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September 10, 2020 9:03 pm  #1


Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

You may not know the name Lee Abrams, but he's something of a legend in the radio biz, creating the AOR format, helping to start XM Radio, the satellite service, suggesting they hire away Howard Stern (and getting turned down) and in general, being ahead of his time. 

Now he's at it again, suggesting that current music radio needs what he calls a "reimagining." 

"Abrams insists radio needs a complete overhaul, “blowing up the ‘80s focus-group mentality and starting to reinvent themselves.” He wants stations to go back to supporting new music and emerging artists, not just the familiar oldies.

“You don’t see that today,” he says. “Artists don’t bring their acoustic guitars to radio stations to perform. Even the branding is complete bull, and the people know it. We need to return to the day when radio stations talked street, not research.

“All the great radio stations in history re-launched with an incredible depth of thinking, looking at every aspect — production, audio and print logos, the music mix, training the jocks. These days, stations simply test the music library and maybe put up a few billboards."


Renowned Media Consultant Lee Abrams: Terrestrial Radio Is on the Clock 

 

September 10, 2020 9:36 pm  #2


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

that's interesting to see.  currently, the crtc only requires 35% CanCon, and asks for a sense of a station's new and emerging content, without making it a condition of licence.  the standard answer is 8-10 percent of CanCon based on market availability in the format.  That typically placates the commission.

That means stations can load up with tragically hip, big sugar, and trews tracks from 25 years ago, while not required to play newer stuff from unknown or up-and-coming bands.  there's going to be a policy review eventually, and artists, SOCAN, FACTOR, etc. need to advocate for a new calculation of what's important in CanCon, reflecting why the policy was implemented nearly 50 years ago.  a 30 year old Kim Mitchell song is currently considered equal to my new band Splunge-adelic's track, but kim's song is more valuable Cancon to the programmers and listeners. (no, Splunge-adelic doesn't exist!) Thinking maybe Cancon credits for newer material instead of hammering the same old shit, 2-1 credit for newer tracks toward the 35%. 

I know people on this board dislike the CanCon requirement in principle, but that ain't gonna change.  Ok so how about modernizing policy to say that a certain percentage of CanCon has to have been released in the last.... 24 months maybe?  I know certain genres are more applicable, country and rock over A/C, but it could be relative.  My other thought is that kim mitchell hasn't released an album in 10 years, or had a charting hit since the 90s, so maybe despite his previous success, his new album should qualify as new... but that's secondary and just an example.

Thoughts?

 

September 10, 2020 10:20 pm  #3


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

I agree, and especially in rock radio, too much old stuff period... cancon or otherwise.  You don't hear new rock anywhere on top 40 radio and even most rock stations.  It seems as if new rock and harder music was banned by radio about 20 years ago.  Many rock stations like Q are the classic variety and don't play any new music.  FM96 in London still plays a fair bit.

If a station has a gold or classic format there isn't much you can do about new music since that isn't the format.  But certainly it is a mystery why rock music has been absent from top 40 over the past 20 years or so.  Rock used to always be a part of any top 40 chart, not now.

I don't listen to a lot of country radio, but checking out the new Hot 93.9 in Brantford over the weekend, they are heavy into new music and music from the past few years, including a lot of new cancon.  Good for them.  And what i heard on the the station sounds great.  It was a change listening to radio where I didn't know many songs or even artists.  A lot of the music I didn't mind at all and the imaging for the station was contemporary, similar to hot a/c or top 40.

 

September 10, 2020 10:59 pm  #4


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

paterson1 wrote:

I agree, and especially in rock radio, too much old stuff period... cancon or otherwise.  You don't hear new rock anywhere on top 40 radio and even most rock stations.  It seems as if new rock and harder music was banned by radio about 20 years ago.  Many rock stations like Q are the classic variety and don't play any new music.  FM96 in London still plays a fair bit.

If a station has a gold or classic format there isn't much you can do about new music since that isn't the format.  But certainly it is a mystery why rock music has been absent from top 40 over the past 20 years or so.  Rock used to always be a part of any top 40 chart, not now.

I don't listen to a lot of country radio, but checking out the new Hot 93.9 in Brantford over the weekend, they are heavy into new music and music from the past few years, including a lot of new cancon.  Good for them.  And what i heard on the the station sounds great.  It was a change listening to radio where I didn't know many songs or even artists.  A lot of the music I didn't mind at all and the imaging for the station was contemporary, similar to hot a/c or top 40.

Ya, pure classic rock stations like Q are a good example.... so they identify as such, and are totally 35% CanCon.  what i'm suggesting is that if a rock station includes Splunge-adelic's new track released in 2020, the station is credited with 2 CanCon spins for that song, compared to a one spin credit for an old Hip tune from 1989, in order to reach their 35%.  more points for new and emerging... does that make sense?

