Tag Archives: consumers

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.

Too Many Messages!

Tuesdays With Coleman

Regular readers of Tuesdays With Coleman and loyal Coleman Insights clients know of our affinity for Outside Thinking, the ability to look at any business, product or service from the perspective of its customers or users. Furthermore, those of you who have listened to my colleagues and I espouse on Outside Thinking know that understanding the obstacles that often prevent businesses from communicating what they stand for and offer is vitally important. One of those obstacles is the concept of “Too Many Messages.” When brands—through their product, advertising and other communication efforts—communicate multiple messages about what they stand for, the result is a lack of consistency in the messages that get through to consumers.

A few years ago, my colleague Sam Milkman ran into this guy:

This t-shirt has too many messages on it

Even though Sam didn’t know him, he begged him to let him take his picture. Why? Because the radio station t-shirt he is wearing is one of the best examples of violating the Too Many Messages rule we’ve ever seen. The shirt inundates anyone who sees it with at least three major things it wants you to know about the Magic 101.7 brand: (1) it plays “Continuous Lite Rock,” (2) it features John Carter’s morning show and (3) it offers “the no-repeat workday.”

The point here is that this guy in the t-shirt could have walked past many people the day he wore it, and if we polled those people afterwards, each of them would have taken away different perceptions about Magic 101.7. Some would just remember the brand name, some would recall the kind of music the station plays, some would retain John Carter’s name and some would think about the station’s no-repeat workday feature. Very few of them would retain all four messages and the overall population of people exposed to the shirt would remember inconsistent mash-ups of the various messages.

Despite our efforts to discourage breaking the Too Many Messages rule, we see radio stations and other businesses do it all the time. Why? We can chalk up some of it to human nature; when advertising budgets are tight and you get that rare opportunity to tell consumers about your business, you want to tell them as much about it as you can. However, I think it mostly happens due to a lack of strategic thinking and understanding of how consumers’ brains process information. It probably also happens because some people just don’t buy into the Too Many Messages rule. I’m sure the Inside Thinker who designed the t-shirt above concluded that it wasn’t too complicated and that consumers would “get it.”

Fortunately, we have proof that consumers don’t get it via recent research from Millward Brown, a subsidiary of Kantar, the global research behemoth. Millward Brown’s specialty is measuring the effectiveness of advertising and they offer their clients a service called Link™, which measures how consumers respond to advertising copy across many dimensions.

Using Link, Millward Brown was able to determine how well ads featuring multiple messages manage to get any single message through to the consumer. As the accompanying graph reveals, not very well. Even by adding a second message to an ad, the likelihood that consumers take away either of them drops from 100% for a single-message ad to only 65%. By the time fourth messages are added to ads, the best likelihood of a message getting through to consumers drops to 43%.

The more messages you try to communicate the lower the likelihood of communicating any single message

What does this mean for your business? It means that you should focus on the most strategically-important message to get across to your target audience to the greatest extent possible. If you’re in radio, this should flow from knowledge you have on the state of your station’s Image Pyramid and which layer is most in need of development. If your music position needs development, focus your advertising solely on the music you play and resist also promoting your morning show or another benefit listening to your station offers.

If you’re trying to grow the audience for a podcast and you believe—as most research in the podcasting space has confirmed thus far—that there’s a large untapped audience consisting of people who aren’t aware of your podcast, keep the message focused on the “elevator pitch” for your podcast and don’t spend a lot of time explaining all of content elements of the show. If you own a hot dog stand that recently expanded its menu to include bratwurst, don’t advertise the addition of bratwurst until you know that your image for hot dogs is strong enough to support the development of imagery for other items on your menu.

I should stress that this applies well beyond what you do with your advertising, especially if you are in radio. Think about the messages your listeners are exposed to when they tune in to your station. Are they focused on helping your station develop the one image that is the next step in the construction of your Image Pyramid, or do they hear a music image promo in one break, followed by a promo for your morning show in another break, followed by another break in which your air personality encourages listeners to visit him at the station’s tent at the upcoming community festival downtown?

When he portrayed Curly in the classic 1991 movie “City Slickers,” I doubt Jack Palance thought his “secret of life” would apply to the “Too Many Messages” rule. My take? Nearly 30 years later, Curly’s recipe provides good marketing advice: