Tag Archives: muisc logs

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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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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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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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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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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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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9  Minute Stop Sets?

9  Minute Stop Sets?

What’s the right length of stopsets in music radio today?

Whey back in the 80s Dave Klahr was manager at WMID in Atlantic City.

Dave had taken the time to figure out how much it cost us to run the radio station every hour of the day.  Electricity, staff, water bill, portion of expected capital improvements, AP bill, typewriter ribbons etc.  In a more macro view the cost of Programming, Engineering, Sales, General and Administrative.

How do I know this? One time I wanted to buy a 3 hour Frank Sinatra special.  It cost $300.  Dave said NO! His issue was he wanted me to work with the sales manager to figure out how we would make our money back.

I think today some radio stations sell spots at a rate lower than it costs for us to produce and broadcast them.

Does anybody sell tires for less than it costs to make them?  Does anyone sell carpeting for less than it costs to produce it?

Now you’re thinking the title of this article indicates that this is about length of spot sets. Yes, it is!

My point is there are two issues.  One, the radio station needs to make money.  At first we need to cover the nut (cover our expenses) then produce some top line gravy (profit).

Stops sets have been growing longer because our business hasn’t been rate aggressive enough. The big sins we are committing are we are abusing both our advertisers and our listeners.

We invite and try to entice folks to listen to our free radio product.  The only cost to them is that they are exposed to some advertising.  The candy they come for is music, music, music, music, music, fun and information in the mornings, companionship, a distraction from a tough day, new music discovery and perhaps the fun and chance of winning a prize.  How many minutes of commercial messages will they put up with before they sour and tune out?

There have been many studies.  Our largest broadcast companies have said that there is research that says folks defect the moment a first commercial starts so we are better off with fewer stop sets.  I get that.  The result of that with the granularity of the Nielsen PPM measurement has led us to the two “bow tie” stop sets at 15 and 45.  Then in order to get the revenue we need, (to cover the nut and make that top line gravy) the stop sets have grown to 6, 7, 8 minutes or more.

My claim is that’s sort of like eating breakfast, lunch and dinner all at once.

If these longer clustered stop sets were such a great idea why not just have all commercials 9am till noon then the rest of the day commercial free?  Well that doesn’t work to get commercial messages and impressions in the afternoon or evening.

Plus we want to reach them with multiple messages to build a top of mind awareness.  We do want them to work right?

Let’s think about an eight minute stop set that starts with a quick announcement that the new song by Florida George Line called Simple is next on Country 109.  Then:

60 Seconds for Hill Chevrolet.  The spot talks about how Hill Chevrolet is your family.  They take care of you for life.  There are two audio cuts of satisfied customers.

60 Seconds for Bob’s Furniture.  Bob personally talks about making the room you spend the most time in wonderful.  A comfortable couch or recliner is what you live for.  You’ll have friends and family over and this is where the main entertaining takes place. It’s where you watch football, dancing with the stars and more.  Bob explains how they’ve been in the furniture business for 78 years.

60 Seconds for Taco Bell.  The new Doritos Loco Taco for a limited time.  Plus their new “hungry box” for just $5.99.  The biggest coldest drinks, the freshest tacos and that super Doritos Flavor.  There is some yelling and screams of we believe are joy!

60 Seconds for Bank of Our Town.  Free, Hassle Free Checking. They explain how the other banks rip you off.  They literally suggest that Big Bank Company uses three shells and a pea. They feature bold laughter showing how the other Big Bank is laughing at you.  They repeat how easy and convenient Bank of Our Town is and come get the Free, Hassle Free Checking.

60 Seconds for Mosquito Joes.  Local franchise owner Tom Simpson explains how he used Mosquito Joes and it worked so well he bought a franchise here.  It works.  It helps make your backyard mosquito and pest free.  He explains how its safer and better for your family because folks and kids get diseases like West Nile Virus this time of year from mosquito bites. He gives a web site and phone number.

60 Seconds for Jack’s Steak House.  We are treated to a discussion between two buddies talking about where one can take his wife for their anniversary.  The other buddy suggests three or four restaurants that they dismiss. Finally he says, “I know” and proceeds to describe the best steaks, seafood, and service he’s ever experienced.  And they have the best wine selection in town!  It ends with Mr. Anniversary saying, “I’m gonna make a reservation at Jack’s!” The phone number is given three times.

60 Seconds for Tower Honda.  A fast talking spot about financing, great deals, there are prices and models mentioned like one that is just $299 a month another that is $320 a month.  We are told to hurry over three times during the spot. And if you don’t know where it is, it’s under the big water tower, Tower Honda.  “Hurry Over” is reprised one more time.

