Top 40: Currents are Repeated More and More and More

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Top 40: Currents are Repeated More and More and More

Postby jon » Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:21 pm

From this morning's Broadcast Dialogue:

It’s no secret that radio has had shortened playlists for decades but now the Wall Street Journal reports that the Top 40 stations are now, because of digital competition, playing a lot fewer songs. And, says WSJ, they’re being played with much greater frequency. Because improved monitoring of consumers’ radio habits, it says, the top 10 songs aired in 2013 were played nearly twice as much as the top 10 a decade ago. The most-played song on American radio last year was Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. It aired 749,633 times. Ten years earlier, 2003’s top song was When I’m Gone by 3 Doors Down. It was played 42,160 times.

Here is the WSJ article:

Radio's Answer to Spotify? Less Variety
Stations Create More Repetition, Fearing Listeners Will Tune Out Unfamiliar Tunes
Hannah Karp
Jan. 16, 2014 2:16 p.m. ET

Synth-pop band Capital Cities has plenty of songs on its debut album that it wants to promote as singles—if only radio programmers would allow it.

The band's hit, "Safe and Sound," is the only song most fans have heard: it has been playing on the radio for more than two years. And because so many listeners now know the song, which peaked last year at No. 2 on radio's Top 40 chart, stations are afraid to take it out of rotation.

"'Safe and Sound' just wasn't going away," said Capital Cities' manager, Dan Weisman, who postponed plans last fall to promote the band's second single until later this year. "You don't want to shove it down people's throats if they're not ready to move on."

Faced with growing competition from digital alternatives, traditional broadcasters have managed to expand their listenership with an unlikely tactic: offering less variety than ever.

The strategy is based on a growing amount of research that shows in increasingly granular detail what radio programmers have long believed—listeners tend to stay tuned when they hear a familiar song, and tune out when they hear music they don't recognize.

The data, coupled with the ballooning number of music sources competing for listeners' attention, are making radio stations more reluctant than ever to pull well-known hits from their rotations, extending the time artists must wait to introduce new songs.

The top 10 songs last year were played close to twice as much on the radio than they were 10 years ago, according to Mediabase, a division of Clear Channel Communications Inc. that tracks radio spins for all broadcasters. The most-played song last year, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," aired 749,633 times in the 180 markets monitored by Mediabase. That is 2,053 times a day on average. The top song in 2003, "When I'm Gone" by 3 Doors Down, was played 442,160 times that year.

That is partly because about 70 new Top 40 stations have sprouted up over the past decade, said Clear Channel's president of national programming, Tom Poleman, while stations specializing in rock and smooth jazz have dwindled. But other radio formats are getting more repetitive, too, while the line is blurring between pop songs and songs that once fit more neatly in other categories, as artists and listeners to embrace a wider variety of sounds as they jump from genre to genre on digital playlists.

The top country song last year, Darius Rucker's "Wagon Wheel," was played 229,633 times, while 2003's top country hit, Lonestar's "My Front Porch Looking In," got only 162,519 spins.

The intensifying repetition is largely a response to the way radio stations now measure listenership. Six years ago the industry began tracking listeners in many radio markets with pager-like devices called Portable People Meters, which monitor all the stations that selected listeners hear throughout the day—in their homes, cars or public spaces. Radio programmers can watch how many of these people tune in and out when they play a given song. In the past, the same listeners recounted their listening habits in handwritten diaries that were far less detailed or accurate.

Programmers also take other research into account when building their prime-time playlists, like listener surveys and social-media buzz, since people-meter data—based on relatively tiny sample sizes—isn't perfect. But the numbers are impossible for advertisers to ignore, and because more listeners generally tune out when they hear a song they don't know, radio stations have carved out special time slots for new music so that they can keep familiar tunes in the regular lineup and preserve their ratings.

Three years ago Clear Channel launched a program called "Artist Integration" that plays snippets of new songs during advertising time instead of music-designated time. Clear Channel itself is buying the ad slots in order to promote new records. In Los Angeles, hip-hop station Power 106 does its experimenting with new tracks on "New Music Tuesdays," which airs in the afternoon.

Old-fashioned terrestrial radio remains by far the most popular source of music in the U.S. and the way that most consumers say they discover new music, according to Nielsen research.

In addition to playing fewer hits more often, the radio industry has taken a range of other measures to hold on to its audience in the digital age. In August, for instance, broadcasters rolled out an app called NextRadio—preloaded onto many Sprint phones—that lets smartphone users listen to FM radio without draining their batteries or data plans.

Songwriters and publishers of the top-spun songs benefit from the extra airplay they get now, since they get paid royalties for every radio spin at a rate that increases once a song becomes a hit, thanks to the way performing-rights organizations distribute publishing royalties.

But for record labels and artists, who don't earn royalties from airplay in the U.S., the growing wait time to launch new singles makes it even harder to sell albums. Album sales fell 8% in 2013 to 289.4 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"It's easier to sell albums when you have multiple hit singles," said Mr. Weisman, Capital Cities' manager.

Veteran radio promoter Richard Palmese said he tells programmers they should spin a new song at least 150 times during peak listening hours—basically rush hours—before they draw any conclusions about whether fans like it or not, since many songs take time to grow on people.

But that can be a hard sell. When Mr. Palmese first asked Top-40 stations to play The Lumineers' acoustic-guitar-driven single "Ho Hey" in 2012, for example, many responded incredulously, making jokes along the lines of: "What are you giving me, a Peter, Paul and Mary record?"

Mr. Palmese gave up and set out to land the record on adult-alternative stations instead; six months later it peaked at No. 2 on the Top 40 chart.

Sometimes there is simply no room for new tunes, despite a programmer's wishes. Ebro Darden, vice president of programming at New York's Hot 97, said he didn't have the space to immediately add a single from Wiz Khalifa's album "O.N.I.F.C." when it came out last winter, even though he liked it, the record label had bought ad time, and Mr. Khalifa—who would come in to do promotional interviews—is one of hip-hop's biggest stars.

In the new intensely scrutinized world of radio, said Mr. Darden, "taking risks is not rewarded, so we have to be more careful than ever before."

To see the most played songs of 2003 and 2013 and the original article: ref. - ... 0485141672
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Re: Top 40: Currents are Repeated More and More and More

Postby freqfreak2 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 2:51 pm

Back in Edmonton in the sixties, when playlists seemed a lot wider, the same song playing at the same time on both CJCA and CHED seemed to occur just once in a blue moon.

According to tweets on the #yeg twitter feed this is now happening at least once a day on the fistful of Edmonton stations with overlapping formats, with sometimes the same song being played on three stations at once.

No wonder the business is suffering: too many stations chasing a fixed number of listeners each with less to offer them.

Back in the day, CHED ran a splitter that went, "Don't you be a dial twister or you will get a CHED-land blister."

With modern radio presets just a touch away, today's already fickle audiences have too many opportunities to be disappointed by this current practice.

Makes you wonder when "playing it safe" will go out of fashion.
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