Charlie Cook On Air: Chasing The Youth

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• July 26, 2013
Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

Last week I wrote about the popularity of country music in PPM markets. It seems like each month there are eye-popping results in market after market.

I like to write information based on a snapshot of the radio chart. I am writing this on Monday, July 22, 2013, so there may be some adjustments to the Mediabase chart by the time you read this. But today on the weighted chart I am looking at, Kip Moore is No. 1. The Band Perry is No. 2 and Hunter Hayes is No. 4, followed by Randy Houser at No. 5. Brett Eldredge is No. 8. Half of the Top 10 are acts that were not regularly on the Country Chart just a couple of months ago. Going a bit deeper I see Tyler Farr, Florida Georgia Line and Lee Brice.

This composition looks more like the CHR chart, with new acts breathing new life into the format. The difference is  the country performers will likely be around in five years. I doubt you will say that about Daft Punk, Imagine Dragons, Zedd or (hopefully) Miley Cyrus. The last year has seen a blossoming in the younger demographic listening to country radio. That clouds the outlook, because some programmers could end up chasing this group and forget about the core of the format.

I have written about attending the Kenny Chesney show in D.C., Brad Paisley in Pittsburgh, the CMA Fest in Nashville and Jason Aldean in Boston in the last six weeks or so. Just looking at those crowds would lead you to believe the format is solidly 20-25 years old.

For those of you around during the Disco phase of music, who attended clubs each weekend, probably thought Disco was going to be a huge radio format. Those people are now selling insurance. What I don’t know is how these younger fans feel about the catalogues of these artists. I wonder if Kenny Chesney fans feel the same way about “You Had Me From Hello,” which was played on stations from Albany, N.Y. to York, Pa. last week, that they feel about “Pirate Flag.”

I chose a Top 5 market from Friday, July 19, 2013 and looked at a few hours on the station.
6 a.m.: Three songs from 2013, three from 2012, one from 1992, one from 2002 and four from 2005-2011. Four of the songs were identified as current.
11 a.m.: 6 current. 5 recurrent. 4 gold (2002-2009)
4 p.m.: 6 Current. 4 Recurrent. 5 Gold (2006-2010)

Then I looked at four individual stations, including KKGO, WMZQ, WUSN and WNSH. Go Country averages 2007 and is 50/50 Current-Recurrent/Gold. WMZQ averages 2009 and is 65/35. WNSH is 65/35 and averages 2008, while WUSN is 70/30 and averages 2009. The amount of music also plays a role. In the 7 a.m. hour KKGO plays 14 songs, WMZQ-10, WNSH-8 and WUSN-9.

For the heck of it I thought I would look at the other main formats. Top 40 station KIIS: 80/20 and averages 2010; KRBE: 80/20 and averages 2010; WBBM: 95/5 and averages 2011; and WHTZ: 85/15 and averages 2010. HOT AC stations—KBIG: 50/50 and averages 2008; KLLC: 70/30 with average of 2012; WPLJ: 60/40 with an average of 2008 and WTMX: 70/30 and an average of 2010. No use looking at Mainstream AC as we know they play only two or three currents an hour and some go back to the 70s.

Country stations are not all that different from Hot AC or Top 40 in balance and average. The country music format has become so much a current-based format that we stand to lose any connection to artists like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. There are only a handful of songs from as far back as 1991.

That is 22 years ago, but someone who is 45-years-old today was 23-years-old in 1991. Is the belief that these folks were not country music fans in their twenties? That may be true in some markets, but not in cities like Jackson, Miss., Shreveport, La., or even in Dallas. I chose one of the stations I work with, WJLS, and looked at the audience balance. I looked at the age spread (see image below). WJLS is the number one station in Beckley with a 21 share.

percentages1

Radio station WJLS snapshot

 

I am not saying the young audience is not a huge reason for the format’s success but we need to keep the total audience in mind and not get lost in concert crowds.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)

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About the Author

Cook is currently on the board of both the ACM and the CMA and serves as Director of Programming and Brand Management for West Virginia Radio Corp, based in Morgantown, WV. He is also President of McVay/Cook and Associates, a Cleveland-based media consulting company. He has served on the CRB Board for over 20 years.

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