Tag Archives: radio consultant

Class is in Session – Lesson “Carrie Underwood”

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

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

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

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

Next class will be about newcomer Tenille Townes.

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

Dan + Shay “Speechless”

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

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

Keith Hill





Over four years ago I spoke at Country Radio Seminar on a panel about music scheduling. Folks attended and took notes. Hopefully some learned some things. No controversy.  Nothing said at the seminar itself was seen as controversial by folks inside the industry.

A few weeks later Country Aircheck reprised my comments.  Then non-industry folks read it.  When the sausage making was revealed there was a tomato explosion.

For four years now there have been numerous articles on the issue of the number of songs by females in country appearing to be low.  I continue to maintain there is no misogyny.  Instead there is a system to play what drives ratings up.

Now Dr. Jada Watson from the University of Ottawa has released what she calls a “Study.” It claims to be a “data-driven study of gender representation in the country music industry, which focused on the role of radio in the genre’s culture.”

The research was also supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.

The “Study” also claims to have been done with consultation from WOMAN Nashville.

Rolling Stone has an article about it.

You can read the study for yourself.  Below is my cliff notes version.

Here’s a link to the study.


Here’s a link the article in Rolling Stone.

New Study Examines Impact of Country Radio Programming on Women

What does the study say?  First, that council in Canada should get its grant money back.  All Watson did was run and tabulate Mediabase reports.  There is nothing new there.

Then she concludes

“Also new in this study is the discussion of spins. Focusing on the year-end spin counts for artists gives us a new perspective on how women factor into programming decisions. These results show that women are not receiving anywhere near the same amount of spins as their male colleagues, suggesting systemic issues of gender discrimination in radio programming far beyond what was originally presumed. The last five years (and in some cases 2018, in particular) emerge as particularly problematic for country culture, which lacks diversity and perpetuates gender biases. These results show us the results of programming decisions, and the impact that they have had on female artists and male-female ensembles.”

Let me reprise the heart of this:

“gender discrimination in radio programming far beyond what was originally presumed”

Well uh… sorry. There is NO discrimination. It is simply the result of the Free Market.  Especially when it comes to the arena of spins!  When songs test poorly we spin them less or not at all.  When songs test well we spin them more.  I’m here to report clearly and vividly that we often don’t even look at the artists and titles.  We look at the percentage of Favorites, Likes, and Total Positive Responseto make the decisions of what to play more and less.  Dr. Watson should know that she’s been in college classes from 2003 until 2015 studying to be the Doctor and Musicologist she is today.  I see from her University’s web site she teaches Music Research.  I presume that includes auditorium and call out studies and the many techniques of music hook research.

As a researcher I challenge her to explain why it’s the decision makers inside the radio stations fault?  It’s not.  Those professional broadcasters are men and women who make decisions based on scientific mathematical data.  We are robots implementing the wishes of the listeners.  The only bias we have is to attract as large an audience as possible and keep them listening for longer than they used to.

As for Rolling Stone a publication that has published articles about rape on the campus of UVA. Those articles by Sabrina Erdely had to be retracted and Rolling Stone paid a UVA Fraternity a one-point 6 million dollar settlement for the defamation that was printed.

Marissa Moss in the Rolling Stone article points out the outlier of Tenille Townes – Somebody’s Daughter.  Funny.  That just happens to be country music’s most played song that programmers are being forced to play right now.  iHeart has Tenille appearing at their upcoming music festival in Austin.  iHeart has an internal term “on the verge.”  That means the local programmer is told he or she must play the song a certain number of spins.  Dr. Watson this is not bias for the Townes record.  It is a deal between iHeart and Columbia Records. I suspect that without this “deal” Tenille Townes would have less than a tenth of the spins she has now.

WOMAN Nashville. Yes, I engaged on twitter with them.  They blocked me when I correctly pointed out that Twitter site was really ONE WOMAN Nashville. Staci Kirpach presented WOMAN Nashville as some large group of women working together.  It didn’t even number five women.

