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Reflections on 25 Years With Coleman Insights

Tuesdays With Coleman

In May, I celebrated 25 years since joining Coleman Insights, providing me with an opportunity to reflect on the last quarter century. When Jon Coleman, one of the smartest—and more importantly, one of the most decent—people I have had the privilege of knowing, offered me the chance to join his company, I was flattered. Sure, the 29-year-old version of me already had more than a decade of experience in radio including six years at Arbitron, but it wasn’t long after I began working for Jon that I realized that I had a tremendous amount to learn.

This photo of me, Jon Coleman and Chris Ackerman was used extensively in Coleman marketing.

So, what have I learned? Far more than I can cover in one blog post, but a few key items stand out.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is the importance of collaboration. When clients place their trust in me and my colleagues, it is vital to recognize that we don’t know everything and the best way we can help them is to listen closely when they share their goals and concerns. When we are truly collaborative and exchange ideas with the brilliant programmers, marketers and managers who we are fortunate to have as clients, we achieve even greater outcomes than we would without their input. I am sure I still don’t listen and collaborate as well as I aspire to, but I hope I’m getting better at it!

Another thing that I’ve learned working with clients is how to build brands. Strong, long-lasting brands almost always start with a great idea and then take a long time to build. I find it so gratifying when I can help our clients develop their great ideas into great brands and have seen first-hand the benefits they enjoy when this happens. Great brands allow those who manage them to avoid short-term thinking and chasing the latest “flash in the pan” trend; if they consistently deliver compelling content within the parameters of their brands, these managers win on a consistent basis.

I’ve also learned that doing research the right way is hard and is always evolving. There is a right way to acquire respondents, there is a right way to ask them questions and there is a right way to analyze the data we get from them—all of these elements are required to deliver the insights our clients need. Furthermore, the right ways to do these things in 2020 look a lot different than they did in 1995. I’ve also learned not to get frustrated when low quality research options enter the marketplace; there will always be a market for good work, and if we stay focused on delivering high quality insights, we will be rewarded with the loyalty of our clients and their ability to recognize our value.

Another thing I’ve learned is that a research company is only as good as the people it employs. Products, services, methodologies and technologies are important, but it is the people who design, analyze and deliver research projects and then help clients implement strategies based on them that truly make a difference. This has been driven home to me countless times over the years when clients tell me that they choose to work with us not because we have the best widget; they choose Coleman because they want the best brains on the job. Those brains—including mine, but also those of the many talented people I am fortunate with whom to work—have benefited from years of experience working with a dazzling array of audio brands in almost every situation imaginable and from the expertise that has been passed along by people like Jon Coleman, Chris Ackerman and Pierre Bouvard who built the company.

Obviously, I owe a great debt to Jon for the opportunity he gave me 25 years ago. I also want to thank my colleagues—past and present—for all they have taught me. We have an amazing team at Coleman Insights and the fact so many of my colleagues have been with the company for a decade or more is a testament to Jon’s philosophy of investing in people and giving them opportunities to learn and grow.

Today’s Coleman Insights consultant team (L-R): Me, Jon Coleman, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Sam Milkman, John Boyne, Meghan Campbell and Jay Nachlis.

All of these things I’ve learned, however, would be relatively meaningless without the tremendous support of our clients. Listing the many clients who have helped make me better at what I do would make this post unreasonably long, but I can say with great confidence that I have learned something from every one of our clients, and for that, I am grateful.

My favorite part of hitting the 25-year milestone is that it is just a stop along the way. I intend to keep getting better at doing this for many years to come. That will only happen if I continue to learn from the many smart people with whom I interact, which leads me to one piece of advice—make a lifelong commitment to learning. If you are as fortunate as I have been to have clients, colleagues and other mentors as your teachers, you will be as rewarded as I have been and continue to be.

Is The Image Pyramid Evolving?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last Wednesday, our friends and frequent collaborators at Jacobs Media Strategies referenced Coleman Insights’ Image PyramidSM in an excellent blog post. The post raised questions about the role of Community imagery for radio brands and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice movement may have on that role.

