater our real understanding of the majority of the audience (in terms of quarter hour value) the better we can optimize the station.

The same holds true as in the role or Program Director.  That person needs to first hear in their head what the station ought to sound like.  (In radio we call it an “air check”)  Then that program director works on getting the station closer and closer to that ideal air check that they hear in their head. Once again a females perspective and understanding would be a very good thing.

Over time morning shows have been slowly changing from male only shows or male lead shows to some shows that have female leads.  Laurie DeYoung in Baltimore was one of the few female lead morning shows 24 years ago.  Today I am working with a growing number of female lead morning shows.  The great news is they instantly have that “mom filter.” They understand so many things and present important topics with the correct verbiage and nuanced touches that are right for the audience.

I am considered the World’s Biggest Misogynist for metrics that I suggest for female singers in the mix of music on country radio stations.

When it comes to the GM and PD chairs in country radio stations perhaps I’m guilty of Misandry.

Actually my claim is this.  There is no gender bias in my advice regarding music played on the radio.  Instead in this wonderful free enterprise place called America I chase profit and meritocracy.  I play music on radio based upon metrics that yield the highest ratings.  And when it comes to making hires for country radio I say hire the best regardless of gender.  Make sure you have folks on your team who truly understand the target audience!  Since your target is women you might want to lean female in your management and programming team.

I wonder what the “tomato throwers” think of me now?

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WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?

WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?

When I was a baby PD at WCTC in New Brunswick, NJ my corporate boss was Julian Breen. Julian was smart and his teaching style was something akin to a cave man beating you with a club.  Funny, today I love Julian Breen. (in a neck up non Harvey Weinstein way)

I remember Julian schooling me about ratings.  “Mr. Hill why do we buy Arbitron?”

My wrong answer was “to help us program the station.”

BAM.  “NO!”  “We buy ratings to affix a price to our advertising.”

“Mr. Hill, why do we continue to buy Arbitron?”

At this point the white flag of surrender was my move.  “You know Julian, it’s clear I don’t know.”

BAM.  “Because they tend to replicate themselves. They are generally believable.  Top stations continue to appear at the top.  Weak and poor performing stations continue to be at the bottom.”

“Last Question, Mr. Hill when will we stop buying Arbitron?”

Again way back in the early 80s I didn’t know.

BAM.  “When they become truly unreliable we will stop buying them.”

Julian studied everything radio ratings.  After Greater Media he created SuperTrends.  He saw many programmers try to extrapolate monthly ratings from rolling averages.  His goal was to help programmers look behind the curtain of Arbitron so we could figure more out.

In 2005 Julian passed away.  Surely in Rock N Roll heaven he is ranting inside the building at K-GOD 100 about how it should be done!

Julian lives on in the people he hired and trained.

What would Julian say today?

One of my very best radio friends today who I will protect as “Mr. A.” have talked about this a bunch.

A and I have talked many times about replacing meters with cell phones so the (N) count of devices would grow exponentially.

We’ve even imagined that they would be connected in some way to the purchase behavior of the phone owner.

That way we could better measure the effectiveness of spot advertising on radio.  We see the way we are doing it now as the “horse and buggy” phase of audience measurement.

Last night at a Mexican dinner in a discussion with A I asked him, “you want me to blow the top of your head off with a concept?”

A “sure!”

We should watermark the spots on each radio station and just detect the spots.

You see we don’t really care how many people listened to “Hotel California” by the Eagles. The advertisers don’t care. They don’t even really care about how many people heard their spot.  What they really want to know is how many people heard the spot and then made a purchase!

Yes, one spot is not how it happens.

Radio is a reach and frequency medium.  We help build images and awareness.  Hopefully we can build or be part of an overall effort to get a sponsor “top of mind awareness.”

Today I don’t need tires.

I might need one later this afternoon.  But right this very moment my tires are fine.

At this very moment I don’t need a plumber, a tow truck, a new mortgage, banking services, my house painted etc.

The question is “who will I think of when I do?”

I posit that our current ratings system is far from what we really need.

I could pontificate at great lengths about my concerns about “M Scores.”

In radio we are attempting to measure every song.

Why the H E double hockey sticks don’t we measure spots?

I have a strong hunch Julian Breen would say, “finally Mr. Hill a decent idea from you.”  BAM!

Why not measure spot reach and effectiveness at least in your local marketplace?

