Hearing Familiar Favorites: The More Important, the Better the TSL
November 26, 2012
This week, we continue myth-busting, showing that people who are looking for a any one of a variety of particular music attributes listen to the radio longer than those who are less passionate.Â The truth is that the more passionate a listener is about key attributes that have always defined Radio, the more likely she boasts a long Radio TSL.Â These are the attributes that continue to spell success for radio.
We approached this inquiry by raising four questions that go to the heart of what drives music listening.Â In the past two weeks, we have addressed the first two of these questions.Â This week, we will tackle the final two.Â
There are really only a small handful of essential, traditionally successful, basic music-vintage positions, ranging from old to new, endlessly paraphrased and recalibrated according to format.Â But at least one of them will serve as a magnet to any successful music station.Â So let us take a look.Â Do a lot of listeners today prize each of these music positions?Â And if so, do those listeners, who consider each of those attributes important, listen to the Radio more, or less, than other listeners?
- Is Radio listening robust among the listeners who place high value on discovering new music?
- Is Radio listening robust among the listeners who place high value on hearing current hits?
- Is Radio listening robust among the listeners who place high value on hearing the most popular titles for their target taste?
- Is Radio listening robust among the listeners who place high value on music that brings back memories?
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Each listener had the opportunity to place high value on as many attributes as he chose.Â Thus, constituencies can certainly overlap.Â The same consumer who says exposure to new music as very important in his music listening life may also say that hearing the biggest current hits is very important.Â We are conducting a check-up on each group, one at a time, to make sure that in every one of these constituencies, Radio is addressing their needs.Â This week, we will talk about the third and fourth of these, addressing them together.Â They are both essentially about playing great-testing gold.Â This week, we will see who particularly values “the most popular songs for your taste,” and who values “bringing back memories,” by demos and format constituencies.Â And next week, we will compare those folks’ Radio TSL’s to those of listeners who are less passionate about hearing the established favorites, and also examine some other, related, familiarity/TSL patterns.
As we showed two weeks ago, most consumers say they want to be exposed to some (quantity-unspecified) new, unfamiliar music that fits their taste.Â That does not mean they want to be barraged with deep tracks and near-hits, and we went on to show how well Radio meets the needs of the average new-music-seeker.Â (To put the “new music” demand in context: One might wonder why that desire showed up among, for example, Classic Rock P-1’s.Â Hey, he could be defining the question as nothing more than “do you want to at least give a listen to the new Stones or Springsteen track?”) The nod to the new notwithstanding, this truth persists: When a consumer seeks out music, regardless of what kind of music, she nearly always wants the overwhelming majority of it to be highly familiar, a fact continually confirmed by innumerable successful research studies and innumerable unsuccessful depth experiments, across the formats.Â
Listeners Across the Board Demand “The Most Popular Songs for Your Taste”
There are two different ways consumers think about the desire for familiar music: one is driven by rationality, the other by emotion that desire.Â The first is:Â “I know what kind of music I like.Â Give me the stuff that I and others who share my taste know and like the best.” Simple enough.Â And in fact inclusive of almost any genre of music, from the most mainstream to the most esoteric.Â
The overwhelming majority of music users, regardless of demo, place a high priority on hearing the tested hits of their music of choice.Â Men over 35 claim to be the least obsessed with hearing the hits, and even among them, two-thirds rate this as a 4,5, or 6 in value, and only one in eight puts it at a 1 or a 2.
All format audiences want to hear the most popular music in their wheelhouse.Â Variations between formats are minor, all ranging between 72% and 88% ranking “most popular music” at a “4” or higher.Â The allegedly lowest demand for hearing the top testers is Country, which at a glance seems counterintuitive, but where we believe the low demand could be another manifestation of Country Currents Overload.Â In this study, and in other studies these days, we see this the syndrome.Â This question could easily have been interpreted by some of them to refer to currents and recurrents, since that is both a correct description of where that format lives and a correct description of why it is off-target for a large part of its audience.Â Many Country Radio listeners tell us “yes, yes, I know these are the hits, and I guess I’m a little weird, but I would like fewer of them and more songs I remember.”Â The CHR core, followed closely by those of Urban and AC, sports the highest demand for “most popular music.”
“Bringing Back Memories” is Highly Important, Regardless of Demo and Format
The other way in which we hear listeners talk about wanting to hear highly familiar music is emotional: they want to hear their personal life-movie soundtrack.Â For them, music conjures good feelings by giving them a full load of associations, probably only indirectly related to the songs themselves, but together providing a lot of positive and secure feeling.Â The comfort of hearing the audio to one’s unique bio, and plugging in one’s unique associations.Â
All demos agree.Â Again the older men claim to be slightly lower in this demand.Â Note that, within each gender, this attribute has somewhat greater appeal on the young end.Â No surprise, really.Â In the business, we tend to think of memories as a 35+ selling point.Â Because we are almost always, ourselves, older and into our various gold-based formats, we minimize the fact that emotions and memories are extremely powerful for younger listeners, even if they have a shorter memory.Â
By formats, if we take them at their word, the audiences most uniformly into “give me my memories” are those of Urban, AC, and CHR, each at more than 80% at a 4, 5, or 6.Â Even within younger rock and (almost always) current-dominated Country radio, the desire for personal memories pulls a 4, 5, or 6 from the core.
Next week, we will look at how these different groups use Radio.Â Does the listener who is most passionately drawn to the core library, or to the personal-replay library, use Radio more, or less, than the listener who is less passionately about that content?
What this means to you
When it comes to station choice, there are indeed universals, or pretty darned close to it.Â Regardless of what cravings we hear for depth, they almost always mean “the depth that will play my favorites,” as opposed to “the depth that will be largely unfamiliar or not as good as the powers.”Â It doesn’t matter what the genre or the demo.Â Right down to a young-end CHR user.Â Not only does she want the hits, she wants her memories.Â A personal memory of three years ago is no less sacred, and probably still much more vivid and visceral to a listener than one from thirty years ago.Â So know why you are playing the gold, and try as much as possible to present it with a proud packaging of both of these benefits.Â Whatever your format, you are there to showcase two things:Â the best testers and the soundtrack of her life.