The Image Pyramid is a concept we use to help guide strategic brand-building for radio stations. Most important—as evidenced by it being the foundational layer of the Image Pyramid—is that the target audience understands your Base Music or Talk Position (for example, “the Hip Hop station” or “the Sports station”). From there, upper layers of the Image Pyramid can be thought of as brand depth, with Personality—having known and appreciated personalities who attract listening above and beyond what your Base Position alone would attract—being particularly important for many stations. At the top of the Image Pyramid is Community—being known for community involvement activities, such as raising money for a local charity or supporting local causes in other ways—and this is the layer discussed in Fred Jacobs’ blog last week.

Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

The Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

One of the many reasons why I feel fortunate for knowing Fred Jacobs for more than 25 years is that he and his colleagues are always questioning conventional wisdom and the status quo. That’s why we welcome this questioning of the current configuration of the Image Pyramid; our goal is to make sure it continues to be a tool for building the strongest brands possible. In fact, this isn’t the first time we have been down this road; in 2015, Fred and I collaborated on a blog on the evolution of the Image Pyramid for the age of increased digital media consumption.

Before I address the specifics of Jacobs’ most recent blog, I think it’s important for everyone reading this to understand the purpose of the Image Pyramid. It’s not designed to represent a ranking of what listeners find most and least important in a radio station. Instead, it’s based on what we learn from research regarding which areas of image development contribute the most to building strong brands, which—when coupled with strong content execution—is the biggest factor in attracting listeners and generating long-term ratings success for radio stations. Community has been the smallest layer of the Image Pyramid not because it is unimportant, but because our experience has shown it to be less important than other dimensions in terms of driving listenership. Sure, listeners like that a radio station is a good steward in the community, but they don’t choose radio stations based on that criteria alone.

Conversely, Contests is prominent on the pyramid even though listeners often tell us that contests are not very important to them. We repeatedly see in strategic research that stations with strong imagery for Contests that complements their stronger images for their Base Music or Talk Position, Personality and Specialty Programming tend to enjoy greater ratings success than those without Contest imagery.

The Image Pyramid as it currently stands represents our best thinking based on what we have observed about recent research results and radio station ratings. We have never shied away from updating it and it has changed since Jon Coleman initially developed it decades ago. For example, Specialty Programming has a more prominent role than it used to, and the Marketing layer did not exist in early incarnations of the pyramid.

So, do we have Community in the right place? We’re certainly giving that a lot of thought, as demonstrated by a blog we published right as we began feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In “How to Connect with Your Audience in a Crisis,” published on March 19th, we stated explicitly, “In times of crisis, Community surges to a higher level of importance on the Image Pyramid.”

Community has played an important role for many radio stations over the past few months through outreach initiatives. (Pictured: The KSHE/St. Louis Summer Blood Drive)

The big question, of course, is what happens when the crisis subsides, which we all hope will happen sooner rather than later. Will the pandemic, the social justice movement and—as Jacobs rightly pointed out in their blog post—the seemingly increased attention consumers are paying to where the brands they consume stand on important issues result in a permanent change on how much Community imagery has on the ratings performance of radio stations? Will stations that have increased their Community imagery during this crisis enjoy long-term increases in their ratings success or will those strengthened images have minimal impact after the pandemic is over?

The answer is that we don’t know yet. David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote a great Opinion piece this past Sunday in which he predicted—while admitting that he did not have the utmost confidence in his position—that the pandemic will be the most impactful event on our society since World War II and The Great Depression. At the same time, Leonhardt pointed out that, “The financial crisis of 2007-9 didn’t cause Americans to sour on stocks, and it didn’t lead to an overhaul of Wall Street. The election of the first Black president didn’t usher in an era of racial conciliation. The 9/11 attacks didn’t make Americans unwilling to fly. The Vietnam War didn’t bring an end to extended foreign wars without a clear mission.”

You have my assurance that Coleman Insights—working in concert with our clients, consultants like Fred Jacobs and other industry colleagues—will continue to track the changing factors in the ratings performances of radio stations, as we are continuously thinking about the way to help our radio clients build the very strongest brands. If Community’s place should be moved or if any other evolution of the Image Pyramid is warranted, we will make sure you are among the first to know.

