Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Latest Radio Rave-Out!

Got this posting from Sean Ross' "Ross On Radio" column last week about the brand new Chicago Radio Online Channel ... just in time for Christmas!

It's five days before Halloween and radio’s Christmas season is here. On the heels of WSMM (102.3 The Stream) South Bend, Ind., launching an all-holiday music format, Accu-Radio has unveiled its Chicago Christmas Channel, part of its rapidly expanding Chicago Radio Online suite of channels. Still officially in beta testing, Chicago Radio Online has been lining up veteran Chicago radio personalities in recent weeks to host a variety of Accu-Radio formats.
The Chicago Christmas Channel is hosted and programmed by veteran WLS Chicago DJ and longtime PD Tommy Edwards. It’s always good to have Edwards back and so far the only issue is that there wasn’t enough of him; something that will likely change as the channel ramps up. On the first morning, at least, Edwards made only a few appearances in an hour’s time — once in an opening break and perhaps once as the unnamed voice on a subsequent liner. For the most part, the liners between the songs emphasized “the great holiday songs without all the commercials.”
Musically, the Chicago Christmas Channel is described as a mix of Accu-Radio’s multiple holiday channels. The 90 minutes or so that we listened to mostly overlap with the all-holiday format as done by AC radio for the last decade or so, but with a few treats and alternate versions that provide a nice point of differentiation (along with the spotload).

Here’s Accu-Radio’s Chicago Christmas Channel as streamed Monday morning (10/25):
Michael McDonald, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Darlene Love, “All Alone On Christmas”
Eagles, “Please Come Home For Christmas”
Harry Connick, “Sleigh Ride”
Dean Martin, “Blue Christmas”
Lou Rawls, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
Burl Ives, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”
Jose Feliciano, “Feliz Navidad”
Jackson Five, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
Ronettes, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
Nat King Cole, “Joy To The World”
Ella Fitzgerald, “The Christmas Song”
Carla Thomas, “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas”
Brian Setzer Orchestra, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”
Johnny Mathis, “Jingle Bells”
Chipmunks featuring Canned Heat, “Christmas Don’t Be Late”
Natalie Cole, “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot”
Chicago, “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”
Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock”
Bruce Springsteen, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”

And coming in Thursday’s Ross On Radio, the 100 most-played holiday songs of 2009 as monitored by Nielsen BDSRadio. Hint: the top 10 includes three of the songs above.
Sean Ross / Ross On Radio

Ironically, Larry Neal (The Wax Museum) sent me a note just a few days earlier regarding how Christmas Music seems to start earlier and earlier each year ... now it's kicking off even before Halloween!!! Of course, this got me off and running on a whole 'nother topic ... one of my radio programming pet peeves ...

Kent ...
You recently got into the subject of Christmas music. Here in OKC, back in the late fifties-sixties, Christmas music would not be heard on radio stations until about ten days to two weeks after Thanksgiving. For years now, stations here start playing Christmas music at one minute past midnight on the day after Thanksgiving. To me it is just like department stores getting out their Christmas items to sale before Thanksgiving is here. Would you believe that just a week ago I drove by a house here in the city area and they had their Christmas decorations already up on their front porch as well as their front yard. Did I forget to mention that Halloween hasn't even gotten here yet?!?
Some times I do wish that Grandma would get run over by a reindeer.
One final Christmas item: I always did like Ray Steven's 1962 Mercury tune SANTA CLAUS IS WATCHING YOU better than his remake of many years later.


Here in Chicago, it apparently now starts in OCTOBER!!!
And, incredibly, the radio station that typically goes "All Christmas" 24 / 7
(WLIT, The Lite) sees a HUGE increase in ratings each time they do it!!! Unreal! (Check out the article above to see that we've already got a COUPLE more stations now jumping on the Christmas Music bandwagon!)

For me, two weeks of Christmas music is enough ... I take that back ... devote the Day After Thanksgiving to Christmas Music to get people in the mood ... this is typically the biggest shopping day of the year ... then scale it back a bit ... say one song every couple of hours for the next two weeks ... increased to one song per hour for the next week ... then maybe one every half hour and fill Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with non-stop Christmas music to give the radio folks time to spend with their families ... and then put it away for another year.

