What Chart Do You Use?

A station owner recently asked for and received my Country library playlists; Recurrent, Gold, Classics and Legends. He’d had some uneasiness about many of the songs he was hearing on his station; some of them just didn’t seem ‘right’. As he began updating and adjusting the library and was immediately pleased with the result, he sent an eamail asking which chart I relied on. Here’s how I answered:

for tracking top 10 performance,
i use MediaBase now. switched to it about 5 years ago.
before that, Billboard. i used the R&R chart until it
folded.

again, this is only for noting Top 10 performance,
the confirming fact that a song should be a candidate for
inclusion in the Recurrent and Gold lists in the future.
‘candidate’ because not every top 10 record makes
the cut. i hone in on Top 5 for those lists as it is
more reliable.

charts for new songs judgement/consideration are
culled from many different lists. i see what’s on
billboard and mediabase. more importantly are
the digital charts. iTunes shows what’s being bought
Youtube views are an indicator of bubbling interest.
same goes for the Shazam chart.
and the Slacker EQ chart. this one measures how long
a person listened to a track, did she listen all the way to the
end of the song, did he add it to his ‘favorites’, did
they ‘share’ it on social media.

since its debut this summer the chart to watch is: buzzanglemusic.com
this one is a comprehensive aggregation of sales from
all platforms.

as my sage mentor told me way way way back: the two indicators
of a record’s programming value are 1st: requests 2nd sales
and the dollar spent to buy a song is the more important of the two.

the conundrum that we can’t solve is: WHO is buying the record.
Country is primarily and Adult 35+ format.
under 30 demos are far and away more likely to buy and share
music than past-30 adults are. so that gives the charts their
present skew towards BroCountry and the Country-rap glut.
much of this is “not Country” to more mature ears, those who
are much more likely to listen to broadcast radio than ipods.
so, a Country music director needs to be careful with
acts like Dan + Shay and new guy Kane Brown, both of whom are
doing fairly well on all charts now.

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Human Element Missing

One of the many mistakes corporate radio has made is the elimination of the live, human element from much of their broadcast day. And no, happy-talk voice-tracking is not a proper substitute. Most announcers lose something when they are voice tracking; the immediacy is gone, they’re talking “professionally” to a microphone rather than to their listener.

The golden key to listenership success is to create a personable station, a station that clearly sounds like one that has Real People putting it together. The station need not be the slickest, although consistent levels, cross fades and good processing of the audio are required. We need to sound less-automated than corporate radio. While not necessarily everything that is coming down your stream has to have a live disc jockey sitting there every moment, talking live between the records, what we must have is regularly updated personalizations, new stuff being said. Voices have to be there talking whether they be yours, a few regular announcers or voicers recorded from listeners. These things need to be freshened regularly; don’t let them get stale.

What to talk about? The one golden key, the one thing all successful radio disc jockeys have in common is: They talk about the music. Dick Clark, the most successful DJ of all time started in radio before American Bandstand. On the show, he never talked about anything that wasn’t music related. Casey Kasem, Alan Freed, my mentor Buddy Deane, same deal. They didn’t talk about politics. They didn’t tell jokes. The only opinions they expressed were positive ones; and, universally they were positive about the music they were presenting.

If you are involved in music radio, broadcast or internet, you are doing it out of your love for music and the odd, driving desire to share and present that music to other people. Everybody likes music. Most people love music. But people who are in radio love it more. That’s why we are doing this radio thing. To share the love. Communicate your interest and your love, verbally, your voice all the voices on your station. That is what will help bind listeners to your station once they find it. A successful radio station is a one-to-one companion for the listener. Sound more human and your station is more comfortable to spend a lot of time with.

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BroCountry Peaked in ’14

Here’s a Nielsen graph tracking Country listening trends. Looks like BroCountry peaked in 2014. But, it didn’t do much for the Country’s historical prime demo, 25-54. This suggests to me the mix I’ve put together for the New Country Tradition format on target for today’s marketplace.