The Musical Divide Between Trump and Biden Supporters

Tuesdays With Coleman

With the United States roughly six months away from its next presidential election, how similar or different are the most popular contemporary titles among the fans of the two major parties’ presumed nominees? In two words, the answer is “very different.”

In our final blog on the findings of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, we delve into findings we have yet to release regarding the relationship that exists between consumers’ political opinions and how they feel about contemporary music. In this time when common ground and bipartisanship can be hard to find, we observe similar differences when it comes to the contemporary music tastes of consumers.

Among consumers who have a positive opinion of President Donald Trump, Country reigns supreme—an overwhelming 50% of their Top 100 titles are Country songs. At 26%, Pop is the only other genre achieving a double-digit share of the Top 100 contemporary songs with Trump fans.

Musical tastes of those with positive opinions of President Trump and Joe Biden

The Top 100 songs among fans of former Vice President Joe Biden, however, look very different. They are led by Pop titles at 38%, followed closely by Hip Hop/R&B at 33%. Consumers with a positive opinion of Biden place a much smaller proportion of Country titles—10%—in their Top 100, which is interestingly almost the same amount as the 9% of Hip Hop/R&B titles than finish in the Top 100 with those who view Trump positively.

While these findings may be disconcerting for those who long for less division in American political discourse, our findings do provide a few rays of hope. For example, while the Trump fans’ selection of “Believer” by Imagine Dragons as their favorite among 2019’s most consumed songs is different from Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” as the choice among Biden fans, both of these titles finish among the top ten songs with both groups. Furthermore, there are three other songs—“Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, “The Middle” by Zedd & Maren Morris and “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake—that are among the top ten songs with Trump and Biden fans.

Perhaps the best example of bipartisanship, however, is that Trump and Biden fans have one clear thing in common: their hatred of “Baby Shark.” The Pinkfong song, which was the least popular title overall among 2019’s most consumed songs, was also the least popular with both groups.

Before we delve into our findings further, we should share more details about the political data in the study. We regarded fans of Biden and Trump as those who had “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinions of each. Therefore, it is relevant to note that the research—conducted with 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada—was in the field between late January and early March, before Biden emerged as the clear front-runner in the race for the Democratic Party nomination and before the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects began impacting American and Canadian society. In our data, 41% of the respondents were Joe Biden fans; the corresponding figure for Donald Trump was 32%.

Not surprisingly, the differences we observe between the contemporary music tastes of fans of the two presidential candidates align with the differences we see when we break our respondents into groups based on their political leaning. Among the 39% of respondents who describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate, who leans liberal,” Pop and Hip Hop/R&B titles make up a combined 68% of their Top 100 songs.

Music tastes of those leaning Liberal or Conservative

Those who describe themselves as “conservative” or “moderate, who leans conservative”—a group that comprises 28% of the sample—have a strong appetite for Country music, as 48% of their Top 100 titles are from this genre. Another 27% of their Top 100 consists of Pop titles.

At Coleman Insights, our expertise is focused on how people consume music and other forms of audio entertainment, so we are loathe to give out political advice. With that caveat, we believe there are some obvious lessons from Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 for the Biden and Trump campaigns, at least when it comes to the music that should accompany their candidates’ stage entrances at rallies (when and if those return) and be featured in their advertising efforts. No matter what, it should be an interesting race.

Alt Music Fares Only So-So In New Music Study

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.

 

Contemporary Music Trends: Country Is Up

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last week, we shared some of the major findings of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2—our second annual test of the past year’s biggest songs in streaming, sales and radio airplay, conducted with 1,000 people between the ages of 12 and 54 across the United States and Canada. These initial findings include that Pop is the best-testing genre, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” is the most popular title and Post Malone has the highest number of top tier songs.

This week, let’s take a look at some of the interesting trends between last year’s study and this one. (Note that some of the trended data looks a little different than as reported a year ago because of adjustments in scoring methodology; we have applied the revised methodology to the older study so that we have apples-to-apples comparisons.)

COUNTRY’S SHARE OF THE 100 MOST POPULAR CONTEMPORARY SONGS HAS NEARLY DOUBLED

While Pop remains the best-performing genre, the award for “most improved” goes to Country. Country titles have gone from 12% of the Top 100 in the original Contemporary Music SuperStudy to 23% of the Top 100 in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2.

Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 Genre Distribution Trend

For context, Country’s performance in last year’s Contemporary Music SuperStudy was not great. In that research, Country music accounted for 21% of all songs tested, but just 12% of the Top 100—a substantial level of under-performance. In this year’s Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, Country again represents 21% of all songs tested, but its 23% share of the Top 100 now shows a modest level of over-performance for the genre.

The improvement in Country is largely the result of songs that weren’t in last year’s study, either because they hadn’t been released yet or because they weren’t consumed enough in streaming, sales or radio airplay to qualify for the test list. Of the 23 Country songs in the Top 100 of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, 15 weren’t tested in the first Contemporary Music SuperStudy. The remaining eight performed well in the original study, all in the Top 125.

No one artist dominates Country performance, though several have multiple popular titles. Dan + Shay, Jason Aldean and Luke Combs each have three of the 23 Country songs in the Top 100. In particular, Dan + Shay stand out for having three of the top five Country titles.

Dan + Shay have three of the top five Country titles in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2.

Several of the most popular Country songs might be considered “poppy” in sound, but that is not a new development and it tends to be true of any genre. Mass appeal titles are oftentimes rather accessible and broadly appealing. Almost by definition, the biggest hits are the ones whose appeal expands beyond their core lane. “Meant To Be” by Bebe Rexha featuring Florida-Georgia Line is the top-testing Country song in both last year’s study and this year’s study.

POP, HIP HOP/R&B AND DANCE/ELECTRONIC HAVE TRENDED DOWN

While Country’s share of the 100 most popular contemporary songs has grown most substantially, a few other categories are also up a bit. Alternative/Rock has gone from 11% to 12%, Latin has increased 0% to 2%, and Other—which covers songs that do not fit into one of the six major genres—now makes up 2% of the Top 100, up from 0% last year.

Meanwhile, performing less well in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 than in the first Contemporary Music SuperStudy are Pop (declining from 42% to 34% of the Top 100), Hip Hop/R&B (23% to 19%) and Dance/Electronic (12% to 8%).

THE PERCENTAGE OF TOP 100 TITLES FROM THE MOST RECENT YEAR IS DOWN SLIGHTLY

In the first Contemporary Music SuperStudy, we tested the songs that were most streamed, sold and played on the radio in 2018. This included material from 2018 back to 2014. Of the 100 most popular titles in that research, 40% were released in the most recent year, 2018.

Now, in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, we have tested the songs that were most consumed via streaming, sales and radio airplay in 2019. This includes songs from 2019 back to 2015. Of the Top 100, 36% were released in the most recent year, 2019.

Thus, in relative terms, the best-testing songs in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 are not quite as contemporary as the best-testing songs were in the original Contemporary Music SuperStudy.

THIS YEAR’S #1 SONG WAS LAST YEAR’S #2 SONG

As noted earlier, the most popular song in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 is Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.” This title did not come out of nowhere—it ranked #2 in last year’s Contemporary Music SuperStudy.

Which title was ahead of “Shape Of You” in last year’s study? That would be “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars—a song that didn’t quite make the qualification cut for this year’s study because of its consumption metrics and age.

Check back next week for further insights from Contemporary SuperStudy 2, including findings about the differences in tastes between younger and older, male and female, urban and rural, and streaming service listeners and radio listeners.

Contemporary Music’s Report Card

Tuesdays With Coleman

While most students are out of school as the fight against COVID-19 continues, my Coleman Insights colleagues and I are preparing a report card. On Thursday, we will release the results of our Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, a test of the most-consumed songs in 2019 conducted with 1,000 respondents across the United States and Canada. (If you have yet to sign up for our free webinar when we will release our findings, you can do so here.)

As its name implies this is the second time we have conducted a Contemporary Music SuperStudy; roughly a year ago, we released the findings of our inaugural study in a keynote presentation at the Worldwide Radio Summit. That first edition of the study provided many important insights, including how Hip Hop/R&B had a sizeable fanbase but generated highly polarized responses from consumers, that Pop titles performed best overall and were popular among fans of other genres and how Country fared much better with daily radio listeners than with daily streaming listeners. We also reported fun facts, including how “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars was not only the most popular song of 2018 (even though it was released in 2014), but it also was rated highest by supporters and detractors of Donald Trump.

