Monday, December 17, 2018

Why don't women have these jobs?

So the current hot radio format is AC or Adult Contemporary. AC stations in most markets are ratings leaders or creeping up. AC stations tend not to have a great “cool” factor. Some play Michael Bolton for God sakes. Primarily AC stations play established pop artists and oldies that only go back to 2000. Some of their core artists have not had hits in awhile yet they’re still popular. John Mayer, Pink, Daugherty, and all the other AMERICAN IDOL finalists who are desperately trying to stave off that career as UPS driver. AC stations play new music but not as much as Top 40 stations. But Top 40 stations are more teen-oriented.

And yet teens are starting to listen to “Adult” radio. I’m guessing more to hear Pink than Michael Bolton. And who in high school doesn’t still love the Backstreet Boys? Among Millennials AC is now their third favorite format behind pop and country. A few years ago it was fifth. The polka format has apparently gone out of favor with kids.

AC formats tend to appeal to a broader audience, and in this day of niche programming, that can seem like a refreshing alternative. So AC stations might not be someone’s favorite, but if he likes it well enough and there are enough people who like it well enough that’s often enough to make it number one.

There have been a number of articles about the AC format on industry sites and they focus on the music rotations, and research, and relationships with record labels – ZZZZZZZZZ.

But one thing stood out.

The target audience of AC stations is women, specifically women in their 30’s. However, most the people programming these stations and consulting these stations suggesting the music selection are men.

WTF? Seriously?

If ever a woman should be put in charge it’s to program a radio station geared to women. Doesn’t that seem like a no-brainer?

If I were the General Manager of an AC station that’s the FIRST thing I would do. These articles go into great detail about the music blend and crossover songs and percentage of new vs. recurrent product, etc. And none of that is as important as the overall “sound” of the station, it’s attitude, authenticity, relationship with the community, and personality. What do women in their 30’s REALLY want to hear? You can hand me spreadsheets but that won’t tell me shit. What will attract them on an emotional level? What are the topics most relevant to them? What are they yearning for from a radio station? Is it to make them laugh? Inform them? Offer support? Keep them company? Distract them from their jobs or their lives?

I couldn’t begin to answer these questions. But a woman program director could. She could also hear if the station sound is working or not being realized. I would just be hearing John Mayer records.

Women deserve way more of a chance than they’re being given. And if nothing else, how about starting with positions they are way more qualified to handle than men?

I love radio. I always have. Radio is like a member of the family. But it breaks my heart because unfortunately, that family member is Fredo.


Pat Reeder said...

Also coming out of radio, personally, I'd be happy if they'd just stop promoting people out of sales into programming. Also, be careful, Ken: you're coming perilously close to suggesting that men and women are different, which is horribly "problematic" in today's society.

I think the most interesting aspect of this story is the fact that younger listeners are gravitating toward AC music of 20 years ago. There's also rising interest among young people in classic rock. They're even buying turntables to play old lounge jazz records on. I contend that this is not simply a function of nostalgia that they can't feel or some retro fad, but because pop music today truly sucks.

I don't mean that in the "That Elvis punk isn't REAL music like Benny Goodman!" sense, but I mean it's objectively, provably getting worse. Here's a young guy explaining it quite well:

My wife is a Grammy voter, and there have been times in recent years when she's skipped the main categories entirely because the nominees for best song or record of the year were all such garbage, she thought they didn't even deserve to classified as "songs," much less to win an award. They're just production jobs. But all were big "radio hits."

Great new music is still being made, and I buy tons of it on CD and download and get even more sent to us by musician friends as gifts or for award consideration; but only a tiny percentage of it ever gets played on the radio or wins Grammy Awards. NARAS is constantly changing the rules to keep it from being nominated.

Steve Bailey said...

Have you ever heard the syndicated radio show "Love Songs with Delilah"? Delilah answers listener mail, talks to listeners on the air, and plays the schmaltziest AC music you can imagine. Put her in charge of an AC radio station and it'll be printing money.

Anonymous said...

"Women deserve way more of a chance then they're being given." Ken is this based on knowledge you have that radio station managers aren't giving women a chance? Current knowledge?

And I would just suggest to you that correlation is not causation.

I would also say that I asked you the questions about your reasoning because I don't know, nor would I presume to know (ideally) what you're thinking. It's a courtesy, but even more than that it's a fact that we don't know what's going on in the mind of other people unless we ask--people like station managers.

I'll take the answer "off the air" thank you Ken.


kent said...

Putting a woman on charge would be a perfectly rational move but assuming that one particular woman would necessarily know what all the other women want more effectively than the sabermetrics of radio is an unwarranted assumption.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

As I commented a while back: if radio stations are banning "Baby, it's Cold Outside" for being a "rape song" because of the MeToo Movement, then there's no excuse for not banning Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You," or roughly 90% of Bruno Mars's music because of the same movement.

Jeff Boice said...

Rather reassuring that they still hire human beings to program the stations. I was under the impression it was all done by computers now.

I just glanced at an AC playlist. Just another reminder that while I am definitely an adult, I am no longer contemporary.

YEKIMI said...

In my area [NE Ohio] I don't think there are currently any female PDs or Station Managers. At one point there was one as a PD and she took the Soft Rock format at her station to #1. After a few years she left and became PD of a country formatted station and it's ratings are usually in the top 3. Delilah has come and gone in this market, closest station she is on now is in Youngstown. At one point, a station was playing Delilah 12-18 hours a day [another had John Tesh on for just about the same amount of time]....fucking shoot me now! And as one person alluded to: Doesn't matter if your PD is a woman, man or gerbil, they're being told what to play by corporate. And if it's not in your market now, it soon will be....ihearts newest format called "The Breeze". Here's a sample of their playlist: It's just Soft Rock/AC repackaged under a different name.

