A Case For Boomer Radio
Music radio managers have been so locked in to their own traditions and dogma they continuously make programming decisions based on nothing more than already-accepted assumptions. That, and what those "other guys" are doing. For example: When I mention the concept of “Boomer Radio,” almost everybody jumps to the conclusion that the discussion will be exclusively about programming “oldies.”
If owner/management’s desired outcome does not include a long, hard, and unsatisfactory slog, restricting a boomer-targeted station by rolling out 350 or so of “The Greatest Classic Hits Of All Time” would be exceptionally counterproductive. Such a tactic is so patronizing and superficial as to guarantee a major fail. On a personal note: I find being fed such an extraordinarily limited selection of tunes to be boring at best -- insulting at worst. Boring any audience, by the way. is enough of a result to cripple any attempt at reaching someone, but especially in my demographic.
Still, I agree with programming “oldies” (of some kind) as a first priority. Anyone who qualifies as a “boomer” has been exposed to any number of musical genres with Pop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, R&B, Folk, and Country being the five most pervasive. What follows as a free, no-extra-charge, bonus service is the musical format for such a station: There are at least 5,000 records available in those genres from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s that would qualify. Play them!
However -- and this is where so many programmers err on the side of weirdness -- they stop there! Boomers didn’t move to the Congo in 1990 in order to shut themselves off from contemporary media. Nor did they stop being exposed to contemporary music -- in all the genres. What we did do is get tired of the same rotations that might have been acceptable for a couple of decades. But, after a while, we just got burned out. Part of that was the music and part was about the presentations. (More on that shortly.)
For a station aimed at boomers, more than the “olden, golden goodies” will be required. We (boomers) won’t die if we are also offered tunes from every decade since then -- including contemporary music. Honest. None of my friends, relative, neighbors, or associates have expired by hearing Coldplay. Or, for that matter, Nickleback!
So, there it is: The Boomer Music Format. It took two minutes to read it and will take about 20 minutes to implement it. Ah, but only if it were all so simple. To paraphrase a 1985 Northern Lights song, “Tunes Are Not Enough.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJN3u1wAWIk
Boomers, I would argue, are the most experienced, knowledgeable, and sophisticated of all potential target audiences. Trifling with them is not healthy for a station’s future success. And remember, in the U.S., boomers are the ones with most of the dough. The partial mystery (to me) is why station owners aren’t crawling all over each other to carve off a nice chunk of that action.
Other than that, there really is no mystery. The reasons there are so few stations successfully serving this extraordinary market are, essentially, based on two factors. The first and most touted is about that particular audience having a shorter, expected lifespan – literally! (“Why even bother?”) The other, and most important, element is that programmers have no idea how to go about being attractive and appealing to, as well as gaining credibility with, this audience.
The first element can be addressed very easily. As the most senior members of the audience weigh anchor, slip out of this temporal cove, and pass on to their cushy reward of fair winds and free grog, a station can simply adjust the format up by a few years. Ten years from now, the station will be basing the tunes around the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. And so on. So far, so good.
The greatest detriment, however, to audience acceptance and support comes as a result of stations that cannot communicate to this audience. I regularly hear stations making a half-hearted, attempt by providing the audience with the same “robo-jock” formatics -- copies of past Top 40 outfits that are, today, as limited in their scope as they are irritating in their approach and lack of appeal. This, I remind you, was a jock format that was based on acquiring “kiddie cumes” and was a methodology for keeping jock content under programming control -- while still driving through the hits.
Such a station, to be successful, must staff the joint with intelligent, prepared, well-educated on-air staff. And when I say “well educated,” I mean that as more than an general awareness of contemporary and social issues. I mean as broadcast communicators -- those on-air folks who have access to and skills in the strategies, techniques, and nuances of effectively maintaining a significant radio audience.
The old “tried and true” methods are no good. This is because no matter how long we try them or how hard we apply them, they just aren’t working. And that's because they are not functional. Not true.
While there are no audiences of any demographic or psychographic category who want to be patronized, duped, insulted, or maligned with irritants and gross superficialities, a “boomer” audience might be ticked off enough and vocal enough to make a station’s management and staff think more than twice about treating them like so much disposable fodder. Or, they may become indifferent and simply stop listening.
The generation of spots is also included here. Failure to pay attention to this issue -- perhaps as the first priority -- is likely to render any other attempts to reach this audience as a futile exercise with minimal returns for the advertisers. Again, intensive, precise training is required and that’s something with which I can get fully engaged.
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website www.voicetalentguy.com
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