Music radio has been testing its songs for decades now using carefully-targeted samples of listeners to rate song hooks. Of course, we use research to determine the overall awareness and popularity of DJ’s and personalities – and sometimes even the recurring bits and features they may employ. But, what about the other elements – the promos, liners, jock breaks, commercials, etc.? If the songs are the bricks in our station walls, what about the integrity of the bits in between: the mortar in those walls?
For the 2016 Country Radio Seminar, NuVoodoo prepared a study of 1174 Country P1’s nationwide, ages 21-49, 3/4 women, 1/4 men. We invited stations attending the conference to submit elements for testing, understanding that we’d have them evaluated not only by the listeners, but that we’d offer the same interview to PD’s and APD’s in the format. We’d be able to compare how listeners felt about the promos, liners, jock breaks, etc. with how PD’s predicted listeners would feel about them.
In the ideal, PD’s are able to predict within a reasonable range how listeners will feel about everything on the air. Many PD’s are extremely prescient, especially with regard to music, able to predict which new songs their listeners will enjoy and which promotions will engage them and lift occasions and spans.
We had participants listen to each piece and then rate it on five scales – just as we do for client projects (but, of course, we’ve never been able to show the results here):
- Was it amusing?
- Was it interesting?
- Was it informative?
- Was it entertaining?
- Would they change the station?
Overall, PD’s were far more critical of the dozens of pieces we tested than listeners were. Things PD’s may have regarded as mundane or routine were enjoyed by listeners (especially in Country radio, where artists and stations have such strong connections). This 17-second KMPS positioner, imaging the station’s era width was entertaining, interesting and informative for many listeners and generated minimal tuneout predictions.
Sometimes the PD’s and the listeners were nicely aligned – as they were with a creative Zac Brown concert promo from WUSN (though PD’s underestimated the potential tuneout from this 30-second promo).
Years ago music research was a secret weapon for stations. Those early music tests sometimes felt counter-intuitive for programmers, but stations that used the information correctly scored big in the ratings.
At NuVoodoo, we have years of experience researching between-the-songs content. Our internet-connected world has raised the stakes for entertainment. Radio production that might have been regarded as incredible theater-of-the-mind 20 years ago is now met with a shrug.
With the pursuit of ratings increasingly a survival contest, it makes sense to do whatever you can to ensure that everything you control in your station’s programming stream is the best it can be. What choice is there?