Karan G said...

Ken, thanks for your progressive position in this blog. At minimum, the consideration of female executives for companies marketing their products toward women should be a no-brainer….unfortunately it is not. For those who wish to live in the power structure of the previous century and reap the benefits of this self-serving template, this attitude continues to hold back their wives, daughters and granddaughters from real success in the workforce. Certainly women and all members of a diverse workforce should be part of the selection process and for those companies who want to impress us as being progressive, all things being equal, a smart and highly talented female executive would be impressive. The Indiana Pacers just named a female General Manager today….and we noticed. Good for them!

YEKIMI said...

Oh, reference earlier post, also meant to say that she is no longer at the country station; she has retired from radio to pursue other interests. She's been replaced by....a guy.

RF Burns said...

Our radio group had a female PD/GM, who was primarily in charge of programming our very successful country station. She also had some involvement with the other stations in our group, which included top-40 and classic-hit formats among others.

She was absolutely brilliant, and she was well respected in the market and in the entire industry. Sadly, we lost her earlier this year due to an extremely aggressive cancer.

I think the really, really good female PDs are out there, but they are about as rare as the really, really good male PDs.

Tony.T said...

At 56 - 57 on Thursday - I listen to AM radio for football and cricket. Music radio here in Australia is targeted at teenagers or morons, and I haven't listened to it for at least 30 years. And now that I have a new car which automatically plays podcasts, I hardly listen to radio at all.

Peter said...

Les Moonves has been terminated by CBS without severance!!

Stephen Marks said...

Some great one liners by Ken in this one. Of course he's right about putting a woman in charge, women should have had a chance long ago to be in charge of a radio station...and more.
A television network, a movie studio, a country, the world. Think of how much better things would have turned out if the following had been CEO's:

Bess Moonves (no sexual assaults and no Two Broke Girls)

Eve Jobs (success without the asshole part)

Josephine Stalin (millions of lives saved)

Georgia Bush (no 9/11)

Dawnold Trump (job gets done without any bullshit plus better hairdresser)

Goddess (no wars, no scamming preachers and better weather in Canada)

Margaret Thatcher (, ok that one doesn't work)

Harriett Truman (no bomb drop, thousands saved}

Sue Hefner (we wouldn't have to bullshit about reading Playboy for the articles because there would have been no T & A...just articles)

Dawn Shula( the fucking Miami Dolphins would have gotten a better running game and stronger nickel defense and won four or five Super Bowls with Dan Marino instead of none)

Gwen Levine and Pearl Pomerantz (no......I'm just kidding guys)

Christine Walken (would have saved Ms. Woods and ratted out R.J. Wagner for attempted murder so that Stephanie Powers wouldn't have feel frightened everytime R.J. says "we should buy a boat!)

Peter said...

Stephen, I kinda agree with you to an extent but feel it necessary to point out that Sarah Palin almost became vice president. And some Trump supporters have talked about Ivanka running for president one day. Both of them would make Thatcher look like a sweet bunny rabbit.

Barry Traylor said...

I am lucky enough to live in the listening area of WXPN. WXPN is located at 3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
And they play both new and older stuff.

Michael said...

I saw you will be getting a partial reprieve from having to listen to Charlie Steiner announce Dodger games. He requested a reduced workload so they are bringing in former Red Sox announcer Tim Neverett to fill in for him (and for Joe Davis on TV when he is away doing national assignments).

Pat Reeder said...

Steve Bailey...

Your mention of Delilah points up just how divided the male/female radio audience is. Last week, I had to do background research for an interview with her on a TV show I write for. Turns out they tailor her show for a variety of music formats. She's on 170 stations, Armed Forces Radio and streams 24/7 at IHeart Radio. She's been named one of "The Most Influential Women in Radio," with an average weekly audience of 9 million. I assume that means 9 million women, because I've worked in radio for years and, until last week, I had somehow never heard of her.

Janet said...

In addition to women in those positions off-air, I would love to hear more women in all formats on air in dayparts other than immediately after morning drive time and as a side kick or "traffic lady" on morning or afternoon drive.

Andy Rose said...

@Pat Reeder: Delilah's show is one of the most heavily researched and canned in radio (and I'm not necessarily saying that as an insult). Last I heard, there are three different format versions around, with a holiday music version added this time of year to accommodate the many AC stations that switch to non-stop Christmas starting in November. That's why her callers (who are all recorded well ahead of time) never suggest their own dedications. Delilah suggests her own so that she can do different songs on different formats.

There's also a version in each format that is distributed with only the dedication segments so that the local stations can program whatever songs they want in the rest of the hour, in case they disagree with Delilah's curation. (The Ryan Seacrest show does something very similar.) And she also records custom bits specifically for a couple of her largest affiliates.

If there's any lesson to learn from Delilah, it's how much even the big personalities have to fight and scrape for success in the current radio environment. I'm not a big fan of many of the syndicated shows, but I can't deny that they work very, very hard.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Yeah...and why is sports radio geared exclusively toward men? You never seem to hear an argument about who's better, Martina or Serena. Could it be women have better things to do in the daytime than call radio stations? Maybe they're not listening to the radio at all.

cleek said...

John Mayer is the definitive AC artist. tell Spotify to play tracks like John Mayer and you'll have your very own AC station.