CRS 2011 Research Study Finds State of Country Music Healthy, New Media Engagement Growing
Country Radio still king for consumers, new music discovery



The results of the CRB Country radio research study presented recently at Country Radio Seminar 2011 in Nashville.  The comprehensive study was sponsored through a partnership between Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc. and the Country Music Association and was conducted by North Carolina-based media research firm Coleman Insights.   You can review the actual study here.


Coleman Insights polled 5,000 country radio listeners, or “partisans,” regarding their consumption habits and the state of Country Music in general.  The list of partisans was obtained from twelve country music stations in in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C.  In addition, 171 radio industry professionals were also polled to gauge their insight and perceptions about the country format versus those derived fro the consumer survey.  The study surveyed a sample of 12- to 64-year-old P1 Country radio listeners across the U.S. and their usage of new media devices, including social media websites, smartphone applications and radio station and artist websites.  Participants in thradioe study were polled between Feb. 7-18, 2011 via email and online questionnaires.

The “big picture” findings from the study,  Coleman Insights, concluded that consumers perceived the overall state of country music as significantly more positive than the professionals in the industry did.  Additionally, radio is the medium which makes consumers feel “most connected” to Country Music and remains the most consistent means of new music discovery for them.  New media usage – use of Internet streaming and social networking for example – continues to increase among all age demographics polled, showing growth patterns consistent with those in other formats.   Some of the key findings reported in the study were as follows:

  • The country music radio partisans polled are very satisfied with what they hear on their favorite country stations and are happier than ever with the choices available for country listening.
  • Their listening momentum remains very strong, as 83% of those polled perceive they are “listening more” to country radio now as compared to a year ago.
  • Those polled perceive that “country music is better” (51%), that they are “listening more to radio” in general (45%), that country radio is “more family-friendly” (33%) and that their “country station has gotten better” (32%).  The overwhelming majority of those polled (50%) believe that the “country music coming out today” is better than it was a few years ago by a five-to-one margin over those who think today’s country music “is worse” (10%).
  • The top ten most popular artists of those evaluated by consumers are Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, George Strait, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson and Blake Shelton.  Interestingly, Taylor Swift ranks in the bottom tier of the most popular artists, suggesting her large fan base lies predominantly outside the Country radio P1 audience.

Contrary to these findings among consumers, the industry professionals polled believed the following:

  • that more than half of country music radio patrons are listening less to country radio than a year ago due to increased media choices and lack of time;
  • that today’s country music has achieved equilibrium and is no better or worse than it was a couple of years ago; and
  • that radio consumers are only moderately satisfied with the choices they have for country radio.

Significant data reported by the study concerned the use by country radio listeners of new technology and the wide array of options available to the consumer these days, which leads to the fragmentation of the target audience.  A brief sampling of the statistics from the polled consumers indicates:

  • Three-quarters own an Internet-connected PC or Mac;
  • Two-thirds own a game console;
  • Half own an iPod or mp3 player;
  • Nearly half own a smartphone;
  • Nearly two-thirds have watched country music videos on YouTube;
  • Half are using Facebook;
  • More than one-third have used Pandora streaming Internet radio.

In this regard, I found the following conclusion in the report to be very informative:

The industry has pretty accurate perceptions of the adoption and usage of new media and technology by [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][country music radio patrons], with a few exceptions. One noteworthy exception is how the industry overestimates the importance of radio relative to other devices. The industry believes [country music radio patrons], , if forced to choose only one electronic or entertainment device, would choose AM/FM radio as the most important device. In fact, radio ranks a distant third behind Internet-connected portable computers and smartphones. This underscores how critical it is for Country radio and Country music to have a significant Internet and mobile media presence.

Another misconception by the industry professionals is that the overwhelming majority of country music radio patrons wake up to a clock radio:  in reality, country music radio patrons are just as likely to wake up to a smartphone, suggesting radio is already engaged in a battle for the nightstand.  This has tremendous implications for morning radio listening and immediately suggests an opportunity for country radio to possibly preserve its wake-up utility by adapting to this phenomenon and creating wake-up apps that allow listeners to continue waking up to their favorite country stations through their smartphones.  The study further reveals how the content country radio stations and country music artists post on Facebook and share on their websites is somewhat out of synch with the needs and desires of country music radio patrons . This suggests the industry is missing an opportunity and not fully capitalizing on the potential of these tools.

The industry also has a few misperceptions about Pandora streaming Internet radio as well. More than one-third of country music radio patrons have used Pandora and they have been using it for a longer period of time and more frequently than the industry believes.  A key finding is that country music radio patrons already using Pandora say they are highly “likely” to use it in the car as it becomes available there.  When Pandora exists side-by-side with AM/FM radio on the dashboard, current Pandora users are almost equally as likely to prefer Pandora as AM/FM radio, with 25% undecided.  This forecasts a looming challenge to country radio from Pandora for in-car listening, a place that has long been radio’s almost-exclusive domain.

Lastly, the industry greatly underestimates interest among country music radio patrons in apps that would allow them to listen to Country radio stations on their smartphones or tablet computers (iPad, etc.).

