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Radio stations receive a stack of singles each week. The independent artists are filed in the trash can. The major labels and artists with big names get heard first along with, possibly, any artist from a label who's given the program director a flat screen TV, golf trip or baseball tickets in the recent past (actual examples). But that still leaves a lot of songs to fish through for a hit. So program directors then, usually, hire a company to test this whittled down batch of songs, then play the best testing songs.

The test group is usually, for AC stations, Christian females 25-44 who listen primarily to Christian radio (BONUS: These folks are called P1's. P2's are those who listen but not primarily to CCM radio).

Well, we at Rocketown Records figure if this system works so well for radio types why don't we use it to choose my next single and save our pals in radio world a little money and time. And I'm just tired of hearing "Your song doesn't test well for us." We'll see about that. We've now completed testing on a large group of P1 females nation-wide in hopes of their collective "wisdom" guiding us to the best choice for my next single - a song that we know in advance will test well for radio stations.

But, and this might surprise you all, music, as it turns out, is subjective. Huh. Who knew? So it's apparently hard for a group of people to reach a consensus about whether a song is good or bad. Huh. Go figure. Instead we got what stations get from testing: a big pile of expensive conflicting data. One man's, I mean woman's, upbeat and positive is another woman's play-this-and-I'll-kill-myself apparently. Enjoy SOME of the slew of real opinions from test subjects asked "WHAT DO YOU LIKE OR DISLIKE ABOUT THE SONG 'AMEN'?"

Awesome song! Love to hear it on the radio often! I liked the music, the beat, the words!

Classic rock is it? That is at least the feel of this song. Great arrangement and production.

Don't care for hard rock music

I like the heavier rock sound

Does not sound so much inspired as it sounds made up.

i like it because it seems honest & genuine

Don't like his voice

i like his voice

I can relate to the song, asking God for mercy. This is a good song.

hard to relate to this kind of music- i'm sure it helps some people. the music is like secular music i hear when flipping the channels and if that is what it is supposed to be like then it fits.

I like it because you know it's a christian song...Some you never know it is until you hear who the artist is.

I like the words, but the music and how it is sung seems dark instead of christ-like.

I like the words. They seem to be very biblical.

too slow

it's upbeat

its uplifting

Not very uplifting

It sounds outdated

It's a new kind of sound - I really like it!

just didnt have a good beat

Love the beat

Matthew West? I have the new CD but haven't listened to it yet.

not charismatic enough

Sounds like every Christian pop song

Breaks the mold a bit of CCM.

too slow starting, didn't grab me

This song captured me within the first 10 seconds! Great sound, great vocals!! Would love to know who this is?

Well, there are the results. Testing obviously works like a charm. The verdict is obvious isn't it? Well, not until we hire a pricey radio consultant to interpret all this for us. Hey, isn't it consultants who told program directors to test singles in the first place? Wait a minute...


Blogger Rica said...

LOL! I hope you get it all sorted out!

Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

You figured it out, you smart artist. The only one who always wins in this musical game of duck-duck-goose is the consultant!

Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...


Some of those were hilarious! Shaun Groves is the new Matthew West!

Blogger GrovesFan said...

My first reaction to the whole album (after "It's finally here!) was OUTSTANDING! It's not praise and worship! Don't get me wrong, I like praise and worship music, just not 24/7. I can also only take so much POG, MercyMe (uggh!), and other such types that are the mainstream of CCM today. They are good, but it's too much of the same thing all the time. All of your music struck me as fresh, original, and unique along with deep, thought provoking and challenging. Challenging enough to make me dig into the Bible deeper for answers and pure study. That doesn't happen with too many CCM songs I hear on the radio today. I also like MWS (earlier stuff better than later stuff) and SCC (he's an incredible musican and performer) and Casting Crowns. I love Taylor Sorensen for the same reason as SG, fresh, challenging and pure talent.

Not sure what the stations are looking for, but I'm sure they're asking the WRONG people.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this whooooole system of choosing songs that are radio-worthy makes me want to yack. The fate of the ccm world in the hands of my mom. unbelievable.

Blogger Ramblings from a Sonflower said...



Blogger Ramblings from a Sonflower said...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For now, testing is the best thing we know. I hope there are some better ideas, because testing is obviously not perfect, but what would you have us do for the time being? Go back to musical dictatorships where some arrogant program director continuously made uneducated guesses on which songs his listeners would like best? I hope there are some better ideas--I've tried to think of them myself, but for now, isn't testing better than guessing?

--Husband of a Music Director

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I have a suggestion. But let's see if anyone has one first.


Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

Well, I guess we've learned that the reason the public is fickle is that it consists entirely of women! </sarcasm> Um, seriously, it is difficult to think of something different, at least for AC radio, which probably is listened to almost exclusively by soccer moms. Is it any different for the CHR format, or for, say, WNAZ in Nashville?

I found your blog via Andy Osenga's; good stuff.

Blogger Paula said...

"Matthew West? I have the new CD but haven't listened to it yet."


Love it! :)

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

You better watch it Matthew. My audience is overwhelmingly female and they have large vehicles capable of crushing sarcastic he-man woman haters.

; )


Blogger Shane S. said...