I have ideas on how it could be executed!  (Hint it’s not expensive and it will work!)

Are you a GM or GSM that wants to get started?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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CUTTING GOLF BALLS ON A BAND SAW

Grunge … and I don’t mean the rock style from Seattle!

I’ve spent all of my adult life trying to get folks to listen longer to radio stations.

That involves lots of things.  Improving music scheduling, morning shows, promotions, jingles, liners, commercials, the name of the station, the images of the station and more.

There is one thing I want to pontificate about because lots of radio stations do such a poor job with audio.

Lots of our general managers came from sales.  So, they are often at a big loss when the chief engineer comes into his or her office.  When that engineer says anything from “b minus voltage supply” to “lossless 16 bit stereo” they hear “ooga-booga”

Back in the 70’s when we actually played phonograph records on the air our audio was pretty good. That’s what we call “analog” audio.

The first quality automation systems used mp2 technology for the audio.  It is a digital method of storing and playback of audio. It’s also known as a “lossy” format.  Some of the information is lost when creating the playback audio.

Along the way other parts of the audio chain in radio stations have become digital.  Who wouldn’t want a digital stl (studio to transmitter link) to improve the audio?

Here’s the problem. If the entire pipeline of that audio isn’t the same digital scheme the audio gets changed in some very bad ways.

I heard lots of analogies from engineers to explain this.  I’ve heard meat grinders, train wrecks and buildings after earthquakes used to describe the resulting audio.

My favorite was from an engineer who explained it this way. Imagine two pitchers where one is empty and one is full of water.

Pour that water back and forth all day.  There are losses but that’s analog.  Now imagine those same two pitchers but this time one is full of golf balls. When you use the same digital compression scheme all the way thru its like pouring golf balls back and forth. It’s a perfect transfer.

However, many radio stations have a mix of mp2, uncompressed wav files, and some mp3s!  Now imagine taking those golf balls and cutting them on a band saw.  Then dump all of those pieces on the floor.  Now try to glue those pieces back together to be whole golf balls again.  There is loss because of the sawing of the band saw.  There are odd cuts.  Golf balls are reassembled haphazardly and very few are even close to perfect.

The resulting audio is gritty, grungy, edgy, and quite frankly unpleasant.

Yes, lots of listening takes place on small speakers on low quality radios but that’s not an excuse to make that audio even worse!

When our value is based on how many quarter hours of listening we get anything that degrades that is a serious mistake.  The audio on your station is a twenty four hour a day issue!

God forbid you need a new heart value.  You want a faulty one?  It’s cheaper!

You go for the correct and more expensive fix because your heart is a 24/7 thing that your life depends on.  Treat your radio stations audio the same way!

I hear lots of radio stations that have gone digital on some portion of their audio chain.  Then I hear a song that is truly grungy. Often I can tell it’s an mp3.

Years ago there was a reason to have those mp2s.  Hard drives were expensive back when we put those mp2s on the air.

Now those hard drives are very inexpensive.

Step one is to make sure every song is an uncompressed wav file.  Make sure every step in that audio chain is the same bit rate. Your audio will be wonderfully clean and your time spent listening will instantly go up.

Ask your PD and Chief Engineer to check every song!

Then make sure you have great music scheduling that tricks folks into listening even longer!

Optimize time spent listening.  Your ratings will be higher.  The same advertising schedules will reach more folks with even more impressions.  Your advertisers will get better results and higher ROI.  Advertisers will re-buy. You can drive your rates!

Uh…  More Demand = Higher Rates!

This isn’t a problem limited to small markets.  I’ve heard the worst audio in top 15 markets.  In fact there’s even one very poorly named country station in a Top 15 market I specifically make fun of and give my “worst audio in a major market award.”

Want help with better audio?  Better Music Scheduling?

Do you need better time spent listening or average time spent exposed?

Call someone who can fix it!

Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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CORE ARTISTS! (THE BIGGIES!)

CORE ARTISTS

Here’s a fun game you can play.  Grab a piece of paper and write down in order the most important core artist on your station. Rank them.

Now if you have research you can either have data from respondents to rank or give a 1 to 10 score of importance that artist has to them.  A one being not very important,  and a ten being I want to hear them the most.

Then go to your music software and look at the spins of these artists over the last 30, 60 or 90s days.  Are they the same?

There are ways to adjust them up or down to match what the research tells you are the desires and expectations.

These things effect not only the impression or images that the station holds in the mind of the listeners but help drive TSL / ATSE.

If an artist is playing too much give that artist a higher Artist Separation.  Or platoon rest a few titles.  You could consider packeting a few of the lesser titles or perhaps packets of the slow tempo titles.

If an artist isn’t playing enough consider reducing the artist separation.

Make sure there are enough titles by that artist to get the job done.  And if all else fails advantage the songs by that artist.  In some software its called percentage back and you put 75 in percentage back and when the song plays it doesn’t go all the way to the back of the stack order.  It goes three quarters of the way back.  Or 50% back would mean it will be half way back meaning it wont sit out a whole turn of the stack order.

In Musicmaster the field to use is Rotation Weight.  Musicmaster’s rotation weight is far superior to just percentage back limited to 100 or less.  In Musicmaster’s rotation weight it supports up to 999.  The number 200 would mean that a song would be twice the distance back in the stack, thus sitting out a lap of the race so to speak, and that 999 well that’s missing ten laps.  Perhaps that would be a good thing to do with a novelty song.

Tuning a music database for a radio station is akin to getting your blood just right. When you go to the doctor they take sample and you get a report on your good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, and a bunch of other things they hassle me about.

The blood analogy is a good one I think because your blood goes everywhere.  Blood travels to every organ of your body.  If your music isn’t quite right then your ratings will likely suffer in mornings, middays, afternoons, evenings, overnights and yes even on weekends and holidays.  Not Good.

There is literally a “panel” of things I look at when I tune up the music for a radio station to go win the Gold Medal in the Nielsen Olympics.  What medal does your station get?

 

Go For the Gold Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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RETURN EVERY CALL DAMN IT (aka No Wonder You’re Not Making More Money!)

No Wonder You’re Not Making More Money!

Recently I had a three and a half year contract come to an end.  I had some things to replace the business and income but not all of that has come to fruition.  So, I have dusted off my old selling skills.

A very good old friend of mine chastised me for not digging my well before I got thirsty.  He’s right.  I should have never let my Harvey Mackay skills get rusty.

So, I started smiling and dialing.

I didn’t realize that in the last few years that folks in business had increased their sales resistance so much.  More than that they really have lost the ethics and good business practices of returning phone calls and emails.

One old friend I called had been selling network programs to radio for 35 plus years.  He sold me a network program clearance in New York some 35 years ago!  Over time we have helped each other many times.  The stories he told me are frightening.  He told me about one VP of Programming of a chain that he has called 35 times with out even one returned courtesy call.

A mentor of mine gave me the quick General Manager course a long time ago.  I am going to recite it here and now to just plain help some folks.

#1 Rule Of Being A Radio Manager

COFFEE AND MBWA

 

Do you like coffee? Great!  (if not identify the beverage that you like and can walk around the building with)  Show up at 8am or before.  Remember you lead by example.  Get your coffee.  (or water, tea, Coke, Dr. Pepper, Diet Pepsi etc)  Now wander around the building.  If you have never been exposed to MBWA let me be your teacher. It stands for “Management By Wandering Around.”  When the on air light goes off in a studio… stick your head in and say “Hi.”  If you have a positive comment about a break or bit, go ahead and say, “love that bit about peanut butter!”

As you walk around you might be asked questions.  If you can answer and it’s not something you need to keep away from other ears go ahead and answer.  Otherwise just say come see me in my office at 9:45.  Then answer there.

Spend some office time with the door open.  Folks will drop by with questions.  Answer them. The truth is, we really only need managers to do ONE thing. Make decisions!

#2 Rule Of Being A Radio Manager

ANSWER QUESTIONS DAMN IT.

You’re greatest likelihood of failure will be your inability to make decisions.  Make up three, three by file cards.  On one write, “YES.”   On one write, “NO.”  And on the last one write, “IN SIX MONTHS.”

When you can’t come up with an answer reach into you top desk drawer and pick a card.  That’s better than punting.  If you want to increase the likelihood of your success throw away the “IN SIX MONTHS” card.

Make decisions DAMN IT!

#3 Rule Of Being A Radio Manager

NEVER EAT LUNCH AT YOUR DESK.

Always eat lunch but NEVER at your desk. Even if you are on your way to being Twiggy, order something small and take one bite. Lunch is about business.

One day every week take an employee to lunch and pay!

