Monday, July 30, 2007

Some Good Signs For Rock Music/Radio

Usually twice a year we take an in-depth look at the Spring and Fall Arbitron Format analysis where they gather all the ratings from the top 100 markets and break them down by format.

The news is usually released after all the books are out and nearly always headlines another decline for all the rock formats. The facts are there as we can see the last 8 years showing a steady decline in most demo breakouts. We've all been hopeful that someday we'd see the tide turn here and perhaps it could come as we get the first 2007 numbers in just a few weeks.

Even if the numbers don't show a turnaround yet there are lots of signs that one is happening on a number of fronts:

  • Rock is HIP again - Look at all the signs from the huge popularity of Guitar Hero, overall CD/download sales of rock acts, the summer concert sales picture, and the 'Indie Rock' movement in the 16-22 age group. Look at the music out right now from Linkin Park, Foo Fighters, Finger 11, Velvet Revolver, Ozzy, Pumpkins, White Stripes, Nickelback and other fairly well established acts. We also have lots of new artists breaking
  • PPM - Suddenly in the markets where PPM will be taking over there is a rush to rock. New York and Philly both signed on new rock outlets and expect to see more in the top 20 as the year progresses. PPM finally shows a lot more acceptance and listening to rock radio than we've been seeing in the diary system. Arbitron will also likely be trying to shore up the sample issues in the diary a least a little. There will still be over 200 markets on the diary system for years to come and of course we all need confidence in the numbers. Both of these events could combine to 'turn the tide.' We will probably see some confusion in the Format reports from Arbitron as they phase in PPM data. The data is different in diary and PPM and there will be issues combining it for a national perspective on formats done with 2 different methodologies.
  • Howard's History is fading - One of the big reasons we saw declines in 06 was from Howard leaving and seeing many of the CBS rock stations either change to a full talk format or at least have their ratings chopped up over Howard leaving.
  • Other Formats - Look around at the other formats - CHR is struggling a bit as a lot of the core younger audience is very into other media. Country seems to be in a little lull for artists right now - no one is crossing over or getting huge notice outside the format core. A/C doesn't have a huge new artist and note that Christmas music is months away rock could benefit. Urban is also a little light lately as the rap/hip hop artists are not as rebellious and authentic as they were a few years ago - too much commercialization and bling have worn out their welcome. Hispanic may still be impacting some markets but here we also see a leveling of the playing field as PPM will not show as much listening as we see in the diary where Hispanics can 'vote in a diary' for their culture and language vs. recording what they actually listen to with a PPM monitor.

We're about 3-4 weeks from the report and it could be a confusing one from Arbitron, but the signs are there. Now back to trying to best my son's score of 99 on Kiss' song Strutter on Guitar Hero - a song rock radio added nearly 20 years before he was born. I bet we'll see even more teen and 18-24 number for Classic Rock formats over the next few years and we'll happily have Guitar Hero to blame.

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