For as long as I can remember, programmers have been taught that lifelong music tastes form during our teenage years, and plenty of research supports this belief. But data recently released by Luminate challenges this widely held assumption.
According to the California-based entertainment data and insights company, for Gen X-ers, music from the ’80s and ’90s could have more staying power than other decades. This is because younger generations listen to music that was relevant before they were teenagers/young adults at much higher rates than previous generations and compared to what was relevant during their teen years.
It should therefore be no surprise that in the Top 25 U.S. Radio markets, the classic hits format that primarily features ’80s music is the most popular. Indeed, in the June 2022 Nielsen PPM ratings, classic hits stations ranked within the top three in 17 of the top 25 American radio markets.
“We are in the worst doldrum music cycle in history.”Guy Zapoleon
Meanwhile, Luminate reports the digital consumption of current titles continues to decline while catalog streaming has increased 19% so far in 2022. To exemplify this shift, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” was the number one song on the Billboard Global 200 chart for several weeks in July, decades after its release in 1985.
“We are in the worst doldrum music cycle in history,” declared former programmer, now media and radio consultant, Guy Zapoleon, earlier this year.
So, what does all this mean if you are programming a music format?
- Question established programming philosophies — they may not be relevant anymore.
- Open your mind to consider new possibilities — mixing eras and genres we once believed weren’t possible may work today.
- Stay on top of trends — there’s more data than ever available to programmers, so look beyond the traditional tools to identify changing consumer tastes and interests.
I believe success will come today to those willing to throw out the old playbook, challenge the status quo and have the courage to rewrite the rules.
The author is an award-winning radio programmer and co-founder and partner of P1 Media Group, which provides insights and strategies to leading media companies around the world.