Below is a reprint of Richard Sands’ interview with Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant John Boyne in the May 14th edition of the weekly Alternative music newsletter The Sands Report, now celebrating its 18th anniversary!
JOHN, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK. HOW ABOUT A REFRESHER FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW COLEMAN?
We’re a media research firm specializing in the audio entertainment space, with a long history of radio research. We use research tools such as Plan Developer perceptual studies, FACT360 Strategic Music Tests, 20/20 Focus Groups and mediaEKG Deep Dive content testing to help our clients better understand the tastes and opinions of their target audiences. Although we work in all formats, some of our long-time clients in the Alternative world are KROQ/Los Angeles and KPNT/St. Louis.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE PERSONALLY?
2020 marks my 20th anniversary with Coleman Insights. I came aboard as a college intern and have been here ever since!
TELL ME ABOUT CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SUPERSTUDY 2.
It’s our second annual study of contemporary music tastes. It’s essentially a really big music test. We start by compiling a list of the songs that were most streamed, sold and played on the radio last year. This includes titles from 2019 back to 2015. We supplement that list with top tier titles from the year-end charts of individual genres. Then, we test all these songs with a big, broad group of people—1,000 12- to 54-year-olds in the U.S. and Canada—to assess their popularity. The idea is to track and trend mass music tastes.
HOW DID ALTERNATIVE MUSIC FARE IN THIS STUDY?
Even before we get into the results of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, you probably don’t need me to tell you that Alternative/Rock has lagged behind other genres in recent years. Whether you’re looking at streaming, sales or radio airplay charts, you’re going to find more Hip Hop/R&B, Country and Pop than Alternative/Rock.
BUT WE ARE REPRESENTED, RIGHT?
Yes. In Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, 12% of the Top 100 songs are Alternative/Rock. The full genre distribution of the Top 100 is 34% Pop, 23% Country, 19% Hip Hop/R&B, 12% Alternative/Rock, 8% Dance/Electronic, 2% Latin and 2% Other. The best-testing Alternative/Rock title is Imagine Dragons’ “Believer.”
The top tier of popular Alternative/Rock titles consists of (in alphabetical order):
- Imagine Dragons – Believer
- Imagine Dragons – Natural
- Imagine Dragons – Thunder
- Imagine Dragons – Whatever It Takes
- Lovelytheband – Broken
- Panic! At The Disco – Hey Look Ma, I Made It
- Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes
- The Man – Feel It Still
- SHAED – Trampoline
DO ALT FANS’ TASTES LOOK DIFFERENT?
The hits are the hits, in the mass market as well among format fans. The top-tier songs listed above are also the top-tier songs among Alternative/Rock fans. It’s not like core format fans have turned on the mass-appeal hits of the genre.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THAT PDS PLAY THESE SONGS MORE?
While faring well in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 is a good indicator, a Program Director should not assume that the tastes of their target audience will perfectly reflect what we see here. Evident from all of the custom research we do is that different markets, demos and strategies will yield different music recipes.
HOW DO THIS YEAR’S RESULTS COMPARE TO THE FIRST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SUPERSTUDY?
It’s very similar. Alternative/Rock’s 12% share of the Top 100 is up a hair from the 11% seen in last year’s study. Moreover, it’s a lot of the same material. Seven of the nine top-tier songs mentioned above also fared very well in last year’s study. The new additions are “Trampoline” and “Hey Look Ma, I Made It.”
CAN YOU GO BACK AND COMPARE THESE RESULTS TO 10 OR 20 YEARS AGO?
The short answer is: we don’t know. We wish we had Contemporary Music SuperStudy data going back that far. It is likely, based on what we know from other indicators, that Alternative/Rock fared better back then, but by how much, we don’t know. We hope to continue the Contemporary Music SuperStudy series in the years to come so that we can build such trends.
ONE “NON-STUDY” QUESTION. AS YOU KNOW, WE RUN A P1 STREAMING CHART EVERY WEEK PROVIDED TO US BY BRIDGE RATINGS. OVERALL, HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK STREAMING DATA SHOULD BE TO PDS?
If I were sitting in a Program Director’s chair, there are a lot of data points I would want to consider, including streaming metrics. Of course, as with anything, you want to be smart about what streaming data tells you and what it doesn’t.
THANKS FOR SHARING ALL THIS INFORMATION AND YOUR INSIGHTS, JOHN. WHERE CAN READERS GO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FINDINGS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SUPERSTUDY 2?
On our website, you can find a recording of the webinar and read further about the study in our Tuesdays with Coleman blog. You can also sign up to receive notifications about future blog posts and the upcoming release of the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 song ranker.