I’ve read a lot of articles over the past few years about how top 40 radio is doomed and how weak new music is in general across radio genres. Most of them point to a few things that seem to back up that conclusion showing declining ratings for those formats around the country and how poorly new songs are testing with radio audiences. But, are those declining ratings and song tests really pointing to a problem with the music or how we program new music on the radio? I would argue the latter. Here’s why…
There’s no such thing as a streaming hit or a radio hit, there are just hits. Now that artists are able to go directly to fans with their music, without a middleman deciding whether they should or shouldn’t hear it, we’re able to see instantly whether or not that song is connecting with their audience. But, only if we’re watching and paying attention to the right data. On the stations with new music we consult, or directly program, we pay A LOT more attention to how a songs performing digitally (mainly TikTok, Spotify and YouTube) than we do whether or not a bunch of other radio stations with similar formats are adding it. When we started doing this years ago we got massive amounts of pushback from clients and potential clients who were very comfortable with the old way of determining whether it was safe or not to add a new song to their station. That resistance has lessened over time, especially with clients who we give a peak behind the curtain to see the same data we’re seeing.
Our focus on the streaming data has allowed us to stay one step ahead of the traditional charts most programmers still watch, giving us a clear advantage over their stations. It’s how we knew recently to advise one of our clients to begin mixing in some Latin hip hop on their Texas-based hip hop station giving them a regionalized strategic point of difference from their competitor who’s tied to a nation log that’s the same in every market by design. It’s also why we were early adopters on the KPop artists that crossed-over here in the US and why we knew Morgan Wallen not only survived his temporary ban on country radio, but continues to be the strongest artist in country today. Additionally, it’s why we were week’s ahead on artists like Olivia Rodrigo a few years back in top 40/hot AC (And Tate McRae), Doja Cat and Ice Spice in Top 40/Urban/Rhythmic, Zach Bryan and Oliver Anthony on Country/Alt Country and a handful of others across formats.
There’s nothing brilliant or revolutionary about paying attention to data that’s freely and readily available to everyone. Yes, we take the extra step of tracking that data weekly across platforms and use our radio background to filter the tunes into their proper buckets for each format, but it’s not rocket science. The revolutionary thing is how we react to that data. Are we going to use it to change our process for how we add, move and schedule music or are we going to cling to an outdated system for doing so because it feels safer and more comfortable?
What do you think? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.
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