We had a serious little CHR
shindig at Mometum in Orlando, Florida recently. Right up front: big
Charles VanDyke at Tooth&Nail/BEC records for making it happen!
He even sprung for free ice cream!
It was thrilling to be part
of a standing-room only event that had celebrity appearances from
Kutless, Family Force Five, KJ 5-2, Paul Goldsmith, and others.
Before I get to the take-aways, I feel like itís important to share
why Charles and I felt this gathering was important.
CHR as we know it is in
danger of dying. There are barely enough stations left to sustain a
chart thatís even semi-legitimate. If youíre thinking ďso what?
Who cares about charts?Ē I can totally relate. I donít make a
lot of decisions based on charts, but the people CHR gets songs from
do. If the chart goes, so might many of the artists, styles, and
songs CHR relies on. Record labels would have no reason to sign the
next Toby Mac, the next Britt Nicole, the next Skillet, etc. Anybody
who came close would be quickly edited and neutered to not sonically
scare ďBeckyĒ away from her trustworthy AC station.
Bottom line: No reputable
CHR chart = CHR music vanishing = CHR stations vanishing = less
people impacted for Christ. (I would also contend a
weaker/non-existent CHR format weakens AC down the road. CHR can get
fans excited about Christian music at a younger age, making them
more likely to grow into Christian AC as they mature.)
Iíd love to tell you we
cooked up some awesome, instantly actionable things that would
immediately make every CHR station stronger. But that wasnít the
goal. Simply wanted to make sure everyone who cares about CHR knew
what a critical crossroads itís at, hoping that would energize
stations to go home and pursue their calling with excellence.
Here are my personal (and
admittedly biased) takeaways:
has figured out the ďwinningĒ music recipe. Not the ďAC
leaningĒ stations, not the ones who try creating a ďtrue Top 40
mix,Ē not the ones who treat CHR as the place to throw anything
thatís ďnot ACĒ against the wall to see what works.
And trying to convince a station thatís not doing it your way is
like arguing politics on Facebook. Itís like telling somebody their
baby isnít cute. (Youíre not gonna change a single mind.) The best
way to persuade the rest of the format that YOUR philosophy is the
one that can help all of CHR grow is through results. Prove it with
ratings growth and show how CHR done your way is actually fundable.
That will speak much louder than any argument you make (no matter
how logical and researched it feels).
CHR is often hung up on music, weíre losing ground on the rest
of the package. Our signals are often rimshots. Our
imaging doesnít match what listeners come to us for. Our
personalities donít connect. We arenít marketing ourselves. We
arenít scientifically asking our audience what they want from
us, (and when they tell us, we often donít listen). We arenít
forward thinking when it comes to technology and social media.
Quite a few of us are operating from a 90ís premise of what we
think CHR should be. We arenít keeping up with how rapidly our
target audience is changing.
The music itself is a changing target. And just about when ANY
format (Christian or not) has it figured out, it changes again.
Spend less time on music (not none, just less) and more on the rest
of the package. If you get the music perfect, but the rest of
your station is a disaster, whatís the point of that perfect music?
Celebrate successes, and be more vulnerable. There are
actually a lot of good things happening at various CHR stations.
If youíre anything like me, you have probably wrestled with how
to let people know what God is doing without it sounding like
itís your ego talking. Iíd like to encourage you to brag on your
successes anyhow. Give credit where credit is due, and tell your
peers how we can celebrate with you. I promise that if enough of
us do this consistently, youíll rally more stations to chase
the flip side, when something isnít working like you hoped, reach
out for help and advice. Be vulnerable among those you trust. Show
how humble and wise you are (or desire to be) by seeking counsel.
with your peers. Celebrate those successes and ask those
vulnerable questions via the CHR Forum (sign up at
http://programdirector.net/email-forums/ if you arenít
already there). Take a look around at the stations you respect,
who seem to share your own stationís vision, and build personal
friendships with them. Youíll encounter some victories and
challenges that may not always be Forum-appropriate. Your
one-on-one friendships with like-minded proís can fill in the
Thanks for taking
the time to read this and for taking at least some of these thoughts
to heart. Whether youíre in CHR or not, thanks also for praying that
God will use it for His glory.
Mike Couchman is the Music Director and 1-4 PM personality for
SOS Radio Network, based in Las Vegas, NV. He previously
Programmed WAY-FM in Denver; WAYG-WAYK in Grand
Rapids, MI; WLGH in Lansing, MI; and cut his on-air teeth
with Clear Channel at WKQI/Detroit, WBCT/Grand
Rapids, and various other Top 40 and Country stations. Mike is also
a borderline fast-food addict.