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Is this PAYOLA?

Isn’t payola when the radio station in exchange for airplay of a record accepts something of value?

Wouldn’t getting the act to play at a concert for the stations be something of value?

Has anyone gotten a “free” Tenille Townes concert performance without having to play the record?

Could it be that all 52 iHeart stations want to play the Tenille Townes song “Somebody’s Daughter?”

Might one or two of those stations have a PD, MD or Brand Manager who felt it might not be a song that “fits” their station’s sound and strategy?

Did Columbia offer iHeart Tenille Townes for their iHeart Country Music Festival May 4thfor FREE without the promise of airplay?

Or was there an understanding?    Was there an agreement?   Was in done in the shadows?

Are there emails?     Is this payola?    Or am I wrong and it’s just benevolence and a coincidence that 52 stations ALL played it at the same time?

Or was it very above board and legal?

Were there agreements, invoices, 1099’s and taxes paid?

Was the deal or agreement disclosed with every play of the song on the air?

Have you noticed all I have is questions?

Keith Hill ?





Look For The Simple Solution or Simple Answers

Look For The Simple Solution or Simple Answers

I’m amazed at how often folks make things much more complicated than they need to be.

Four and a half years ago I said “tomato” at a radio industry conference and for the past four years, not a lot has changed.

Here’s an inventory of what has changed.

Marissa Moss writes a lot of articles complaining about the plight of women in country music.

I pointed out an easy to count metric.

Why Dr. Jada Watson took over $50,000 to sit and run Mediabase reports that folks in radio have already run. Then she published them as a so called, “Research Study.”

Marissa Moss has written even more articles complaining.

Tracy Gershon, Beverly Keel, and Leslie Fram have not changed the conversation, they have just had more of it.

Emily Yahr has done what Marissa Moss has done.

The Grammy Awards are voted on by industry elites that are disconnected from the real folks listening to the radio.

A substantial portion of those votes are cast from Europe.

In Europe, they hate mainstream country.  They LOVE the esoteric country music.

Going to Concerts is a dramatically different kind of event than listening to free radio.

When you go to a concert and pay you tell yourself “I’m having a good time and enjoy this” otherwise you feel bad about the expenditure.

Marissa Moss has written even more articles.

I have nothing against the women in the country music industry but, they think I am a big part of the gender imbalance.  Uh NOPE!

The simple answer is that radio airplay is not connected to awards and festivals.

The simple answer is the songs on the radio and the spins they get are because of the response of primarily female listeners.

The simple answer is this is a FREE MARKET issue.

Now Marissa Moss will write even more articles on the topic.

The simple truth is Marshal McLuhan was right.  Which means we’re in for even more articles about this gender inequity in radio air-play.

At the 5 year anniversary of “tomato gate,” nothing will have changed except…

Marissa Moss will write even more articles.


Maybe someone from iHeart will email me.. is Tenille Townes – Somebody’s Daughter not “One The Verge” Anymore?????


Marissa Moss are you paying attention?  Dr. Watson?


Keith Hill

unconsult@aol.com    252-453-8888

Charts Can Be Deceiving!

Charts Can Be Deceiving

Welcome back to class folks.  This is the place for FREE WORLDWIDE CLASSES in Understanding Country Music Radio, Charts , and The Play of Females on Country Radio.

So far I have maintained that country radio plays songs more when they test well and less or not at all when they test poorly. For the most part that is true. However, there are times radio stations play songs that they are told to play!


Let me explain.  Everyone knows what payola is.  First, it’s illegal for a radio programmer to take something of value in exchange for airplay.  So to be clear, what I am going to write about is not payola.  Plus, ever since Elliott Spitzer caught some programmers about to get big screen televisions for playing records, that practice has stopped.  In fact, the record labels have lawyers who make sure the labels activities are in compliance.  Every email you ever get from a record label will have that “legal-eze” below the person’s email signature.  Something like, “Note: Nothing of value was given or will be given to a radio station or radio station employee in exchange for airplay.”

I happened to agree with Scott Borchetta, “Music Has Value.” There are good and honest hard working folks who promote music to radio.  Promoting music to radio is a legitimate enterprise.

Welcome to 2019.  There are some new things at work. 

I’m going to assume that all of you have completed, “Music On Radio 101, 201, 301” because foundationally, a lot of this grows out of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  That’s a law that essentially addressed the telephone industry.  However, it did have a line or two about ownership of radio stations that changed the radio industry a bunch.

Fast forward to today.  The Mediabase charts that Dr. Jada Watson and all of us look at have some important metrics that you need to know.  The Country Mediabase panel is comprised of 156 radio stations. 52 of them are owned by iHeartMedia Inc.  That’s about one third of that panel.  So if those iHeart programmers all like a record, it can do pretty well.

Sometimes these PD/MD/Brand Managers play songs they don’t want to.


Well they do want to play them because they want to keep their jobs.  So, truthfully your honor, they did want to play them.

It’s easy to appreciate that iHeartMedia corporate does things that are helpful to the individual stations.  Certainly, a big festival in Austin on May 4thwould be a great event to have to promote, broadcast from, and send listeners to.  Plus it’s in the very middle of the Nielsen rating period.  So, if you’re the brand manager of an iHeartMedia station, you love this kind of corporate support.

Those programmers certainly have no problem playing Tim McGraw, Florida-Georgia Line, Dan + Shay, and Luke Combs records to support the show.  In fact, playing more of those artists will help you in the ratings for sure!

