George is a radio announcer, and when he walks under a bridge… you can’t hear him talk.
~ Steven Wright
We wanted to offer an update to stations using the Nobex-generated StreamLicensing/Oi2 Media apps. As of November 15, 2017, the agreement that covered the use of the Nobex app for StreamLicensing/Oi2 Media is no longer in effect.
We want to make sure our decision causes as little disruption to your station as possible, so if your station uses the StreamLicensing application you’ll have a few options:
- You can register for the Streamlicensing Legacy User plan with Nobex Partners ($25/month) and we will continue to maintain and support your version of the app.
- You can build a brand new mobile app with the Nobex Partners program.
Either way, you can continue to have an app for your station!
It is important to note that Nobex Partners doesn’t provide any assistance with content licensing. You will be responsible for ensuring that your station is properly licensed and managing payment of performance royalties.
Please feel free to contact our support team via the onsite message system. We’re happy to discuss with you.
I was lucky to have a great consultant on my first programming job. It could have been awkward. The late Chicago R&B radio veteran Richard Pegue was a former PD on my station’s frequency. He had also applied for the PD job himself. What he would have done at the helm would have undoubtedly sounded different. And yet, he enthusiastically helped me execute my own vision of the radio station.
Okay, mostly enthusiastically. It was from Richard that I first heard the phrase, “It’s not my radio station.” Sometimes, I think he said “… our station” and was saying it to commiserate with me after a tough day. Sometimes, I’m sure he meant, “Okay, if you insist.” With more time around radio stations, I came to understand this as the thing that a lot of radio people said after a tough day. The phrase “s—t happens” was just becoming popular around then. “It is what it is” was years away from its current usage. So if you meant, “I don’t like it, but I can’t change it,” you said, “It’s not my radio station.”
The intervening years gave broadcasters a lot of chances to feel that way. In 1995, when I started to hear “it’s not my radio station,” it might sometimes be amended with a cheerful “it’s the audience’s radio station, and I do what they want.” As often, the second half of the sentence was “it’s the owner’s radio station.” It wasn’t much longer until the sentence ended with “… it’s Wall Street’s radio station.” And that was if you were lucky enough to still be in a radio station, because many weren’t.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a lot of great projects over the last 15 years or so, usually helping other people flesh out their vision for a broadcast property. Occasionally, somebody will ask the question, “So what would you do if it was your radio station?” I can always answer that, but I know that the right answer for most owners and programmers depends on the life they’re willing to live, and what they feel they can correctly execute. Country’s 2-to-3-share New York niche wasn’t right for many major groups; Cumulus was comfortable with the format and looking for a flagship.
Consultants and researchers have a reputation for being didactic. Over the years, I’ve come to understand how it might happen. A decade or so ago, a station’s consultant and I both left a medium market thinking we had a clear game plan, then watched a PD (with major-market experience and no small level of his own accomplishment) put on something that in no way resembled what we had discussed. The consultant in question was and remains one of the industry’s most respected. He wasn’t the type of consultant you’ve heard about who badgers, or comes to the station and sits at the client’s desk, or plays other mind games. But at that moment, I would have understood if he’d wanted to.
In that case, the PD heard a station in his head, but it was the wrong one, and it didn’t last very long. As often, the issue is that the PD doesn’t hear any ideal station. Today’s cluster strategies have also ensured that somebody will be programming two, three, four or more radio stations. Inevitably, one of them will be a format that the PD does not personally like, or understand. While we like to think that a good programmer can program anything, it’s hard to camouflage not liking a certain format. After a while of trying your best tricks from the format you do like, you still have to have a considered opinion on the music that you schedule, and it’s hard if you don’t like the songs.
Sometimes, liking the songs has been my job. Sometimes there’s somebody else in the programming department who brings the passion for the format that the PD doesn’t have. But not always. It’s an equally old saying that a station is an extension of a PD’s personality, but some stations sound more like a composite playlist of other stations. Or a music test in search of a radio station. And having somebody over four radio stations even saps the energy for the format the programmer does like.
In other words, somebody has to say “it is my radio station.” And mean it. Because these days, listeners effectively have the ability to program their own station. Right now, that station will be an unhosted collection of records somewhere online or on their desktop. But give Alexa time. Rather than provide the second-best approximation of the listener’s personal playlist, it’s okay to offer your own. That doesn’t mean don’t play the hits. Think of it as putting on music for company. You want to play something they’ll like; you want to make your own statement.
“It is my radio station” doesn’t have to just come from one person. Recently, I helped somebody sign on a unique radio station. It was the owner’s vision, but I’ve had a wide latitude to help fill that in. I’ve been gratified both by how happy he is with what he’s hearing, and with the reported response in the market. Paradoxically, because I know how much trust I have, I’m particularly interested in the owner’s thoughts and tweaks. In other words, we’ve reached the best place. It is our radio station.
We’ve partnered with Waze, the crowdsourced navigation app, to offer traffic reporting in real time for your station using their amazing Waze for Broadcasters suite of tools.
- Waze Traffic View: A dynamic, traffic dashboard that helps Nobex Partners access real-time Wazer-generated reports on changing road conditions for on-air updates. Waze algorithms automatically detect unusual traffic conditions and provide alternative routes and drive times for planning and reporting purposes.
- LiveMap: A Waze-branded map for Nobex Partners’ websites. This means all listeners (not just Wazers) can see real-time traffic conditions.
- Training: the Waze team will help you get the most out of this feature
Partnering with Waze means bringing even more to your Nobex Partners Dashboard. We’re so excited to join with Waze for Broadcasters because getting the best and most accurate traffic reports makes your station first choice for your listeners.