You shouldn’t be able to take an opinion and present it as a study result.

Please let me repeat that one.

You shouldn’t be able to take an opinion and present it as a study result. 

Dr. Watson you accuse me and legions of my co-workers in radio with gender bias.  I say no bias exists.

I hereby accuse you of simply making bar graphs out of Mediabase data and not doing any study as the reasons for what you find.  Dr. Watson didn’t study anything.  No research.  She just made graphs from airplay captured electronically by digital watermarks on songs played on the radio.  She makes up a conclusion.  It’s not based on anything other that her bias that the men and women in country radio are bad actors.

Dr. Watson have you even been a Music Director, Program Director or Brand Manager of a radio station?  Ever added or changed the rotation of a single record on a radio station? Oh. you were busy getting a doctorate in Musicology.

Sorry Dr. Watson you have tabulated Mediabase data and made bar graphs out of the data.  Then come to a study conclusion… “country radio has a culture of systemic bias against women.”



Dr. Jada Watson is using  data without finding WHY it is that way.  It’s not because of radio.  It’s because of the LISTENERS!

Keith Hill doesn’t have a doctorate in Musicology and has only been in the radio industry since 1973.  Mr. Hill merely has a Bachelor of Science in Radio-TV-Film from the S. I Newhouse School of Public Communications and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. (81)

Does Radio Do This?


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

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

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

Does Radio Do This?

steve jobs on why xerox failed

Keith Hill






There has always been some level of manipulation in all music charts.  Why isn’t that the job of record promotion folks?

Promo Person on a call – “It just won song wars on KBBB 3 nights in a row and it beat star name!”

Another call – “hot phones in Parkersburg and Scranton”

Another call – “Joe Jones is testing it in Big City and it’s his #3 tester with 80% positive!”

Fast forward 35 years…   “Hello Rod… we want to talk about a cooperative venture.”  I can only speculate about the rest of that call.

I even suspect there is candor… “look my midline artist record isn’t testing well but I need a few more weeks so let’s talk about what we can do together.”

Now what does all of this have to do with a Ford Econoline Van?

Well many years ago in addition to my radio career I had several rental apartments.  At one point I had enough of them that I needed to buy a van to move furniture and appliances.  So I went really cheap.  I bought an old beat up extended van that had rust holes and ran really rough.  It actually barely ran.  Oh and it didn’t lock and the dashboard didn’t work.

With a dashboard that doesn’t work you just have to drive what you think is the right speed. The real trick is always topping off the gasoline because you never really knew how much gas there was in the tank.

As I look at the Mediabase and Billboard I see clear evidence of manipulation, jive, deals, and various kinds of olas.   I can only guess the compliance folks have found the loopholes, or are actually the sherpas giving guidance to the promo departments.

As I look at the charts these days it reminds me of that dash; it didn’t work on that old van. It didn’t give me any useful information.

Promotional initiatives with large groups of radio stations take rookie no name artists up the charts quickly while Mount Rushmore superstars climb like turtles with at least one broken leg.

Here’s what the charts do indicate today.  They indicate what the labels want country radio to play.  They in no way indicate the popularity of these songs with audience on America’s country radio stations.

I hate to sound like a presidential tweet but that’s “SAD.”

So, what do I do?   What can you do?   Do what I did with that old Ford Van with a dashboard that didn’t work.  Drive very carefully.

Do you know what to play WITHOUT the charts?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888



You know after being told by the folks unhappy with my statements that led to tomato-gate I see finally instead of just complaining someone has done something positive and proactive.

Kudos to Christa Williams for her launch of SHE! On Tune In She Radio is now streaming an all female singer country / Americana channel.  Also they point out its available for HD2 and Low Power FM content.  Why not full power FM’s too?

Now I wish her the best of luck.  Plus I hope this does advance careers and opportunities for women musicians.

Let’s see how it does. I won’t tell you how I think it will do.  Most of you can imagine my thoughts and could guess what my predictions would be.  I’d really like to see this on a full power FM station in a top 75 or top 50 market.  Then we could see ratings.

