Calgary radio station CKMP better known as AMP Radio made some changes to their music going into August. AMP Radio ranks 11th out of the 17 stations, and are the lowest rated of the 3 Top 40 stations in the Calgary market based on the June PPM ratings, so something had to be done.
However, they did not change format, as you might expect. What they did was move to playing edited versions of Top 40 songs. The average song on AMP now runs somewhere from 1:45 to 2:30. The new format, which was unveiled Friday (1 August), is called QuickHitz and allows the station to broadcast professionally edited down versions of songs that have been provided by Vancouver-based SparkNet Communications.
The one thing Newcap does well, thanks to the brilliant marketing mind of their VP of Programming, Steve Jones, is to find ways to generate lots of publicity about a change like this. This story was covered by all the mainstream media including CBC, Global and CTV news. The story was also covered by many newspapers across Canada and in online publications and blogs. Not all of it was positive, and artists like Calgary’s Jann Arden have been very vocal about her disapproval.
I asked Steve Jones why they made the move to shorter songs and he told me “When you think about why songs are the length they are it goes back to the ’50s and ’60s when radio stations demanded three-minute songs and artists provided them. In order to be on a 45 RPM record with any sound quality your song had to be around three, three-and-a-half minutes. If you wanted to be on the radio or you wanted to be in a jukebox, which is how people heard their music back then, you had to be on a 45 RPM record. So that was the way it was done.” He goes on to say “Radio is using archaic logic to decide its programming.”
While this is a way to create a point of difference between one Top 40 station and the others in the market, I wondered if this was a clever publicity stunt, designed to get a station that is lagging in the ratings some much needed attention. Jones says it’s not and tells me that Newcap is eager to explore new ways to grow ratings. Here are some of the other things we discussed:
Full marks to a station and company that managed to generate some national publicity, and bring some attention to a station that was not doing well in the ratings. Only time will tell if this is a short term tactic or a successful idea that grows and audience and then could be expanded to other stations.