The Country Radio Broadcasters Association and the CMA recently commissioned a study, conducted by independent market research firm Coleman Insights, on the listening habits of country radio listeners, and their satisfaction with the medium. Presented at this year’s Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, the study polled 5,000 radio listeners and also asked the same questions of a group of industry insiders – only their questions were in the form ‘do your listeners think?’ instead of ‘do you think?’. The results mostly said that listenership is strong and steady, and that, for the most part, consumers are very satisfied with what they hear on the radio. The industry had a slightly dimmer viewpoint.
Key findings offered in the study say consumers are listening more to country radio than one year ago and it’s mostly because the music and/or their favorite station has gotten better since then. A strong 5-to-1 margin believe the music itself is better than it was a few years ago, and I’d have to concur with them. Interestingly, the industry personnel polled think their target audience has tuned out, and blame new media choices as the primary factor. The industry also has an equal-to view on the quality of music coming out of Music City, contrasting the five-fold majority from listeners. The people making the music think it’s “about the same”, while the consumers think it’s gotten better
Often thought to be backward and slower to pick up new technologies, country music audiences are shown to be joining the technological revolution at the same rate as the general population (those who aren’t country music listeners). Nearly half of the listeners say they have a smart phone, iPod, and use FaceBook, but perhaps most threatening to terrestrial radio is that one-third have used streaming internet radio like Pandora. A later paragraph suggests that AM/FM radio would seriously be hurt by the addition of services like Pandora in automobiles.
In this study, Pandora is perceived as FM radio’s biggest threat. Many kinds of new media and technology are mentioned, but none takes precedent like Pandora. Combating the rise of the streaming service, country radio programmers are urged to create online streaming services and/or apps that offer “customization, ease of use, and fewer commercials”.
Still, the ‘connection’ to country music, and the discovery of new music and artists, remains the driving force behind the bulk of country radio’s listeners, and that puts them on pretty solid ground with their current audience. I’ve traditionally relied on radio to discover new music myself, but in the past 2 years, I’ve found most of the new artists in my collection via reviews by writers I like, unanimous online praise, etc. So, I’ve found word-of-mouth (or screen) to be just as vital as radio to my recent discoveries. Because while I concur that country radio is better than it was 5 years ago, I’d still contest that it’s but a ghost of its 15-20 years-ago self.
What do you think of the study’s conclusions? Do you think country radio has gotten better in the past few years? Are you listening more, or less? And what do you make of the industry’s pessimistic view of their medium?