For Conservative-leaning talk stations, what brings station communities together is pretty obvious. For NPR, it’s also obvious (though in a different direction). While it varies for different music radio formats and stations, the starting point is pretty consistently that listeners like the music the station plays.
In terms of finding a way for a music station’s presentation to relate to each listener, the starting point should presumably always be an affinity for the music being played. There may be community causes, events, cultural happenings or other things that listeners have in common, but music will always be a factor.
NuVoodoo does lots of music research and we know that it’s pretty typical that about a quarter of a station’s cume rates each of the songs played in regular rotation as a favorite song. Think about that: it means that at least one listener in four is likely to have a real, positive emotional reaction to each song played. It may be an up-tempo song that causes the listener to turn up the volume or dance in her seat. It may be a ballad that causes the listener to sing along. It’s likely that at least another third of those listening will like the song, having had some sort of positive experience while listening. Perhaps as little as an eighth of those listening will dislike a song, but have listened through, hoping the next one will be better.
So, what happens between the songs? Based on a one-hour monitor of ten major market CHR stations, there was full mention of the title AND artist of a song on only 3% of the possible occasions and mention of title OR artist on another 19% of the possible occasions. On over three-quarters of the opportunities between songs and going in or out of commercials, there was no identification of title or artist being played.
All these talented jocks were enthusiastic and having fun, but in only a few cases did we hear any emotion or excitement being expressed for the songs. While our composite scores show that the songs played were universally high in appeal, the jocks were given (or took) very few opportunities to relate to listeners through emotional connections to the songs.
Some stations in Classic Hits and other non-current formats say their songs are so universally familiar they don’t need to announce the names of the songs (though listeners often disagree). But, our monitor here was CHR stations, playing music almost entirely from the past year or so, including lots of new titles.
There were lots of contest promos and promos for station appearances and events. There were suggestions that the listener should follow the station on Social Media (in the very best cases including mention of what benefit the listener would get as a result of making a Social Media connection with the station). There were abundant mentions of stations being commercial free, which is a listener benefit.
It seems to us that relating to the listener through the music being played is an opportunity stations pass up too often. In the face of impersonal new media options like Pandora and Spotify, radio needs to use its human voices – live and produced – to make positive, emotional connections with listeners.