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Adding New Music – Early Lesson

In the early years of Top 40 Radio, song rotations and music formatting were way different than what we know today. It was common for a station to play the #1 song of the week every hour. WABC in New York, the biggest Rock ‘n Roll station in the whole wide world at the time did that until the fall of ’68 when “Hey Jude” in all it’s 7 minute glory stayed #1 for nine weeks and the whole staff came near revolt.

My first PD also played a Pick Hit Of The Week every hour at :45. This was the early days of the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Dusty Springfield, Simon & Garfunkle, Motown, Mamas and Papas, so there was a lot to pick from. One week, I couldn’t find the previous week’s pick hit in the control room. I’d really liked it and asked PD Buzz who told me he’d pulled it. “Why?” “Well, not everything we like is going to be liked by listeners. What they like is the important thing. So, I play the record every hour for a week, then I pull it out and see if anybody notices.” “What?” “Well, if they like it enough they’ll notice they haven’t heard it in a while and maybe call in a request. If we get some calls for it, I’ll put it back in.” I think he then gave me a copy of the 45 to take home.

Buzz said hit stations play hit music and the two things that tell you a record has radio programming value are first, Sales and second, Requests. The phone calls come first because that’s where people find a new one they like. But you gotta pay attention to WHO is calling. Are different people calling or is it just one or two request-line junkies? If an adult called, that is more important than a teen call. Counting the requests for the songs in the playlist is important. Knowing something about who is asking for songs is equally important. My first lesson in the difference between quantitative and qualitative.

Sales are the main thing, he said. “The dollar spent to buy the record is the single most important indication that the record has radio programming value. The ones that sell big are the one’s we’ll still be playing as Oldies in the future.”

The first record promo guy I remember talking to was Moe Preskell, a legend in his trade. Short, round, bald, Jewish, cigar, a distinctive somewhat gravelly voice. A total pro at what he did. My little station in Arkansas was a Gavin Reporter, one of only about 50 at the time and, by far, the smallest of that elite club. For those on the young side, The Gavin Report was the first radio-focused trade sheet. It’s chart was where hit records were launched. There were three record stores in my town and when KOTN added one that Moe was working, he’d mail five 45’s to each of them with a note that it was getting play on the station and here were some free copies for them to have on hand if any customers came to ask. A week or two later, Moe would call the stores to see if any sold. If so, he’d then crow about it to every other station on the Gavin reporter list. And he’d begin pitching hard and heavy to larger markets nearby, Shreveport, Jackson, Memphis, Little Rock. Smart.

A few weeks back, I read an excerpt from a new book about product success in the marketplace, “Hit Makers”. It has a few paragraphs about a record promo guy who gets a station in Victoria Texas to play a new song, then he plugs into a data tracker from Slacker, the app that can listen to a few bars of any song and instantly tell you what it is. The record guy watches to see if his new song is getting Slacker’d in that little Texas town. If it is, then calls stations in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas and tells them the story: Listeners heard it. Listeners wanted to know what it was so they could hear it again. That means this may be a hit record that is good for you to be playing, too.

It’s always true. To build and maintain an audience: Play what your targeted group of listeners like. Watch for what they respond do. If they take action to hear a record again, pay attention. That action can be a request, a record sale or download, a lot of ‘shares’, or significant Slacker hits.

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More About Move/TV Music Synergy

Following my post about playing Goldfinger a few minutes after the Bond movie let out so’s some folks would hear it on the way home and, we hoped, be getting an extra little shot of feel-good juice from our station. Here’s how such a thing can be done today. Take The Sopranos. Season Five, in the opening segment something happens, Tony is pissed, slams the car door and takes off up the driveway. And out blasts “Heaven Only Knows” a solid Country rocker from Emmylou Harris. Now, the single wasn’t a big hit. Only got into the Top 20 in ’89. The Sopranos episode first aired fifteen years later. I moved it into a hot rotation for a few weeks after that episode first aired. The series, of course is iconic and continues to draw viewers today and I still schedule it in a Light Gold rotation. One could take something from The Sopranos for just about any format. Rock, Salsa, Classical. Here’s a list that shows every song used in every episode of the series. If you found something that fits your format, maybe the one that was on Tony’s soundtrack would pump just a bit more juice into your music mix than the ordinary Oldie would.

