Maybe someone from iHeart will email me.. is Tenille Townes – Somebody’s Daughter not “One The Verge” Anymore?????
Marissa Moss are you paying attention? Dr. Watson?
Maybe someone from iHeart will email me.. is Tenille Townes – Somebody’s Daughter not “One The Verge” Anymore?????
Marissa Moss are you paying attention? Dr. Watson?
COUNTRY RADIO SEMINAR 2019 50THYEAR!!!! AKA WHAT’S WRONG WITH COUNTRY?
I love country radio seminar. I’ve been to a lot of ‘em.
Me and Martina before I said “tomato”
Tom McEntee and those folks who helped create the seminar had a great idea. Country can be a strong format by embracing the labels, artists and sharing information and intel.
The Motto was and remains “Growth Through Sharing.”
Easy for anyone to say the agenda may not be what we need. In fact I know they have tried to address the input that “there needs to be more for small market folks.”
Here are thee most important things that won’t be discussed in any session.
Those would be:
Charts Are Useless
The charts are virtually useless because of the large numbers of stations from the same companies. Then those companies play the same new songs all in unison. It’s the New Payola. Two major corporations make a deal. The big label group gets major chain to play the same new record multiple spins a day on the same days. In exchange that group gets valuable promotional trips to give away to see one of the labels other major superstar acts.
The New Payola
The New Payola warps the charts and creates worse product for radio airplay. It’s in the labels best interest to keep cranking out new acts that get streamed. It’s immediate cash. Protecting the Mount Rushmore Superstars isn’t something the labels worry about. Those stars make more money from touring. The labels don’t’ get much of that pie. That’s why the labels do more to create a Russell Dickerson than to keep a Luke Bryan at a high profile level.
Who? Nameless Faceless Acts
This chart and label combination is the cradle and incubator of creating many more nameless and faceless artists. They manufacture their careers via artificially trumped up played singles. Radio needs stars much more than it needs songs.
Is This Even Country?
The strength of country has always been the excellent and robust song writing community. Then their fine material gets recorded. Have we stretched the production rubber band past its breaking point? I think what can be presented as country can be quite wide but now more than ever radio has listeners complaining about the music saying, “that ain’t country.” I am not suggesting we dust off Hank Sr. and Ernest Tubb. What I am suggesting is that there needs to be a production discussion. The problem seems to be the streaming revenue model will never reflect what radio needs. So revenue from streaming is more than just a competitor for time it pulls the product further away from what radio needs.
Radio Could Be Better – Two Things Scream For Attention
Radio is a local medium. The concept of voice tracking from outside of the market feeds the transmitter but leaves a lot not done. Who is cutting the ribbon at the remote opening the new cell phone store? Who is at the high school tailgate party? If the highest profile personalities are from four states away they can’t do these things. Let alone describe the weather, road closures, or things that are happening in that local marketplace.
Partly because there are fewer local radio announcers there is less time to write and produce quality commercials. Radio (Country Radio and all formats) run awful commercials. Poorly conceived, poorly written and produced with about as much care as taking out the garbage.
Our big problems are USELESS CHARTS, THE NEW PAYOLA, STREAMING HAS LED TO FACELESS ACTS, A LOSS OF AN IDENTIFIABLE COUNTRY SOUND, VOICE TRACKING, AND AWFUL SPOTS.
Sure could use a robust industry discussion on these topics.
The CRB Board isn’t interested in my voice. Why I actually share and tell uncomfortable truths. I’m politically incorrect. And the folks who run the CRS are political and politically correct. If they let Keith Hill have a voice why he’ll say that we actually play 15% women and then say the word “tomato.” God Forbid!
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
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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
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:
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
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
He said WHAT?
If you are a program director or general manager of a radio station perhaps you can relate. If you have never worked in radio this is a story that can happen any day.
I was PD of the #1 rated station in El Paso KHEY known as Y-96.
I didn’t live too far from the station often I would walk to the station listening to my walk-man.
On this day I had heard the morning show. It was a good show. There was plenty of information, fun, lots of local stuff.
When I got to the station the General Manager was looking for me and he was unhappy.
It seems a 20 second bit about a Burger King in Oregon had gotten the ire of the folks at our local Burger King restaurants who were a fairly big sponsor.
My morning guy (Mark Montana) had simply found a story about a Burger King in Oregon where a patron ordered a burger and when he unwrapped it to eat it he found a large copper staple in it, presumably from the cardboard box it was shipped in.
The air check of it showed that the bit took 22 seconds! It was broadcast at 7:19am.
Apparently the regional manager for Burger King there was a big fan of Mark Montana and Y96 until 7:20am. Then he called the GM and GSM and said he wanted his annual advertising scheduled cancelled!
When I got in all of this was explained to me. I was perplexed the most. I thought that in placing advertising they were 100% in charge of the schedule of the advertising and the messages in the advertising. They could promote breakfast in the morning, lunch in midday dinner in the afternoon. They could run their specials. They could develop events, limited time menu additions. But instead on this day we discovered what really worked. Just one twenty-two second message at 7:19am reached everyone. That one road-block ad was that we picked the content of was more powerful than the thoughtful approach of a campaign.
At first my GM and GSM were unhappy with me making light of it.
I told them, “surely they can’t think that this one message destroys the good will and images of Burger King in one fell swoop.” As they listened they realized that their PD who spent 100% of his time worrying about images, promotional messages and reach to as many folks within the FM signal we had was onto something. So I put on a tie, threw on a jacket and I was off to see the regional manager of Burger King.
I really was humble and apologetic but I wanted to reason with him. I told him my first thought was to run a campaign where “if you find a staple in your burger you win $1,000,000.” He said to me “no one will ever win!” I yelled, “That’s my point!”
Instead they had some internal food safety and marketing person on the phone on air for 3 minutes the next morning. Not great radio by any means, but it made them feel good that they said, “food safety was of the highest importance and this would not happen again.”
And we gave em a couple of remotes and a few hundred dollars in free spots. All because Mark Montana read an AP item about a staple in a Whopper at a Burger King in Oregon.
To me it proved more than ever radio works. In fact it’s more potent that we ever thought. While repeated messages really work. Do not under estimate the power of even one single message. Funny how the mind works regards message on the radio. One mention of food poisoning at Keith’s Taco’s and whammo no more lines at Keith’s.
How come one add that says “why waste your money on pizza that’s really like sauce on cardboard. El Paso’s best Pizza is El Rio Pizza. It’s worth more than we charge and oh God is sooo good even folks from Mexico sneak over to get a bite.” But for some reason just one add like that we worry no one hears it. Make it a negative ad and everyone heard it. It can’t be both!
Today’s take away is.. 1) radio works and its very potent. 2) when it’s a negative message we think everyone hears it 3) our ads really are not clever enough. If you run ads that people take about, email mp3’s of them to each other because they are funny or entertaining, then you know you have a winner.
Makes me think a great campaign would be about a staple. “At XYZ restaurant sometime in the next 30 days we’re going to put a staple in one meal. Find it and win $5000. Well instead of a staple you’ll simply find the word staple on the bottom of the plate.”
Where has our clever gone? It’s time we tooled in … “he said WHAT?”