Warren Kurtzman delivering the Contemporary Music SuperStudy at Worldwide Radio Summit

Here’s me delivering the inaugural Contemporary Music SuperStudy results at 2019’s Worldwide Radio Summit (in front of an actual live audience!)

Why are we doing this again? Perhaps the most common questions clients ask us are about trends in the tastes of audio entertainment consumers, especially when it comes to music. “What’s the next big sound?” “Is Country making a comeback?” “Are Pop fans more or less accepting of Hip Hop than they used to be?” “Does Dance/Electronic music have staying power?” While we are fortunate to see enough research prepared for radio stations, streaming services, etc. to be able to answer these questions with a high level of confidence, replicating the Contemporary SuperStudy gives us the opportunity to do so with an even greater level of objectivity and from a broader vantage point than studies conducted for individual clients provide. Comparing how a representative sample of Americans and Canadians responds to some of the most-consumed songs of 2019 to how they did so with the songs they consumed the most in 2018 will provide deep insights into how contemporary music tastes are changing.

The key to this, of course, is taking a very consistent approach with how we complete the Contemporary Music SuperStudy each year. We not only use the same research methodology (utilizing the platform we use for the FACT360SM Strategic Music Tests we complete for radio stations) and the same sample design, we follow a consistent set of rules for building the list of songs we test. Our partners at MRC Data/BDSradio provide us with data detailing the most consumed songs via radio airplay, streaming and sales over the course of the previous year. We drop any songs that are at least five years old and then add songs that are among the most consumed from each major genre so that each of the major genres that make up the world of contemporary music receive adequate representation.

In our webinar this Thursday and through subsequent Tuesdays With Coleman blog posts and social media posts, we will share a wide array insights from the Contemporary Music SuperStudy. Some will consist of fun facts, such as the best- and worst-testing titles overall. I can reveal to you now that Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was last year’s most consumed song via on-demand streaming and sales according to MRC Data/BDSradio, while Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” ruled the roost in radio airplay. Will either of those titles finish at the top? In a similar vein, Post Malone has ten titles in this year’s study, more than any other artist. Which Post Malone title do consumers like the most?

Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" was 2019's most-consumed song via on-demand streaming and sales

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was 2019’s most consumed song via on-demand streaming and sales according to MRC Data/BDSradio

More importantly, some of the findings we release will update important findings from last year’s study. For example, last year we revealed that the Pop genre outperformed Hip Hop/R&B, Country, Alternative/Rock, Dance/Electronic and Latin. Will that be the case this year and will any sounds experience significant improvements or declines? We will also share with you how genre performances vary by a wide array of factors, including gender, age, ethnicity, geography and audio platform usage.

You can probably tell by now that I am excited for releasing our latest report card on contemporary music. (Probably not as excited as those of you with kids at home are about the prospect of schools reopening, but my colleagues and I are really looking forward to sharing our insights with you!) After all, music tastes change; that’s why we track them.

I hope you can join us for Thursday’s Contemporary Music SuperStudy webinar.

Coleman Insights to Reveal Results of Second Contemporary Music SuperStudy in April 23rd Webinar

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, April 8, 2020 – Coleman Insights will release the results of its second Contemporary Music SuperStudy, which examines the current appetite for contemporary music among 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada, in a free webinar on Thursday, April 23rd. The study will provide the most comprehensive assessment of consumers’ appetites for new music available to audio-based media companies.

Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 employed Coleman Insights’ FACT360SM Strategic Music Test platform to gather listener evaluations of the most consumed songs of 2019—via radio airplay, streaming and sales—as measured by MRC Data/BDSradio. The webinar will cover an overview of the findings from those listener evaluations, including how appetites for different genres of new music have shifted in the past year and how those appetites vary by age, gender, ethnicity, geography and political viewpoint.

