GCap One Network head of music Mark Findlay has launched a scathing attack on "incredibly lazy" music programmers who rely too heavily on testing songs, saying they should "get out of radio".
Speaking at a Radio Academy music radio discussion in London last night, Findlay said some programmers in the industry were "not doing their job properly" by using music research as the basis for all their decisions. GCap Media widely uses testing to gauge how popular songs are and to determine when they are beginning to burn out.
"Any radio music programmer who is using research to tell them what records to air [in the first place] is not doing their job probably. That's an incredibly lazy approach," Findlay said.
"If they are using it to tell them what records to air they should get out of radio."
XFM network head of music Mike Walsh said music testing — although a valuable tool — should never replace gut instinct. "We have a conversation with the audience every week," he said. "Research is something that we do because we need to find out what the most valuable people in our business are thinking – the listener."
Walsh added that good research "improves gut instinct" — a benefit described by John Myer, music manager at BBC 6Music, as "the Yakult of the record business".
But the arguments in favour of testing from the radio industry were met with criticism from the music industry, which was represented on the panel by Parlophone head of radio Kevin McCabe, Epic Records managing director Nick Raphael and Leighton Woods, director of Hungry and Woods PR.
Parlophone's Kevin McCabe said of music testing: "It's the bane of my life. I can see why people use it – but it frustrates me."
Leighton Woods added: "It's the word we least like to hear when we are plugging records. Once someone tells you: 'It's not testing well', there's not a lot else you can say. Some people hide behind testing if they don't personally like something."
Epic Records managing director Nick Raphael said research was a tool, but "if it's over-used it can have a negative effect".
But he added: "We've got to respect the fact that we've got to keep listeners."
Hit or miss?
Nick Raphael (Epic): "I had a stand-up argument with a guy [at a research company]. He said to me: You will never get this on Radio 1 and you will never get this on Radio 2 because it's too slow, too depressing. I said I would bet him £100 that we'd do it, and the guy backed down."
Outkast: Hey Ya
Leighton Woods (Hungry and Woods PR): It was pretty much laughed out the building. If we went to radio now with Hey Ya, people who say the same thing: What the hell was that? It was probably the most negative reaction you could possibly imagine. We went back and said we really believe this is going to happen. It just clicked and ended up being the most played record in radio that year.
Michael Andrews and Gary Jules: Mad World
Nick Stewart (Captain America): That seemed to be entirely driven by radio – and nothing else. People heard it and liked it, it got played more and researched well.
Jay Z: Hard Knock Life
Nick Raphael (Epic): I signed Jay Z for £80,000. He was the king of the specialist for two whole albums. Then he played me Hard Knock Life. My exact words to him were: This will end your career, you idiot. It was a number two record in every single country, and number one in America.