Tag Archives: billboard

Old Dogs in AC/DC Have New Tricks

Tuesdays With ColemanAC/DC’s new album, Power Up, debuted at number one on the Billboard chart.

AC/DC Power Up debuts at number one on Billboard chart

To put in perspective how impressive that is, consider that Back In Black–the album often considered their magnum opus that has sold over 50 million copies to date–peaked at number four in the United States.

Power Up features the triumphant return of lead vocalist Brian Johnson and drummer Phil Rudd, who had left the band due to hearing issues and legal issues, respectively. It is the first studio release since the death of founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young in 2017. But AC/DC was unable to ride the wave of publicity that would generally accompany such a reunion event, because plans for their giant world tour are on hold until 2021 thanks to the pandemic.

Yet, here’s ol’ AC/DC, besting number two album Pluto x Baby Pluto by Future & Lil Uzi Vert and knocking previous number one Positions by Ariana Grande back to number four.

So, how did they do it? Since streaming didn’t exist when Back In Black was released in 1980, you would think it would be harder than ever for a heritage band like AC/DC to top the charts. AC/DC notably resisted streaming for years, refusing to sell its albums on download stores such as iTunes until 2012, and you couldn’t stream an AC/DC song on-demand until five years ago.

They did it with album sales.

Of the 117,000 units that comprised Power Up sales in week one, album sales accounted for 111,000. The number of Streaming Equivalent Albums (SEA) was only 5,000, which came from 7.8 million on-demand streams. Compare that to the number two album by Future & Lil Uzi Vert, which racked up 105,000 units–99,000 of which were SEA units, coming from 136.11 million on-demand streams–and 5,500 in album sales. The top two albums are basically polar opposites in how they got there.

Think no one buys CDs anymore? Sixty-four (64%) percent of the 111,000 albums AC/DC sold were CDs, but not just any CD. They offered a $49 deluxe version of the CD that displays the band logo in flashing neon and plays the opening riff to the album’s first single, “Shot In The Dark”, on a built-in speaker.

AC/DCs Angus Young and Brian Johnson introduce the special deluxe lightbox version of “Power Up”.

Despite having their tour sidelined, AC/DC worked hard to promote Power Up. One could argue the band did it in some decidedly un-AC/DC ways. This included a November 10th interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe and an appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition on November 18th. Considering AC/DC wouldn’t allow its music on Apple less than a decade ago and NPR isn’t the media outlet most associated with hardcore rock, you’d have to say these were notable shifts for the band.

But they were brilliant shifts. AC/DC knows it can’t top the charts via streaming the way most Pop stars do today. They’re also keenly aware the CD is going the way of the buggy. But by recognizing their fan base is still willing to buy an actual album and by offering a collectible edition, they played the chart game their way. Embracing an interview with Apple allows them to reach new audiences, while recognizing many of their fans have aged into NPR-land ensures they reach the ones that have been there for them the whole time.

Even though your brand may offer a consistent product (Power Up sounds like it could have come out in 1980), it doesn’t mean you always present it in the same way or that you reach your target audience using the same old methods.

In fact, as AC/DC just proved, even the old dogs learned new tricks.

Is Your Music Changing With Your Audience?

Tuesdays With Coleman

After working as a Program Director at radio stations in various formats over the course of 20 years, I was fortunate to be involved in my share of research projects.

Six months ago, I began my new role as an Associate Consultant at Coleman Insights. I work on projects for radio stations in just about every format in markets of various sizes. I’d like to share a few things that have sparked my interest and attention on the research side:

Listener tastes can change in relatively short periods of time.

While I often had access to music research, I was sometimes limited to working with “safe lists” (lists of songs that have done well in the format that should, in theory, be safe to play). There were songs some people felt we didn’t need to test because “they always test well”.

It’s fair to say there are songs that generally do test well just about everywhere. But it’s also fair to say that tastes change and vary by station and market.

One of the first FACT360 Strategic Music Tests I’ve had the opportunity to analyze was for a Country client of ours. In that test, we found that 34 percent of the songs testing in the Top 200 had changed from the previous test. A year earlier, this rate of Title Turnover was 25 percent, meaning the rate of change increased.

Title turnover

The sound of the radio station stayed consistent because this client knows that a music test should not dictate their music strategy. That’s what their perceptual research is for. But, with 34 percent Title Turnover in the Top 200 and 41 percent in the Top 150, this station—by conducting regular library testing—is staying on top of what’s appealing to their listeners in their market and they can play the right songs at the appropriate levels.

History can reveal changing listener tastes when reviewing Billboard Hot 100 charts.

I once had a General Manager tell me to look through Joel Whitburn’s Hot 100 Charts book to look for ideas of songs to play. True story! And yes, you can get ideas of songs to play from year-end charts. On the other hand, if all the #1 year-end songs were on the radio, you’d be hearing “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand, “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John and “Macarena” by Los Del Rio more often.

Los Del Rio Macarena

They were the #1 year-end songs from 1974, 1982 and 1996, respectively.

The number one Hot 100 song of 2017 was “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. The number two song was “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee (featuring Justin Bieber). Will one, both, or neither stand the test of time? Only time will tell. Music testing will help determine their longevity on your station and in your market.

Artist appeal can change.

When I programmed WBBB/96rock in Raleigh-Durham during the 2000s, Grunge was a consistently strong-testing sound and it wasn’t unusual for us to get at least seven Pearl Jam songs to test. “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Jeremy”, “Better Man”, “Daughter”, “Black” and “Yellow Ledbetter” were staples in rotation.

In a recent analysis of what songs have stood the test of time based on Spotify airplay, the author makes note of how Pearl Jam has been “lost in time”. While testing results can be completely different at another station in another market, two separate FACT360 studies of a Rock station we work with showed five Pearl Jam songs testing in the Top 200 in 2015. In 2017, there were only two.

2018 brings fresh data, new trends and insights and I can’t wait to dig in! Keep your eye out for a new blog each Tuesday.