It’s on the radio because of 100 people

The reason the same crap plays on the air over and over again is because 100 people in an auditorium or 100 people or on the phone voted for it.  Congrats radio you are killing your own business. I know I’ve seen it and see it first hand.

It’s called research and radio with resources use it as much as they can and those who can’t afford it for one reason or another wish they had it.  It’s a great tool being totally misused by those who pay for it. Many of the third party companies who provide the tool would agree that the client doesn’t understand how to use the product either.

In a nutshell (pecan) research is simply asking what you don’t know in a controlled setting.  In radio, it was most effective when everybody didn’t have it.  30 years ago when there were less choices of ways of getting your entertainment (aka something to listen to while doing whatever) knowing what were the “hits” for your target audience was a definite advantage when other stations were guessing (not well) what the audience might like.  It only made sense for the time.  Call one hundred people who you’ve pre-qualified as those who would listen to your kind of station, ask them their favorite songs and artists, then play them little snippets of songs you’re playing and see how they rate those.  Seems simple enough and as flawed as the thought of playing bits of songs down a tinny phone line and asking to rank the song on a scale of one to ten may be, that’s how 95% of all music radio stations have aggregated core research info for years now.  The biggest mistake current based music formats make with this tool is that they use it (as it is designed) to tell you what was popular.  Then the programmer using this tool programs his/her station to play those tracks more often.  In essence they use it to see where they were… then they go back there again and again.

I myself have used this resource for year as well.  But except for a handful of other colleagues this resource has and continues to be misused.  Firstly, it’s great to know what tracks and artists hit a chord with your intended audience.  But it’s only 100 people and you may be serving a market size of five million.  100 people is not a large enough sample size to make a real determination, but it is cost effective.  Secondly, research tells you what was… it does not tell you where to go or what will be.  Thus, programmers keep going back to the same tracks over and over again as they get research results that say those track “were” popular.  Thirdly, because research costs a bunch (about 26K for an auditorium study, 20K for a perceptual study and 50K for a year’s worth of weekly call out research) management, wanting to get there monies worth by over analyze everything.  Programmers feel the pressure to use the research to be so squeaky tight and “correct” that in the end the station you listen to sounds like a buttoned down, squeaky clean, tight sphinctered bore fest!

Don’t get me wrong it’s great to know what listeners like and to play that.  But it’s also great to give them the next thing, the latest, the newest offering, the anticipated, etc etc.  Most stations don’t have the time or inclination to do so because research told them that you’d rather hear Even Flow by Pearl Jam or Flag Pole Sitta by Harvey Danger or Under the Bridge by RHCP.  Yes, those were great songs for their moment.  And, in an auditorium seated with 99 other like-minded peeps the 12 second intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit may still be cool just as long as I don’t have to hear the whole song.

Am I crazy here when I say, “Yeah, I got No Rain by Blind Melon, Plush by STP, Rooster by Alice in Chains and Everything Zen by Bush on my iPod and I don’t listen to them there anymore either!”?!


1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Chris  |  August 6, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    AMEN, why is this not obvious?


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