Tag Archives: music logs for radio

WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?

WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julian lives on in the people he hired and trained.

What would Julian say today?

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

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

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

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

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

A “sure!”

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

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

Yes, one spot is not how it happens.

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

Today I don’t need tires.

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

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

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

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

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

In radio we are attempting to measure every song.

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

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

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

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

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

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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CUTTING GOLF BALLS ON A BAND SAW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now those hard drives are very inexpensive.

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

Ask your PD and Chief Engineer to check every song!

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

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

Uh…  More Demand = Higher Rates!

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

Want help with better audio?  Better Music Scheduling?

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

Call someone who can fix it!

Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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CORE ARTISTS! (THE BIGGIES!)

CORE ARTISTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

No Wonder You’re Not Making More Money!

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

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

So, I started smiling and dialing.

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

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

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

#1 Rule Of Being A Radio Manager

COFFEE AND MBWA

 

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

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

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

#2 Rule Of Being A Radio Manager

ANSWER QUESTIONS DAMN IT.

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

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

Make decisions DAMN IT!

#3 Rule Of Being A Radio Manager

NEVER EAT LUNCH AT YOUR DESK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEVER EAT LUNCH AT YOUR DESK.

#4 Rule Of Being A Manager

RETURN EVERY PHONE CALL MESSAGE

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

First, time for one more round of MBWA!!

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

When it comes to mail use TRAF!

Trash, Route, Action, File.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RETURN EVERY PHONE CALL MESSAGE.

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

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

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

Have fun!  Drink Coffee!

Wander Around!

Make Decisions!

Take People To Lunch Everyday!

Return Every Phone Message!

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

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

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

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

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

Keith Hill 252-453-8888

Many of you are digging a hole this way

When you could be

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

Positioning Of Radio in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A knife is needed.

Is your positioning right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888

Get Your Music Right.

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

Music Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the elephants fight the ants take a beating!

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

Is your music right?

Get Your Music Right.          

Call The World’s Leading Authority On Music Scheduling

Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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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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BASIC RADIO Q & A

BASIC RADIO Q AND A

There’s a very dysfunctional argument I can make about consolidation and the biggest radio companies bringing real peril to radio.  I’m not going there. The real key is to ask, “What is the right thing to do?”

My claim there are some real key basics that have been forgotten, lost or in some cases never learned by radio folks.

Just like Ockham’s Razor simple answers are often correct.

Let me posit that often the simplest and most basic examination would be instructive.

 

Q1: What is the most important lesson or fact that would be helpful to dust off for radio folks?

A1:  First and foremost it’s a business.  Yes it’s an informational and entertainment medium that is used by the general public, but the most important thing we seem to have forgotten is that radio is a business.

Q2: What business is radio in?

A2: The core business of radio stations is to successfully market and help sell products and services.  The bottom line is radio is a method of advertising.

Q3: What are the keys to being a successful advertising medium for radios clients?

A3: The real answer is to make sure that the spot advertising is well crafted and correctly scheduled to reach a sufficient number of folks for the advertisers to get a return on their investment.

Q4: What part of that process is radio falling down on?

A4: All of them.  (The spots are poorly written and produced, the schedules are poor, and in many cases they do not reach enough folks enough times to work)

Q5: What do we need to do to make it better?

A5: Holy Defecation Batman, I’m glad you asked, but the answer is long and many a winding road.  May I pontificate?

Sure!

I’ve been in radio stations where the sales department have meetings that talk about the radio stations goals, the incomes they want to produce, now get out there and kick the door in and take their wallets!

We need to dust off the simple reality that we exist to solve retailers and service provider’s problems.  We have to go into their businesses and uncover their pain.  Do they have images that need to be developed?   Do they have an awareness problem?

They know their businesses well.  Often they are family businesses developed via sweat, tears and dreams.  Some businesses began on a napkin in a coffee shop and after a year of dreaming the in-laws loaned money to get them started.  There is a long story.  Do we know it?  Or do we just want to show up with a package to be a named sponsor in the “Trip A Day In The Month of May Giveaway on Country 109?”

We must first figure out what exactly when broadcast will move the needle for them.

Once we have the problem and solutions in mind then and only then can we craft a radio spot campaign.  Too often the brainstorming, thinking, creativity is compressed into a few minutes because its “production” that needs to get done. We’ve all heard Addy award winning spots.  They are funny, they are memorable, they pull on us emotionally, they motivate folks to buy.

“there will never be a better time that right now”

“4 convenient locations with free parking and friendly helpful salespeople”

“call 453-8971, that’s 453-8971, that number again is 453-8971”

“for all your widget needs”

 

Then we sell and schedule the spots by… wait for it… price.

Imagine building a house that needs $1000 worth of nails and saying, “I only have $750 to spend on nails!”  We approach radio schedules like traveling just 80 miles of the 100-mile journey is a thoughtful plan!

And because the product is best marketed on our #1 rated country station but they can’t afford the rates we put together a plan that includes spots on 4 of our 5 station cluster like a patchwork quilt will serve us just like a Tuxedo for a wedding.  It’s a damn jacket shut up and put it on!

