Consultant Joel Raab shares his thoughts with Country Insider on winning the new music image.
Most reputable research says that having the “new music” image is an important part of winning and/or achieving good ratings and revenue. Yet the quantity of new music isn't as important as the quality — and the winning of the position. You win that image by doing the following:
- Creatively billboarding new music.
- Having a new music feature (i.e., "New at 2,” “11:00 News”).
- Committing to what you believe is a really good song. If you think it's worth it, don't bury it in overnights or “add” it to make the calls recede. Give it significant daytime spins, perhaps in medium rotation for a reasonable time (four to six weeks).
- Identifying the song and artist through production or jock intros (see item No. 1).
- Making listeners care about the new artist and/or new song by providing an interesting backstory (there almost always is one).
- Letting the listeners know through imaging that your station is your listeners’ direct connection to the latest songs.
- Playing song hooks, sweepers or teases to help the audience become more familiar with new songs more quickly.
- Playing artist intros to brand the new music to your station. It never gets old to listeners to hear artists intro their songs.
- Making a Big Deal out of new superstars’ releases. If we don’t, who will?
"New" is a powerful word. But it's not enough to say you're "Number One For New Country,” as most country stations seem to claim that mantle. Embrace it. Embellish it. Involve the listeners with online surveys so that they'll participate and be more connected to your decision-making process (at least, perceptually). Seek feedback through social. Connect.
How much really new music is enough, and how much is too much? I've seen stations shoot themselves in the foot by overplaying the new, unfamiliar songs. It's not that listeners don't like them, it's just that too much of anything is a turnoff. Conversely, don't be afraid of the unfamiliar, if it's good! Fresh, new music that connects gives your station a strong, contemporary vibe. But give it to the audience in doses they can reasonably digest. New music, even if you are “Number One for New Country,” is only one piece of the puzzle as you seek to satisfy as much of your audience as possible.
How much new music you need to play depends on your situation. I've often felt that, while it's counterintuitive, it's harder to play a lot of new music when you're alone in the format, as those songs get exposed on only one FM station. DSPs help establish what's new and hot with younger audiences, but don't cede the position to anyone else! If you do, you do so at your own peril.