In past months, we’ve explored the benefits and shortcomings of various measures radio programmers use to gauge the popularity of new music, including Shazam®, sales and streaming data. It’s only fair to apply the same scrutiny to custom new music research, the tool we provide the radio industry. (Colloquially, most folks still call it “callout,” even though we long ago stopped playing hooks for listeners over landlines).
Obviously, we can’t be totally unbiased: If we didn’t passionately believe that custom new music research is the most comprehensive tool you can use to pick the right new music, we wouldn’t make it our business. However, there are things callout can tell you that no other music appeal measure can tell you. There are also things even the best new music research can’t tell you.
The obvious advantage of custom new music research is that it focuses on people who actually live in your market and listen to your station and your relevant competitors. Market-specific sales, streaming and Shazam data can focus on your town, but can’t zone in on people who use your radio station or like your specific format.
Beyond this primary benefit, here are four things you can only learn from callout:
1) Callout can show you both the positive and negative reaction to your music.
Some tools, such as sales and streaming data, can give you a sense of how many people love a song, but can’t tell you anything about how many people hate a song. After all, if someone hates a song, it doesn’t stop anyone who loves it from playing it over and over on Spotify.
Other tools, specifically Mscore, can give you a sense of what songs might cause listeners to leave your station, but don’t tell you anything about what songs caused them to tune in to your station in the first place.
Customized new music research is the only tool that tells you both how many listeners will react positively to each song and how many listeners will react negatively.
Consider D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli”: Streaming and sales data accurately reflected that lots of people love that song. Many stations that tested it in our Integr8 new music research also saw that a significant percentage of listeners liked it. However, we also clearly saw that a lot of mainstream CHR listeners hated that song. Knowing a song is polarizing can help you decide if the listeners you’ll delight are worth the listeners you’ll annoy. If you do decide a polarizing song is worth it, you can schedule it between more universally appealing titles.
2) Callout can show you how passionate listeners are about your music
There are songs that listeners like. There are other songs that make listeners crank up the volume when they come on your station. There are songs listeners find “meh”. There are other songs they detest so strongly that they change the station the second they hear the first note.
Customized new music research separates the songs listeners merely enjoy from the songs listeners really love, and the songs that simply don’t engage your listeners from the songs that enrage your listeners. This level of passion—either positive or negative—isn’t evident from examining sales or streaming, which merely show the raw number of times consumers purchase or play a song.
3) Callout can show you how different camps within your audience respond to each song
Streaming and Shazam data are both available for local markets. While these new measures, along with sales data and mScore, let you drill down to your specific city, they don’t let you parse a song’s popularity by age, gender, ethnicity, or radio listening preferences. Sometimes, men love a song, but women hate it. In other cases, listeners under 25 are already sick of a song that listeners over 25 are just getting to know. Other tools also can’t isolate listeners who are most important to your ratings from less influential listeners.
Understanding how different segments of your audience feel about a song can help you make the most confident decision about whether or not to play it.
4) Callout can show you where each song is in its lifecycle as a hit
It can be tricky to know when it’s time to move a song out of current rotation. It can also be tricky to know when a new song will never catch on, or if it just needs another week of exposure for listeners to fall in love with it.
At the beginning of a song’s life, callout can tell you what percentage of your audience is familiar with a song alongside how many of those listeners who know it like it, so you can decide if it needs more exposure. With other measures, you can’t be sure if listeners are rejecting a song, or if they simply don’t know it yet.
At the end of a song’s life as a current hit, new music research has traditionally relied on burn to help programmers decide when listeners are growing tired of a song and that it’s time to move a song from current to recurrent.
At Integr8, we’ve developed a more reliable way to help programmers know where each song is in its lifecycle as a hit. We call it Hitcycle®. It’s a proprietary measure that not only gives programmers confidence about when a song is ready to move to recurrents, it also helps them see when songs are still in their growth phase.
While other measures can tell you how many people are buying or streaming a song, those metrics can’t definitively tell you when awareness of a new song is still building, or when fatigue for a big hit is setting in. Only callout can tell you this dimension.
There are some things even the best new music research can’t tell you. We’ll cover the limitations of callout in our next post.