Someone at iHeartMedia corporate had to work with the labels to get all of this done.  It’s not hard to believe that a label or two would say… ,“we will give you a new act of ours for your show.”  The label knows in turn they will get plays of this new artist as part of the promotion on iHeartmedia stations.  Imagine for a moment Columbia Records saying to iHeart, “we have a terrific new female from Canada who is huge up there already and we want to break her in the states.  We will send her to play your festival in Austin at no cost to iHeart, and in turn we hope that you will support her with on-air plays and mentions.” 

The iHeart executive says, “great.”  “Yes, I can’t make any measurable or specific promises, but we like to use our brands (stations) to promote our festival.  So, we will encourage our stations to play her record.  In fact, we have an internal term for that.  We call those acts “on the verge.”  So, you can be confident of our selfish efforts to promote the festival.

The deal is done.  The record label offers the act without the specific promise of anything in return.  They just want the exposure of the act.  They also hope and believe that stations will play the new act’s record to promote the festival.

iHeart gets a terrific new female to add to the festival.  That’s the definition of a WIN-WIN!

Now imagine you’re programming a meaningful iHeart station that carries some pretty good weight on the Mediabase panel.  You get a friendly email from iHeart corporate programming that states you need to play Tenille Townes – Somebody’s Daughter 40 spins every week for the next couple of weeks.  The email says, “it’s our On The Verge act and Tenille will be at the Festival May 4th! Thanks in advance for all your hard work in building equity into this very important iHeart Country Music Festival. See You There!”

If you check records in Mediabase, those 52 iHeart stations comprise about 20% to 30% of the plays and audience impressions on most songs (songs by Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood etc.).

Because of their benevolence, Columbia Records in turn gets a nice reward.

Those 52 iHeartmedia stations all play Tenille Townes. And not just play the song, but spin it at levels similar to those of power testing top 10 charting songs.

 The result is that those 52 iHeart stations today comprise 74% of the spins and 80% of the audience reach and impressions for Somebody’s Daughter by Tenille Townes. 

 (That means the other 104 stations are contributing 20%-25% of the plays on the Townes record.  They don’t have a festival to promote!  However iHeartmedia does!)

So, when regular folks look at the charts and see Tenille Townes at 30, they think, “wow this must be a good record with that station count.”  A cursory look at a few stations (WNOE, WYNK, KSD, WQIK, WDXB, WBUL, WDRM, WSSL, WCOS, KTEX, KXKT, WBBS, WBCT), and they are giving the song an eye popping 25 to 40 spins a week!

The truth is there is tremendous bias to play Tenille Townes. 

I wonder if more than 10% of those iHeart stations would play it were it not for the “on the verge” email from corporate?  I suspect that without the “on the verge” initiative, the spin counts would not be that robust.

Hey, let’s check that record after the Festival is over. They might continue to play it in support of an “after-glow” and “celebrate the Festival after the promotion.”  The real test will be what happens two, three and four weeks from now.  If the Townes record continues to climb, then Columbia will have done a righteous job.  They will have primed the pump of success.  After that initial advantage of exposure, the song might organically take off.   IF that happens, we will have a new face with more equity.  Check back in upcoming weeks, because I will check for you!

Because Dr. Jada Watson based a big “study” on Mediabase charts, she needs to understand that some of those chart positions are less than organic and natural.

Written by Adjunct Professor Keith Hill with a BA in real world experience. (Beware of folks with a Doctorate in Musicology who have never worked in radio and never added even one record!)

iHeartmedia is the parent of iHeartradio, and went through Bankruptcy Protection.

Class is in Session – Lesson “Carrie Underwood”

Class is in session! You do a job long enough you learn a few things. So we know 2, 6 and 11 are bad numbers for record promoters.

When country radio today gets a new record from Carrie Underwood we are BIASED in favor of playing it. WHY? Because she is a superstar with equity. Her face is on the Mt. Rushmore of Country Music Stars.

Cry Pretty never tested very well. Capitol fought that one hard. It was the title cut from the new album. They channeled their best Monte Hall and got that song to #9. It was a heavy lift. Then came Love Wins. It also tested uh… less than Capitol would have liked. But we played the song because it was Carrie. Their job as record promoters is to “promote” and they did but fell short and the song will forever be a #11.

I’m sure we all have great faith in Southbound. To me it is sonically better. Even the very biggest female in the format get bias in her favor but the songs didn’t test well enough to get the songs to above 11 and 10 respectively.

Next class will be about newcomer Tenille Townes.

This is me way back in Seaford, Delaware when 1280 WSUX (that’s right WSUX-AM) was country. It was a day time only station and in the summer was on the air till 8:45pm. That gave me an after school summer job. They made me music director. This was 1976. Red Sovine -Teddy Bear which I added was on the air. I knelt down because I wanted it to capture the studio equipment in the picture. Adjunct Professor Keith Hill with a BA in real world experience. (Beware of folks with a Doctorate in Musicology who have never worked in radio and never added even one record!)

Dan + Shay “Speechless”

Just so you know.  I will remove the tape and keep talking!!!!!!

Coming soon more lessons about Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Tenille Townes records.  I did not say “payola” .. I whispered  “new payola.”

Keith Hill




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.


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




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       



This blog is going to be FUN!

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


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!




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