We Get Letters...
August 27, 2013
Two weeks ago in the â€œPeter Principalâ€ column, I pointed out that Country is enjoying some of its best-ever ratings. Former programmer Bob McNeill posted this comment:
â€œI hate to pour cold water on the Country ratings gains, but I will anyway. Everything is cyclical. And, if you take the time to go back in history, you'll notice that about every 10 years pop/Top 40 takes a dive and Country becomes the de facto pop/Top 40. The current crop of pop/country is attracting disenfranchised Top 40 listeners.â€
Bobâ€™s impressive resume includes WMZQ/Washington, Westwood One and most recently, KNTY/Sacramento. Heâ€™s right. Historically, Country has benefited in times of a musical decline for Top 40.
But this isnâ€™t one of those times. Not even close.
In fact, Top 40 is enjoying one of its best-ever music cycles, paralleling Country in that regard and with numbers. That premise is supported by the formatâ€™s recent performance. Last week I cited Countryâ€™s dominance via #1 rankings in 11 of 48 PPM markets so Iâ€™ll use the same measuring stick. Top 40 ranked #1 in nine PPM markets in the same (July) survey.
And programmers recognize itâ€™s a special time for Top 40, too. â€œItâ€™s on freakinâ€™ fire,â€ says Clear Channel/Nashville OM Michael Bryan, who oversees the clusterâ€™s Country WSIX and Top 40 WRVW (The River). â€œ[Top 40] has been growing for at least the past two years and even more so the last 18 months.â€ Bryanâ€™s background prior to â€˜SIX was exclusively Top 40; he arrived in Nashville after programming Clear Channel Top 40 WXXL/Orlando for five years
â€œI love that Top 40 now allows it to perform well with adultsâ€ says Bryan. â€œItâ€™s a really big time for both formats and we see WSIX and The River battle it out big time every month.â€ Bryan calls records like â€œBlurred Linesâ€ from Robin Thicke, â€œA monster, which is a â€˜Song of the Summerâ€™ contender. Two weeks ago we got a new Katy Perry (â€œRoarâ€) that will have 450,000 downloads and a Lady Gaga coming right behind that.â€ Bryan also notes releases from Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z this year, which underscore a similar musical depth and strength Country currently enjoys.
In fact, it is Rockâ€™s recent musical doldrums that is responsible for sending listeners to Country, believes Bryan. â€œRock sucks right now,â€ he bluntly asserts, adding, â€œCountry is now Rock and provides a destination for young males who arenâ€™t getting that sound fulfilled via Rock radio.â€ Thatâ€™s probably a topic for another, entire column. Hmnn â€¦ note to self.
Back to the point: Countryâ€™s growth hasnâ€™t come at the expense of Top 40, it is simultaneous to it. And it doesnâ€™t depend on Rock continuing to suck, thatâ€™s just icing on the cake. The music is real and radio is doing a solid job of delivering it to fans, new and existing. Thatâ€™s what makes the current, stellar state of our format even more impressive.