“We had such a great response when we released the initial Contemporary Music SuperStudy last year that we decided to go it again,” remarked Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman. “Contemporary music is constantly evolving, inspiring our clients to regularly ask us about the changes they are observing. The Contemporary Music SuperStudy provides us with a powerful and objective way to answer their questions about how listener tastes are changing.”

The Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 live webinar will take place between 2:00 and 3:00 PM EDT on Thursday, April 23rd. Registration is now open for the webinar here.

How to Connect With Your Audience in a Crisis

Tuesdays With ColemanAs the world has turned upside down for the foreseeable future, the team at Coleman Insights has been engaged in conversations with our clients about how to navigate the new landscape. We recognize the ability of radio stations and other audio-based media to shine in moments of crisis, and there are already numerous examples of this occurring. On the other hand, we also recognize the lack of an “adversity road map.” There is no playbook that dictates how each brand should respond. Should you continue to deliver your format without any significant modifications? Is this a moment to break format completely and provide relevant crisis information instead? These are difficult strategic decisions. The specific choices are also hard.

Our consultant team has been having ongoing internal discussions about strategies for the audio entertainment industry. The result is the following special Thursday edition of Tuesdays With Coleman, a compilation of thoughts and ideas our team would like to share with you, with the understanding that there is no single solution for everyone.

  • Recognize unusual times call for unusual measures.

Everyone has something to contribute during a global emergency. Regardless of what your brand regularly delivers, your listeners are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and your response should reflect this. Your brand has a voice and a platform to be heard when listeners need it the most. Known, trusted personalities should play a major role and leverage the intimate connections they have with their listeners.

  • Consider the role of your brand in COVID-19 coverage.

Understand the need your brand fulfills.

News brands have a responsibility to provide comprehensive, relevant coverage. These brands might consider whether there are opportunities to go outside the typical format. For example, does more long-form programming or an increased number of updates make sense? These decisions should be determined by the role of the brand–in this case, being a provider of constant, reliable and trustworthy information during the crisis.

Listeners may be visiting your music station to get away from news coverage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to stay connected. Does it make sense to employ a “We’re following the news so you don’t have to” approach? This allows talent to play a reassuring role; listeners can count on enjoying content on a music station without feeling like the world will pass by if they aren’t watching CNN or Fox News at that moment.

A full-service Adult Contemporary station may play a more personality-forward role of providing news and information. On the other hand, if your brand primarily provides comfort and escape, like a Soft Adult Contemporary radio station, constant news updates may be a harrowing intrusion and contrary to your brand. In fact, brands built on comfort and escape should lean in to that image, as it is particularly valuable when the real world is more chaotic.

  • Recognize that listening patterns are likely in significant flux.

If many people aren’t going to work or school, typical in-car commute listening levels no longer apply. What about everyone who is temporarily working from home? Or businesses that have been forced to close, like bars and restaurants? Will radio listening increase or decrease?

Reduced commuting will have a significant effect on listening patterns

With that in mind, consider the impact on how people may be consuming your station, podcast or streaming service and the programming options you may have.

With entire families now at home throughout the day, what about specialty programming geared to them during traditional at work hours? Should you do this on your main platform or would offering this through podcasts, separate streaming channels, etc. make more sense?

Aggressively promote all your listening platforms, keeping in mind that smart speaker listening is heavier at home than in the workplace and a surge of at home listening may be taking place.

  • Provide increased authentic and actionable listener engagement.

Listeners will find comfort in others going through the same issues. You may find yourself broadcasting from your home, which may be out of your comfort zone. Rather than trying to project a sense of business as usual, embrace the change! If the dog barks, the child screams or the husband sighs in the background, that’s real life. It’s exactly what your listener is going through. Let sharing be the mantra–you could, for example, have listeners upload pictures of their home offices to your social pages and share yours.

Find experts to feature on your shows. You don’t have to have all the COVID-19 answers yourself, and some of the best content is being generated by personalities across multiple formats interviewing those on the front lines of the crisis.

Anthony Fauci is the director of the NIAID

NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Director Anthony Fauci has been extremely media-friendly in providing crisis guidance

Consider taking more listener phone calls. Allow them to share feelings and information that may be valuable to other listeners.