Ask them about how they are doing.  What resources they need to perform better.  Ask them about their lives.  Let them tell you about their kids or hobby. Eat, drink and keep your mouth occupied a lot.  Make eye contact and LISTEN.  Show them you care about them as a human being.

One day every week take an existing client to lunch and pay!

Thank them for their business.  Ask them how things are going.  Is there anything we can do better?  Eat, drink and keep your mouth occupied a lot.  Make eye contact and LISTEN.  (You notice a theme on this one right?)  Show them you care about them as a human being.

One day every week take a prospective client to lunch and pay!

Yes, you are not the account executive.  You let them know you are just being the Ambassador of the radio station. You can help answer questions and know how a well-executed marketing campaign will work.  The key is to listen to them and gather information. They will tell you why they are not yet advertising.  Shut your pie hole and LISTEN!  At the end of the lunch thank them for their time.

One day every week take a community influential to lunch and pay!

Have lunch with the mayor, city councilman, school board members, folks on the hospital board, local clergy, Chief of Police, Sheriff, folks who run the animal shelter, Superintendant of Schools etc. Enjoy your lunch.  Ask a few questions then eat, drink and shut your pie hole. You’ll learn more about your market.  You are the leader of this frequency, which is public space.  We are supposed to serve folks who live in marketplace.  The airwaves belong to them we just hold the license right now.

Lunch is your opportunity to build a bridge to your employees, clients, possible future clients and influential city leaders.  Good managers know that they often run into the same folks in a marketplace doing multiple things.  The person running the Chamber of Commerce owns a business that is one of your advertisers.  He or she is also on the bank board where you applied for a loan to get that translator you want.

The woman who is the Chairperson for the Susan G. Komen walk also owns a business that is a client of the radio station.

NEVER EAT LUNCH AT YOUR DESK.

#4 Rule Of Being A Manager

RETURN EVERY PHONE CALL MESSAGE

When you get back from lunch you will have mail and phone messages.

First, time for one more round of MBWA!!

Then back to the office.  Open and read all mail.

When it comes to mail use TRAF!

Trash, Route, Action, File.

The mail that is useless and a waste of your time throw in the trash.

Some things need to be routed.  You can simply write on the mailer about new fangled digital stl boxes “Vernon ???”   Put in the mailbox of your engineer Vern!

The mail that hits your desk that causes something to be done by you goes into an action pile. These are the mailings where you need to make a call, write an email, or write a letter.  Then make those calls, write those emails, or write those letters.

File.  This is the stuff that you might need. Things from the FCC, leases, agreements, contracts, even a flier from a tower painting company.  You might not need tower painting right now but when you do you’ll have materials with offers from vendors.

A filing system isn’t a filing system.  It needs to be a retrieval system.  If you can’t find something you need from a file in 30 seconds you have a poor filing system.  Even that flier about tower painting think where might look for it  I write on it  “TOWER”  “PHYSICAL PLANT” “TRANSMITTER”  “FCC.”   Then I make 4 copies of it.  I place one in the “Tower” file, one in the “Physical Plant” file, one in the “Transmitter” file and one in the “FCC” file.  You might think I’m nuts.  But, I don’t waste time finding things.

In the electronic world it’s easy to create folders both on your computer, a copy on your thumb drive and a cloud drive.  Even with these kinds of files I make multiple copies of documents and put them in electronic folders with several names.  So when I have a research pdf I want to keep I place copies in “MUSIC”  “RESEARCH” and “CALL OUT.”  I don’t waste time looking for things.  I find them!

Now return every call. You have messages and recorded phone messages from callers.  Call everyone back on those pink “while you were out” slips.  You never know when there is a thirty thousand dollar order for a farm implement company just being phoned in.

You may think sales calls are a waste of your time but in the one minute elevator speech the person on the phone may tell you how their service can save you $900 a year on something you currently pay for.  They might also point out that they can deliver it at a higher quality for that lower price.

I have a GM who does just this.  One afternoon he called me and asked me if I had ever heard of a particular vendor.  He then told me of the price they had for something we were about to purchase.  Their price was a lot less than a vendor I had recommended.  I now recommend the one he pointed out to me. He takes calls.  He returns calls.  I can tell you he’s kind for about a minute.  After that if you waste his time he will shred you with some strong language. But he takes calls and he returns calls.

RETURN EVERY PHONE CALL MESSAGE.

