Friday, March 30, 2007

Imaging = 2 Million Dollars !!!!!!!!!!

What would it cost if a 'client' came to you and wanted to buy 12 impressions an hour every hour for the year? While we'd probably back away because it's a lot of exposure for 1 client and it could get pretty tedious to listen to, but just imagine what that would cost IF we sold it to him. Let's say you charge $50 for a :60, in this case the 'client' wants some 10s a few 20s, a couple of live reads, and maybe 1 30 second spot an hour - so let's put the average rate here at $30. 12 units an hour is roughly 100,000 spots a year. Even if you treated overnights/weekends has a bonus and only charged for 70,000 spots it's over 2 million dollars. That is what the imaging is worth here.

Wow 2 million in air time. If that was your promotion budget we'd have Payton Manning on our TV spots, there would be huge billboards on every corner and our brand would be impossible to escape. Are you treating your imaging as if it was worth 2 Million? Or are we just running the same sweepers that are mostly weird movie and TV clips with the calls/slogan read over another packaged effect? Does you imaging have a real purpose or is it just window dressing?

Ideally you should be:

  • Recycling other dayparts

  • Selling your music position

  • Building up the station events and promotions

  • Promoting Usage (music quantity, at work listening, web, special weekends)

  • Creating the Attitude/Feel of the station.

Most stations do a real good job of creating the attitude and building the events/promotions, but let the other unique selling points fall to the background. In any 20 minute period (the listener's commute) you should cover at least 4 of the 5 points listed above. Once you start to build a plan that has a consistent purpose and keep it fresh with strong creative you will have a 2 Million Dollar imaging machine. So when you whip out the budget for the Spring Book - go ahead and just add a million to it (the CFO won't even notice).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Step Away From The Keyboard

You probably know something of the history Lee Abrams' impact on Rock radio with his development of the AOR/Superstars format in the 70s and 80s. Today he's at XM leading their product develpment and still dispenses some useful insights on his blog .

One of Lee's most impactful themes was 'the balance of art and science.' Lee used this theme a number of times addressing the programmers of the 70s and 80s and it still rings true today. Great radio stations are not completely built on the science of crunching numbers, analyzing research, and working behind the computer screen. They are built by the creativity of the whole team. The air staff's work behind the mic, the imaging between the songs, the promotions in the streets, and having a creative music mix.

While the research data, the music scheduling software, and digital studios are useful tools. The research allows us to hear the audience's reaction and opinions and the music software and digital studios do help us consistantly keep the product on the air they are not content. Yet we often see PDs working dilgently at their screens breaking down web metrics, tweaking the music log, fine tuning the station to the smallest details - instead of spending time focusing on the ART side of the product.

Radio programming is a 'team sport.' It takes the creative resources of everyone on your staff and to use those creative resources you have to put on your coaching hat. Great winning coaches have great skills with the 'Xs and Os' but they also know how to motivate the talent on the field. While the plan may gain from spending time behind the keyboard the real execution comes from leading the staff. Taking the time to brainstorm, motivate, and coach the airstaff, imaging team and promotion folks is where you can make a real impact on the product. Great stations do not come from the computer screen they happen on the air.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rap Music - Is it Dead?

Recently while attending the Canadian Music Week meetings I wandered into a session called - Is Hip Hop Dead? An interesting panel headed by Guy Routee from the 90s' group Aftershock who now manages artists and others from the world of Hip-Hop. Of course they were keying on the statement from artist Nas who recently declared Hip Hop dead. Sales fell over 20% in 2006 for the first time in 20 years and no Rap artists pulled off a top 10 album in 2006.

The panel concluded that Hip Hop is really the 'culture' here and Rap was a music trend within the culture. Of course the culture isn't dead, but Rap as a music form is not the force it was just a few years ago. As Rap moved from the authentic street movements in N.Y. and L.A. to the glitter and excess of success it lost its roots. Once McDonalds decided to re-make its image a few years ago with rap infused TV campaigns the writing was on the wall. Suddenly it was all about the 'bling.' Now the original appeal was watered down and the Hip factor was fading fast.

Music styles are clearly cyclical. In Rock we can go back to the 70s and watch the supergroups emerge in the early part of the decade with Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, the Stones and many others. The rebellion factor with longer hair, longer songs, and the rock lifestyle grew into the corporate rock days of Foreigner, Boston, Bad Company and others. In the mid-80s we began to see the decline - ever watched some of the Whitesnake videos? Suddenly it was all about hot cars, lots of babes, and being stars - not artists. Look further back to the Motown days which started out with an authentic sound from the streets of Detroit, but by the 70s it had become a glitzy show that had largely moved to L.A.