In all sincerity, Christa, best of luck.  I think you’ll need it.

The Story Above is From Lon Helton’s Fine Publication Country Aircheck




Ed Hill programmed several radio stations.  Among them top rated country stations in Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Ed knows what he is doing.  He learned as a jock from the great program directors of years ago that he worked for.  Plus Ed is smart.  He never just imitated another radio station.  He thought about his station, it’s brand, it’s images, it’s fun factors and then created fresh locally meaningful content.

Ed’s been out of country radio for a couple of years but he’s still got that great brain. Here is his insightful post about listening to the one country radio station in Los Angeles.

I reprint Ed’s post here.

I have been out of country music and radio for almost two years. Listened to Go Country in LA and they have imaging on the air that is years old. I mean they mentioned “your iPod” who has an iPod?

Another big issue… The songs and the themes of the songs we’re all the same. Pure vanilla. Whoever is programming that station is not paying attention to the details. I never listen to radio anymore but decided to listen to see what has happened to the music.
This one jock said “ Here’s the latest from….
It was an act I have never heard of so I asked my 21 year old daughter who that was and she had no idea.

Then the female jock was promoting the morning show and she said… Set your alarm clocks . Clocks. Yes she said clocks. Yes CLOCKS.

Does anybody get reviewed anymore? The radio audience is shrinking. You have to be better than what I heard or you will accelerate
the inevitable slow decline into irrelevance.

Ed couldn’t be more right.

Might I suggest you take a full day outside of your own radio station and listen all day.

Attack your own station like it was your competition.  Think, “This station is programmed by an idiot.  Let me pick it apart!”

Make a list of every weakness.

Every anachronistic thing.

Every thing that is self serving and not listener benefit centric.

Then fix things.

It’s not just your career. It’s the career and welfare of everybody who works at the station.  Get it right!

Are you qualified to be PD of your station?

If you think so prove it!

Ed and I are not related.  We are brothers of different mothers.  Ed is that ok with you?

Get Your Music Right!  Get Everything Right!

If you need help call Keith Hill 252-453-8888        




So this past week I was on the road to a great local cluster of radio stations.  Live local mornings, middays and afternoons on stations that serve the community.

When I got back it was relaxing to go over to a neighbors for a nice home cooked dinner, wine, and conversation.

“So what did you do this week?”  I was asked. Well a lot but what I said essentially was “we freshened the music libraries of the Classic Rock  and Country stations.  The country station we tuned to be a little newer or a little less gold.”

My pal is a chemical engineer and his wife works for a realty company.  So what they know about radio is that there are two knobs. If they don’t like a song they switch the station.

He said.. “do people’s tastes change?  I mean once you get the music right … why do you have to change it?”

I explained that even if you have research on the market tastes folks who listen to the station do change how they feel about those songs.  I  explained call out research and auditorium music testing. It forced me to explain “hooks” and how that it is simply stimulus to response research.

Once you sort in the songs that are best to play often, midrange songs to play some and lesser songs play rarely and poorly testing songs are taken out, then you put that tested music on the air.  Like anything organic as you play those great testing songs your P1 (preference one) audience over the time of three to six months will begin to fatigue on them. Different folks have different responses.  Some folks never tire of hearing their favorite songs.  Others literally will say.. “I love that song and its one of my all time favorites but BIG 109 plays it every hour and has worn it out.”

Now they don’t play it every hour.  They might play it every day in a different hour but you listen to the station so much that you are exposed to those same 450 songs a bunch!

So I explained to my chemical engineering friend that while folks do have feelings about songs those feelings change as we run up the odometer count on those songs.

One of my analogies is that songs have a color.  When they are fresh they are green.  We often call fatigue of a song “burn.”  The phase is “folks are “burned” on a song means that they have tired of it because of the many impressions or exposures of plays of the song.  I explained “Power, Medium, and Light” rotations.  I call burned songs brown.  We rest them to “re-green” them.