The study was nonetheless seen as encouraging news for country radio and the country music industry.   CRB Board member and Chair of the CMA Research Committee, Rusty Walker, said

I was extremely excited about the research data presented at CRS this year. As a result of the study’s innovative approach and its thorough questionnaire process, the findings by Coleman Insights will help all facets of the Country Music industry in better serving its customers, listeners and fans.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect the study revealed was that, despite the explosion of new media and new technology, country radio is overwhelmingly perceived as the medium that most “connects” consumers to country music by its fans.

Coleman Insights President and COO Warren Kurtzman

This year’s study confirmed that the overall perception of Country Music by its core consumers was extremely positive, and the general health of Country radio is still strong.  Listeners are continuing to find new means of consuming Country Music through emerging technologies, but this study seems to indicate they are not undermining Country radio’s connection with its listeners.

Findings from the study were presented March 3 at the CRB research panel during CRS 2011.  Coleman Insights VPs Chris Ackerman and Sam Milkman presented the data, and CMA Market Research Director Greg Fuson announced the study as a piece of CMA’s continuing research to help identify and define the Country Music consumer.

For more information about the 2011 CRB Country Radio P1 listener research study, visit or[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a high-profile hearing  today on the subject of imposing additional performance royalties on so-called “over-the-air” or “terrestrial” radio stations (I’ll just call them OTA’s in this article).  Investigative hearings such as these are usually precursors to legislation being introduced on the subject.  898993_antenna_4Grammy winner, Lyle Lovett and Chicago-based singer-songwriter Alice Peacock testified before the Committee this morning at 9:30 ET.  Their testimony was broadcast live at C-SPAN.

So, what is the issue.  OTA’s and the music industry are currently engaged in one of the biggest industry and lobbying battles to hit Washington in quite some time.  The OTA’s fired a recent shot when a concurrent resolution was passed by Congress.  Now, the music industry is firing back. 

One of my recent blog entitled New concurrent resolution, H.Con.Res 244, introduced to combat performance royalties for record labels gives some background on the issue, which is basically this:  Currently, OTA’s pay performance royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC in the U.S. for airplay performances of the musical composition copyright.  They do not, however, pay a performance royalty to the owners of the sound recording copyright for over the air performances of the copyright.  The sound recording copyright is distinct from the musical composition copyright.

This is because when Congress introduced new legislation in the mid-90’s to grant sound recording copyright owners a right to performance royalties, it specifically excluded OTA’s from the legislation on the basis that the artists and record labels who owned the sound recording copyrights benefited from the publicity of over the air performances, which offset the need for payment of a performance royalty.    Keep in mind, again, that this does not apply to the performance royalties paid to songwriters and music publishers.

The effect of the Digital Performance Royalty in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 is that only digital performances of the sound recording copyrights are entitled to compensation.  This applies only to Internet webcasters, Cable Radio and Satellite radio stations.  These types of services — Pandora, Sirius, XM Radio,, for example — pay performance royalties to both the owners of the musical composition copyright and the sound recording copyright.  Many industry groups are rallying to rectify what is viewed as an unfair advantage for OTA’s.

One such group is musicFIRST, which stands for “fairness in radio starting today.”  This organization is made up of a large and impressive group of recording industry groups and well-known artists.  Unfortunately, the RIAA’s involvement in this organization has diminished its reputation on many blogs, such as this article entitled Lovett goes to bat for radio royalties, the credibility of which is call into doubt by the fact that the writer is ostensibly unaware of Lyle Lovett’s reputation and notoriety.  But don’t make the mistake of slanting your opinion against musicFIRST based on that organization’s involvement.  Check out the website and seriously consider the issues and you’ll probably understand their perspective.

There is tremendous validity to the argument that radio broadcasts no longer hold the same sway over consumers that they did in 1995.  One research study conducted by Dr. Stan Leibowitz, an economics professor at the University of Texas, compared record sales and music radio listening habits in nearly 100 cities across the United States and found that exposure for a song on the radio was a substitute for purchasing the music and, therefore, actually had a negative impact on sales of music.  Critics point out that the study was funded, at least in part, by the musicFIRST coalition and say that there are studies which indicate the opposite, that is that radio airplay stimulates interests in new music and therefore encourages sales.  Think about your own habits – when was the last time you heard a song on the car radio and rushed to buy it?

Another argument propounded by the OTA’s in opposition to payment of royalties to the owners of sound recording copyrights is that it would put them out of business.  They simply can’t afford to pay more royalties for the music they use.  Of course, Internet webcasters and Satellite and Cable radio providers are saying “talk to the hand . . . call waiting!”   But the truth is that OTA’s get the bulk of their revenue from advertisers and their revenue increases if they attract larger audience by playing the latest music.  Furthermore, stock analysts are predicting that advertising revenues, in general, are on the increase for the foreseeable future.  One researcher, George Williams, reportedly found that the annual growth of radio advertising rates from 1996 to March 2007 was 10% a year, outpacing the Consumer Price Index by more than three times its 3% a year rate.  It is very doubtful that OTA’s revenues would be seriously altered by this legislation, in fact, the OTA’s would more than likely simply pass the additional costs on to advertisers.

The bottom line, in my view, is that the legislation, when it is finally proposed, will create a level playing field for the broadcasting industry, providing that both digital and OTA’s pay the same royalties.  This seems fair, doesn’t it?  Now, whether the powerful OTA lobby will prevent the passage of such legislation is a blog for another day. 

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