What Will Be the Next Radio Format To Die?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  radiodork 1 year, 10 months ago.

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  • #27615

    Alfredo_T
    Participant

    In another thread, about one year ago, I wrote the following list of dead radio formats:

    x MOR
    x Full Service
    x Beautiful Music/Easy Listening
    x Smooth Jazz
    x Active Rock
    x Hot Talk

    Recently, while looking at the Nielsen ratings for various markets, I noted that nostalgia was invariably missing from the ratings. Stations that I have known to carry the format in the past (960 San Francisco, 950 Rochester, 990 Rochester, and 1120 Buffalo) now broadcast something else, and there are no commercial stations carrying the format in those cities today.

    Will nostalgia be the next radio format to vanish into the ether?

    #27618

    Andy Brown
    Participant

    Maybe, but I think ‘live’ radio across all formats is what has vanished more and may not survive the next downturn in the general economy except in the top 12 markets where the money competition for ad sales is way more fierce then in the entire industry.

    Automated formats dropping out of favor is always blamed on changing demographics and what any one demo is expecting. Young folks don’t ‘miss’ live radio because they didn’t grow up on it, ergo, their expectations are not the same as older demographics which are not as desirable in the commercial radio game. This may change due to the rise of LPFM live delivery but it will take a while to have a significant impact. More then likely the next recession, long overdue and quite likely under GOP dominance in politics (based on history and statistics), will have a major impact on commercial stations barely breaking even now.

    Also, certain formats will never go away totally even if they are barely on the list with single digit percentages of total stations using said format because there is now, has always been and will always be a very small group of commercial licensees that don’t play the ratings game and are more interested in doing what they want to do and serving a small community with a much broader stroke (format wise).

    Sadly, much of the chatter here and other boards is focused on the large group owners, what they are doing, what they aren’t doing, and who’s winning the ratings game. Although that segment is larger now then it’s ever been, it is still only a little more then half of the radio industry but it probably gobbles up about 75% of the ad revenues.

    #27650

    semoochie
    Participant

    Classic Rock will eventually go away because there hasn’t been much of it since about 1990.

    #27659

    Screamer
    Participant

    <<Classic Rock will eventually go away because there hasn’t been much of it since about 1990.>>

    I can’t disagree more. You have a lot of people in prime targeting demos right now whom grew up listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters and the like. There is a new generation of Classic Rock that most consultants don’t have a clue about and thus, little understanding of how to execute. The market is there.

    #27661

    e_dawg
    Participant

    Speaking of Full Service. I think 1190 KEX was the last major market in the country to have this format until August of 1999 before it became a 24 hrs of news/talk

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  e_dawg.
    #27667

    Alfredo_T
    Participant

    I am listening to 1550 KKOV, which just finished playing Mary Wells and is now playing Michael Buble. When I was growing up, nostalgia stations would not have played Motown; they were programming pre-rock & roll pop primarily to people from the WWII generation. I recall that they even had little tidbits about movies, celebrities, and news events from the 1940s and 1950s.

    In the intervening decades, the WWII generation became undesirable to advertisers and eventually started dying off. The format name stuck, but the stations in the format had to update their playlists. In the 1990s, the WWII era music disappeared (perhaps with the exception of the short-lived swing craze in the later part of that decade). Sometime in the early to mid 2000s, 1960s and 1970s MOR, as well as 80s soft pop was blended in.

    In the classic rock format, we’re seeing a similar demographic shift. I think that some stations will want to keep the classic rock identity but gradually shift their focus away from Baby Boomers to Generation-X. I think that classic rock will be around a bit longer than nostalgia, but eventually it, too, will go to the format graveyard.

    #27672

    Andy Brown
    Participant

    I don’t think it’s accurate to assume radio formats and music genres are exactly the same thing. Certain forms of music live on regardless of where the corporate programmers cubbyhole them. Case and point, your references to big band music. The musical genre lives on with many young and middle age musicians like Harry Connick, Jr. and Brian Setzer just to name a few.

    Also, many of these long lived forms make their way into more than one format, especially when the music is good and people want to hear it. But the song hasn’t changed any, just the corporate labels. There are many examples. What was once progressive cutting age rock became classic rock and in some cases wasn’t even a standard 4/4 time signature. What was once rock is now classic country (Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker, Commander Cody) because these artists were far too progressive in their lyrics to be on country radio when their early songs made it to the radio. In fact, much of the Allman Brothers catalog is jazz-rock fusion, sometimes instrumental, and almost always too long to be a Top 40 hit sans Rambling Man. Even moving forward to the 90’s, songs like ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam is not a rock song, really, it’s a blues ballad with suspended and minor chords.

    So, the larger question is who are these corporate programmers aiming at? I don’t mean to sound overly narrow, but 90% of corporate programming is based in the Top 40/CHR top 30 mold. Whether it’s country, soft rock, alternate rock, etc. it’s all about the most familiar songs of the genre of either today or yesterday. Fruit cocktail or ‘Classic’ Fruit Cocktail. That’s the big problem. You aren’t evolving if all you do is attract people by playing what is familiar to them. That’s the ratings game and that’s what corporate programming is all about. Playing familiar songs to attract listeners based on surveys, focus groups (mostly all done in some other market).