Yes, we in radio need to do all we can to build our cumes and get our time spent listening and average time spent exposed as high as possible.

The way the advertising schedules and campaigns should be crafted is by knowing the reach and frequency necessary to get the results that the client will need to be at least reasonably satisfied. I think of radio is an exceptionally great reach and frequency medium.  We reach folks who are employed, have money and want services and products that make their lives better.  They also want to know about good deals.  They also want to know about new things, cool things, and fun things.

We can certainly charge more for our spots especially when we return the value to our clients.  When they get $2 in return for every $1 of investment we can hold our head high when we go see them again.  When the returns go to 3 to 1, 5 to 1, 10 to 1 we begin to create demand for our radio services.  We actually get those folks “addicted to our advertising.”

Our Mistakes Have Included:

We dispatch sales folks to sell them advertising damn it!  We put our sales folks hands in vices and turn them tighter and tighter to sell more, faster, and now!

In some radio companies the sales meetings are like this:

We write poor spots quickly.

We don’t put enough brainpower into creating spot campaigns that will be memorable and work.

We take advertisers money for schedules that is a size 7 shoe when they need size 11EE.

I see the best processes in smaller and medium markets.  I see better processes where the owner of the radio station is a retailer too.  They own food stores, restaurants, car dealerships, and the radio station.  The owner lives in the marketplace and is on the board of the hospital and bank. Has taken his or her turn as President of cities merchants association.  He or she is on the School Board and Treasurer of The Susan G. Komen activities in the market.

I spend a lot of time worrying about Music scheduling, morning shows, promotions, air checking and ratings analysis. Everybody who works in the station(s) needs to realize this is a business.  We need our processes to serve our clients.

Lowry Mays who founded Clear Channel many years ago did so with his old pal Red McCombs.  Red owned car dealerships and knew how radio worked to help sell cars.  Lowry one time when asked, “What business are you in?”  answered was “I sell tacos.”

You might be offended by that answer but may I suggest Lowry had a better understanding than many of the operators of radio stations today.  At the end of the day the spots have to work for the client advertisers. Otherwise we will become a dead rabbit roadside.

That’s a picture I won’t post.

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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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Summer Salad with just the right amount of Tomatoes

Summer Salad or Tomato-Gate

Three years ago I said the word “tomatoes” and all hell broke loose.  Now, it gets dusted off every year for another look to see if anything has changed.

The background.

There is an annual convention in Nashville known as the “Country Radio Seminar.”

It’s an annual pilgrimage for America’s country radio stations to where the music is made.  Back in the 70s, Tom McEntee and some others thought it be a good idea to get radio and records together.  I’m not sure what his original idea was, but good things were to come out of it.

I’m not sure who first said “Growth Through Sharing”, but my hunch is Ed Salamon.

The concept was, we would meet in Nashville and share what we were doing back at our stations.  At the time, there was typically only one country radio station in each market. So if we met up, we could share our research, experiences, promotions, methods and systems, and learn from each other.  Further, we felt we could connect with the labels and the artists.  That way, we would be stronger than pop, rock and other genres. With “Growth Through Sharing”, we’d make country stronger in ways the other formats wouldn’t be able to replicate.

About 1989/1990, the sharing took a back seat.  I know.  I was on panels in the early 90s.  I’d look out from the stage and see folks from stations I competed with.  We couldn’t share in the same way we did before we doubled up in so many markets.  Garth Brooks, along with Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson and the newer sound from Nashville had made country less twangy and more mainstream.  At the same time, CHR had a problem.  To Rap or Not to Rap was the question.

Country Radio Seminar continued, but it was a little less “sharing” than intended.

We would still be there every year to see old friends. The sharing took place in the hallways.  There were some great discussions at breakfasts and lunches, but less so in the meeting rooms and on the dais.

About four years ago, I was contacted about a panel on music scheduling.  The agenda committee person who contacted me knew I was famous for the topic.  There were three others on the panel – programmers from Nashville, Wichita, and Savannah.

We had the typical conference calls about planning what we would talk about.  I suggested that I lead with some real basics.  I planned to cover categories, coding, tempo, sound, gender, core – non-core and the like.  I’d provide screenshots from the software we used to schedule music.  I’d explain how to properly schedule an hour of music and teach young folks how programmers keep the audience listening longer. That’s job one for a music scheduler.  The cume (or head count) of the station is essentially a function of the format.  Only a certain number of folks prefer country. However, we can make more money by getting those folks to spend 5, 10 or 15 minutes longer with the station.

One metric you need to understand is our currency in radio. It’s the almighty “quarter hour.” One person who listens for an hour results in four quarter hours of credit, and four people who listen for 15 minutes each also results in four quarter hours credit to the station.

My point that day was to help teach, share and demystify what programmers in the know were doing to make folks listen longer.

You see I am older.  I have accomplished some good things in my radio career.  So when I think of CRS, I still think of growth through sharing.  I like the concept of giving back to the young folks in the industry.