Here’s an up-to-date usage of the idea. HBO has another solid hit mini-series with “Big Little Lies” that made prominent use of The Temptations classic “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” in all the advance promos and trailers and was the background music for an extended seies of scenes at the end of Episode Six when some heavy shit was coming down. If I were programming an Oldies station this winter and spring, I’d have that one moved into Power Gold until at least the first of June.

I’ve always paid attention to the music used in movies and on tv, especially the music in the Hit shows. Whenever I hear something that is in my format, I pump up the spins on the station.

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Playing Goldfinger After The Movie Ends

Before I started my 7 to 10:30 pm airshift one Saturday night in early ’65, my program director, the guy who’d hired me told me to play “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey at a specific time that evening. This was a surprise because he was the same guy who’d already schooled me that successful radio stations played the hits and “Goldfinger” was not a hit. It peaked at #21 and was on the Billboard cart for just nine weeks. Still, I was to spin it at the given time because it was approximately ten minutes after the James Bond movie ended at the local drive-in movie. He wanted people to hear it on their way home, to get another little taste of the hit movie. Buzz Bennett was a great explainer. He’d have said something like, “It’s a hit movie and the song reminds people of the movie so maybe some of those people will make a mental association that this radio station is in the groove with whatever it is they like.”

I took that to heart. Throughout my career, I’ve paid attention to the music being used on TV and in the movies, and when appropriate, I’d juiced my playlist with songs that echo the visuals from other media. When the hit show “Northern Exposure” had a Patsy Cline oldie playing on the jukebox in one long scene, I put it into a heavy rotation for the next week. This past week, the hit show “The Americans” had the two lead actors dancing together to Alabama’s “Old Flame”, a huge hit in ’81 that hasn’t been much heard on Country radio stations over the past 15 years. Popping that into a hot rotation for the next week or ten days now still makes sense to me.

This is a small thing really, barely perceptible. But I think it is elemental. A successful music radio station resonates and associates with other media.

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The New Country Tradition – My New Format

My hand-tooled Country music formatting and scheduling service is now available for broadcast stations in the U. S.

Working with The Talent Farm syndication service, I provide my personally curated hour-by-hour music schedule to subscribing stations. The daily playlist is delivered directly into the station’s playout/automation using the services of Syncronicity. The full library is supplied in .wav format. New playlist adds are immediately downloaded to the station’s automation/playout system.

Radio managers, program directors and decision-makers can hear the actual music flow on a private, linked page. Send your request to me at this address: steve@stevewarren.net, or Phone: 512.392.2415

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Drop the WWW, Please

Advertising copywriters, Please. The ten syllables in your ad copy are no longer relevant. “da bul you, da bul you, da bul you dot” …is pointless now. we don’t have to type it in to get anywhere anymore. Like for this site. No need to type www.stevewarren.net, just stevewarren.net gets you here.

And program directors should ban it from all mentions of the station’s website. Just have the announcers go straight to it: “find us on the web at Radio95.com” gets the job done.

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The Importance of the DJ

Found in my archives, a short memo I posted in the control room in the summer of ’80.:

    Folks, A recent RadioIndex survey7 show the DJ is ver important to a listener’s enjoyment of his/her station. Well over half – 66.5% – said so. The jock is particularly important to 12-17 year old boys, 18-24 females and 25-24 men.

So that’s from thirty-seven years ago and the aural world has changed. Nobody’d heard the word “internet” and most people had no more than three stations that played the music they preferred. Few were fully satisfied with their favorite stations because that is impossible. But they all Liked their favorite station a lot, it was a major part of their lives. And some of them truly loved their station. It was part of their family. I’ve not yet encountered a single person who says they love Pandora.

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