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Sep 16, 2005 | Articles

A Hit is a Hit
by Guy Zapoleon and Rick Bisceglia

It's widely talked about and written about these days... the new "promotion rules" placed on all record labels have supposedly leveled the playing field for independent labels. One of the greatest examples of what can happen when the "hit playing field" is evened out occurred during a similar set of circumstances in the industry in 1986. During this time all of a sudden a little record label released "Rumors" by Timex Social Club and the song jumped from nowhere to #1 at Urban Radio in only a few weeks time, and from there became a top 10 pop hit.

All in all the final effect is good as it helps both the radio and record industries as the hit music process is allowed to work on its own without manipulation, so the real hits rise to the top!

The fact is that at the end of the day radio programmers truly want to play hits, and if they would slow down a little bit and not just focus on national numbers...and take the opportunity to invest in a song regardless of the size of the label behind it...then some great songs with hit potential from independent labels could actually have the chance to make their way up the charts and become bona fide hits.

At HitPredictor we have the heads up on songs with hit potential by testing and researching the potential of every song that impacts radio at 7 major formats prior to airplay. We perform this testing with a national database of carefully screened P1 radio listeners. What have we witnessed? Numerous songs from independent sources have shown hit potential prior to airplay but ultimately never ended up with the same airplay success of songs with similar or lesser scores from their larger label counterparts.

Don't just take our word for it. Last year the folks at Entertainment Weekly were so frustrated with the fact that some of their favorite songs which "should have-and even more importantly could have become radio smashes" were not given a fighting chance at radio, that they had us test several of them just to see if they were justified. And you know what? Listeners agreed. (From Entertainment Weekly December 24th, 2004 issue #798: "We're Not The Only Ones Who Overlook Great Music:The Hot Singles Radio Never Played")

This isn't to say that songs from Independent Labels don't find their way at times. Robbins Entertainment's "Listen To Your Heart" redux by DHT is a prime recent example (a song which just so happened to test with hit potential prior to airplay in our research). However, this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. Victory Records head Tony Brummel had this to share with HitPredictor: "Victory Records has grown in every year of its existence. We are the #1 Independent Rock label according to sales and market share. Unfortunately, you would never know this if you listened to the radio. Aside from our fabulous roster of artists Victory is a brand. We can super serve our artists and brand to the stations but they still say "No." The offer is here, for them now on a silver platter. I have four, passionate radio people in my radio promotion department. They have great music by real, credible artists with enthusiastic, rabid supporters in every market. 99.5% (possibly more) of what radio programs is major label content. Over 20% of the US market share is independent content."

In the accompanying chart are examples of songs from independent labels which tested with high scores prior to airplay, in comparison to similarly scoring songs from major labels. The resulting chart peaks are also listed, and the discrepancies are obvious.

Ashlee Simpson - Pieces Of Me (Geffen) 70.9 - Peaked at #1 at Top 40

Angel City - Love Me Right (Ultra) - 71.5 - Peaked at 57 at Top 40

Usher - Yeah (Zomba) 93.7 - Peaked at #1 at R&B/Hip Hop

Amel Larrieux - For Real (Bliss Life) - 92.9 - Peaked at 90 at R&B Hip Hop

Three Days Grace - Just Like You (Jive) 68.8 - Peaked at #1 at Modern Rock

Taking Back Sunday - This Photograph is Proof (Victory) 69.4 - Peaked at #41 at Modern Rock

Snoop Dogg and Pharell - Drop It Like It's Hot (Geffen) - 66.1 - Peaked at #1 Na'sha Fire (Pure Records) -68.4 currently # 99 at Rhy top 40

We realize, now more than ever, that time and airplay are both precious commodities at radio. Obviously there are only so many new songs that a programmer can evaluate, and limits on how many new songs can be put into rotation. That is why we believe that predictive research is an important tool that should be recognized and factored in more often. Each week HitPredictor reports on impacting singles in multiple formats that show Hit potential in testing prior to airplay with a representative sample of radio listeners. We are giving programmers a heads up on songs with hit potential as they come across their desk.

Radio programmers should continue to look at the songs and the scores each week in our charts, and listen passionately to the music without necessarily focusing on the company logo on the promo cd. And you know what.. listeners will react. A lot of these independent labels have great artists and amazing music, and more diverse and interesting rosters than you may realize. We see it through our testing. Maybe it's a good time to be open to listening to what they have and communicate with them more. Eventually, if given their shot, hit songs will find their way regardless of the size of the label behind them.