In the afternoon do another round of MBWA.  Leave your door open and answer questions from the folks who come in. If you don’t know what to do consult the decision cards in your top desk drawer.

Please don’t leave until 5:30pm or 6pm.  Work.  Talk with your people. Coach your people.  Listen to your sellers at the end of the day. Empathize with them. Celebrate their victories. “At a boys” are a reason to be a manager.  This is the short course.  In GM 201 I cover the roles you can play.  One big one is “cheerleader!”  For those big or tall male managers just the thought of you donning a grass skirt and pompoms is a vision that makes it worth it.

One company I work with recently had a managers meeting and as part of the lead up there is a company wide sales meeting.  I saw a video of the VP of the company standing on chairs leading the sales folks to the dance of YMCA.  Other than he was standing on chairs, (don’t want anyone to get hurt especially a manager who positively cheerleads!) he was being a companywide cheerleader! He was having fun and showing them without saying the actual words, “work hard but for gosh sakes have FUN!”

Have fun!  Drink Coffee!

Wander Around!

Make Decisions!

Take People To Lunch Everyday!

Return Every Phone Message!

I realize managers are busy.  I see the folly of having a manager oversee multiple clusters in a region.  Often I hear the number one problem is they can’t find qualified sellers.  Did you ever think about what would happen to the experienced seller who just moved to you area who just dialed the station and said I want to talk to the General Manager?

I hear lots of radio stations where I could fix their music, morning shows, positioning and help them make hundreds of thousand of dollars more.  There are even stations that have one kid running the music computer for five stations.  In a quick call I could offer a solution that improves their music AND saves them money.  But because mine is a “sales” call they don’t have time.

They are stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.

I’ll keep calling because the folks who do take the call will get the deal, the improvements and increased top line cash flow.

If I don’t call you, feel free to test me and see if I return calls.  (Hint… I do!)

Keith Hill 252-453-8888

Many of you are digging a hole this way

When you could be

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GOOD, BETTER, BEST, MOST, BIGGER, LOUDER, FUNNIER and #1 The WOW FM! uh a radio station so good you almost don’t deserve it.

Positioning Of Radio in 2018

Jack Trout and Al Reis all taught us so much about “Positioning.”

In the world of brands we all have mental ladders.  When I say “toothpaste” how many can you name?

Crest, Colgate, uh… maybe you get to Pepsodent.  I’ll bet you didn’t get to Gleem!

Ok let’s do Fast Food Pizza brands go!  Pizza Hut, Dominos, Little Ceasars, Papa Johns, and because I came up with Papa John’s I can tack on Papa Murphy’s.  That’s only five.  Imagine what happens to the local places in the Pizza wars.

If your fortunate enough to operate the only rock station, or only chr station, or only country station then good for you.

If you operate the only rock station … you can be Rock 109 and that’s a good place.

You do realize that when someone picks a fight with you they are going to pick a narrower-lane. You might get a New Rock station or Classic Rocker as a competitor.  They might reposition you as wimpy and utilize the slogan “Classic Rock That Really Rocks.”

Your competitor is “#1 For New Country.”  Ok we know what lane they think is the most valuable.  Do they hammer it?  Do the own it in the minds of the folks in the marketplace?

Then there are the positioners that don’t mean as much anyway.  “Hot Country 101.”  Well the word “Hot” is a tofu word that you better apply some valuable attributes and meaning to!

Music quantity isn’t as strong an attribute as it used to be.  I can tell you that radio listeners today think we all lie and that every radio station says they play the “most” country, rock, hit music, Hip & Hop, Old Skool and R&B.

There are some meaningful ways to make music quantity an important wedge you can use against a competitor, but you better be able to truthfully demonstrate it. Otherwise just putting a t-shirt that says “I’m Skinny” on a fat man isn’t going to work.

Music quality. If two stations are fighting with one as “Big Townville’s Best Music” and the competitor is “Your Hit Music Leader.”  Both are wasting a lot of valuable time saying “blah blah blah.”  Because that’s what the listeners are really hearing!

Radio stations that are truly positioned well will assault the market in several ways.  First, they will say their position over and over and never stop.  They will find clever ways to reinforce the position other than just saying it a lot.  They will collaterally support it with visuals. (Print, Web, TV, Billboards, Direct Mail etc) They might even do a promotion around the positioner to poke you in the eyes and ears to make it even more memorable.