So on that dais that day during the Q&A, I was asked about percentage of coding and I answered.  I said “don’t play females back to back” because they are a minority percentage of your music mix.  I also said, “When you go back home to your station, check the percentage of females. If it’s over 15% take some out.”

Nothing happened.

Folks inside the industry knew that what I was doing was helping young programmers.  I was giving away something for free that you’d otherwise learn the hard way, or pay to learn from a researcher or consultant.

It wasn’t until a couple of months later that Lon Helton and Russ Penuell interviewed me about those same topics that all hell broke loose.  Russ called me and we went over what I covered at CRS.  Russ, Lon and I all shared the same vision, to help the young folks in our industry.  I can still hear Lon saying, “What do say we dust off that music scheduling stuff for the kids from Dover, Delaware and Citrus, Florida who didn’t make it to CRS?”

My answer … “Sure!”

When Lon published “Country Air Check” to the worldwide web that night, it all started.  I had a Twitter account I never used. That night, I got my first tweet from a Martina McBride fan named Jan in New York. In a word: “Douchebag”.

As it escalated from there, I found myself on radio shows, television shows, and in hundreds of newspapers and web sites.  Tomato-Gate became a top trending Twitter topic and Facebook was on fire with pieces of salad being tossed and thrown in every direction. I answered every email, call, post and tweet that I could.

At first, I simply wanted to communicate an understanding of the issue.  You see, I had tested that simple 15% metric and knew it to be truth.

In the early 90s, I had been hired by Moon Mullins in Nashville to be an associate consultant for his company.  We were famous for putting on new country radio stations and winning high ratings.  However, by the late 90s, the ratings were slipping for the format.  The trade press then was full of articles saying “Hot Country” had cooled off.  Moon said to me once, “Oh well, perhaps the music isn’t as good right now.” I argued with him, because our research scores on songs were the same as they had been seven or eight years earlier.  He simply said, “Well, it has to be something. Figure it out young man.”

I went back to my office and worked.  I created an analysis of every measurable metric I could think of: percentage of current music, recurrent music, gold titles, library size, turnover times, coding compositions, twang, pop, mainstream, songs about God, songs about pickup trucks, groups, number of top 10 songs by the artists, length of the songs. I even analyzed the stations by years the same morning show had been in place, transmitter power, antenna height, money invested in marketing and the size and scope of prizes given away.

In all, one metric had changed.  In the early “halcyon” days of country, we played 15% females – principally, Reba, Wynonna, and Trisha Yearwood. However, by the late 90s, the percentage was much higher.  I saw stations that played 19%, even up to 27% females, like Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina, The Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack, Terri Clark, LeAnn Rimes, Deana Carter, Mindy McCready, Chely Wright, SheDaisy and so on.  To compound the issue, it wasn’t just one or two titles by each. There were nearly a dozen Shania Twain titles, ten by the Dixie Chicks, seven, eight or nine by Martina McBride. So as a percentage, it had grown considerably.

I won’t get into the deeper reasons why women who listen to country radio make the choices they do.  I’ll just say that more women listen to country radio than men, and they listen longer.  So, the programmers on country radio stations must study the listening habits of women.  In fact, the greatest single bias in country music radio is tuning our product to women so they will listen longer.

Welcome to America.  It’s a meritocracy.  It’s a free market.

We do not play more men or less women because we have any biases towards them.  We play more men and less women because of the behavioral bias of women radio listeners.

How can I be so sure about this?

I went to Moon Mullins and told him what I had found. He told me to take some of our clients and make ‘em guinea pigs.  Probably not something I should share.

I took four stations and cut the number of females by removing the weaker testing titles.  Instead of eight Shania Twain songs, I cut it to the four best testing. Instead of three Terri Clark titles, I cut it to the two best testing.  Instead of seven Faith Hill titles, I cut it to the five best testing.  By using this research stratification, I tuned the databases to meet the 15% metric used in the early 90s.

A few months later we had our answer.  The four best Arbitron ratings performances we had were from these four stations.

So today in the news, I see that Bobby Bones will have a specialty show that plays only female country acts.  The Tennessean has an article about it as well.  They have dusted off Tomato-Gate only to find that not much has changed.  In fact, the percentage of females on the country charts is actually down a tiny bit.

I hate to tell you that the attention brought to the subject has gotten more folks to realize the truth of the metric.

I never meant harm to anyone.  Some see my comments as having helped the conversation.  If it has done some good, I am happy about that.

The truth is, inside the radio and record industry we know what works and what doesn’t.

It’s a “sausage making metric” that folks outside of radio didn’t even know about.

Just because a “know not” world reads something less than 50%, they think there is misogyny embedded.

It is not.

It’s simply a metric driven by the response of the audience.  Much like the amount of flavors kept on hand by a Baskin Robbins ice cream store.  They stock the most of what they sell the most.  They stock less of what there is less demand for.

Now go enjoy your salad. The amount of tomatoes or any element is up to you.

If you want the highest ratings, call me and we will implement some Gordon Gekko-esque things that we won’t bother to explain to those who wouldn’t understand anyway.

Keith Hill 252-453-8888

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