How can you tell when a radio format or music genre is hot?
I always marvel at Sean Ross' analyses of the various music styles and their accompanying formats as he attempts to assess the temperature of music and artists, sometimes even by season.
For Classic Rock, however, you can throw away that yardstick. When a format is devoid of new music, what's the gauge that determines its “hotness?” As the front man for the format and as someone who has closely tracked Classic Rock (and its offshoots) for more than three decades, I have a few unorthodox indicators that usually prove to be pretty accurate.
Now as most people know, the ratings are certainly one indicator. And the lead story on Tuesday in Tom Taylor's NOW reports was “The Classic Takeover.” And subsequent releases from PPM markets for April show that Classic Hits/Classic Rock stations are having another strong month. But there's more to my forecasting than just Nielsen numbers.
When there are no currents, a gold-based format like Classic Rock can still thrive on what I call “currency.” That's when the music continues to make appearances in other media, proving its ongoing relevance. A good example is all those TV commercials for all kinds of products, like cars, banks, deodorants, and even motels that use iconic Classic Rock songs as their soundtracks.
One of my favorites these days is the Motel 6 spot below featuring the melodic strains of Golden Earring's “Radar Love.”
These days, however, hearing a great Classic Rock song in a TV ad isn't novel – it happens all the time.
What's more interesting – and revealing – is when Classic Rock shows up in pop culture, reminding us that while the music may be old, it still resonates in many powerful ways. And I recently ran across two highly visible indicators the music and those who made it continues to have an outsized influence on marketing – and even politics.
In fact, just look up.
Exhibit A is right here in my home state of Michigan, often known as The Mitten. The “Pure Michigan” campaign has become famous for its brilliant writing and production, attracting more and more tourists to The Great Lakes State. Tim Allen voiced those memorable radio commercials, helping to boost tourism in both the upper and lower peninsulas.
And recently, these “Pure Michigan” billboards starting popping up all over the state – and throughout the Midwest:
It makes you want to get in the car and drive to the tip of the thumb to Port Austin, Michigan, where you can kayak around the fascinating Turnip Rock.
And then there's this guy, Chicagoan Jeffrey Roberts, with a grandiose plan to protest the Trump presidency. Called “Flying Pigs On Parade,” the concept is to suspend four giant inflatable pigs from a barge in the Chicago River to strategically block out the massive TRUMP sign on the Chicago tower of the same name.
As Classic Rockers know, this audacious project is obviously inspired by Pink Floyd's Animals album cover where an inflatable pig flew over the bleak Battersea Power Station in London.
Roberts' pig quartet is slated to become airborne late summer/early fall for just one day. But of course, he needs city approval, as well as the $250,000 it requires to make this bold initiative happen.
The easy part? Floyd's Roger Waters – who owns the Animals cover art – signed off on the project, and even gave Roberts a “digital model” of the flying pig.
These “current events” are part of the ongoing Classic Rock narrative. The format continues to make news every week, whether it's the 50th celebration of the Beatles' iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in just a couple weeks or odd, quirky, pop cultural moments like these.
And the Classic Rock beat goes on.
In a fascinating twist, check out this panel from the live Yes album, Yessongs Awakening, designed by the legendary Roger Dean back in 1973. Coincidence? Or is there a Classic Rock fan at McCann Erickson, the agency of record for the Pure Michigan campaign?
Thanks for the heads-up, Marty Bender.
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