In radio, they say, nothing happens until the announcer says it happens.
~ Ernie Harwell
I feel a little better about the music in play at Top 40 radio these days. The superstar-laden beginning of fourth quarter had been upstaged, for a few years, by April/May releases jockeying to be Song of Summer, but this fall, it’s definitely a more inspiring group of songs than we were staring at four months ago, to the point where one programmer told me recently that, for the first time in recent memory, he had more worthwhile potential adds than he could accommodate in a given week.
Portugal, The Man’s “Feel It Still” has changed the timbre of the format, now rapidly adapted by the same CHR PDs who let Fitz & the Tantrums songs stay on their side of the CHR/Hot AC divide. There is excitement about Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5. There is universal acclaim for Sam Smith—not a record that fixes the tempo issue, but a quality song that everybody seems to love.
Then there’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” The “Taylor Swift, right or wrong” fans are guarded in their assessments. The detractors aren’t guarded at all. And yet CHR radio has made “Look What You Made Me Do” top 5 while they figure out whether it’s a hit or just an event record—perhaps a meaningless distinction now anyway. I don’t mind. It’s a three-minute energy jolt that has gotten CHR running again, even if it’s running on vitriol.
These apparent format rebounds are always fragile. They hinge on a few records and they don’t always pan out. I remember writing a “hey, look at all these hits” column in early 1992, a few months later, we were plunged into CHR’s worst doldrums ever. And even if “Feel It Still” actually breaks the grip of 85 b.p.m. EDM ballads, the major labels still have six months’ worth of those songs, and loping midtempo tropical pop, to move through the system before anything can really change.
Either way, what Hot AC and Adult Contemporary radio must do is clear now. It wasn’t a great thing for CHR, Adult Top 40/Hot AC, and AC to be jammed so close together even when the music was good. The PPM moment when it seemed to work for everybody to play the same hits was short-lived (and at a time when any actual changes in formats’ fortunes may have been obscured by Voltair anyway). Eventually, fewer differences meant fewer reasons to listen to any station for a sustained period.
Now, it is possible to listen to Hot AC and hear that format and Mainstream AC struggling to digest CHR’s leftovers. I had that experience a few weeks ago with an Adult CHR that was still heavily invested in nine-month-old to two-year-old CHR hits, particularly EDM ballads. Some were undeniable hits on the “Don’t Let Me Down” magnitude. Some were the next tier of the genre—“Sit Still, Look Pretty” followed by “Starving” a few songs later.
AC doesn’t usually get to the second tier of songs. But its present model for current music is a six-to-nine month ratification of CHR hits. Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” becomes not the Song of Summer 2016, but winter 2017. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” a song that ignited at CHR immediately upon its release on Jan. 6, goes 2-1 AC this week.
Sometimes the lag has worked in Mainstream AC’s favor. Earlier this year, when Top 40 was at its sludgiest, AC still had “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and “Cake By The Ocean” in current rotation. An AC client remarked that his had become the station in the market for tempo, and he was correct. But now, AC is going to be processing “Say You Won’t Let Go” and “Stay” for a while, if the pattern holds.
Mainstream AC has another issue to contend with. Over the past six months, a lot of the late ‘00s pop music has started to look shaky in AC music testing. It often looks very different from station to station—it might be a single artist or several. Even if I didn’t want you to do your own research, I would warn against any across-the-board response to that statement.
But the concept of the “millennial AC,” so exciting a few years ago, is challenged now by a simultaneous softening of the current product, and weakness in the library titles that PDs were so depending on. It’s not necessarily the fault of those songs, as much as the way we’ve handled them. They didn’t get a chance to go away and come back a few years later. Instead, AC had to take in “Firework” and “Hey, Soul Sister” when they had 40% burn at CHR. And unlike the ‘80s category, it was a relatively small handful of artists and music styles.
Hot AC programmers have the easiest remedies, beginning with better use of their gold library. There was never any law that “’90s to Now” had to mean “but mostly now.” There are a few Adult Top 40s—WKRQ (Q102) Cincinnati, WQAL (Q104) Cleveland, WWMX (Mix 106.5) Baltimore—that are successfully operating as the current hit music stations in their markets. For most others, the franchise is being the relief button from CHR, at least until Top 40 gets consistently better.
There are also Hot AC programmers who see an opportunity to delve back into pop/alternative titles again. For most, that means more attention to a relative few titles—Portugal, Judah & the Lion, the Revivalists, the next Imagine Dragons—but the idea of a Modern AC comeback now is intriguing. And Sinclair Communications, which has tried an Alternative/CHR hybrid in the past, is doing so again, this time on former CHR KSXY (the 101) Santa Rosa, Calif.
The notion of taking control of current product will be daunting for many Hot AC and especially AC PDs. Adult formats have gotten used to being handed viable product from Mainstream CHR. Even as the pipeline began to clog this spring, they were more excited to play songs that had been ratified by CHR, even if they weren’t a perfect fit, than to help develop a “Million Reasons” or “Play That Song.”
For many programmers now, the reaction could be relying even more heavily on the exact recurrents that have been making CHR less exciting for the last year. It’s a natural instinct, like turning down the radio after a near miss on the highway. But I’m not sure what the benefit is in “play mediocre records more and hold on to them longer.” And it hasn’t helped Country or Alternative much. For AC and Hot AC, the answer is going to be going both older and newer, and recognizing the dearth of music from the last 18 months for what it is.