Fish In The Trees


Two weeks ago, an editorial appeared in The Network Forty. We pointed out the problems facing our industry and outlined some ideas for change. We also asked for your input.

Your response has been overwhelming.

From record company presidents to local promotion people, from radio station owners and managers to weekend personalities, the letters, faxes and calls have been 100 per cent positive (if we throw out the pony-tailed guy across the street who keeps calling and trying to disguise his voice). We’re happy you share the passion.

With your calls of support have come suggestions to help implement change. We asked that you participate in the process and you’ve stepped forward with literally hundreds of suggestions about how The Network Forty can better serve our readers. Keep talking; we’re listening.

Over the coming months, you will watch the changes you suggest become a reality. Some will take time. Others can happen quickly.

After talking with Scott Shannon, Mason Dixon and Lorrin Palagi and listening to their suggestions, we’ve decided to make an immediate change. Effective this week, their stations (WPLJ, New York, WMTX, Tampa and WRQX, Washington, D.C.), along with a list of others who program in a similar fashion, will be added to our Mainstream chart.

It is our belief, one shared by the likes of the aforementioned programmers, that the distinctions made by other trade magazines between formats are suspect at best and dangerous at worst. Arbitrary, ever-changing rules made by people who have no recent programming experience should not be the criteria on which music ratio station should be judged. Does the station’s presentation strive to reach the contemporary audience? It is music-intensive? Does it feature new music? Is it selling records? These are the criteria on which music radio stations should be judged.

Also effective immediately, The Network Forty will no longer publish an AC chart. Those stations that are oldies-based do not need a chart to help them program the limited number of new titles they add each year. The Network Forty will concentrate on helping those who program to the contemporary audience with an emphasis on contemporary music. That’s it.

Will it make our chart more Mainstream? Yes. Will it realistically reflect the musical tastes of the contemporary audience? Yes. Will it be a more accurate barometer of actual record sales? Yes. We can live with all of those answers.

To make themselves more important, those at the other trades began dictating rules regarding reporting and status. Those very rules have been not only oppressive to the radio stations seeking acknowledgement, but are directly responsible for the diminishing impact of contemporary radio in today’s marketplace. For the past several years, many radio stations have been forced to program not to their audience, but to editorial trade panels that determine their reporting status…and thereby their ability to get priority record service and promotional consideration. The result is evident across the country, as stations with primary reporting status change formats because their audience share diminishes with each passing rating. So now you have radio stations with primary reporting status that can’t attract enough of an audience to make money and stay in the market. What is wrong with this picture?

The fish are in the trees.

In the mid-‘70s and early ‘80s, I had the opportunity to program some of the largest and most influential Top 40 radio stations in history, including the RKO radio chain. I applied current “rules” to the music policies of KHJ and discovered that the quintessential contemporary giant in Los Angeles wouldn’t qualify today as a reporter. There were too many oldies and recurrents on the chart. KFRC, San Francisco’s legendary “Boss Of The Bay,” would barely slip by. This is ridiculous.

In an effort to better serve the needs of radio stations and record companies, The Network Forty announces the rules for our reporting stations: Send your playlists. That’s it. I’ve never heard of a record company asking a radio station not to play its latest release for any reason. Why should a trade magazine refuse to report that airplay…for any reason?

We will weight each chart based on the size of the market and audience reach, but we will accept all playlists…gladly.

Instead of telling you what you aren’t (as in, “you’re not a Top 40 station)”), we’ll tell you what you are: A reporter and partner in The Network Forty, the trade magazine for the ‘90s and beyond.

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