Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Welcome to Wednesday. Last night was the usually 18-34 explosion of really good-lookin' country singers. Is this what's hurting our format. We are taking this a bit too far and could loose the mid to high end of our life group if we don't look at this carefully. Nashville has to be lovin' this - Like lemmings all the Country stations are now real; 18-34 sounding. Playing Dierks Bentley, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and more. With the influx of 2000 based songs, recurrents and currents, you don't hear George Strait, Alan Jackson or even Tim 90's songs any longer. Research says the life group wants to hear this class of 2004. Those 75-100 people controlling thousands in the market. Is this right?
There is nothing wrong with this direction - If the station takes on that direction. You can't force a square peg in around hole. Meaning: Why are these Country stations all sounding like vanilla adult contemporary stations playing this ultra-young focus of music. We've replaced YOUNG COUNTRY with NEW COUNTRY. Some markets have two country stations and they are both doing this!
Play this musical direction and take on a hip, young, super sonic sound, like CMT - Blazing imaging and young talent hitting the streets and clubs - Do it like CHR. Play power currents in hyper rotations with medium and new currents, some recurrents and limited gold. Have the balls to do this. Country radio needs to wake up and splinter like AC and HOT AC. Mainstream and New Country. It would mean doing something different other than the accepted norm. Most managers would freak out: What's going to happen to the 25-54 Persons? - The target for Country was 25-44 Women. It should be redesigned for 25-34 Women.
YOUNG COUNTRY gave birth to CAT COUNTRY and other full throttle Country stations. The Twister was born as a splinter between new and old sounding Country stations. KTST used lines like "This ain't your Grandma's Country station". With this direction, you would image like "This is the Country station your mother warned you about". This is a great direction with the right sonic sound to investigate. If you don't, your competitor will and under slice you 25-54 and 18-34 with a mid- target of 25-34.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, Chuck!
    Your points are well-taken. Country radio has tried to have it both ways for too long. We want the 18-34’s for the big national buys that just go to the CHR’s, but we need the 25-54’s for the cume we need to get enough 25-34 of do that. It’s George & Alan vs Taylor & Rascal Flatts. As Taylor & Rascal take their brands more pop/rock, the divide gets even greater and it seems that nobody is happy with country radio these days.

    As much as Nashville would like for country to be mass-appeal, I maintain that, given the explosion of minorities in most larger cities, it just won’t happen. Country is—and has always been—the largest niche format and dissecting that into “young” and “old” will further cut the shares. Do you know of a Hot AC station anywhere that consistently gets above a 3-share? Most fight just to stay in the 2’s…so we should be careful how we proceed, I think.

    I’ve always subscribed to the idea that country is a niche format—albeit the largest one. If we treat country as niche, we then super serve a lifestyle and/or genre choice irrespective of demographics and we continue to maintain large 12+ numbers.

    When an owner asked Rusty Walker if his station should go country, he would always say, “Sure…but bring your checkbook!” Country stations, he maintained, cost more to operate because you need stronger PD’s, more experienced and mature Air Talent and the best salespeople in the market. Country music is a tough sell—and only the best, most creative salespeople to help clients reach the country audience and compel them to action. It takes commercials that are targeted specifically to the country life group…and some of the most effective commercials for country stations are endorsements and live reads by the station’s experienced jocks.

    When I was at KYGO/Denver—in the days when a 10-share was a bad book (as opposed to today when a 5-share is a good book), we had the best jocks in the city on-air 24/7 and we had the best salespeople anywhere. Jefferson Pilot Communications was owned by a Life Insurance Company—and these guys fully understand the value to great selling. I made so much money there: not just ratings bonus’, but endorsements and live reads coupled with remotes ($150/hr—3-hr minimum) and appearances ($98.5/hr). You can only imagine how much money the station made.

    Perhaps the days of country radio dominating 12+ shares are over. If so, we have no choice but to follow the Hot AC’s and try for a 2-station domination: one for 18-34, one for 25-54+. Lucky thing we can own more than one station in a city then, isn’t it? --j

    Thanks! --John

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