    The big corporate money trench still flows but younger listeners, the few that still pay much attention to broadcast radio, aren’t tuning in. They are listening to XRAY and Freeform and the like. Eventually big corporate radio has to make big shifts in their programming because their audience gets old and tired of the crap they play and stop listening. Of course, when you pay people to house Nielsen meters, you can still generate ratings crap (and I do mean crap because ratings are nothing more then a device/system devised by radio for radio) which drives corporate sponsorship and the money flows in. That’s fine for what it is, but it is not all of what is going on on the dial.

    Bottom line is that their are specific media types for specific demographics. Popular Mechanics is not published to appeal to everyone and neither is Playboy. Corporate radio programs to a target demographic and the truth is there are less people in those demographics these days. Lots of people still listen to the radio, but the days of audience loyalty are long gone. Automation and repetition have killed that off years ago.

    #27674

    paulwalker
    Participant

    Classic Rock is evolving almost parallel to Classic Hits, slowly moving the artist era up to continue to attract males 35-54. There is a huge amount of material from the 90’s that is certainly the “new” Classic Rock, for lack of a better term. KZOK in Seattle is the 4th highest rated music station 6+, however how much of that is Danny Bonaduce would be a question…I don’t know the exact numbers. Portland’s Classic Rocks tend to split the audience and thus are more middle of the pack stations.

    As for nostalgia, KIXI-AM still maintains around 1.0 share in Seattle, which actually beats the recently moved KUBE-FM to a South Sound frequency.

    #27680

    semoochie
    Participant

    The point I was trying to make is Classic Rock is based on AOR, when it had oodles of young men listening and which music regularly populated the pop charts. That situation has steadily been diminishing since about 1990. You could probably design a 90s based Rock station to serve a niche’ audience but it wouldn’t be able to compete as a mainstream format.

    #27711

    paulwalker
    Participant

    I think the “oodles” of young men still exist, but they are totally pivoted on 90’s grunge, and beyond. Classic Rock can still exist if they focus on the “hits” of this genre. Perhaps even adding some new stuff, like Chris Cornell’s “broken heart” record from a couple of years ago, which still offers a certain sound that is familiar to this audience. (this contradicts an earlier post of mine, but there are indeed exceptions). A 40 year old today was in his/her teens during the Seattle grunge era of the 90’s. I think there is a true audience for this and is perhaps bigger than most realize. However, classic rock needs to focus on the hits, not the obscure. Simple demographic research.

    #27719

    semoochie
    Participant

    Young men of the 90s and beyond are more into hip-hop than rock. Also, think of how encompassing someone like the Eagles were, compared to say, Nirvana or Pearl Jam.

    #27751

    Screamer
    Participant

    <<Young men of the 90s and beyond are more into hip-hop than rock. Also, think of how encompassing someone like the Eagles were, compared to say, Nirvana or Pearl Jam.>>

    Again, I disagree, Semoochie. For some, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam ARE The Eagles, Tom Petty or Neil Young.
    College kids have posters or Kurt Cobain on their wall now, where years ago they had Hendrix. I think you may be discounting an underserved audience.
    And the difference between those into Rock and those into Hip-Hop can be figured out on a market by market basis. Research has some merit, however, if you rely totally on research, you get the exact same thing as we have on multiple Portland stations right now. Boring playlists with over-played material.
    To Paul’s point, you need to add material that the audience ‘didn’t know they wanted to hear.’ You have to provide some deep cuts or you are no better than an ipod shuffle.

    #27758

    semoochie
    Participant

    I agree that “for some”, this is true but for most, even within the same age group, there’s only a passing awareness of their existence, unlike the Eagles, who were represented across multiple formats, giving them a much larger pool, from which to pull, in creating a classic.

    #27764

    Andy Brown
    Participant

    “if you rely totally on research, you get the exact same thing as we have on multiple Portland stations right now. Boring playlists with over-played material.
    To Paul’s point, you need to add material that the audience ‘didn’t know they wanted to hear.’ You have to provide some deep cuts or you are no better than an ipod shuffle.

    Exactly. It’s easy to play what’s already popular regardless if that is based on Billboard or the top sellers wall at Music Millennium. What has proven to be elusive for decades is figuring out for your target what is the appropriate deep cuts selection. Plus, it’s difficult to fit that overall concept into automation.

    Frankly, BTRB (big time radio broadcasting) hasn’t ever really tried to do that. The BTRB mindset about music selection is self defeating, that is, less is more. It should be more is better. It should be live where responsible people with deep knowledge of music since the dawn of recording technology. That model does not exist anymore, but it is how many BTRB stations built huge loyal audiences decades ago. Nowadays, now that music and radio have been divorced for over 20 years, what BTRB reaches for is all based on the ‘least growth’ based factors. It’s as if they are not only playing to just the Nielsen meter people who get paid to listen but also it’s totally independent of future or past factors. It’s all about NOW NOW NOW.
    When I started out in radio 40 years ago, I held deep respect for BTRB but these days they are laughable clowns with no clue about music, people, sound or creating an addictive presence on the dial.

    #27870

    radiodork
    Spectator

    I think Classic Rock will be dying soon. My prediction is 1059 the brew will be the next format change. Why? Their playlist is absolutely awful, it never changes its the same 10 songs over and over again. It sounds like they just dont care or they have given up on the format.
    The station is called “Portland’s Rock Station”, yet they don’t play any new rock, just the same recycled classic rock songs that have been played so many damn times in the portland market that it is nauseating. Nothing rotates in nothing rotates out, same tiresome tunes.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  radiodork.
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