I even explained platooning as a thoughtful system of resting a small number of those power songs that are most played.  We might rest them for four weeks.  When we bring them back we might rest another chunk of say 8 to 10 songs for 4 weeks.  That way there are always songs that are resting.  We pick the most played by the “odometer” count, in that category, to rest.  When we return the songs there is a library play “odometer” that doesn’t change.  It never resets.  It’s always cumulative.  However, the plays in category “odometer” we reset to zero when we move it back to play after resting.

My chemical engineer friend said, “huh, I didn’t think it was that involved.”  He added, “I thought once you put in the best songs you were done except for adding new ones.”

Then after some more wine I learned more about the making of chemicals.  It involves chemistry which is much more complicated than radio programming.  But I did hear about giant mixers.  Think of the mixer you might have in your kitchen but the size of your house instead.  I’m glad my friend makes oxo and glycol.

Apparently I need all those chemicals for the radiator of my car and somehow the oxo ends up being important in plastics for the steering wheel, taillight lenses and faceplate of the radio.

Two friends had dinner and talked radio.  Sort of.

Is your music right? Fresh?   Stale?  Burned?

Get your music right call Keith Hill 252-453-8888   

If you need oxo or glycol I know a guy.


Women of iHeart Country

Bobby Bones just got a promotion.  He will be VP, Creative Director of iHeart Country.

You can tell Bobby works hard.  Bobby has invested lots of long hours of work for iHeart Country stations and their collateral platforms and festival promotions.  He’s an asset for the company.

iHeart like many other larger broadcasters use shows to save salaries on the local level.  Plus in many cases you could never get that level of talent locally.

On the down side it isn’t local.  While there is technology where Bobby can record liners for a station in Bakersfield and they can play them back.  So to some it sounds like Bobby is actually there when he talks about Whiskey Flat Days.

Local jocks can not only talk about these things generously and intelligently but they can make live appearances.

But in the same way we loved David Letterman it is possible to have radio network syndication work to some level.

I also say BRAVO to more “creative” on radio in general let alone IHeart radio.

Some of my radio buddies and me would go on Rock N Roll and Country field trips!

We went to see the places where Lynyrd Skyryd, Otis Redding, Ricky Nelson, Bill Chase, Jim Croce, Stevie Ray Vaughn and others had come to life’s end.

I came up with the idea that we would each make cds of music we would play for the others in the car. We chose themes.  One guy did famous songs and the songs they were stolen from.  I did a cd with two versions of every song.  One version was fully produced and one acoustic.  As we played our cds we told stories about the songs.  It occurred to all of us that this is what radio should be like.  It was a group of experienced radio folks.

I am a music scheduler.

Yes, I am the guy who gave a metric of the amount of women I’d suggest on country radio and called them tomatoes in the salad.

There are countdown shows and they work.  Even though typically you’d never play one to four hours of nothing but currents.  Under a specialty umbrella various concepts can work.

One of the things the women who advocate more women on the radio say is that “it’s never been tried!”

Bobby also announced he will be launching a new show the “Women of iHeart Country.”  I guess from the name it will be only or principally on iHeart stations.

I’m glad Bobby will be trying an hour of all females.  Then we can see how it does.

How do YOU think it will do?   Post your thoughts on Facebook at The UnConsultant

Keith Hill 252-453-8888       



This blog is going to be FUN!

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


The excellent PD / Morning Man is Sid Hardt.   Great voice, great with listeners, cares about the community and understands that building a radio station audience involves making things memorable.  Often that comes as the result of being FUN!

Tomorrow on the BIG RIG it will be “Christmas In July!”

You’ll definitely hear “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”  and if you listen long enough I suspect you’ll her Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and Gene Autry.

You’ll hear Santa Claus!  (if you recognize who Santa is voiced by post in on The UnConsultant Facebook page.

Ho Ho Ho. Prize, Christmas records and FUN!

The best way to communicate this FUN FACTOR today is listen to 105.9 BIG RIG COUNTRY!