Country Music and Radio’s Future – It’s Time to Get Busy! (Archives)

© 2001 Terrell M. McDaniel, Ph.D.
Archives:
Gavin Magazine, May 25, 2001 – Archived

In the two previous issues of Gavin I’ve discussed the Product Adoption Curve and product life span as they relate to the current cycle of Country music/radio.

Hopefully, you’ve given some thought to Country radio’s current position in the product life cycle. Now comes the question of what you can do with that information.

For starters, Don’t buy into unproductive emotional reactions. Some number of your colleagues may not have experienced a full business cycle in country radio. They came in when things were booming and may not know what to do. You may see grief in its many forms, some of which are blaming, bickering, playing woulda-shoulda-coulda, and making demands for yesterday’s numbers (hey, as if you wouldn’t like them back yourself!) The current status of country radio calls for leadership, and the fact that you are interested in this article suggests that you want to be one of the leaders. Don’t fret; get to work.

· Transcend the finance mentality, if only for a moment. Your station is about numbers and advertising to the accounting department, but not to your listeners. It has a different meaning for them, based upon what it value provides for their lives. Consumers have a funny way of going wherever they must to find what they want – and many have already left country radio. Your job is to create enough excitement to get them back. Keeping accounting happy is only a secondary problem for you.]

· Make sure that you have an “environmental scanning” system for finding new ideas. Use the product adoption curve to identify the people you watch – or should watch – for new ideas and trends. These reference people will likely be in the group right before yours on the Product Adoption Curve (for example, if you are an Early Adopter, watch the Innovators.) Communicate with them regularly enough to get a feel for what they are doing.

· Challenge people in the record companies, corporate office, and consultants to pursue innovation with you. Encourage them to commit money and time to organizational mechanisms and product development processes that support innovation. In a multi-product corporate environment, the savvy operators know that different products are in different phases at different times. A little bit of wise investment will put Country back in the “cash cow” category in good time.

· Become a perpetual student. If you stop being willing to learn and experiment, you’ll be a follower. Read, listen, think, imagine, write. Put this on your calendar, as part of your job or career development efforts, not just something you do when you have time.

· Get yourself, and your bosses, ready for you to make some mistakes. Revolutions are messy.

· Become an artist. Learn how to do the creativity thing. Put some fun back into doing radio. A good starting place is Roger von Oech’s book, A Whack on the Side of the Head.

· Discover who the “innovation leaders” are at your station, group, etc., and create some of your own mechanisms for creativity, such as regular staff brainstorms, an imaginary radio station that specializes in breaking the rules, awards for not-ready-for-prime-time spots, promotions, record mixes, etc.

· And of course, the old tried-and-true ideas: designated day-parts and programs to appeal to the front of the Product Adoption Curve. (And research the results! You need data!) Pay attention to live venues and other formats for new trends. Hit the streets, and do some direct observation of what your audience is going for nowadays. Take regular trips to Nashville and elsewhere to hear what the Lunatic Fringe and Innovators are doing there. And most important, get a feel for who among your listeners are on the front end of the curve.

You may say – or hear your boss say – that you absolutely haven’t the time or resources for this stuff. Take heart: the Product Adoption Curve suggests that there have to be only a few innovators, and most of the rest can just keep an eye on the process. Still, you should do what you can, if nothing else, for your own sake. Because, history has shown that when absolutely everyone in an industry plays it safe, at some point there is no industry left

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