On a related note (and we've covered this a couple of times before in Forgotten Hits) ... isn't it interesting how, at Christmas Time, ALL genres of music are played side by side and nobody thinks ANYTHING of it ... all of a sudden it's perfectly ok ... down right COOL, in fact ... to mix Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis in with John Lennon, David Bowie and Mariah Carey Christmas music ... and it ALL fits ... and it all sounds perfectly fine ... NATURAL, in fact!
We've been working on this topic for a while ... but apparently nobody working IN radio quite gets it!

Another prime example is the television series "Glee" ... where nearly every week they pick a contemporary recent hit (or two), mix it in with a '70's or '80's classic rock tune or power ballad (done "Glee-style") and maybe even throw in a Show Tune from yesteryear ... once in a while even a vintage '50's or '60's song makes the cut ... PROVING again that this music absolutely CAN co-exist side by side, just like it did in the glory days of Top 40 Radio ... WITHOUT causing brain hemorrhages, seizures or musical melt-downs! (Whodathunk?!?!?)

Colorado Disc Jockey Mason Ramsey has been pushing (and featuring) his "Music Of The Ages" format for years now on ... you're likely to hear songs from the '40's, '50's, '60's, '70's, '80's, '90's and today played side-by-side on a regular basis ... with NO excuses or explanations ... simply because the music FITS and feels right. A good song is a good song ... but radio has gone out of its way to segregate each and every format and then completely SATURATE their audience by playing the same 200 or 300 songs over and over and over and over again ad nauseam ... to the point that we now turn off some of our all-time favorite songs because we're simply sick of hearing them. Variety is COMPLETELY missing on today's radio dial ... far too often, even teasers like "you'll never know WHAT we're going to play next" simply means "the same frickin' song we played about four hours ago"!!!

Sorry to get up on my soap box again but if I ever DO win the lottery and end up with an extra $50 Million in "carrying cash", the very first thing I'm going to do is take Mason's format, refine it and then launch it nationwide ... and prove once and for all that ALL of this music makes up the soundtrack of our lives ... because we've all been exposed to ... and lived through ... ALL of it. Doesn't matter if WE bought it ... or our parents bought it ... or our kids are buying it now ... it is PART of us ... and I find it downright INSULTING that day after day radio continues to tell us what THEY think we REALLY want to hear rather than face this reality. (kk)
I couldn't agree with you more on this topic of Christmas music being played or maybe not played on radio stations. In the late fifties - early sixties here in OKC for a period of about 4-5 years, the local top 40 radio station would put out a weekly Christmas survey along with their regular weekly top 40 survey beginning around the second week in December. This would be composed of some 40 Christmas singles out at the time with some albums listed at the bottom of the survey. Undoubtedly my all time favorite Christmas song is the Ronettes' version of SLEIGH RIDE, which came out on the Phil Spector produced album A Christmas Gift For You in December of 1963. In fact, it was either in the Summer of this year or the Summer of last year, that I got that album out here at home and played that song here at my house. For one night in July for about two and a half minutes it was Christmas my den.

LOL ... I used to do a "Christmas In July" night every year ... dig out an hour's worth of Christmas music and play it on one of the hottest nights of the year! (kk)

As for the most popular Christmas songs of the last ten years ... based on actual AIRPLAY ... here's a copy of that list mentioned earlier by Sean Ross of "Ross On Radio" ... (We've listed the Official Top 20 ... and no, "Lonely Christmas" did NOT make the list ... but then again neither did The Chipmunks!!!):

For the COMPLETE list of The Top 100 Christmas Songs of the Past Ten Years, go here:
Click here: Programming : Programming & Music : AC's 100 Most Played Holiday Songs

1. A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
(Wow! I NEVER would have guessed this one to be #1 ... I mean, sure, they play it a lot ... but the #1 Most-Played Christmas Song of the Past Ten Years?!?!? Not by MY calculations ... but the stats don't lie!)

2. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

3. It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams
(We hear LOTS of Andy Williams music at Christmas time ... and we LOVE it ... but good luck hearing ANYTHING else by this guy during the rest of the year! Odds are you won't hear ONE of his 27 Top 40 Hits all year long!)

4. Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms

5. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

6. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
(A modern-day classic to be sure ... and it's great to see 50+ year old Christmas tunes holding their own on this chart ... but where are The Chipmunks?!?!?)

7. Happy X-Mas (War Is Over) – John Lennon
(In the Lennon - McCartney Christmas Play-Off, John Lennon beats Paul McCartney by five positions.)

8. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
(The biggest selling Christmas Song ... and single ... of all-time is now down to #8 on the official Christmas Most-Played List ... hard to believe!)

9. Jingle Bell Rock – Daryl Hall and John Oates
(It's a GREAT version .. but I'm surprised to see it in The Top Ten!)

10. Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
(Without question, the one that I hear the most each year! It IS a Christmas Classic ... and I love it ... and, truthfully, it sounds great the first 50 or 60 times you hear it ... but it gets kinda boring after that!)

11. Do They Know It's Christmas? – Band Aid

12. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
(There's Sir Paul!)

13. Please Come Home For Christmas – Eagles
(One of my personal favorites ... and one I hear a lot ... surprised to see it this low on the list)

14. Last Christmas – Wham!

15. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
(More proof that the times they are a-changin' ... an old school classic that has ALWAYS been at or near the top of the list ... down to #15 in the past decade.)

16. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Johnny Mathis

17. Merry Christmas Darling – Carpenters

18. Sleigh Ride – Leroy Anderson

19. Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
(I'm not even sure I know this one!!! #19?!?!?)

20. Winter Wonderland – Eurythmics

Good afternoon, Kent,
Here's a story that will warm your heart -- and those of most, if not all -- of your Forgotten Hits readers. The great 'classics' of the 50's are alive and well with today's youth -- at least in Middle Tennessee.
This past Friday I had the pleasure of speaking to approximately 250 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Page Middle School in Franklin, TN -- approximately 25 miles southeast of downtown Nashville. My daughter, Taylor, is a 6th grader there and two of her teachers -- band and chorus -- invited me to speak to their classes about the development of the music industry since the introduction of the Edison 'phonograph' in 1877, and Nashville's contributions over the past 85 years -- since the debut of the Grand Ole' Opry in 1925.
I brought in various music tracks -- along with an Edison cylinder disc, 78 and 45 RPM records, an early 40's album (soundtrack to the 1942 movie, "Holiday Inn," which introduced the song that would go on to become the biggest selling 'single' of all-time, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas").
The compilation I played for them included various 'hit' songs / records spanning 105 years, from the 1905 #1, "Wait Til' The Sunshine's, Nellie," to a #1 song from 2010, "Need You Now," by Lady Antebellum. However, it was the 'hits' between those years that the kids really got into:
1941 / 42's Andrews Sisters classic -- and WW 2 moral booster -- "Bugle Boy Of Company B,"
1958's Danleers doo-wop single "One Summer Night,"
1959's Everly Brothers classic, "Let It Be Me,"
1963's Beach Boys hit, "Surfer Girl,"
1964's first Beatles #1, "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
But the two that went over the absolute best -- and that a number of students sang along to word for word -- were The Chordettes' 1954 classic, "Mr. Sandman," and The McGuire Sisters 1957 hit "Sugartime." Those two songs had the kids dancing and enthusiastically singing along.
Kinda does your heart good -- to say nothing of restoring your faith in today's youth!
Fred Vail
Treasure Isle
"Music City, USA"

I've been saying it for YEARS now ... if we just give some of this music a chance, it WILL get a response from the younger generation. There's a whole untapped demographic out there that's being COMPLETELY ignored today by radio big-wigs who THINK they know what we really want when, in fact, they haven't got a clue! (And dee jays who are afraid to push the envelope should consider this ... where do you think your next audience is going to come from if you don't start introducing them to it now?!?!?)

Perhaps the better question should be "Why WOULDN'T they love this music?!?!?" WE all certainly did ... and it captured our hearts at an age when we were most likely to be influenced by the sounds happening around us.

