Charlie Cook On Air

PPM Pitfalls

If you’re reading this, my second note for MusicRow, then last week’s article didn’t end my writing career right out of the chute. That is great for me as there is so much to say about the relationship between radio and records.

Last week I touched, briefly, on research and how it is used and misused by stations and researchers themselves. Comprehensive research is a valuable tool for everyone looking for the truth and a navigable direction for your label, artists, individual songs and radio stations.

There is no more comprehensive research for radio than Arbitron. I remember sitting in the audience at an Arbitron seminar where they detailed the People Meter process. I said to myself, “wow, what a great system. Truthfully track the listeners and report their listening.” The presenters then went on to explain the system and detail what it takes to familiarize them with the participants. Then I thought, “Who the heck would take this project on?” It is not easy and the results make half of the station’s personnel angry on some level.

The People Meter has caused concern in both radio stations and then at record companies, as so much of what we do impacts the other industry. Radio programmers in the top 48 markets in America are living with PPM measurement and many Country Stations are thriving. Wow, Americans like Country Music. Wow, Americans like music that they can understand with lyrics about life experiences that are similar to theirs. Wow, Americans want to be able to share their radio with their families on the way to school, shopping and church.

We should all be very pleased with the current success of Country radio stations in PPM markets but I am afraid that long term PPM could be bad for building artist careers. The way stations are reading PPM many of them are removing the passion for the artists. We have passion for individual songs without building a foundation for the artists.

Many stations have eliminated on-air interviews or moved them to the station’s website. Many stations have eliminated disc jockey interaction with the artist.

Radio people will remember that famous PPM experiment in Houston years ago around a Kenny Chesney interview on the two Country stations. One of the stations was clearly more successful with the interview, ratings wise. PPM allows us to look, minute by minute, to rating’s results.

Apparently unfocused and uninteresting interviews are bad. Uninteresting chatter is also bad at cocktail parties, during dinner, on the phone and in the workplace. If you want to hold someone’s attention say something interesting, concise and with a punch line.

Suggestion number one for artists for PPM markets: come with something interesting. Come with something that can be transmitted to the listener in short order. If I am going to play “A Buncha Girls” give me five bits of information about Frankie Ballard that I can communicate in 5-7 seconds. WYCD would want to tell listeners that Frankie grew up across the state in Battle Creek. What about that Frankie toured with fellow Michigander Uncle Kracker. That he has opened for (another Michigander) Bob Seger. In fact, Frankie performed in front of two sold out audiences in Nashville. Opening for Seger one night and singing the National Anthem at a Predators Playoff game a few nights later. He also opened for Taylor Swift.

Nothing earth-shattering but it is a beginning of building a picture of Frankie and he is coming to life.

Second PPM tip for record companies. And this one is off the wall. PPM has seen a resurgence of Classic Rock radio. I contend that there are two reasons. Familiarity and…long songs. PPM measures listenership differently. If you can score 5 minutes of listening in a quarter hour you get credit for the entire quarter hour. Not any 15 minute segment, but: 00 to: 15 or: 15 to: 30 and so on.

So many of the Classic Rock songs are near the 5 minutes that makes collecting that quarter hour’s listening pretty simple. Play the right songs and you have minimized opportunities for tune outs. If you can collect listening with one hit song instead of having to pair two hit songs, you’re more than half way there.

Country record producers can identify some music that should be re-edited to approach that 5 minute length. How many Country stations would object to “Need You Now”-Lady Antebellum being 5 minutes long? That would pretty much guarantee that quarter hour’s listening. “Remind Me”-Brad and Carrie is 4:31. Give me a 5 minute version. Everyone knew that was going to be a huge record.

In single Country Music station markets you can play as much music as possible and depend on the popularity of the music. In markets with more than one Country Music station it is the subtle things that gain the advantage over your competitors.


Powered by Facebook Comments

Follow MusicRow on Twitter


Category: Featured, Radio

About the Author

View Author Profile