The Chart Strikes Back
My earlier post on SN changes to the chart has generated a flurry of chatter, including David Bruce Murray’s post here. Aside from ignoring everything after the “but” in my reaction to the SN changes, he makes some good points, especially about chart speed.
To be perfectly honest, I just don’t get too amped up about this stuff, even though I can become fascinated by the inside baseball issues involved. I don’t ever do more than scan the charts, mostly to see who wrote what songs but certainly never because I think the chart is indication of musical value or worth. At best the chart is and probably always will be more or less a faint echo of what listeners are asking for, amplified by the megaphone of radio promoters’ money.
In the interest of the fullest conversation, I’m posting two of the many email comments I received that, unlike most, were written for public consumption. One from Kenneth Kirksey of the Singing News and one from Mickey Gamble of Crossroads Music – both of whom are closely involved with the chart and the changes to it. The full statements from each guy are posted after the jump (see the link below).
The most striking thing to my eye is the question of market area. The SN letter to dropped stations notes that one of its main criteria for the new charting system was that “We would apportion the stations by state, based on the number of Southern Gospel concerts in the state and the number of Singing News subscribers in the state.”
Meanwhile, in his comments about market area, Gamble writes that the SN’s charting committee
looked at every existing full and part time radio station from the question “Where are our best and biggest markets and which stations serve the most people in or near those markets?” We wanted charting stations in areas where there are a lot of SG performances and where there is a strong CBA store presence. We wanted stations who “sound professional” and play the best of current SG music. We wanted stations with power. We wanted stations that can attract “new” fans.
I’m not sure these two statements – the SN’s stated method for determining apportionment of charting stations and Gamble’s description of how the committee approached the issue – are irreconcilable. I guess if you assume that the places where the SN has the most subscribers and gospel music concerts are most prevalent are also where the “best and biggest markets” for radio are located, then there’s no daylight between them. But I wonder if this is an assumption that holds up to closer scrutiny. Not knowing enough about the nuts and bolts of the radio business, I’m genuinely asking.
Later Update: A reply from Rick Hendrix, the radio promoter everyone loves to hate, is added to the list after the jump.
STATEMENT FROM MICKEY GAMBLE:
This is my personal perspective on the work of the Singing News Advisory Committee that has recently stirred up so much controversy as a new set of charting stations has been put into place. I do not speak for the committee. I do not speak for the Singing News. I do speak for all who desire to see our industry blossom.
The development of the SN radio advisory committee earlier this year was a positive step, an offering on the part of the Singing News to open up the process to those of us in the industry who had been beating them up for years about many of the issues you and your commenters have (and still are) complaining about. The committee decided early on to try to tackle the big issues of having great radio in the best market areas, chart speed and timing, and actual counting spins. Everyone involved knew this process would be long term.
Market Areas. The committee looked at every existing full and part time radio station from the question “Where are our best and biggest markets and which stations serve the most people in or near those markets?” We wanted charting stations in areas where there are a lot of SG performances and where there is a strong CBA store presence. We wanted stations who “sound professional” and play the best of current SG music. We wanted stations with power. We wanted stations that can attract “new” fans. The new charting station list is the result of several months of work, calling and surveying. The work load was divided up among committee members and the spirit of the process was great. No one was trying garner, hold, or mold the process to their own advantage. The 1st round of the committees’ process is now complete and it moves on to the next issues.
Chart Speed, Timing, and Counting Spins. Defining and enacting a process for choosing new charting stations had to be put into place before these two issues could be tackled. Here’s why.
The issue of “counting spins” electronically has been raised for at least 12 years that I’m aware of and this issue is still on the table for resolution. We looked at BDS way back. BDS (if you don’t know) is Broadcast Data Systems. It is a sister enterprise alongside Soundscan. Both are subdivisions of Neilson, who is in the business of collecting all kinds of media rating and counting systems. BDS produces the Billboard radio play charts and Soundscan produces the sales charts. Neilson is, as I said is a business. They charge a lot of money to do this and they sell the info to companies who become affiliates. They protect their data judiciously. Only those who are contractually affiliated can see the data and are not allowed to share the data with anyone who as not paid to be in the system. When an industry puts a Soundscan or BDS system in place there are large upfront costs for radio stations or music stores to put the related “counting” equipment in place and then there are continuing large monthly or quarterly contractual fees to maintain affiliate status and to receive the results of data collection. There are sanctions for those who try to manipulate the data or release it against the rules. The major SG record companies as well as the Singing News have ALWAYS wanted to put some kind of system like this in place and have been willing to cough up the dollars to do it. The smaller labels and particularly the radio stations have not because they just didn’t have the money or personnel to do it. This new alignment of charting stations is, in part, a step toward getting charting stations who might be willing and able to make a move in this direction. Obviously, an electronic process like this would also immediately solve the timing and frequency of charts issue. It would be great if we could just jump to this solution. But again, this is a process involving many businesses and may not happen as quickly as we would all like.
