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Mike Couchman
WAY FM / Denver

CHR Power Gold Analysis





You may be aware of services like Mediabase and BDS.  They’re a great medium/large market resource for keeping tabs on everyone else in your market, and many in your format.  One of the things they’re most useful for is tracking a radio station’s library, and even their music log, in practically real time.   Unfortunately for Christian CHR, many of our stations aren’t monitored by either service, most often because we are in markets they don’t cover.

So, I made the mistake of attempting to replicate a couple of the most useful things BDS and Mediabase offer.  I collected the Recurrent, Power Gold, and Gold libraries of just about every Christian CHR reporter.  If you were one of those who sent me your list, thanks very much!  You helped me totally waste a Saturday away.

If you’re wondering why I bothered, I have my reasons.  First, I’m a radio geek down to my bone marrow.  Second, Christian CHR as a whole is much less Current driven than mainstream CHR.  Online testing helps most of us manage our Currents decently, but not many of us have a great grasp on how on or off the mark our Non-Currents are.  This at least could be a starting point.

What you’ll see below are the Top 20 Power Gold/Gold songs in Christian CHR, according to the 23 stations who supplied data.  (There’s a full 200-ish list available for you too.  (Click here to view it).  Some things to note:  1. I wanted to include Recurrents too, but the way stations categorize things didn’t allow me to come up with a reliable list.  2. Put aside whatever “Gold” or “Power Gold” means to you.  For the sake of this project, most of what you’ll see on the list are songs released 18 or more months ago.

1.            Sanctus Real “I’m Not Alright”                    100% on

2.            Brandon Heath “Give Me Your Eyes”      100% on

3.            Kutless “Strong Tower”                                 100% on

4.            Toby Mac “Lose My Soul”                             96% on

5.            Relient K “Forgiven”                                       96% on

6.            Skillet  “The Last Night”                                 96% on

7.            Matthew West  “The Motions”                  91% on

8.            Tenth Avenue North “By Your Side”        91% on

9.            Jeremy Camp “There Will Be a Day”         87% on

10.          Switchfoot  “Dare You To Move”               87% on

11.          Hawk Nelson “Everything You Ever…”     87% on

12.          Toby Mac  “Made To Love”                          87% on

13.          Switchfoot  “Meant To Live”                       87% on

14.          Flyleaf  “All Around Me”                                               87% on

15.          Casting Crowns  “Praise You In This…”     87% on

16.          Switchfoot  “This Is Your Life”                     87% on

17.          Third Day  “Call My Name”                           87% on

18.          Switchfoot  “This Is Home”                          87% on

19.          Toby Mac  “Gone”                                           87% on

20.          Toby Mac  “I’m For You”                               87% on

Any surprises up there?  A number of things made me think twice about my own station’s library.  For starters, “Forgiven” by Relient K, while in my station’s library, is in my lowest possible rotation.  But seeing as how it’s present in almost every Christian CHR station’s rotation, I’m going to revisit this song.  I’ll likely test it with our online and auditorium panels to see if I’m underutilizing this song.

My first suggestion for how you might use this list starts with a similar idea:  If you see a song in the Top 30 that you rarely or never play, you may want to reconsider it.  I’m not saying you should instantly bump it into a super high rotation, but you at least have to ask yourself what you missed with songs of this nature.

Next, it’d be a good idea to flip that approach around on its head.  Take a look at the Power Gold songs you play the most.  If they fall low on this list, or aren’t present at all, challenge yourself.  What case can be made for playing a song that hasn’t stood the test of time among so many other stations?  Do you have accurate, reliable research that supports its prominence in your music mix?  Can you make a valid case some other way that might even convince a skeptic?  Without some kind of believable case, thinking through this should at least raise a yellow flag about a few songs.

What’s perhaps missing from the full 208 song list?  The 90’s.  They’re close to vanishing.  The first song from that decade to appear is “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk, at #48.  Then you have to scroll all the way down to #89 for the next one, “Get Down” by Audio Adrenaline.  In the full 208 song list, only eight are from the 90’s.  If your library is much different, that’s another thing to challenge yourself on.  Only the 30+ of today’s 18-34 year olds are remotely likely to be familiar with 90’s songs, let alone like them. 

Which artists occupy the most space in our libraries?  You probably won’t be shocked to learn that it’s probably similar to those who take the most space at your own station.  Third Day had a whopping 18 songs from everyone who submitted, but only 7 of those 19 made it to the Top 208. Toby Mac, Relient K, Kutless and Jeremy Camp each had 13; Superchic[k] had 13 too, but a mere 3 in the Top 208; Switchfoot had 12, along with Jars of Clay (yet just 3 Jars tunes in the Top 208); Sanctus Real scored 11 songs nationally; Chris Tomlin and the David Crowder Band had 10 (with 4 in the Top 208 for each), as did Mercy Me (with 6 of those 10 in the Top 208); Skillet had 9;  Matthew West and Newsboys checked in at 8 (only 2 Newboys songs didn’t make the Top 208).

For fun, I also correlated the size of the lists sent to me with available ratings information.  This will either be a “no duh” revelation to you, or mind-blowing.  Stations with total library sizes less than 200 generally had larger audiences than those with larger library sizes.  Not always, but often.  I’m not one of those guys who says “tight playlist automatically equals big ratings,” but if you’re rotating a significantly larger number of songs, you again should be challenging yourself to make a case for how that helps you.  This is CHR/Top 40 that we’re programming here:  the music that has consensus among the greatest number of people.  As you noticed in the Top 20 above, only 3 songs had complete, national consensus.  And by #10, consensus among us “experts” who program this music was less than 90%.  Translate that to your audience:  If you have a lot of songs in rotation that don’t have significant consensus, then you have too many songs.  It’s that simple.  And not hard to fix.

One final observation:  Only eight artists in the Top 20, and 15 of the Top 50, would be considered “CHR acts.”  As-in, they are more easily associated with CHR than they are with AC.  But that list includes folks like Toby Mac and Kutless, who are becoming or have become almost as automatic at AC, if not more so.  Strip the straddlers away, and you only have 7 nearly CHR-exclusive acts in the Top 50.

Hopefully some of this information was useful to you, and will help you adjust your library, or at least challenge your assumptions, going into 2011.  I’d like to do this project every year until enough Christian CHR stations are monitored by Mediabase or BDS, but it was super time consuming.  So if you’re a radio geek like me and want to pitch in to make this even better next year, please let me know!



Mike Couchman is the Program Director and Afternoon guy for Denver’s WAY-FM.  He also tracks for 95-1 Shine FM in Baltimore, Solution FM in Bangor, Maine, and WAYG/K/O in West Michigan. Contact Mike