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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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The Math of Music & Radio - Part 1

Anyone involved in music either making or playing it on radio knows that music is math. A (4/4) beat, a (half) note, a bar that measures "X" are components of any song.

But there's another math that should be used by musicians and those in the radio industry who are trying to get a grip on what to expect when they put a song out for consumption. I'm going to lay out some of this math below, in hopes it puts a light on what to expect when diving into music online.
"I've never heard an artist say, "Hey Ken, I'm submitting a mediocre song." Nearly all speak in glowing terms of how their music is the best that's out there. Only the math clearly shows that's nearly ever the case."

Going through what follows, please keep in mind that these are my opinion numbers based on over a decade of tracking. There's a lot of opinion about to be thrown around, and you won't get all of it today. I'll cover different aspects for artists and those working the internet radio industry over the next week.

My basis of data comes from
artist submissions at RRadio Music, which I closed two years ago.
station requests for songs
my search for quality songs to make "Intro to Indie Artists"
knowledge gained by creating multiple online ad tracking spreadsheets
analysis of multiple emailings
my position as SVP at a company which developed advanced ad serving software
analytics from Audio Graphics'

First let's cover artists, since it's their music that those in internet radio need to help for their industry to grow.

We have musicians at different levels of accomplishment, pitching their music through multiples of internet music marketing programs or by emailing their songs to radio stations. In this count are the radio industry at large, college broadcast stations, and radio stations online.

Because this is a training exercise, I'll take the liberty of saying "for example, there are 100,000 bands trying to get noticed at any given time." (We're doing arbitrary numbers to drive home concepts.)

While no one knows how many radio stations there are in total, if you add 13,000+ in the U.S. broadcast radio industry, radio industry stations in other countries, and what's cropped up online, I'm comfortable saying you have more than 30,000 radio stations worldwide. We can further divvy these up to "big" and "small" but that will only cloud this discussion, so let's stay arbitrary.

100,000 artists vie for the attention of 30,000 stations. It seems the artist has somewhat of a chance at getting exposed.

But remove the majority of those U.S. broadcast radio industry stations. Nearly all are under corporate direction; and few will add more than a song or two in any given week (and most of those will need to meet the criteria of "Is it being played elsewhere?" or "HQ says I have to add...."

Let's discuss quality of song for a paragraph. There are some artists who will knock your socks off instrumentally and vocally. Others may lack in one of those two areas. Still more have quite a bit of practicing left to be taken seriously. Look at how the songs rate at Audio Graphics' RRadio Music listing, in percentage terms, for programmer requests to download.

In Hip Hop & Rap the math goes like this
of 291 Hip Hop & Rap song requests, 31.9% of these requests were for the top 15 songs. The rest made up 68.1% of the songs requested.
of 319 requested Rock songs, 48.5% of these requests were for the top 15 songs. The rest made up 51.5% of the songs requested.
of 484 Pop song requests, 36.3% of these requests were for the top 15 songs. The rest made up 63.7% of the songs requested.

and in Country
Out of 315 download requests, 44.4% of these were for the top 15 songs. 55.6% of requests were for the remaining songs.

View the acceptance percentages, of "requested" songs and "the rest" groups. See how they are consistently within a 10% +/-. It's a healthy swing that I'd place against other download-to-available listings which, I would also guess, go against the thoughts of many artists when they submit music.

I've never heard an artist say, "Hey Ken, I'm submitting a mediocre song." Nearly all speak in glowing terms of how their music is the best that's out there. Only the math clearly shows that's nearly ever the case.

This is enough to think about for now. We'll continue this discussion applying math to the music in another area, perhaps next time discussing how a station programmer is bludgeoned with new songs and rarely has the chance to listen to all that are submitted. The extended question for this would be, so how many really good songs never get heard?

We all get caught up in the emotions of music creativity. Let's remove that obstacle and hopefully, over time, give both the artist and internet radio industry personnel a mathematical look at what each is up against when building out their business online.

Footnote: As a rule of thumb, I need to receive 35 songs - in any one genre - to receive 5 of sufficient quality to place in our "Intro to Indie Artists" programs.

Hip Hop artist Cleezyana Jones
sample song
Like Winehouse

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When an artist has the power to please they should be given a chance to be heard.

Give Cleezyana Jones's "Like Winehouse" a listen.

Add it to your playlist, free!

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