The crtc won't penalize classic stations but at the same time, provide encouragement for the same stations to include new/emerging in their playlists..  I'm thinking out loud here, but also preparing for the commission's eventual input on new policy.
 

 

September 11, 2020 6:40 am  #5


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

Cancon should be modified to encourage the play of new music or up and coming artists.  Many receive no airplay now. Maybe the easiest way would be something like they do in Australia where stations that play current music or top 40 do need to play a certain percent of new or up and coming artists. I do like your idea for more credits for a new song or group, actually I believe this is what they do in OZ. It would be interesting to see how they monitor and handle this.

We did sort of have this years ago with the hit/non hit for FM that still applies to Montreal and Ottawa.  Some make it sound like it was a big burden and FM radio didn't have decent ratings until the 50/50 hit non hit was dropped.  Wrong.  CHUM FM was number one in Toronto during many years of the hit/no hit regulation, and FM had overtaken AM across the country for the source of music on radio, and were becoming dominant in the ratings.

What a lot of stations did was obviously play the hit song from an album and the record company would tell music directors what the next two singles would be released later.  Stations would play not only the hot new song from Splunge-adelic from their new album but also play another cut, which in reality was going to be the next single release in three or four months.  Stations in Ottawa do this all the time and it sounds great. 

One solution might be to reduce cancon back to 30 or 25% across the board.  For stations that play current hits, one third of the songs can be from the last five years and the remaining all current with an emphasis on new or upcoming artists.  Sounds complicated but easy to put in the computer.

But the 35% burnout for cancon gold is mostly the fault of radio stations who just don't play a lot of material that was popular and are sticking with groups like the Hip, Blue Rodeo, Triumph etc.  Stations like FM96, CFNY who play some new music don't have this issue. 

Last edited by paterson1 (September 11, 2020 6:45 am)

 

September 11, 2020 7:33 am  #6


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

splunge wrote:

A 30 year old Kim Mitchell song is currently considered equal to my new band Splunge-adelic's track, but kim's song is more valuable Cancon to the programmers and listeners. (no, Splunge-adelic doesn't exist!)

There was a hip-hop/R&B group called Spunkadelic in the early 1990s. And they were Canadian too. https://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons3/smile.png
 






PJ
 


All the original greatest hits are right here!  http://www.classichitsonline.com
 

September 11, 2020 9:17 am  #7


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

If you're going to try to do this through regulation, it has to be an incentive, not a condition. Forcing Q to play emerging artists is ridiculous. You can't legislate what people want to hear, and it isn't emerging artists on Q. You'll only push more people online, defeating the purpose.

I really like the incentive of emerging tracks counting for more than a single Cancon point. Q wouldn't bite, but Edge might.


 
 

September 11, 2020 8:16 pm  #8


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

RadioAaron wrote:

I really like the incentive of emerging tracks counting for more than a single Cancon point. Q wouldn't bite, but Edge might.

The reason Q avoids playing new music (ie. anything from the last year or so) is they're under the same roof as EDGE and don't want to step on their toes. Ironically, years ago when they were separately-owned entities both stations each station tried to outshout the other in touting the new stuff they played. However, if you look just a touch to the east, 94.9 in Oshawa plays and actively promotes a lot of newer acts. In fact their ratio of new vs. classic rock is the reverse with the older stuff thrown in almost as spice.

 

September 12, 2020 9:22 am  #9


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

Stations that don't play current music like Q or Boom the incentive for emerging artists doesn't apply since that is not their format and they don't play current music.  

I do go back to the burnout of songs and artists is as much the station's fault as the regulation.  Some stations do the bare minimum and tend to overplay certain songs and artists and not just cancon.

My local gold station plays Winds of Change by Scorpions all the time and have for over 20 years.  Does it get a pass since it is not cancon? This song is overplayed and to me just as annoying as hearing Here for a Good Time by Trooper.  And there are many others and artists like Ram Jam and Black Betty that seem to always be in their rotation.  A group that only had one semi hit, 43 years ago and for some reason the station plays this one hit wonder constantly. 

These are the things that radio people focus on, does the audience care or notice?  That is another question and does this repetition actually hurt ratings or is the repetition of songs a necessary evil to remain popular? 

Stations do need to play the hit and familiar gold since this is what people seem to like.
Is the repetition of cancon an issue with the audience?  Or is much of the problem with how stations are actually managing their cancon gold?  Or do they even manage it at all?  I still maintain that there are plenty of songs that were popular 5-35 years ago that have vanished and never get any play. 

