What’s the value of a radio single?

One of Christian radio’s most well respected PDs, Mike Couchman, posed some questions this afternoon…

The idea of radio leading the way on singles is going the way of soap operas.

If you haven’t already noticed, labels are increasingly picking which singles to work to us based on streaming data. At the same time, labels are trimming their radio teams. It’s not hard to imagine a reality where there aren’t official radio singles anymore, or promoters working them to us.

Playing that out: imagine a new TobyMac album drops in 2025. Some stations will single the song that gets quick traction on streaming, others go with a song that they think fits their vibe…or seems radio friendly…whatever. But none of the above will get enough spins to crack the Christian AC top 30, because we’ll be hypothetically splitting our spins between 2 or more songs.

So, what’s the value in having a format unified behind the same single at roughly the same time? Does that benefit the artist more than if we’re all doing our own thing? Does it benefit radio more when we play the same singles our peers play during the same season?
Mike Couchman, Operations Manager BOOST RADIO & JOY FM

I thought I’d respond…

What if the success of a song isn’t dependent on radio?
Dependence on radio (in some formats) as the leader is going away. Meaning, labels and artists are getting smarter about their marketing…they’re finding their audience on socials and streaming FIRST so that when radio teams bring you guys a song, it’s already a hit. It’s not waiting for gatekeepers at radio to make it a hit. There are a bunch of these songs right now in Christian radio and there were a few last year:

Recently or now:

Katy Nichole “In Jesus Name (God Of Possible)”
Seph Schlueter “Counting My Blessings”
Forrest Frank “Good Day”
Tauren Wells “Take It All Back”
Josiah Queen “The Prodigal”
Ryan Ellis “Better Days”
Elevation Worship “Praise”
Cody Carnes “Firm Foundation”
Stars Go Dim “Authority (The Name Of Jesus)”
CAIN “I’m So Blessed”
Stephen McWhirter “Come Jesus Come”
Christine D’Clario “Stories On Stories”

In the past…

O Come To The Altar
Do It Again
Way Maker
The Blessing
Reckless Love
Raise A Hallelujah

These are ALL songs that have currently or had HUGE traction with the public (people who love Christian music, stream it, sing it at church, etc.) before they were sent to radio. This makes putting them on the radio so much less of a risk. It’s not subjective any longer. It’s been decided by the people you want listening to this music on your station, right?

If radio is here to play the hits, this next era we’ve entered into is going to be very easy for those who have curiosity and courage to learn new things about the data that’s so easily available to us all right now.  If the mindset is “radio makes the hits” then this will be a very challenging era.

Subjective reasons to play music can be beautiful…ministry initiatives, Spirit led decision making, partnership and relationship with the artist that leads to beautiful impact together, etc. IF the subjective reasons to not play a song are “we don’t hear this as a hit” or “I don’t like it” while Christian music fans all around the world are saying the opposite, that’s where this is going to become really tricky. 

Labels all hone in on a focus track when we release to DSPs. Typically, that’s based on social media activity, live show response, etc…something objective (or should be). From there, the audience decides. That’s always what happens. The days of forcing things on the public are long gone.

“Praise” from Elevation was our latest surprise…last song on the album. It released the day the album released. It wasn’t in the plans to be a single last spring and it exploded with the audience all around the world over the last nearly 12 months (to the tune of 160 million global streams). So we’ve responded and sent it to radio…and the audience is already in love with this song as we expected!

That’s a value for you guys and a gift…when you don’t have to be depended on to break a hit and you can put a song on that’s new to you but already LOVED by your audience…my goodness. Sounds like this is a big win!

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