I've been in the radio industry long enough to see trends come and go more than once. There is a lot of talk this week about the new Ed Sheeran song and why it should or shouldn't be played by rock radio. Ed is a great pop artist with good songs who puts on a stellar show. But no one would ever confuse him with rock anything.
There was thinking back in the 80's and 90's that playing one song from an artist outside the format could "steal" some of those listeners for a short time, raising your cume. (Cume = People sampling the radio station for at least 5 minutes in a quarter hour.) And while that may have been successful in a ratings battle, I was against then as I am now.
Rock music has an honest and genuine quality to it. Just like the best of Country, R&B, etc. These days an audience is much more perceptive, they follow the social media of their favorites and try to get to know them inside and out. Just because a pop artist recycles some old blues and rock riffs does not make them a rock artist in the eyes and ears of a rock fan. Any cume a station would get from playing such a song would be overshadowed by the amount of TSL (Time Spent Listening = the other ratings data radio looks at and is exactly what it sounds like.) a station would lose as their long-time fans ask, "Why the hell is my rock station playing Ed Sheeran?". A rock fan may sit through it out of curiosity once or twice, but is a pop fan going to stay when you follow it up with Metallica or Slipknot?
There are hundreds of rock songs released every year that do not get played because FM playlists are tighter, programmers are afraid to take chances with million dollar properties (I don't blame them one bit) and nostalgia seem to be taking over the thinking of anyone over 25 (nothing wrong with that either). But playing a non-rock artist instead of a hard-working rock band out there touring and trying to make a living is really a slap in the face to them and their fans. When does a non-rock artist fit a rock station? Never to the fans of the music. Give that slot to a band that fits the format in everything they do.
No matter what format the radio station is, it needs the best of that genre that it can be. Trying to "steal" a few people from another station with an out-of-format artist is a temporary boost at best and not worth what the station loses in listener loyalty in the long run. FM Radio needs to adjust it's thinking on this and many other sides of the battle for listener attention or it will get lost in the modern streaming world.
More about that in a later blog.
Rock your day, my friends.