We're joined for another guest blog from Jacobs Media's Keith Cunningham:
We're all aware of the impact iTunes has had on the music industry, and overall, I think it's a great thing. And although their "Top Song" lists are subjective, and require some scrutiny, I believe we have to trust their data, as long as we put it through the proper filters. I'm personally very active on iTunes, and frequently monitor what's hot and what's not. While recently reviewing the Top 100 iTunes songs (as listed in "Today's Top Songs"), I thought I'd see how Rock and Alternative are performing. What I uncovered was not encouraging, to say the least.
Of the Top 100 iTunes songs on January 29th (as listed in "Today's Top Songs"), 14 were classified as Alternative. But of these, two songs were from the All-American Rejects and there were also two versions of "Feel Good, Inc." So of that 14, only 11 songs were widely relevant for Alternative.
There were 13 songs classified as Rock, but this situation is far worse than the Alternative grouping. Many of the Rock songs or artists would sound much more fitting on Hot AC stations. For example, James Blunt, Lifehouse, Goo Goo Dolls, Five for Fighting, and Gavin DeGraw. Additionally, there were three versions of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" listed among this group, so the list gets shorter. When you eliminate Hot AC songs from the list, there is only a handful of legitimate Rock or Alternative songs -- Avenged Sevenfold, Jack Johnson, Nickelback, and Yellowcard. Slim pickings, my friends.
Here's where it gets even uglier for Rock & Alternative. There were 24 Hip-Hop/Rap songs, 19 Pop, and 8 R&B. But those classifications are fuzzy because all the songs are basically in the same world - CHR-Rhythmic-Hip-Hop. That's 51 of the Top 100 right there - and we're not done yet. The rest of the list is made up of 9 Country songs, and a few Latin, Reggae, Dance, and Soundtrack songs. And not surprisingly, many could fall into Pop or Hip-Hip, also.
The lesson here is that Rock and Alternative are more of an afterthought on iTunes!
We know this is just one dimension of music popularity, and their Top 100 list is fluid - all it takes is a few great, new releases to push Rock's share up a few points. But perception is reality - think of the impression that's created by a Top 100 list seen by tens of millions of people, where only 15% at best is made up of Rock or Alternative songs.
So what do we do? We can't control what the labels release, but we can create more noise and excitement in our markets and on our stations. This situation requires a lot more thought than just this blog, but the easiest thing we can do today is focus on making Rock Radio more fun, compelling, and attention-getting. I'm not depressed over this data, I'm motivated. But it's up to Radio to make Rock and Alternative more fun to listen to than Hip-Hop and Pop. And, when something good comes along, we need to do more than add it – we need to champion it, make it exciting, and become music leaders once again.