How Long?


How long will we as an industry continue to subscribe to an outdated system of measuring the success of our product? The radio and recording industries are made up of some of the brightest and most innovative thinkers in the world. Yet in this instance, we continue to be the dog wagged by the tail.

The recording industry is driven by hit records. Whether or not a song is a hit is ultimately measured by sales. Although different influences are now combining to move CDs and tapes (see the current article in “Radio & Retail in this issue), the primary force behind selling records has been and continues to be radio airplay. How long will th e recording industry continue to spend millions of dollars promoting records in markets that won’t sell 10 copies?

How long will record companies allow R&R to dictate what radio stations are important? Since record companies will show profits or losses based on their ability to move product, should they participate in deciding who’s important? We need some sort of measurement to plot the success of specific records. But this plotting must be based on some measure of reality…not a vague gauge made up to fit within the parameters of a magazine.

How long will the record industry allow a trade magazine to dictate the parameters? Isn’t a trade magazine’s responsibility to accurately reflect and report the facts? Only tabloid journalists make up facts to fit a story. R&R’s tabloid charts reflect a record’s success about as much as Arbitron accurately reflects radio listeners. We know they’re bogus, yet we as an industry continue to accept their results and pay for them.

R&R’s charts do not accurately reflect the success of a record. They do not accurately reflect airplay. They don’t reflect sales.

R&R’s sample base does not even pretend to be scientific. No one can explain why certain radio stations are included in the sample base and others aren’t. God bless his pointed little head, not even Joel can do that.

The Network Forty includes all radio stations that fit the format criteria. All. And why not? If you are a Mainstream Top 40 radio station and we are dedicated to reflecting Mainstream Top 40, we want the information. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that the larger the sample, the more accurate the research. We also weigh each station according to total possible detections. A reporter in New York will get a heavier weighting than one in Butte, but both reports will be accepted…gladly. R&R could do the same. But it doesn’t.

In addition to The Chart, which we look at as a program director’s prediction of music popularity based on anticipated airplay, sales and requests for the upcoming week, we also compile The Network Forty’s exclusive Plays Per Week Chart and regional breakdowns. What is the PPW Chart? As a medium market program director explained to his RCA rep last week, “It’s BDS for the rest of us.” From reporting stations’ computer-driven music software, The Network Forty compiles a listing of the number of times each record is played during the past week. We exhibit these two charts side by side so you can immediately compare our “projected” chart with an actual compilation of the past week’s airplay.

To compile these two charts, it’s more costly and time consuming for both us and the participating radio stations. We want accurate information. R&R obviously doesn’t care about accurate information…and why should they? They’ve been calling the shots for years now…but they may be running out of bullets.

Is our PPW chart as accurate as BDS? Yes. Compare the charts in the limited number of BDS markets. The results are almost exactly the same. The Network Forty PPW chart may reflect a slightly higher number of detections for titles that were occasionally dropped from actual airplay because of time restraints. The same can be said of the BDS computers that credit airplay from songs used in promos.

And the PPW chart is the only chart reflecting airplay in the many markets not served by BDS.

Is it possible for a program director to manipulate music software to show bogus information? Of course. But it’s complicated and time consuming. If he will go to that much trouble, he’ll also play songs six times during overnights to boost the BDS play. Dishonest people will find a way to manipulate any source of information.

There are only two accurate gauges of actual airplay: BDS and the exclusive Network Forty PPW. If we as an industry are interested in accurate, reflective information, why to we continue to “play the game” with R&R? There is no longer a reason.

How long will this bullshit go on?

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