April 20, 2024

CBS Radio Reminds D.J.’s to Identify Songs: ‘When You Play It, Say It’

“It just makes sense to do it,” said Dan Mason, the president and chief executive of CBS Radio, which owns 130 stations in the United States. In a memo to CBS Radio employees, Mr. Mason said that the change should take effect immediately at all of the company’s pop, rock, urban and country stations.

In an interview, Mr. Mason explained that at some indeterminate point in history — he and other radio veterans place it at the mid-1980s — song identification began to vanish from the air as programmers struggled to squeeze out anything considered “clutter.”

“You were always conscious about the amount of talk you would put on,” he said. “But the truth is that people tune in and tune out, and it was probably underestimated at the time how much people really wanted that information.”

For record companies, having a song’s title and artist’s name mentioned on the air — especially if new and unfamiliar — is crucial marketing. And for years, the companies reminded D.J.’s of this with prominent stickers on records and CDs saying, “When you play it, say it.”

“At one point in our culture there were well-schooled retailers who could help people figure out what that song was, because they wanted to buy it,” said Greg Thompson, executive vice president for marketing and promotion at EMI Music. “In this day and age that doesn’t exist.”

Radio executives and analysts say that the pressure to reduce chatter, or anything that could send listeners reaching for the dial, has been intensified by a recent switch to more precise methods of calculating ratings. After years of using written diaries to track listening habits, in 2007 Arbitron, the standard radio ratings service, introduced its Portable People Meter, or P.P.M., an electronic device that monitors listening minute by minute.

The new system has made programmers more conscious than ever of keeping a listener entertained and engaged, and as a result fewer songs get identified.

“P.P.M. is a merciless yet useful taskmaster,” said Tom Taylor, news editor of Radio-Info.com, a trade site. “It turns out that people will seek out and live with content they like, but things that turn them off turn them off pretty quickly.”

Identifying more songs could help build listener loyalty, a crucial factor in radio stations’ highly competitive efforts to drive ratings. In New York City, for example, the Top 40 format is dominated by WHTZ-FM (known as Z-100), owned by Clear Channel Communications, which is ranked third in Arbitron’s most recent ratings, with 4.9 million listeners. CBS’s Top 40 station, WXRK-FM (92.3 Now), is in 16th place with 3.2 million.

Mr. Mason said that CBS would be experimenting with ways to identify songs, like using taped introductions by the artists themselves. In addition, stations’ Web sites would include playlist information going back “as far as several years.”

He said that CBS’s policy change had its origin in a recent routine meeting with executives from the Universal Music Group. When Mr. Mason asked what radio stations could do better, he said, the reply was simple: “Just give the title and artist of the music you play.”

The request seemed easy enough, Mr. Mason said, and quite logical.

“ ‘Epiphany’ is a strong word,” he said. “I would probably classify it as a no-brainer.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=871138e0b8e33386146e33af963c41b8

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