Uber media consultant and scholar Mark Ramsey [link] was a featured speaker at the recent Christian Music Broadcasters (CMB) Momentum conference [link]. CMB commissioned Ramsey to study and quantify programming best practices – the “secrets of success” – of the highest rated Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) stations in the nation.
Think of the Christian Music Broadcaserts as the noncom cousin of the Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD). Momentum is similar to the Public Radio Content Conference (PRCC). This year’s conference was held at the tony Disney Yacht & Beach Club in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
One of the many things I admire about Ramsey is that he takes Christian Radio Broadcasters seriously, as you do I. Five of the top 20 noncom stations, as measured by the estimated number of weekly listeners, air the CCM format:
THE SECRET SAUCE
Ramsey interviewed the leading managers and programmers to identify the traits and strategies of the most successful CCM stations. Full results of Ramsey research are proprietary and available only to CMB members. CMB allowed Ramsey to publish one summary slide from the presentation:
These are best practices for music driven stations: playing the hits, discovering new artists and getting fans of the music to buy tickets to events. Of course nothing in this system works without content that connects – bankable artists with new releases available for sale to believers.
At this year’s Momentum conference the major market Station on the Year was KSBJ, Houston, the third most listened to noncom station in the nation.
MEET KSBJ RADIO & CONCERTS
An old friend from the music and concert promotion business told me that dealings between CCM stations and the Christian music industry would make Alan Freed blush. I don’t mean to imply that anything about KBSJ or CCM broadcasters but the opportunities to create revenue from this relationship might be called convenient.
According to KSBJ’s most recent tax filing for 2013, KSBJ had revenue of $8,768,000. [Tax filings for 2013 is the source of all data, rounded to the nearest $1,000.] Almost all of the station's revenue is attributed to gifts and contributions which were not itemized.
KSBJ reported expenses of $8,007,000 for an annual operating margin of $761,100. KSBJ’s assets were $25,801,000, substantial for a nonprofit entity. In 2013 KSBJ spent over $500,000 on political lobbying.
But wait, there is more money: KSBJ also operates a separate 501c3 for its concert business: KSBJ Special Events. This organization reported $1,787,000 in revenue and $1,669,000 in expenses for an annual operating margin of $88,000. KSBJ Special Events reported revenue of $8,376,000 since tax year 2009.
Wait again, there is even more money. The exclusive ticket vendor for KSBJ Special Events is Ticket Servant, also operated by KSBJ. In 2013 Ticket Servant revenue was $329,800.
The total revenue for KSBJ Radio & Concerts in 2013 was almost $11,000,000.
The big intangible in all of this is the appeal of hit songs by artists that listeners know and love. All you need is airplay to make the wheel go 'round.