Today via Twitter, @AdamLambert asked his followers to request his latest single at their local radio station:
Everyone request Never Close Our Eyes today Non-Stop. Its Time for some Glambert HEAT! How bad you want it?! #shameless
— Adam Lambert (@adamlambert) July 17, 2012
Before I go on, I want to be sure everyone knows that I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic. In general, my “expertise” seems to lie in the realm of collecting useless information in my head and stringing it all together into cohesive topics and much of my background is fairly technical (which is why my blog posts are usually short and to the point.)
What does this all mean? I’m pretty good at connecting the dots. To this end I present the following dots I’ve run into on this topic over the years.
Dot number one: A dozen or so years ago I signed up with a survey company called Luth Research. They call me occasionally to see if I qualify for a paid research study. If I qualify I go to their office, discuss a topic, they record it and I walk out with money (usually betweeen $65 and $200). A couple of times a year I get called to do radio survey. As I usually avoid top 40 radio like the plague I’ve never qualified for a music listening survey.
Dot number two: On August 26, 2010 I listened to a podcast by Juneau & Xena’s Salon with guest Radio DJ Chloe. She’s a DJ (if I remember right she works for a radio station in Long Island NY) and she talked about her experience DJ’ing for a Top 40 radio station. You can listen to the podcast here (the topical discussion starts at about 38 to 40 minutes into it):
What I got out of the broadcast was that DJ’s have absolutely no control over what they play. She comes in to do her shift and she is presented with a list of music that she will play and when she will play it. She has very little to no lee-way to play things that are not included on the list. She even mentions at about 45 minutes in that calling in a request that is not on the pre-aproved list does no good.
Dot number three: I am currently looking for a job and regularly look at several different sections on the job listing section of Craig’s List. One section I recently started trolling is the “Etc.” section. Marketing companies advertise different research groups there and I often see one for radio stations and music such as the following:
Help your local radio station (San Diego)
Harker Research is seeking individuals in the San Diego area to join the Music Listening Panel. Your local radio stations want your opinions on what songs YOU want to hear.
As part of the Music Listening Panel, we will contact you once per month inviting you to take a 5 minute survey rating music. For each survey you take, you will earn survey points towards gift cards from your choice of national retailers. If you are interested in learning more about the panel please click the link to start rating music and earning points:
My conclusion: Although I’m sure calling in to request a song isn’t a complete waste of time, in general corporate run radio stations pick their songs based on the results of these types of polls.
If you really, want to make a difference get involved with the polling process. Find out what company the radio stations in your area hire to do the demographic testing. In San Diego (my market) I often get calls from Luth Research and they have offices in other major cities as well. Call the research company and tell them you want to be on their Focus Group call list. You might have to take time to fill out a survey over the phone or online so they can get your demographics so they can start calling you. Here is Luth Research’s online survey arm. I think it might cover parts of the country where they don’t have a physical presence.
If you can’t find a local company that is doing this type of polling, try looking on your local Craig’s List “Etc.” job section for these types of one-time paid surveys.
The down side is that once you sign up to do surveys these companies might start calling you for other types of surveys (I’ve done everything from taste testing Subway Sandwiches to discussing various washing machine options), but the up side is that if you qualify for a study you get paid. I do it all the time and make at least a couple hundred extra dollars a year doing it.
One last thing. You should be aware that all of these surveys are run by demographics. You must fit a certain demographic to “qualify” for the study. Based on how the survey I found in Craig’s List panned out, it *seemed* that since I said I was “over 42” I didn’t qualify. Take what you will from that.
The bottom line is from what I can tell radio stations are not run by DJ’s any more. They don’t get to pick out the songs they play. They are given a playlist and told what to play and when to play it. The lists are created using the above types of surveys. Get involved with the survey process to make a real difference.