Let’s say you’re responsible for overseeing a brand. If something is not working, you add something to make it more appealing. Right?
If something is working, you add more things to make it even better. Right?
We’ve addressed this instinct of addition a number of times in our Tuesdays With Coleman blogs. In “Too Many Messages,” Warren Kurtzman illustrated how adding messages to advertisements lowers the likelihood of remembering any single message from the ad. Jay Nachlis alluded to the explosion in entertainment options while quoting Jerry Seinfeld in “Lack of Focus=Lack of Greatness.” HBO’s ascent to juggernaut status happened by focusing on one great show at a time on Sunday nights, which Jon Coleman points out in “Can HBO and Radio Have it All?”
Now, there’s new science to back up addition by subtraction. Inc.’s Jeff Haden refers to a new University of Virginia study that revealed when people attempt to improve something, they default to “additive transformations,” while ignoring “subtractive transformations.”
It’s why a bar owner may think adding Taco Tuesday to his already loaded list of promotions will be just the thing to boost profit margins.
It’s why software developers think adding more features will make their applications easier to use.
And it’s why a radio program director may think adding more music or special features for the sake of quantity will result in more listening and higher ratings.
So, if we know that we’re inclined to add to solve problems, what happens when we’re prompted to subtract to solve the same problems?
When reminded they could remove items or elements, participants in the University of Virginia study were twice as likely to make subtractive changes than additive changes. And the changes were more effective.
Instead of considering what you can add to solve a problem, consider what you can subtract.
How would that focus your radio station’s music message? Or your podcast’s topic? Or one of your streaming service’s channels?
As we pass the halfway point of 2021, an analytics review of the first 26 Tuesdays With Coleman blog posts of the year indicate content popularity that was reflective of the times.
Four of the five most-read blogs had pandemic-themed undertones. The first blog that covered findings from our annual benchmark study of contemporary music tastes made the list. And it is an entry by our founder, Jon Coleman, on one of the most buzzed about topics in the industry, that claimed the top spot.
Here are the five most-read blogs of the first half of 2021, counted down from number five to number one.
Rather than looking back on the pandemic, this hopeful blog looked forward to conditions ahead of us. It is a reminder that audio brands can play a key emotional role in welcoming listeners back to a more normalized world.
The pandemic unleashed a wave of nostalgia, which Warren Kurtzman addresses in this entry. As he explains, the key to embracing it is making it meaningful. This blog featured examples from a number of brands in different industries.
Netflix projected 41 million viewers watched Season 3 “Cobra Kai” in its first month of release.
The most recent blog to make the list covered some of the massive behavioral changes brought on by COVID-19 and how your brand may be affected. Most importantly, it offered thoughts on how brand managers can shift their strategic thinking to adapt to new audience behavior that may never go back to “normal.”
Coleman Insights debuted the Contemporary Music SuperStudy in 2019 at the All Access Worldwide Radio Summit. Thanks to COVID, the findings from past two studies of contemporary music tastes were delivered virtually. Once again, the pandemic infiltrated a blog as this year’s findings uncovered how music tastes in 2020 resembled the movie Groundhog Day.
The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was the second best testing Pop song in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3
Many radio station managers are wrestling with how to incorporate smart speakers into their strategy. In the most-read blog of the first half of 2021, Jon Coleman makes the point that while promoting smart speakers should be part of the strategy, it must be done in a way that doesn’t come at the expense of the station brand.
Thanks for reading Tuesdays With Coleman. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
As we look back on our analytics from this past year, it turns out every member of the Coleman Insights consultant team contributed to the five most-read Tuesdays With Coleman blogs of 2020. As for which subjects resonated the most, there’s a lesson to be learned. Four of the top five incorporated the two topics that most consumed 2020 – the coronavirus pandemic and the United States presidential election. It’s worth noting that, despite being published just seven days ago, last week’s buzzworthy Should Radio Go Back to Normal? by Jon Coleman nearly made the list and is worth a second look. Here are the five most-read blogs of the year, counted down from number five to number one.
Two of the blogs on our list are from March, right as the COVID-19 lockdowns were taking hold and everyone was trying to figure out the answer to “what’s next?” The Marketing of Social Distancing salutes a billboard campaign by one of our clients and a number of campaigns across various industries. It encourages brands to remain top-of-mind while being sensitive to the nature of the new pandemic environment.
Our client K-97 in Edmonton launched this campaign very early in the pandemic.
The results of the first ever Coleman Insights Contemporary Music SuperStudy were released at the Worldwide Radio Summit in California, and we were looking forward to presenting the sequel at this year’s WWRS. Unfortunately, the week of March 23, 2020 turned out to be a pretty bad one for conference planning. Following the pandemic-related cancellation of this year’s conference, we released the results of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 via webinar and blogs. This installment of Tuesdays With Coleman illustrated just how different the musical tastes of Biden and Trump supporters are, although they do share a distaste for “Baby Shark.”
This blog from Coleman Insights founder Jon Coleman prominently features examples from Biden and Trump’s campaigns, but the real message of How to Move the Ratings Needle is how shifting perception can dramatically change the momentum of a brand. Jon argues that too much attention is paid to little things that don’t matter and, he says, “If I owned or managed a radio station today, I would hire a marketing specialist specifically charged with getting media coverage.”
In the only pre-pandemic blog on the list, Sam Milkman compiled a list of things inside thinkers (those that view their brands from their own perspective instead of their consumers) say. As Sam points out, while people in radio have said these things for decades, these examples are dangerously unstrategic and create unnecessary friction and obstacles to growth.
The first state issued COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued by California on March 19th. A few days before that, the entire Coleman Insights consultant team gathered for a video conference to brainstorm, consider, and offer our best thinking in regards to how our clients should navigate their brands in the early days of the pandemic. While we wish we could end 2020 by saying the pandemic is over, we are optimistic about what 2021 will bring and heartened that so many found our advice nine months (!) ago helpful.
Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year, and we’ll see you in January!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Colemanblog. You can also sign up to receive notifications about future blog posts and the upcoming release of the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 song ranker.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
BRANDING, CONTENT & RESEARCH STRATEGY
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