What's next? Indie rock will likely be the new 'authentic' music form from the streets of MySpace with a sound that's pretty much a 180 from the Rap style. Pop songs with bit of a folk side from small independent bands that are more geared to building themselves instead of being built by a big label machine. While some might label it as an extension of the Alternative sound of the 90s Indie bands are emerging quickly in the 16-21 age group. There's even a movement within the Afro American community for Indie bands with the Blipsters.

How will radio respond? Hopefully we will - MySpace is already way ahead of us in leading the charge here. Internet radio is also ahead of us. It's also a tough landscape with lots of bands, very little formal infrastructure (like the record labels). We may need to put down the charts, stash the research for a while, and find a way to connect with the streets again - only in this case the street may likely be on the Internet in the social networking world.

We also face little interest in non 25-54 formats and right now this movement is a lot more 18-34.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fall 06 Rock Ratings Review and PPM?

You can review our analysis of the Fall Arbitron ratings summary for Rock Formats on the McVay Media website -

It's not a pretty picture and while all of us in the rock radio world do have some valid reasons and excuses it's time for action. See the full picture for yourself.

I am also preparing a review of the new People Meter system that Arbitron has now certified and will be implementing throughout the next year in a number of the larger (mostly top 10) markets. After attending the on-line Arbitron sessions it's obvious that PPM will have many complex and far reaching changes that will affect all of us even if your market never gets the service!!! As soon as we get that article posted on the McVay Media site please read it for your own career's sake.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On Line Research

Been preparing a Panel for the Canadian Music Week conference in Toronto comparing on-line and traditional phone based research systems. For most of you who have never been to a CMW convention Canadian Music Week is a unique gathering of Canadian artists and broadcasters every March in Toronto. There are many sessions for both the broadcasters and the musicians and lots of showcases - it's a lot more like the Country convention in Nashville than the typical NAB or R and R meeting we have in the U.S.

Our panel for the On-Line/Traditional session includes Jeff Vidler from Solutions Research in Canada, Mark Kassof from Kassof Research, Tom Meyer from Media Score on line research and Julie Adams VP/GM/PD at CHDI in Toronto. I've worked with Jeff, Mark and Tom on various projects in Canada and with Tom and Jeff we have stations where we do all on-line research. Perceptual studies, library music tests (300 plus titles) and monthly call out style testing is all done on-line.

There are a lot of advantages to doing research this way including:
  • Sample Size - In most music tests we are lucky to have 80 people in the room, but most on-line projects are at least 300. The much larger sample allows us to slice and dice the data a lot more with confidence in the results.
  • Respondents dictate the pace - Since all the respondents are doing the study on their computers at their pace they can stop for dinner, replay the song or audio/video element and take the test at their pace. No more people in a music test finding themselves 3 songs behind or rushing through answers on the phone. People actually have time to think about their responses and it shows in the data.
  • Phones - Even though Arbitron and BBM still use phones to gather the sample it's quickly becoming an outdated way to do research. We can't use cell phones and so many people really don't communicate much anymore on their land lines.
  • New presentations on the questions - On line we can play audio, video and even use some java/flash tricks to make the questionnaire more interesting and interactive. No more repeating 'on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being love it and 1 meaning you hate it...' We can put a little volume control up and tell them to turn it up or down.
  • Costs - It's clearly less expensive to do research on-line than using call out, phone banks and auditorium tests.

The biggest obstacle is gathering a sample. With the phone we have a directory that probably includes at least 60% of the phone numbers in the market so we can just grab a bunch of numbers and start dialing. On the Internet it's a little harder. There are millions of email addresses and since the user defines the name there's no system to it. The addresses are also all over the world which won't help you in the middle of Kentucky. We have found more and more databases of email addresses to use. In Canada, with a smaller population base, it's a little easier to find email databases that are sorted by geographic area (postal codes) and ages. For the monthly music testing on-line we build a database from on-air/web promos and for the library (bigger) music tests we use a combo of station and outside databases.

Actually the results have been very useful. The music scores are a little more passionate than we see in the auditorium tests, with less unfamiliarity and higher burn scores. In the perceptual studies we see a lot more longer and more detailed responses to open ended/comment style questions. You can see that when the audience has a little more time to respond and can do it at their pace we get more data and they are clearly a little more 'into it.'

This is the future of research. Some may argue that this system is not as random, doesn't match the systems the ratings firms use, and that we don't have as much control over who we are talking to. All valid points, but having a lot bigger samples, moving away from the outdated phone line, lower costs and getting a lot more data are also big advantages that need to be considered. We all know we need to re-think and re-invent radio to survive in the new media world. We're going to need research and data to do it and a lot of it. On-line systems will have to become a part of the plan sooner than later.