What We Do and Why
Eric Norberg started out in Top 40. Sales and requests worked in finding the best songs to play; the trade charts gave useful and generally accurate information.

When Eric moved into Adult Contemporary radio, in Los Angeles and elsewhere on the U.S. west coast, he fast discovered that if you follow the A/C trade charts you play a lot of songs the audience doesn't care much for. And, when tracking requests and sales, no useful pattern developed to help program A/C radio.

We're all so used to charts and expecting them to be accurate that it took Eric quite a while to figure out why they don't work in A/C radio.
It's because they are based on what the stations are playing, and A/C programmers (mostly male) don't have a clue about what new music their core audience (mostly female) really likes. (1)They guess, based on their own tastes, and experience, which is usually in hit or rock radio. (2) They rely on record promotion, assuming that the market research of the record companies tells THEM what their audience must like--not realizing that most labels still think A/C doesn't sell records, so they don't care whether the A/C audience likes the song or not; they just want exposure. (3)They rely on..THE CHARTS!

It's true: The legend has existed for decades that A/C radio doesn't sell recordings. That's because the record industry can promote a record all the way to #1 on the A/C charts--and never sell a copy! Stations will play them, but if the audience doesn't like them, she won't buy them.

When programmers later found many of the charted currents didn't "test" well, after they'd been played a while and their "hooks" would be recognized by the audience, they concluded that the audience doesn't like new music, and the format has become mostly recurrent and oldies. Actually, the A/C core audience grew up with Top 40 and LOVES new music...but it has to be the RIGHT new music! If you don't play what they like, your station is vulnerable to every oldies or other pop station that comes along. You have to accent new music--but it had better be songs they like!

WE DO NOT USE HOOK-BASED TESTING...and that is why we are the only source we know of anywhere in the world for actual, hard info on real audience music preferences for new and current music in the mainstream Adult Contemporary pop music format. Everybody else in music research does it with "hooks", over the phone or in auditoriums, and there are two major drawbacks with this: (1) In order for a piece of a song to work in identifying a song for a listener (a "hook"), the listener has to have heard it enough to recognize the fragment, which means that playing it enough to get that familiarity is risky business for a radio station, and (2) hook-based testing puts the listener in an artificial listening situation (auditoriums, and the reactions of others nearby, make it even worse), and forces "intellectualization" of an "emotional" response; even an effort to be truthful in this situation will result in results which do not match behavior.

It is essential that the behavior match the research, since the "behavior" is buying the recording or listening to the station, and the research result must accurately reflect that behavior.

In the 1980's, Eric found a way to IDENTIFY actual listener emotional/behavioral response to songs in this format. We play every song from the beginning, just as they hear them on the radio, and we test them "blind"--artist, title, label, not identified. That way, the response is not colored by artist preferences or expectations.

We developed our own proprietary music testing method, which we trademarked as "ReFocus"™. That stands for "Reverse Focus Group". We use a small group, and take it totally out of a clinical setting, so that we get honest, BEHAVIORAL responses. We don't empanel people who want to be on focus groups--they are totally atypical, and just want to influence others with their opinions. Instead, we developed a reliable method to PREQUALIFY people who are exactly in the heart of the demo, and to monitor this factor weekly. Since we already know they are exactly typical of the core, mainstream Adult Contemporary radio listener, we don't have to rely on the statistical validity lent by huge numbers. This leads to less expensive, FAR MORE ACCURATE results. In fact, it leads to the only repeatably, verifiably accurate mainstream A/C music testing done anywhere in the world, so far as we know.

And we've been doing it for close to 20 years, week in and week out!

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