Hint, sometimes the best position isn’t as sexy or clean as you might want it to be.  It has to be right.  There is nothing wrong with a screwdriver but if your trying to drive a nail you’ll be better off with a hammer.

Then there is knowing what’s right but poorly executing it.

Ever try to cut a birthday cake with a 2 by 4 piece of wood?

You crush a lot of cake and it doesn’t cut that well.  You motion is correct but the tool is blunt.

A knife is needed.

Is your positioning right?

Let me help you. My positioner is I am The UnConsultant.

I think most consultants want your money more than rolling up their sleeves to figure out the exact custom solution to your radio stations challenges.  Consultants tell you how they did it in Denver, Seattle, or Miami.  I don’t’ give a rip.  How are we going to get it done here in your market?

I reinforce my positioner with “I Build Successful Radio Brands.”

Lastly, in my arsenal of skills I coach air talent, develop promotions, analyze Nielsen and help develop overall plans and oversee their execution for ratings growth, but my #1 skill is I am “The World’s Leading Authority On Music Scheduling.”  Arrogantly I can state that I am.  It took 30 plus years but I know more about it than anyone.  I’ve studied it. Taught it.  By the way when you teach something you get really good at it!

Is your positioning right?   Is your music right?   (oh Lord, Is your music position right?)

If you don’t know you can find out from someone who does.

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888

Get Your Music Right.

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Music Shenanigans (When the Elephants Fight The Ants Take a Beating!)

Music Shenanigans

There is a guy in Nashville who has put together an algorithm to predict how well country songs do on the charts.  There is a lot to it.  It’s very smart.  It will be somewhat predictive.  Funny part is he already has identified there are outliers.  If the entire system of labels releasing songs, promoting songs and tracking them on charts was purely mechanical then his algorithm would be more predictive and not have as many outliers.

Might I suggest there is a lot behind the curtain that most folks don’t know.

How many stations on one of the charts does iheart own?   How many on the other chart are owned by Cumulus?

We do see iheart “initiatives” where all of the country stations play a new release once an hour all day long.

Let me share a little secret with you.  That really spikes a record on the chart!

Funny thing is you see the record pop way up into the 30s or even 20s on the chart.  However, after the mandate to play the song hourly is over the song settles way back.

There is also the Monte Hall aspect of charts.  Let’s make a deal.  “You can drop my poorly testing Superstar song and use that slot to add my new Midline Act.”  As if the label owns the “slot” on your station.

Then there is the “we’d like to support your play of this superstar act with tickets, meet and greets and a fly away.” Pause half-second.  “Can we count on you being there for us on the “new song that we are heavily investing in?”

Whoops “this bag full of American Express gift cards just slipped out of my hands.”

This is “legal” because I never used the words “in exchange for.”

Funny that during my music calls with radio stations on a weekly basis I have to identify certain songs as songs that have had some kind of manipulation to them.

Look at the second page of the chart.  (25-50 or 31-60)  How is when most songs get 1,2,3,4 stations to add a song in their 15thweek.  One song has a gigantic add week with 14 adds?

Really 14 stations all organically came to the conclusion that this turtle on the chart was thee song to add?  All in the SAME WEEK?

Now, I do not want to besmirch every label and every record professional.  There are some  honest folks and ethical operations.

I really like the “concept” that there would be an algorithm to predict how far a record would go on the charts.

For those of you without a consultant or VP of programming to help you might I suggest you look at daytime spins only!  Or if you don’t have to tools to do that… simply lose page two of the charts.

However, as one of the folks who has been observing this game for 40 years, I feel like the old baseball scout that mumbles, “steroids” or “he’s juiced” or “I won’t believe it till we get our own doctor to do the MRI.”

With human intelligence and years of experience I have in my head an algorithm that will work. When you know about the label plan to torpedo the song by the superstar that isn’t testing well AND know about the army of promo people from that same label are on the phones calling every station saying you can drop the superstar because “we need adds on newbie.”  I can guess the direction of each song on the charts.

One other thing I am seeing right now and I’ll admit I don’t have it all figured out.  There is a glut of newbies.  Right now I resort to one of the oldest saws in business.

When the elephants fight the ants take a beating!

I conduct weekly calls with my stations and they get real intelligence regards what’s real and what the Shenanigans are.

Is your music right?

Get Your Music Right.          

Call The World’s Leading Authority On Music Scheduling

Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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