"music, as it turns out, is subjective."

Hey, you said it!

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

yea, so?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i was paid to come up with a better idea, it would probably be better than this but here goes. for starters, how bout doing something about all that unfair lobbyist crap that is happening like the big screen TVs and trips to the mets going to program directors. 2. fire the consultants.
3.if firing the consultants is out of the question and you do the surveys, maybee shoot for a bigger audience, like youth, college, so forth. or maybee ONLY college and high school. (i am neither of those) they always seem to have a better grasp on what is fresh than the older folks who TEND to cling to the past and stop listening to the new things happening in the world after the age of 22. also it seems like younger people are more apt to spot an honest song or artist and recognize the cheese. no offense to the cheezers (who would admit to being the cheeser anyway?) because God sill uses you but maybe not the way you want it.

then again all this is guess- work on my part. my friend who has produced the likes of Bethany Dillon said that the people who still buy the most CCM cds are boys and girls from ages 22 and below.( thats my only expert witness and he could be wrong it was told in a casual conversation.) So would it not seem logical to get their opinions. At least let them be a PART of the polling.

lastly, what about putting some of that control back into the program directors hands. what if there were more than one program director for accountability? it seems to me that a hip and educated program director or two would be better than my mom at picking good songs.

how do secular stations do it? shaun what do you think of KSBJ's online music panel?

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

On-line music panels don't bug me if songs are tested there AFTER being spun 400 times. Testing a song before it's been played this much ( that many spins would still only get it heard a few times by an avid listener) only tests for familiarity. ANything different, not the same old same old, tests badly.

This is the case with my song Twilight. It tested badly. Too different from what radio was playing at the time. But KXOJ, in spite of it's bad initial testing, played it. They believed it would become liked. BECOME LIKED. They played it 400 times and tested again only a short time later. The second time it tested better than any other song in that batch of test songs. Amazing what a little exposure to something different can do.

Testing that doesn't use this method is flawed. It's how we get Mercy Me, Steven Curtis Chapman AND Casting Crowns songs that sound very similar all on the same station in heavy rotation. Where's the variety. People buy iPods for a reason and it isn't to hear 1000 songs that sound exactly alike.

Can I get a witness????


Anonymous Anonymous said...

about a year ago i was stuck in houson traffic. big surprise. you had just played at wtbc and i had tuned into ksbj. tired of the jeremy camp and ffh marathon i decided to call in to request for their "top 10 at 10" a song that i thought was really nice off your twilight album, "Jesus". this is something they do where listeners have their only opportunity to request their fav songs and get them played. i was anwered by a nice enough voice "hello, KSBJ" i replied "yeah id like to request a song for the top ten at ten" "alright" he said. i said i would like to request a song of shaun groves latest album called "Jesus" "oh, im sorry" , he said, "we dont play that song" thinking he was joking i kinda laughed because i thought he was saying that "ha ha, no we dont play songs about Jesus" my chuckle was greeted with silence on the other end. "are you serious?" i said. he said that they only play songs that THEY play. totally confused i hung up. i then heard a condescending commercial later that day that went like this. "hey susan, can you play the song happy birthday" no we cant, im sorry, we dont play 'happy birthday' its not a song WE play."

i almost had a wreck i was so ticked. i tried to call back and say "I DIDNT REQUEST 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY' DA**IT I REQUESTED A SONG CALLED JESUS BY A SIGNED ARTIST WHOS OTHER SONGS YOU PLAY." luckily the spirit ineterceded and the lines were busy so no cursing came from my mouth that afternoon.

just a rant i thought i would share,


Blogger Kathryn said...

I'll tell you how to test Christian music. . . let non Christians listen to it and take serious note of what they say about it.

Wow. . that post was eye opening. ick. How could there possibly be a song left after all the deconstructing?! just little tattered bits and pieces laying around. .

Blogger Dave Haupert said...


Above you answered a question I have had of why all these Christian stations are using Listener Advisory Boards nowadays. They always advertise that it gives listeners the to pick the music they want to hear. But of course, the music you have to pick from is the stuff they have already started playing. It's not like I can say, can I hear more of 'Narrow' (my current fave on White Flag BTW), because it's not already on their list.

So in essence my beef with the above system (that we can't suggest one they may have never heard but rather only from their predetermined list of possibilities) makes some sense, since as you said it, you want people to have listened a few hundred times before they decide.
I understand it much better now, though I still don't think it's the best way to do it.

If I were throwing out ideas, I'd say how about a new music time each day (perhaps an hour or two period) where they play new songs one after another, only playing a song perhaps twice in all of time, and based on the feedback they get on songs (via an online voting system, or call ins) pick the ones to then consider for airplay rotation (and then into the hands of the listener advisory board). That would take some of the real control out of the program director's hands, as even with the audience testing they do, they are ultimately the one choosing the short list to pick from. In essence it's expanding the short list to a much bigger short list (and still letting the program director have some choice as to what to play in the new music category) What do you think?

Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

i'm sorry but I find it hilarious that Christian radio has some of us to the point of acting unChristian. When something like radio gets us to that point I think we need to do something about.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

To the point of acting unChristian in what way?


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