Then a 30 second spot for Jim’s Bait and Tackle.  We are told that the fish are bitin’ and the weather is fine.  We’ve been waiting all winter to get out on the lake.  Jim’s has the bait and advice to catch the big ones.  Jim’s, right next to the docks on East Lake.  And don’t forget Jim has gas!

Then 30 seconds of weather.  The Country 109 weather jingle plays.  We announce, “This weather brought to you by Verizon with six convenient locations in Anytown drop by today and get a new iphone 10 with unlimited talk and text for just $40 a month, clear and sunny and a high of 83 today, tonight some clouds but no rain expected anywhere in Anytown right now its 80 at Anytown Airport, 81 at the bus station and 82 at East Lake. Now Another 30 minutes of the Best Country in Anytown let’s kick it off with that new one from Florida Georgia Line, Simple on Country 109.” (Tag Sing “Country 109”)

Now at this precise point even if you remember Jack’s restaurant I’d bet you couldn’t come up with that phone number that was repeated three times.  There will be another blog from me about bad spots but for now the question is how many spots can we cluster and still have them work for the clients AND not drive our listeners to hit seek or scan or another preset?

Now lets think about our listeners.  First, we do need quality teases in front of the spot sets.  When I hear things like “Zac Brown Band next on Country 109” I think that’s like going fishing with an un-baited hook.  A baited hook is more like… “Coming up in 3 minutes the new song from the Georgia band that features eat and greets backstage before their shows and their new song is now all the way up to the top 20.”

My next question is why the heck do we sell 60 second spots?  Let’s say we offered a rate card that said 30-second commercials on Country 109 are $100.  Sixty-second commercials are $300.  If there are folks who simply have to have sixty seconds then they are available.  My hunch is they would work with a creative agency or us to craft effective thirty-second commercials.

Now are stop sets would be shorter! Not sure it’s an on air positioner but “Country 109 home of shorter stop sets because we only sell 30 second commercials.”

It surely would be strong for our account executives to be able say, “on Country 109 we never stop for more than two minutes or four sponsor message sets.”

Why are your commercials more expensive?  Several reasons.  First, we don’t throw you in with 6,7,8, or 9 other messages. Second, by being in shorter stop sets you stand out more, listeners are more likely to notice and remember you. We also spend a full two weeks working on the creative.  We have several meetings inside the station and with you tweaking it and tuning it so it will work.  We also refuse to sell schedules that don’t have the reach and frequency to work.  We won’t sell you a bus ticket that drops you off in the middle of nowhere and still 20 miles from your destination.

I worked at stations in the 80s that promised 51 or 52 minutes of music every hour.  That meant that there were 8 or 9 minutes of commercials.  With eight it would be possible to have just 2 stop sets of four minutes.  Now there you might want to offer some 60-second spots for sale at a price that just a little more than twice that of a thirty second spot. With nine minutes you could do three spot sets of three minutes each.  I feel strongly that works better for the advertisers AND listeners.

Now that you’re at the end of reading this… what was the phone number to Mosquito Joes?  or Jack’s steak house?   We let advertisers do useless waste of time things in spots.  We also let them run equally bad spots that they don’t even know aren’t very good.

Worse, do you know what is a good an effective spot when you read the copy or hear it?  IF not that is something you need to learn too. I’ll be writing about that more soon.   That’s a tease for this blog.  Keep Checking Back Here for the free Cocaine in the School Yard.  I’ll get you addicted.

Want Answers? Want Better Ratings?  Want Higher Revenues?

Get Results Call –  Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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Music Meetings … Time & MATH!

Music Meetings … Time & MATH!

(Alternate Title)  It’s Summer Let’s Go Surfing USA!

I often dust off old stories.  Way back in the 80s at KHEY AM & FM in El Paso my music director was John Hunter.  John was smarter than me.  He had a ear for music.  John was good at picking hit records.

As I recall our weekly routine,  Monday was a clean up from the weekend day.

Tuesday was air check day.  Air checks with each full time talent.  We also reviewed their production.

Wednesday was Music day.  In the morning we listened to new music.  new singles, album cuts and various things we had found.

We reviewed charts, we did our own call out. At night we had young folks dial out and play hook tapes and fill in Scantron forms.  I’d run the forms and crunch the numbers.

We’d make our music moves and adds.  Then we put them into the music scheduling software.  If I remember correctly the computer had an intel i386 processor.

John and I made our changes, made our adds, and got everything ready to schedule.  Then we’d hit schedule to schedule a week of music.  We’d then leave for a nice lunch.  Our favorite place was Kiki’s right there on Piedras street not far from the station.  We took our time because if we came back to soon the computer would still be scheduling.

When we finally made it back it was time to review the log and fill unscheduled positions.

