For All To Hear
October 15, 2013
Capturing The Bling Generation
The population bulge in 2013 is concentrated between the ages of 30 and 44. These adults formed their music tastes largely from1990 -2004 and they carried their musical preferences into the middle years. They are the bling generation, and they have declared their musical preferences for all to hear. Predictably, however, their music tastes have softened a little as they've aged. Now they're kind of craving a more relaxing version of Urban music, but they still want to hear the hits. They still like some rap music, but their tastes have mellowed somewhat. For this generation, Urban AC may be a little too wimpy, while pure Urban could be too hard or unfamiliar. That's where a Hot Urban Adult station could score. It's clear an audience for this type of station exists; we've seen a demand emerge in market studies around the country.
With "Generation X," we were talking about a group of people who were emerging as their own unique demographic cell. Now we're forced to look at a new group of 34-49-year-olds. They're not really Generation Xers and they're not "baby boomers" in the traditional sense. But they're important and this time, we thought we would take a look at how they've changed and what type of radio now gets their juices flowing.
Because of advertiser demands, Urban radio, like most formats, fixates on 25-54, treating a broad, diverse cohesive group as a unit. We also know deep in our hearts that the 25-year-old female born in 1988 and exposed to Whitney Houston is light years from the 54-year-old male born in 1959 who sings along with some of the songs he grew up with.
We know it, but it doesn't help us let go of our 25-54 numbers. Now comes the strong evidence of a division along the lines of experience, lifestyle and psychographics, primarily in the 35-49 demos, although the lines blur at either edge.
One of the survival changes that will affect Urban radio this year is the expectation and listening choices of the younger "Generation Jones." Some call them the "tweens;" we call them "generation bling." They're the generation that looks at the epitome of hip as necessary. They're a generation that includes fly young females who search for expensive accessories, belts, purses and shoes such as those seen in fashion shows, videos and fashion magazines. Their male counterparts are looking for similar status symbols that identify them as not only being with it, but also being the trendsetters.
It's not just the rich kids who are driving these trends; it's any kid with an income. A lot more kids earn more money than they used to, and they feel they have the right to spend their money as they see fit. These young "blingers" will buy brands with allowances or wages earned from part-time jobs. This can lead to a fair amount of spending on brands once known only to the rich and famous. These "tween blingers" are much more brand-conscious than they used to be. They wear everything branded.
The interest in brands isn't just confined to the females. Young men are now looking for brands with which to impress their girlfriends. What has happened is these young men and women have switched from being influenced by their parents and the brands they buy to being influenced by their peers and the brands they aspire to own. For many, identifying with a brand is part of developing an identity different from their parents. These generations' tweens have grown up confident that they will have lucrative careers, so they feel entitled to own luxury brands.
This generation is listening to radio less and plugging in their ear buds to iPods more. Does this mean we have lost them as listeners forever? No, recent studies show simply that they will listen to their favorite radio station just long enough to hear the songs they eventually want to download.
As you may know, Arbitron (Now Nielsen Audio) is finding it more and more difficult to reach these young listeners, particularly young males. Why is it more difficult to measure the listening characteristics of young studs that are 18-34, whether they're straight or gay? There are several reasons. First, individually they're hard to locate, especially since many of them rock out with only their cellphones. Also, in many markets, greater proportions of men between those ages attend college or are in the military. This means their names are not included within their local markets' telephone directories, the main source that Nielsen uses to develop its sample base. Another reason is that young males are less motivated. Recent studies have shown that traditional marketing approaches are not as effective with young males as they are with other groups. And certainly for those who may be living with their parents or significant others, not all the mail that arrives at their homes gets their full attention.
Nielsen Audio will continue to test new materials and procedures designed to grab young males' attention. The goal is to achieve both consistent and long-term improvements.
Programming of any station targeted to younger men has become an even more challenging proposition. In addition to ongoing Nielsen sampling issues, the last few years have seen an explosion of competitive media and delivery systems. Everything from Internet audio service and satellite radio to the iPod and the recent emergence of cell-phone mp3s mean the consumer is consumed.
Designer Music Choices
This year's Urban programmers will have much less margin for error when making musical choices. The challenge is not only trying to propel cume and boost Time Spent Listening (TSL) for their own products, but also to compel the audience to spend time with the media at all.
A few group-owned stations have switched out of Urban formats altogether rather than fight demographic trends or increased competition. Others have successfully remained having made significant adjustments to their targeting and music mixes.
The bling that hit fashion, electronics and music is going to take its toll even more in the future. While it's too general and perhaps too early to predict that the traditional Urban target demos will shift completely, a growing number of influential stations have already made plans to adjust their focus.
We predict that change will be reflected in national playlist trends for 2014. For smart stations, there will be a decrease in gold content along with an increased emphasis on current and recurrent jams.
Being more adventurous musically also means an increased emphasis on personality and stationality. Clever, cutting-edge morning shows (whether local or syndicated) combined with awesome imaging, more effective marketing, slicker, animated websites and out-of-the-box promotions will become more important than ever in the coming year.
Finally, it's for all to hear -- these elements and tools are going to be necessary to score in 2014. They're part of what we're going to need to appeal to and win over the "bling generation." Whether you call them "hybrids," "green machines, or some other name, they are what is going to be required to keep Urban stations sounding fresh, irreverent and relevant going forward. Remember, you can't get over the hill without going to the top.