We all grew up LOVING this music ... and we still do ... clearly, it has timeless appeal ... and there is something about "Mr. Sandman" that truly is ageless ... I've seen the last three generations respond positively to this one. (In fact, here's one of my favorite recent videos ... two young teen-age girls lip-syncing to this one ... just TRY to watch this without cracking up!!!)
Click here: YouTube - Mr. Sandman

ANOTHER favorite seems to be "Papa Loves Mambo" by Perry Como (of all people!!!) "C'mon A-My House" by Rosemary Clooney, too ... "Memories Are Made Of This" by Dean Martin ... if radio would simply put some of these tunes back into rotation once in a while, a whole new audience would have the chance to discover them. HUGE artists like Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers and SO many others from the early rock era are barely recognized for their contribution to music anymore. (I know, I know, we've done our soap box thing to death over the past twelve years ... but I haven't done one for a while and it's HARD keeping all this emotion pent up inside of me!!! lol)

Need some convincing? The other day Scott Shannon devoted the better part of a day to TV Themes ... and got an INCREDIBLE reaction. The listeners absolutely LOVED it and responded in kind!!!


Because people were FINALLY hearing something out of the ordinary ... something that wasn't being force-fed down their throats 24/7 ... it actually MADE you want to keep listening because (for a change!) you really DIDN'T know what song might be coming up next!!! And you didn't want to miss a thing, just in case!!! Appointment Radio ... not what the know-it-all consultants well tell you ... they say the average attention span of the radio audience is about 18 minutes ... put something on worth listening to and we'll stay tuned in all day long!!! (Guess such a simple solution would never cross these high-paid minds!)
Let's face it ... after 40-50+ years, we already KNOW all of these songs ... sure, we like 'em ... and that's why we tune in ... but the truth is you can hear them ANYWHERE, anytime ... virtually ANYWHERE on the dial ... 'cause everybody's playing the same stuff. We tune in now to be entertained ... the moments in between the songs has become every bit as important as the music itself ... the little tidbits about the songs and artists, any added bonus to the day in, day out, same old / same old broadcasting. To a degree, we almost tune out the music ... it's become THAT familiar. How many times a day do you find yourself completely zoned out to where whatever's playing is simply background noise? What perks us up THESE days is that "something different" ... listening to what the deejay is actually saying or the shock in hearing one of those "Wow Factor" songs that makes you whisper to yourself "Wow, I haven't heard THAT one in ages!!!" or "Wow, I can't believe they played THAT!!!" THIS is why altering the playlist has become such a HUGE factor ... 'cause the rest of the time you may as well be on auto-pilot or in zombie-mode.

You want MORE proof? A day or two before that, Scott Shannon played the #1 Song On This Date, 40 Years Ago Today ... it was "I'll Be There" by The Jackson Five, which topped the charts back in 1970. Now I listened to an AWFUL lot of radio in 1970 ... and I don't remember anybody EVER featuring The #1 Song from 40 years ago back then!!! Nobody would have thought to play the #1 Song from November 3rd, 1930 ... it would have held no interest or appeal. This is probably true of the majority of the music from the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's ... but it is NOT the case of the music of the rock era. The music of the '50's, '60's, '70's and '80's still generates a positive response ... we WANT to hear it again because it is PART of us ... we can RELATE.

Now of course there are exceptions to every rule ... not EVERY song is going to sound as fresh ... and some of this music truly does sound dated by today's recording standards ... just like a few songs from decades gone by will sometimes catch a whole new audience. (Case in point: your "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy" example ... a song that hadn't gotten a bit of notice since the 1940's when The Andrews Sisters first did it, but became a HUGE, break-through hit for Bette Midler in 1973 when she revitalized things by showing us a "whole new sound" ... despite the fact that it was, in actuality, a 30 year OLD sound!!! Christina Aguilera kept that legacy alive when she NAILED that sound again a few years ago with her "Candyman" hit.)
Click here: YouTube - Christina Aguilera - Candyman
(How 'bout that?!?!! We just covered SIXTY years of music ... and nobody died!!!)

The plain and simple fact is that you put this theory to the test the other day and saw the results and reaction first hand ... forget all these know-it-all consultants telling us what THEY think we want to hear ... go out there and measure a REAL audience and THEN make that call. (kk)