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More Evidence that Callout Sucks

This is an email I received via a consultant via a label, so I can’t be sure of the source. As a result, I’ll show it without attribution, but I suspect it speaks for many of you:

What happened to my callout? The accuracy, or lack thereof, of traditional callout models has always been a hot topic of conversation among radio and record executives. Many programmers have always had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with their callout research. Why do some records call out and others don’t? How can something flip from the bottom to top of a ranker or vice versa week-to-week? Why does my callout not line up with the results seen from similar radio stations in similar marketplaces? Perhaps the most important question we should be asking ourselves is: why are we relying on this form of research as the definitive watermark on whether a song is a hit or not? While anyone running a radio station has dealt with these questions and inconsistencies, I’m more and more coming to believe we’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in the research landscape. I’m seeing a greater amount of contrary information that is at odds with the data we’re receiving from our traditional callout. Consider: 1. We’ve had several artists debut absolutely huge this year in album sales that couldn’t get arrested according to callout. Amerie “One thing” is a great example. Sounded great, sold well, everyone (apparently) loved it, yet it never called out. So, it went away. Does that mean it wasn’t a hit? Or were we simply looking at the wrong information? 2. We’ve all had records that requested huge but never called out. 3. I’m now tracking music downloads via the service provided by and am seeing even greater disparities. A recent example that comes to mind is Missy Elliot’s “Lose control”. For many stations this record has been a big callout problem. Yet, it’s the #1 downloaded record in the country. Something isn’t adding up, here. 4. I’m also taking a closer look at national trends of ringtone sales and downloads. That particular tracking showed the hit viability of The Ying Yang Twins “Whisper song” long before it ever came around in our callout. The tracking of these sales are starting to become better-hit predictors than our callout has ever been. 5. On-line callout often doesn’t match the data we’re seeing from traditional callout, either. If these questions aren’t giving you night sweats, then take a closer look at how your listeners are using media. The under twenty five set, core audience for a mainstream or rhythmic contemporary hit radio station, are not on their landlines. Many don’t even have a landline and have switched exclusively to cells. Of those, how many are on a do not call lists? Or how many do not take calls from numbers their caller ID doesn’t recognize? Or, even ask yourself the question if you were called up and asked to give your time and energy to listening to music hooks over the telephone, would you bother? I don’t know about you, but I’d say no thank you and hang up. So, all of this begs the REAL question: When you receive your traditional callout report, who the hell was the research company talking to? I’m not advocating throwing your callout away completely, but if I’m certainly recommending putting it into a more realistic perspective. If something sounds great on your station, is tracking as a hit record through alternative methods of research, and the ONLY missing piece of the puzzle is your traditional callout…maybe you should just play the record.

I have lots of comments on this – and the broader issue of conventional callout in general – but I’ll save those for another time.

For now, I’ll say only this: If something isn’t serving you, stop doing it.

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