Therefore, we may have to look for a temporary process which still would involve collecting charts as has been done in the past but quicker and more often. Weekly and bimonthly charts have been discussed. The committee is having continuing discussions on these topics and is earnestly looking for methods. In the meantime, for those who are today decrying the slow speed of the SN chart, just know that we are working to fix the whole system.
The people at the Singing News could not have been more open and helpful. They basically said, “Tell us what needs to happen.” They are to be commended.
A Note On The Committee Makeup. Honestly I do not know how the committee was chosen. I do know this. Historically, “our” industry has been made up of two kinds of folks. There are those who make a business of taking all they can and those who try to balance running their business with an eye toward growing and improving the whole. It is a “small” industry and most people are aware of where everyone else stands on this. Everyone on this committee has a history of giving money and personal time for industry improvement and growth. This does not mean that there are not others who would fit this bill. It does mean that many such efforts in the past have not come to fruition because some participants were too tied to their personal gain or loss. Many people are already complaining about the process, who is in and who is not, that it is not enough or is not happening fast enough, that it is just a power grab by the “big” companies, etc.
Some will have legitimate concerns about how they might be affected. And some will complain because their pet scams will be harder to implement. This the way of our industry. I trust that those who are honestly attempting to go about their work and ministries in an honest way will know the difference.
STATEMENT FROM KENNETH KIRKSEY:
- This is a first step in a larger project to improve our charting system. I can’t discuss our future plans in detail, but I can say that we will be addressing some of the more popular criticisms of our charting process.
- I have talked to a number of the stations that we dropped over the past few days. They are understandably upset, but they have provided some valuable commment and criticism that I’ll be taking to the next committee meeting.
- As usual when Singing News does something controversial, people spend all their time talking _about_ Singing News and not talking _to_ Singing News. If anyone has any questions about anything, they can call me at 800-255-2810 or send me email (see the contact page at our web site). Contrary to the stories spread by some disgruntled DJs and radio promoters, I respond to every email and voicemail I recieve, though work sometimes delays a response by a day or two.
STATEMENT FROM RICK HENDRIX
I would like to clarify some things. Contrary to what some are saying, I have not and will not discuss the Singing News changes. I feel there is a lot of integrity amongst the board and advisory committee. I spoke to Jim Cumbee in length over several months ago when a record executive first solicited his office for this committee. I felt then and now-my artist and company are in good hands. Many of my friends are on this board. I do miss the stations that have been removed; I do love the stations that have been added. I feel my job as a promoter is to focus on just that, promoting. I feel my company has its ear to the ground. I feel Singing News and my fellow promoters are looking out for everyone. And contrary to some of the disgruntled promoters and labels excluded from the advisory panel, Rick Hendrix Company was not the reason for these changes. The board and Singing News is not and was not on a witch hunt during this process. You can stop trying to use me to insure your attacks on this board and Singing News. My only reason for making this public statement is to ask others to stop involving my company in the changes. I have a job to do for my artist. I have a commitment to promote and market. The energy I take to enforce changes, just shorts my artist those hours on the phone promoting them. I have always felt losing something is a win. A win of knowledge. It teaches us how not to lose again. So, if labels and artist feel they have lost ground. Learn the new way. Embrace change. Take it as an exciting new way to do what God has called you to do. I do not have a hidden agenda. These changes should not affect a good radio promoter. My company works the Billboard BDS spins system (Josh Turner, Vince Gill, Johnny Cash), we work the Music Row (John Conlee, Ty Herndon, Luke and Olivia) and we work Singing News(Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Gaither Vocal Band, Young Harmony, Hoppers, Jason Crabb, Mike & Kelly Bowling, and about 45 others). So, any system will work for the new artist, older artist, established or the ones trying to build. Just go for airplay that results in chart positions. Not everyone can be included in change. Not everyone gets to make the decisions. But, being a good steward with what you have been given, is to abide by the rules and policies and doing “THE BEST” job you can for your artist.
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