John Lund, international radio consultant and the man who made Don Imus the first shock jock, shares secrets of his Top 40 success.
Part of your job is to help stations define their music playlists. How do you do that? Research. You hear people say, “I don’t like that station, they play the same songs over and over,” and “I like that station, they play a great variety of music.” I tested this a few years ago. It turns out that the end of “I don’t like that station, they play the same songs over and over” is “...that I don’t like.” And the end of “I like that station, they play a great variety” is “…of my favourite songs.”
The industry used to measure listenership by getting people to fill out diaries; now it relies more on portable people meters (PPMs). What has the new technology revealed? I always believed the diary underrated radio listening. With the PPM, I was proven correct: Actual time spent listening increased by 50% and the number of stations listened to quadrupled. Certain formats did worse with the PPM, like smooth jazz—which is virtually extinct today—and classical. People said they listened to smooth jazz, but in reality they never did.
How have new rivals like satellite and Internet streaming affected the business? Not. Sirius and XM never turned out to be a big deal in the U.S. IPods put record companies and record stores out of business; they didn’t really change radio. People would listen to find out the new hit song and go buy it on iTunes. People have been saying radio would die for decades. The Internet has really helped radio. You can’t watch TV if you’re on a computer, but you can listen to radio, because it’s a companion medium.
Are there any essential ingredients to a hit song? I hate to tell you this, but I don’t care. When I want to know what song to play, I ask the audience. If they like it a lot, I play it more often. Once they say they’re tired of it, I stop playing it.