Then we took music calls from 2 till 4pm.  The record folks had their own number to reach us.  They didn’t have to go through the receptionist.  We had a phone jack and phone right there in the music room.  At 2pm we plugged in the phone and it started ringing.  At 4pm we wrapped up our last call and unplugged the phone.

Sure we’d call back folks who called the general number and left a message but they were not our priority.  We had a good relationship with our regional record folks.  At Christmas John and I used to thank them listing all the things they had done for us during the year.  Then we told them they each had “3 gimmes.”  Three times during the year we would add or make a rotation change to help them out.  And we kept score.  We had one rep used all three in January alone!

By the way Friday was promo day.  Liners, promos, promotions, imaging, production and paperwork for whatever promotions were going on.  Weekends tended to have a promotion or theme and that was checked for perfection before execution.

My least favorite was early in the week there was a managers meeting.  They droned on because there were a couple of folks who were part of our management team that liked to vent. After I complained about it our GM did put a different department head in charge of each weekly meeting.  When it was my turn I did stand up meetings and brought a stopwatch.  If the business manager wanted to vent I have the topic 5 minutes.

My key point is that music got it’s own full day of attention.

The decisions were thoughtful.  Songs were actually listened to and evaluated.

John and I knew that we had to establish new songs.  Place them in clocks where they could be pre sold.  We created and ran imaging pieces for new artists and songs. Then we always looked at the number of weeks we had played the songs in C rotation and the number of plays they had.  We had set minimums before a song could advance to B.  The same with a minimum number of weeks and plays in B before we would consider a possible move up to A.

Combined with research and we posted up book after up book.

I’m not going to reveal the metrics here. I’m just seeding your brain with the thought that there are measurable data points from which to make music decisions.  Yes, there is art and feeling that it part of it too.  The great news is that Musicmaster can create some wonderful reports I used to do by hand.  Oh, I can now schedule a week of music in just a few minutes. That Kiki’s lunch today would be a working lunch today!

If you move a song up too fast you drive the “unfamiliarity” of your music.  That will hurt your ratings.  If you are too slow you risk-playing songs longer than your audience wants to hear them.  There is a sweet spot between familiar and burn that is much like riding a wave while surfing.  If you’re too early or late it can mean wipeout or loss of momentum.

If you don’t know the music metrics (and there really are minimum spins/weeks that really work to build ratings.)

Call Keith Hill 253-453-8888

Get Your Music Right!     

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To Day-part or Not To Day-part That is Today’s Question

Some programmers are big fans of dayparting and have lots of them and on lots of songs.  There are good thoughtful reasons.  Long songs can be tough in mornings. Sometimes an extreme edge of the format can more safely be exposed at night.  There are CHR and HOT HOT AC stations that are more adult by day and more youthful in appeal at night.  Then there can be the question, “do you really want that 35 year old mom driving back from parent teacher night unhappy with here favorite radio station because its clearly different at night?”

Then there is dayparting without a daypart on the song card itself.  It’s dayparted because the clocks only call for that category at night.  A recent facebook discussion I had went like this:

Dayparting

Chris  Thanks. Are you a fan of dayparting?

The UnConsultant nope. It’s like a tire with a flat spot. I’m more of a fan of playing only songs I can play all the time.

Chris  Agree. So why do stations, in the beginning, play certain new songs only at night? A numbers thing?

The UnConsultant There are a couple of reasons. Some feel the “unfamiliar music” is the least safe thing to do. So they try to build slow familiarity … much like putting your toe in the water first. Secondly, it’s a perversion that comes from the strong efforts to promote new music on the radio. The value of an “add” on the charts is very high. They don’t care at first if the song is only spun at night or overnight, it’s an add, and that’s what they care about. They don’t have to work so hard to get us to play Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan or Florida George Line. But Alex Kolobielski & His Jug Band, well that’s where the heavy lifting is done. The Music Row and Indicator Charts are further devices that are part of the process. They celebrate the “add”… in time they want plays, but most of the promotion is for an add. Hence, radios response is a category that plays Mid-5am or 8p-4am. And yes a category that only appears in those hours is the equivalent of dayparting.

I spend so much of my time trying to get songs to rotate evenly through hours and departs that the idea of skipping one intentionally is something I generally try to avoid.  It makes me ask, “do I really need this song?”  How does it test?  Will it be missed?  Is there an expectation that we will play this song?

I get accused of being “old school”  (or is it old skool?)  I’ll take that accusation as a badge of honor.  There are many old platitudes in radio, “more platter, less chatter” and regards music decisions like this, “when in doubt, leave it out!”

Agree?  Disagree?  Email UnConsult@aol.com to argue discuss or proclaim me wrong.

I help stations make good decisions so ratings go UP!

Keith Hill 252-453-8888

on Facebook at        The UnConsultant

 

 

 

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