I'm really nervous for the next 18-24 months for country radio. Everything is so focused 18-34 (music out of Nashville, many country stations are now making 18-34 their #1 target, not 25-54 or 18-49). 18-34 year olds are fickle. They love what's cool now, but will leave in an instant when the "next big thing" comes along or they get bored.
With all the focusing on 18-34's, we are blowing off our 35-54 core. They are already starting to leave the format. According to Country Consultant Jaye Albright, “the 35-44 country share is down from 16.0 to 14.7 to the lowest point in the history of the tracking. Meanwhile, county's 12+ share is the highest ever, 14.1 up from 13.3 last year on the strength of the younger side. As always, the music biz sells more to 18-34 so they want us to go there in spite of the HUGE 45+ audience and even those Gen Xers.”
If our 35-54's leave and 18-34's find something "new and shiny" and they leave, country radio's healthy ratings will crater. It could get real ugly.
|Nielsen Radio Today tracking, maintained by A&O&B|
We need to be careful not to go too young. Country radio's success has always come from having a wide target. I always say our format works from "birth until death." Up until now, it's always been a real mass appeal format. I fear that is changing.
Remember "Young Country" in the 90's? It didn't take long for all of those "Young Country" stations to go away.
As radio programmers, we need make sure that we always have a wide variety of music in each quarter hour. Don't ignore 35-54's (they are far more loyal than 18-34's). Be careful of songs that are too abrasive. Radio's bread and butter is daytime, at work listening. If we play music that won't work for the at work listener, we'll be in trouble. AC and Hot AC will benefit.