Monday, January 31, 2011

Grandma's Cooking Not For Radio

I generally come close to ignoring the Holiday PPM reports.  The Christmas AC's around the country generally go through the roof, and other stations' numbers pretty much shout aberration.  In fact, I wonder why Arbitron's Holiday dates do not coincide with radio's holiday period, when most Christmas stations program the music.  Issuing 2 reports with each covering Christmas music and regular weeks muddies things up for stations and advertisers.

A couple of things, however, seem to have broken through Atlanta's Holiday PPM numbers.  Star 94 (WSTR-FM) has to be happy.  After falling in December to its lowest ratings in months against Christmas music on B98.5 FM, many--myself included--expected the Hot AC to dip further due to more weeks of Christmas music in the Holiday report than December.  Yet Star 94 bounced back nicely, which makes me wonder what's in store for the LFM property this year.  Of course, it was only a month and, the many more days of measurement per panelist versus the diary notwithstanding, monthly ratings are sometimes bouncy.

Another observation that jumped out through the holiday confusion was that Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7 (WYAY-FM) hit rock bottom.  I'm guessing Citadel/Atlanta staffers are telling themselves that the old folks who listened to True Oldies have left, and the station is ready to start building.  And that could be partially true.  Yet the many other stations around the U.S. that evolved from "Oldies" to "Classic Hits" have not seen that happen.  In fact, many saw their demos improve and Total Persons increase.

So what's wrong with Atlanta's Greatest Hits?  Randy & Spiff are the morning show, and the duo has been accepted and successful in this market for years.  This is certainly an appropriate morning show; no problem there.  In middays, 106.7 has moved in Kristen Charles from weekends on Kicks 101-5 (WKHX-FM), 106.7's sister station.  Kristen is not of full-time major market quality; she's weekend caliber at best and would fit better on a Country station.  However, midday is a music-intensive daypart, and I doubt Kristen has much to do with the station's sagging ratings.  Afternoons feature one of the market's best personalities, Tripp West, who has the gift of sounding excellent in almost any format.  Evenings are automated, but I don't think the problem is the air staff or lack of one in the automated hours.

I haven't studied the formatics but have confidence that Program Director Mark Richards is a maven in that arena.  That leaves me suspecting the music.  I checked out what some of the country's leading Classic Hits stations are playing, stations such as WCBS-FM/New York, KRTH-FM/Los Angeles, KLUV-FM/Dallas and WMJX-FM/Miami.  All of these outlets were once full-blown Oldies stations that have successfully adjusted to add a big dose of 70's.  I noticed several differences from Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7.

Difference #1 - The out-of-town stations have definitely added 70's, but have nowhere near abandoned the 60's.  Each hour has approximately 7 70's songs and 5 60's tunes.  Atlanta's Greatest Hits plays 70's except for 1 or 2 60's each hour.  Keeping a significant amount of 60's is probably key to keeping the old audience while building a new one.

Difference #2 - Every hour in the other markets contains several blockbuster classics from the 60's, like Good Lovin' by the Young Rascals, She Loves You by the Beatles and Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison.  And yes, the 60's songs played by 106.7 are classics, but more than 1 or 2 per hour are likely needed to instill without doubt in former listeners that their favorite station has not gone away.

Difference #3 - On the CBS-FM's and K-Earths of the world, all 70's (and 80's) were smashes.  Examples are Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce and Billie Jean by Michael Jackson.  Steve Miller's Jungle Love and the Marshall Tucker Band's Heard It in a Love Song, which 106.7 plays, never cracked the top 10.  And many songs that made the top 10 are not necessarily classics and would not test well.  Just to See Her by Smokey Robinson and Cupid by the Spinners are pleasant songs but probably more appropriate for AC, where listeners look for an overall music sound.  Classic Hits listeners are probably more passionate about individual songs.

Difference #4 - The Classic Hits stations in the other markets have a good music flow.  In the 60's and 70's, Top 40 was a broad format, but these days, music on radio is segmented, and even Oldies/Classic Hits station have a consistent Pop/Rock tone.  Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7 sometimes flirts with a train wreck in this area.  My Sharona by The Knack and Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp received Top-40 play in the 70's but are now the province of Classic Rock radio.  WYAY's playing them is probably confusing to Oldies/Classic Hits listeners.

So how is Atlanta's Greatest Hits coming up with its hourly music clock?  Did the Citadel Corporate and Citadel/Atlanta brain trusts decide that moving almost entirely into the 70's was the way to go?  And who is selecting the individual songs?  Mike Macho is the Music Director, but are the songs his decisions?

We all dislike consolidation and the generic radio that it's created.  But one thing that consolidation along with technology did was make programming music a science.  Could WYAY be doing it on its own?  As much as we loved mom-and-pop radio, homemade is much better for apple pie and baked ham than compiling a playlist; that's best left to the experts...or at least the focus groups.

All 106.7 needs to do is look at what's playing on other Oldies/Classic Hits stations around the country.  I know the radio cliche that every market's different, but this would certainly be an improvement as well as get the station out of the dumps before it ever gets started.

Dylan Takes On Boston
Former Q100/Atlanta PD Dylan Sprague has been named programming chief at Clear Channel's Boston cluster, including the legendary Kiss 108 (WXKS-FM) and Jam'n 94.5 (WJMN-FM).  He will fill the huge shows of Cadillac Jack McCartney.  I worked with Dylan on a major promotion for the opening of Atlanta's Atlantic Station.  He is a keen and aggressive programmer, and a smart businessman.  He's also a really nice guy.  Congratulations, Dylan. 

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1 comment:

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