Think about brand-appropriate actionable advice you can offer listeners that is applicable to the current environment (i.e., how to work at home while the kids are in online school, the best binge-able series on Netflix or which delivery services have waived their fees).

Modify your tone. Be empathetic to the new needs of an uncertain audience.

  • Rally your community.

In times of crisis, “Community” surges to a higher level of importance on the Image PyramidSM. As they would with aggressively promoting a Base Music or Talk position, brands should be going over the top with their community efforts. Build real community bulletins (here’s what is open, new hours for grocery stores, new restrictions, etc.). Be the voice of the community, invite listeners to participate and share as appropriate. Listeners will tell people where they can buy toilet paper (well, maybe they’ll share that information), who delivers groceries and how to find free learning resources for kids. Post the information on your website.

Don’t just think of your community as your market. Your community is your audience. A Hip Hop station and Classic Rock station will not rally the same communities, but each has the power to inspire, engage and activate their respective followers.

If you make a concerted effort now to think about what you can really do for your community and your audience, your efforts will create a halo over your brand when things settle down.

Consider reading two Tuesdays With Coleman posts in which we covered the important role of radio in a crisis:

Here’s to Local Radio and Waffle House

The Power of Radio in Tough Times

All of us at Coleman Insights welcome your input and would love to hear your thoughts on how audio brands can best serve our communities during this challenging time.

We’re all in this together.

Warren, Jon, Jessica, Sam, John, Meghan & Jay

Changing the Country Radio Conversation

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last Tuesday evening, my colleague Sam Milkman and I had the pleasure and privilege of presenting our findings from a recent study to a room full of Country industry folks—performers, agents, publishers, reporters, etc.—several stories above the streets of Nashville. I’m admittedly bad at estimating numbers of people in a room, but I counted a good number of emphatic head nods, a few breakouts of applause, and a couple of vocalized statements of agreement, so I think we were talking to about 75 people.

Sam Milkman and Jessica Lichtenfeld present at the CMT Equal Play Campaign panel discussion in Nashville. Credit: Daniel Brown for CMT/ViacomCBS

The crowd was gathered to launch CMT’s Equal Play initiative; back in January, the cable net, a ViacomCBS network, announced that it would devote half of its video hours to female artists. This is, arguably, a Big Deal—no network has, as far as I can remember, made such a bold statement with its programming.

The move was inspired by Leslie Fram, CMT’s SVP of Music Strategy and a longtime radio personality and programmer. Leslie is also a founder of Change the Conversation, an organization devoted to improving the environment for female artists in Country music, and she is incredibly passionate about making sure female Country artists—both newcomers and well-established performers—get their due.

It has long been understood that many Country radio programmers limit the exposure of female artists on their stations and have often placed limits on how many songs by female artists that can be played per hour. Journalist Chris Willman tweeted back in January that KKGO in Los Angeles had played two songs by female artists in a row, and “can’t they get fined for that?” Little did Chris know at the time, we had already presented our study to CMT that focused on audience perceptions of this very issue. (Chris was there on Tuesday, by the way, and got a nice round of applause.) How’s that for parallel ideas?

You see, CMT approached us in the Fall of 2019 looking for a research partner to answer some questions about the Country audience. CMT’s goal in commissioning this research was to dispel some of the “conventional wisdom” about Country radio listeners:

  • Country fans aren’t interested in hearing songs by female artists
  • Listeners think male Country artists have better voices and sing better songs than female Country artists
  • Listeners don’t think women play a huge role in current Country music, past or present
  • Country listeners don’t want to hear more women on the radio

Sam and I collaborated with the Insights team at CMT—with an assist from our founder, Jon Coleman—to design a survey in which we asked direct questions of the Country radio audience. Our goal was to figure out whether these pieces of “conventional wisdom” were real or imagined, and whether the Country radio audience in the US would be open to hearing more female artists on Country radio stations.

What we found was heartening. Not only are women recognized for the major role they’ve played in the history of Country music and for their current contributions, but Country listeners are also overwhelmingly open to hearing more from women on Country radio. 7 in 10 listeners agree that they want to hear more from women in Country radio and 84% agree with the statement, “I want equal play for female artists on Country radio.” And when we asked our respondents whether they prefer male artists to female artists, over half said they have no preference. Why? Well, at the end of the day, for this majority of Country radio fans, “a good song is a good song, no matter who sings it.”

