Tag Archives: country radio consultant

COUNTRY RADIO SEMINAR 2019   50TH YEAR!!!!   AKA WHAT’S WRONG WITH COUNTRY?

COUNTRY RADIO SEMINAR 2019   50THYEAR!!!!   AKA WHAT’S WRONG WITH COUNTRY?

I love country radio seminar.  I’ve been to a lot of ‘em.

Me and Martina before I said “tomato”

Tom McEntee and those folks who helped create the seminar had a great idea.  Country can be a strong format by embracing the labels, artists and sharing information and intel.

The Motto was and remains “Growth Through Sharing.”

Easy for anyone to say the agenda may not be what we need.  In fact I know they have tried to address the input that “there needs to be more for small market folks.”

Here are thee most important things that won’t be discussed in any session.

Those would be:

Charts Are Useless

The charts are virtually useless because of the large numbers of stations from the same companies.  Then those companies play the same new songs all in unison.  It’s the New Payola.  Two major corporations make a deal.  The big label group gets major chain to play the same new record multiple spins a day on the same days.  In exchange that group gets valuable promotional trips to give away to see one of the labels other major superstar acts.

The New Payola

The New Payola warps the charts and creates worse product for radio airplay.  It’s in the labels best interest to keep cranking out new acts that get streamed.  It’s immediate cash.  Protecting the Mount Rushmore Superstars isn’t something the labels worry about.  Those stars make more money from touring.  The labels don’t’ get much of that pie.  That’s why the labels do more to create a Russell Dickerson than to keep a Luke Bryan at a high profile level.

Who?  Nameless Faceless Acts

This chart and label combination is the cradle and incubator of creating many more nameless and faceless artists. They manufacture their careers via artificially trumped up played singles.  Radio needs stars much more than it needs songs.

Is This Even Country?

The strength of country has always been the excellent and robust song writing community. Then their fine material gets recorded.  Have we stretched the production rubber band past its breaking point?  I think what can be presented as country can be quite wide but now more than ever radio has listeners complaining about the music saying, “that ain’t country.”  I am not suggesting we dust off Hank Sr. and Ernest Tubb.  What I am suggesting is that there needs to be a production discussion.  The problem seems to be the streaming revenue model will never reflect what radio needs.  So revenue from streaming is more than just a competitor for time it pulls the product further away from what radio needs.

Radio Could Be Better – Two Things Scream For Attention

Radio is a local medium.  The concept of voice tracking from outside of the market feeds the transmitter but leaves a lot not done.  Who is cutting the ribbon at the remote opening the new cell phone store?  Who is at the high school tailgate party?  If the highest profile personalities are from four states away they can’t do these things.  Let alone describe the weather, road closures, or things that are happening in that local marketplace.

Partly because there are fewer local radio announcers there is less time to write and produce quality commercials.  Radio (Country Radio and all formats) run awful commercials.  Poorly conceived, poorly written and produced with about as much care as taking out the garbage.

Our big problems are USELESS CHARTS, THE NEW PAYOLA, STREAMING HAS LED TO FACELESS ACTS, A LOSS OF AN IDENTIFIABLE COUNTRY SOUND, VOICE TRACKING, AND AWFUL SPOTS.

Sure could use a robust industry discussion on these topics.

The CRB Board isn’t interested in my voice.  Why I actually share and tell uncomfortable truths.  I’m politically incorrect.  And the folks who run the CRS are political and politically correct.  If they let Keith Hill have a voice why he’ll say that we actually play 15% women and then say the word “tomato.”   God Forbid!

Keith Hill

252-453-8888

unconsult@aol.com

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Does Radio Do This?

DOES RADIO DO THIS?

A guy who is an excellent production director I work with emailed me this clip of Steve Jobs and asked me the question.. “isn’t this was radio is doing?”

Steve Jobs looking at Xerox claims that they could have been the biggest thing in computers. The problem was the successful folks in sales were running the company.  They sold copiers.  They sold toner.  They were called “toner heads.”  She when they came in and saw the new computer technology they didn’t know what they were looking at.

Jobs claims that XEROX tripped up when the product development folks weren’t valued or given enough voice to the destiny of the company the sales guys caused the ills that prevented them from growth.

Does Radio Do This?

steve jobs on why xerox failed

Keith Hill

252-453-8888

unconsult@aol.com

 

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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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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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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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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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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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