June 7, 2017

Three Things Callout Can’t Tell You

In our last post, we spotlighted four things you can only learn from callout. However, there are things even the most sophisticated and statistically reliable new music research can’t tell you.

1) Callout can’t predict which songs will become huge hits in the future

For most radio programmers, there’s something deeply satisfying about discovering a song before it becomes a big hit. Spotting tomorrow’s hits today has led many programmers to track Shazam. (We analyzed how effectively Shazam can help you predict hits in our recent blog series and webinar.)

While callout can definitely tell you how early adapters of a song are responding to it, callout cannot tell you how listeners will ultimately feel about a brand new release once they’ve heard it enough times to warm up to it (a topic we explored here), or the impact of cultural events on a song’s relevance.

Last September, Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” was receiving airplay on Urban radio, but wasn’t charting particularly well or garnering much interest from mainstream CHR. Then in late October, the Mannequin Challenge became an internet sensation making “Black Beatles” a viral hit along with it. The song quickly became Rae Sremmurd’s and Gucci Mane’s first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Black Beatles’” appeal also shot up quickly among mainstream CHR listeners, as our Integr8 New Music Research clients saw firsthand.

Before the Mannequin Challenge, there was no sign in callout that “Black Beatles” was a future #1 hit. Even if you had known “Black Beatles” would become a sensation, would CHR listeners have embraced the song in September before the Mannequin Challenge made it culturally relevant in October?

Playing a song listeners will love tomorrow won’t help you if listeners aren’t in love with it today.

2) Callout can grow your TSL, but it can’t attract new cume listeners by itself

By design, effective custom new music research focuses on your weekly cume audience, with an emphasis on those listeners that have the greatest impact on your ratings. A carefully crafted sample will give you guidance on songs that your heaviest P1 listeners love, but are a turn-off for your lighter listeners. The goal is to help you consistently delight your biggest fans, while also getting your lighter listeners to spend more time with your station.

If someone isn’t already listening to your station, however, it’s usually a waste of your research money to find out what they think of your music. Since they don’t listen to your station, they’re not going to hear you play that song they love anyway.

If your station’s ratings woes stem from a subpar weekly cume audience, you’ll need an external marketing plan to get new listeners to try your station before a well-researched playlist can help you keep them listening longer.

3) Callout can’t tell you if you are the right format

Sometimes, programmers try to gauge the health of their format by studying how passion levels for their test list ebb and flow over time. Attempting to use callout to gauge the market’s interest in your format is both capricious and dangerous.

First, well-designed music research programs focus on people who love—or at least like—your station’s style of music. If someone hates your format, they shouldn’t be in your callout. By design, callout can’t compare the appetite level for your music against other music styles because it only looks at people in your camp, not all the other camps.

Secondly, even if listeners do have less passion for the songs that are big hits this month than they had for the hits a few months ago, that doesn’t necessarily mean your listeners have developed higher passion levels for completely different styles of music. A Country P1 might not be as gung ho about today’s hits as they were about last year’s hits, but that that doesn’t mean they’re defecting to Rhythmic CHR.

Music research simply isn’t the right tool for making a “big picture” decision about the best format opportunity for your signal. Only strategic perceptual research can answer that question.

Unlike callout, a well-designed perceptual study examines a broad range of listeners in your market with a variety of music preferences, so you can see what styles of music are most popular in your market, as well as how deeply the stations in your market are satisfying those music appetites. Perceptual research can also tell you if misconceptions or negative feelings about your station are keeping people from listening who might actually like your playlist if they did.

If you’re unsure about your station’s format, spend money on a perceptual study before you invest in new music research. Your perceptual research is a strategic tool that will help you choose a successful direction for your station. Your new music research is a tactical tool that will help you stay successful with your strategy. (For the record, Integr8 Research doesn’t do strategic perceptual studies, so we have no financial interest in promoting them.)

Callout is like GPS—it can tell you the best way to reach your destination, but it can’t tell you where you should go.

If picking the right new music is vital to your format’s success, learn the five ways Integr8 New Music Research is different from old-fashioned callout.

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