Anyway I think that cancon should be revised and updated, with a level of 25-30% and formats that do play current music given credit for playing new or upcoming artists. Could see how Australia broadcasters do this.  The thing is you will still hear lots of Beiber, Mendes, Drake, Celine Dion etc since much of their older hit material doesn't qualify as cancon.

 

September 12, 2020 11:04 am  #10


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

paterson1 wrote:

   . . . things that radio people focus on, does the audience care or notice? 

Radio's audience is said to be shrinking which might explain the dearth of reports of caring & noticing


 

 

September 12, 2020 12:26 pm  #11


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

It would also be nice if they started covering local news and sports again instead of parroting news releases, scalping newspaper articles and reading scores.

 

September 12, 2020 12:31 pm  #12


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

Also the fact that people usually have busy lives and radio usually isn't on the average persons radar. The last two ratings books are an anomaly because of COVID as are the TV ratings.  Radio listening over the air in 2019 as compared to 10-15 years ago maybe be down but you need to factor in new stations available and growth in population.  You also can't base the numbers totally on Numeris or Arbitron since smaller, independent and community/college stations aren't included unless you subscribe.  Same with out of market stations.

I believe rating wise in Canada at least, radio has done reasonably well over the past few years as compared to OTA television which has seen prime time numbers drop drastically.  Now in prime time in the regular season on ABC,CBS,FOX or NBC if a scripted show gets 5 or 6 million viewers it is considered successful and will be renewed.  Not that long ago if a show had numbers like that it wouldn't see a second week let alone second season.

Last night the CW had two new episodes of Being Reuben which is a British import.  Both episodes had well under 300,000 viewers and 0 demo shares with only 0.1 share showing up 25-54.  Over at CBS the highly promoted and new  Love Island only managed 1.8 million viewers 2+. But the show was number one in the sales demo of adults 18-34 with a share of only 0.4%.  Scary times...
http://www.showbuzzdaily.com/articles/the-sked-friday-network-scorecard-9-11-2020.html  

 

September 13, 2020 1:11 am  #13


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

Seems to me - Lee Abrams was the guy who took all the originality away from a very creative Free Form FM radio. In fact what I think I am hearing him say is - he now is recommending it be put back. 

Guess he ran out of things to do............................lol

Last edited by Marsden (September 13, 2020 1:14 am)

 

September 13, 2020 4:02 pm  #14


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

Marsden wrote:

Seems to me - Lee Abrams was the guy who took all the originality away from a very creative Free Form FM radio. In fact what I think I am hearing him say is - he now is recommending it be put back. 

Guess he ran out of things to do............................lol

He essentially did to underground FM rock what Drake did to top 40...tighter playlists, less time for chatter among other things. In Canada the change wasn't quite as drastic mainly due to the existing regs for FM which dictated certain amounts of "mosaic" and "foregrounding" talk content. Also, the non-hit ratio meant stations played deeper cuts. For years programmers complained of the restrictions and gradually over the years the regs were relaxed and ultimately largely removed leaving what they are now. Enter satellite radio and other sources for entertainment and suddenly a number of listeners have come to enjoy that diversity and just maybe have become disenchanted with the repetition and generic sound of many terrestrial stations. 

 

September 13, 2020 5:30 pm  #15


Re: Rock Radio Requires Reset: Famed Consultant Doesn't Like What He Hears

Yes Mr Marsden I read a few years ago that Lee Abrams had a conversion away from the type of format he helped to usher in and Kevjo I never thought about the analogy to  Drake and what happened to top 40 but that' is a good one.

The contrast in this area between the two competing currents on FM at the time were what was heard on the original 97 Rock ( which I believe Abrams had a hand in) and WBUF FM. 

A lot of people prefered the 97 Rock approach but I was not one of them and in retrospect their previous incarnation as a top 40 station was probably more creative and it did have a wide playlist as far as top 40.

Here is a prime slice of WBUF FM as I recorded it in 1975

While I'm on the topic of WBUF. I was wondering if anyone remembers an automated soft rock format for a very short while on the future WNED FM at 94.5. I think it was WEBR FM at the time.

I remember listening to the infamous Bon Allan before the launch of WBUF and he was on the station talking about the upcoming launch and he referred to the WEBR type format at the time as "chicken rock." That soft rock format was not one that we think of now and stations such as EZ rock and such. Was an acoustic based format featuring the likes of CSNY. I enjoyed that music and what I remember hearing on WEBR FM is the Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty by Aztec Two Step. I tried to look up info about that format on WEBR but did not find anything.




 

Last edited by Fitz (September 13, 2020 5:36 pm)


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