Some Southern Gospel DJs are expressing disappointment with new reporting requirements for the Singing News Top 80 airplay chart. They must now turn in a computer-generated spin count of songs played on their station along with their report. Some complaints include:
- Smaller stations don’t own and can’t afford automation software that will generate an acceptable report.
- Automated stations may play equal spins for their Top 10 or Top 20, and the guidelines don’t explain how to break those ties.
- One DJ said certain oldies on their station get more spins than the songs in their “Top Twenty,” and they only play two “Top Twenty” songs per hour. (That DJ’s comment was later deleted from Facebook.) On a related note, someone joked that “Beulah Land” might appear on the next Top 80 chart if they are forced to report actual spins.
- Another DJ said their station has the ability to report, but they didn’t appreciate the short notice they were given, adding that the new procedures should have been implemented over the course of a few months rather than overnight.
This is a rather complex subject with as many wrinkles as there are radio stations.
Medium and larger stations are likely already running some type of automation software that meets the standards required by Singing News. The DJ might walk in every 20 minutes to do a live report between songs or the station may be entirely automated. With a smaller station operating on a shoestring budget, however, you might have a DJ who still manually triggers each and every song the old-fashioned way. They may still be swapping out and cuing up music from a CD player rather than digital MP3 files from a computer as well.
At first glance, iTunes appears to be a reasonable option for those small stations. It’s free, and it will count spins. However, a representative from Singing News said an iTunes report would not be acceptable, due to the fact that the play count data can easily be manipulated.
So Singing News, it would seem, is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If the sample size declines too far, the objectivity of the chart is lost. But they need to weed out flawed data like that DJ mentioned above who freely admitted he’s playing some oldies more than the so-called “hits” he’s reporting. Singing News is essentially saying “We still want this data” while at the same time saying, “We don’t trust you.” Just hopefully in a more diplomatic manner.
As one DJ explained it, the data sheet from the automated system is attached to an email along with their chart when they send their report to Singing News. The refusal of Singing News to accept a screenshot of an iTunes play count for fear it could be manipulated seems rather unreasonable considering the fact that the data submitted from the expensive automated systems is also a printout that could also be manipulated…assuming a station was hellbent on turning in flawed data.
You may wonder what motivates a station to report in the first place given the added work involved. The fact is that some radio promotions people will service reporting stations with new music on a more timely basis than stations that don’t report to a chart. It does beg the question, though. Does reporting to a chart tangibly help any Southern Gospel station add more listeners or sell more ads?
As for the other complaints…
Giving equal spins to top singles should be easy enough to remedy by simply not giving equal spins. Even if positions 1-10 are a tie and positions 11-20 are a tie, the #1 will inevitably rise to the top and the rest of the chart will sort itself out due to the combining of reports from other stations.
Should stations that are playing MANY more oldies than current hits even be reporting to a chart that represents current hits? Singing News can’t (and shouldn’t) dictate what they should play. As long as every station reports EXACTLY what they play, “Beulah Land” might very well be the most played song on Southern Gospel stations the height and width of this great nation. Record companies and promoters and artists may not like it, but there is much satisfaction to be had from knowing it’s the truth.
Of course, if Singing News wants their chart to only include singles released in the past 12 months or whatever, that’s their call. For the moment, the chart claims to represent the actual airplay and it can never do that as long as something other than true spins is reported.
It does seem clear from reports that some stations are objecting to the suddenness of the changes more than the actual substance of the changes. Artists who have commented about the issue are practically unanimous in their support of the new reporting methods Singing News is putting in place.
By the way, Singing News has ceased their weekly chart as of December 2019.
Meanwhile, SGNScoops magazine has recently seen their slate of reporting stations grow. It will be interesting to compare the two charts a year or so from now and see if the results differ dramatically (spins vs. estimates) or if a whole lot of effort has been made to get very similar answers.