There are two basic charts of country songs, Mediabase and Billboard. The Mediabase chart is a “weighted” chart, based on a formula that multiplies the number of plays a song receives on that station to create a total number of points. The Billboard chart is based purely on total audience reached when a song is played. Each chart has a number of stations who are on the panel. Mediabase has 135, and Billboard has 128. Both are based primarily in the Top 75 markets in the US.
There are pros and cons to each system, and neither one is perfect. So, basically, at KRTY, we look at both. I personally feel both charts give way too much weight to Night and Overnight plays. The commercial radio audience is not very large at those times and should be dramatically reduced from Drive Time play. However, that is somewhat off the point of this blog.
We use the charts as a tool to help us decide what a song might be doing nationally as compared to here in our local market. This is mostly helpful when a song we don’t really like is doing well nationally. Conversely, many times we have great success with songs that do not catch on nationally. This often can be an issue as we try to develop artists that will become stars, and over the past several years, we have been successful with many artists. However, it doesn’t do us a great deal of good to get behind someone who is not being supported nationally, as they probably will evolve into obscurity.
On the record side of the business, chart position is everything. Once a chart narrows down to the Top 30, there is a syndication bump. What is that? Well, have you ever heard a countdown show? They play the Top 30 songs in the country on hundreds of stations every Sunday, and all of a sudden, the exposure for the song jumps. More stations pay attention to a song once it is Top 25, and countless other good things can happen. Obviously, the record company is really only interested in selling product, and product only sells once you have mass distribution. So a syndication bump can do wonders for a song and its artist.
At KRTY, we like to think we influence the charts more than the charts influence us. In fact, it is not unusual for us to be playing songs very early in their chart life. That is testament as much to the conservative nature of corporate radio as it is to our aggressiveness. We feel the new music from either new or established artists is the lifeblood of music radio today, regardless of format. Who would have known Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, etc., if someone hadn’t taken a chance and played their songs?
Now we have discussed the listener’s role in the music we play, and the national charts and how they play a role. Next week, we will cover what everyone dreads: research, and the role it plays in song selection.