As we shared this information with the crowd on Tuesday, you could feel the support and the buzz. We’re at a time where many female up-and-coming Country artists have great songs—that they write themselves or for other artists—and stories to tell, and they’re not afraid to be loud. This room of publishers and managers was so supportive, men and women alike, and committed to driving change in the industry. The radio people in the room talked about opening playlists and letting more women in, and not allowing old industry conventions to hold them back from playing great new songs. Publishers talked about encouraging female songwriters and making space for them. Everyone recognized that change won’t happen overnight, but conversations like the ones on Tuesday are a great start to acknowledging that conventional wisdom no longer applies.

And we at Coleman Insights were part of it. Good research provides an understanding of the audience and, in cases like these, the insights you need if you think it’s time to change a conversation.

Doing Well by Doing Good

Tuesdays With Coleman

A common theme in this blog is how brands should learn as much as possible about what its consumers expect from them and—if those expectations are in line with what those consumers want—deliver on those expectations as often as possible. I like to think that we’ve done that since launching Tuesdays With Coleman more than two years ago. The audio entertainment industry professionals who come to our blog expect us to deliver insights into trends in marketing, branding and the consumption of radio, podcasts, music and streaming audio.

For our last installment of Tuesdays With Coleman in 2019, however, I am going off-brand to discuss something very different: corporate responsibility. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, there is little denying the polarized nature of our society and the increasing difficulty with which governments—here in the United States and elsewhere around the globe—can get things done and improve the lives of their citizens. It is easy to sit back and lament that fact by complaining on social media and blaming others for this predicament; the hard work is doing something to help communities and the needy.

In August 2018, Coleman Insights announced that it was joining Pledge 1%, a global movement by companies to integrate giving into their DNA. Specifically, we pledged to donate 1% of our profits, 1% of our employees’ time and 1% of our services to community and charitable organizations. Since we started this initiative, we have donated thousands of dollars and our employees have given hundreds of hours to a wide array of organizations that help people in need and make our communities stronger. We even delivered a research project on a pro bono basis to a college radio station so that the students could get “real world” exposure to the process before pursuing careers in media. To learn more about our Pledge 1% efforts, I encourage you to visit the page devoted to them on our website.

Coleman Insights employees volunteered at a food pantry as part of its Pledge 1% initiative

Coleman Insights employees recently volunteered at a local food pantry

I was inspired to send our company in this direction by Marc Benioff, the chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce. Coleman Insights uses Salesforce to drive many of our business operations, and while the decision to use their products and services was initially made because of the value we thought they would deliver to our business, we are incredibly loyal to Salesforce and continue to increase our investment because of the company’s commitment to giving back. Marc wrote about this in an excellent New York Times Opinion piece in October, and even if you do not agree with his politics, I challenge you to not admire the man for his commitment to philanthropy and equality for all.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff commits the company to donate one percent each of time, profit and product to charitable causes

Much like how Marc writes about how companies can be more successful by engaging in activities that help their communities and by providing equal opportunities for their employees, we are feeling the same kind of impact at Coleman Insights. Thanks to a solid economy and strong commitments to research-based strategies by our clients, I am happy to report that we have achieved strong financial results while also taking our Pledge 1% game to a high level. In other words, we are doing well while also doing good.

Why am I making this the subject of our last blog of the decade? Please be assured it is not to pat us on the back; instead, I have two goals. First, I want you, our readers (and many of whom are our customers) to know as much about us and our values as possible. If working with a company that is committed to giving to those in need is important to you, I hope we can enjoy a productive business relationship in the future. Second, and far more important, I urge you and the companies you work for to take a close, hard look at Pledge 1% or other models of giving to the communities you serve. If we all spent a little less time fighting over how to help people and improve society and more time doing the work required to make things better, the 2020s will be a little brighter than the 2010s.

On behalf of everyone at Coleman Insights, I wish you a happy holiday season and a safe, healthy and peaceful New Year. Tuesdays With Coleman will return on January 7th with our “regularly scheduled programming!”