They call it “Oldies,” not “Newies”

Once something has a label – and a meaning – both stick.

Take Oldies. Currently that format is undergoing a gentle transformation – or at least a re-evaluation. In its origins it was all about 50’s and 60’s. Now it’s primarily 60’s. But how far into the 70’s can it go or – God forbid – into the 80’s? Can you, in other words, redefine what “Oldies” means?

Don’t bet on it.

I was involved with the launch of a station called “Dave” recently. Virtually everyone in the Radio industry believes that “Dave” is the same format as a group of stations called “Jack” and another called “Bob.”

It turns out virtually everyone is wrong.

Dave is a modified AAA station, while Jack and Bob are both broad-based hybrids that mix Pop, AC, and Classic Hits with familiar pop tunes with very large music libraries. The distinctions between Dave and Jack/Bob are easy to see – if you only look at their playlists.

But no one really does that. Instead, industry folks put “Dave” in the same “Guy’s Name” category as “Jack” and “Bob” and assume it plays the same thing. They ASSUME this – and they BELIEVE this. The name becomes a shorthand for their incorrect belief which is simply a natural assumption.

This is not a problem for DAVE because the market it lives in doesn’t know anything about Jack or Bob. It’s only a problem for the minds in the industry.

But now apply this same situation to “Oldies” which lives in virtually every market and for many years has stood for a certain mix of music. No matter what these stations change that mix to, the name itself will guide listener interpretation of what that station plays. That is, listeners will always believe a station called “Oldies” plays the kind of music listeners believe “Oldies” to be.

Period.

If the smart folks in the Radio biz can get “Dave” wrong so very easily – and their livelihood depends on knowing the industry – just imagine how easy it is for Joe and Jane Average to dismiss an Oldies station no matter what it adds to the playlist, simply because of what that label means.

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