Tom Petty on the Radio
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Listening to a local radio station’s Tom Petty tribute this week brought back a flood of emotion and memories. Just as programming planned.

The past two years feels incredibly unfair to music fans. We’ve lost more beloved artists than we can count. But what those of us at TagStation could count (and we did) is how radio reacted to the all-too-soon loss of a gifted songwriter and performer.

Radio gifted fans with a huge burst of airtime – nearly 3 times more than normal – for favorites like “American Girl,” “Learning to Fly,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Refugee.”

Tom Petty tributes began on Monday, crescendoed on Tuesday

On Tuesday, October 3, 777 radio stations nationwide played 7,527 tracks from Petty’s rock ‘n’ roll songbook. That’s 296% more than the daily average for all of 2017. The sheer number of radio stations spinning hit records by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and his collaborations with other artists including supergroup The Traveling Wilburys was up 49% over average.

A day earlier, programming at many stations opted to begin airing tributes. This happened as the internet lit up with news that Petty had been admitted UCLA Medical Center only hours before.

Radio stations played 6,476 (+241%) more Petty records on Monday, October 2. The number of stations actively playing the artist’s work was up 40% over the average.

Week over week, plays of Petty’s music soar

Let’s take a step back from an average day. When we compare with the prior week (September 26), we see Tuesday’s play counts up 239%. And we see stations playing Petty songs up 34%. Raw numbers for September 26 came to 2,222 plays by 581 stations.

Play counts for Monday are up 200% compared with 2,157 plays on September 25. Stations playing Petty songs are up 22% week-over-week. Just 594 stations played his music.

Going beyond “what’s playing” to “how are listeners reacting”

We’re amazed at how quickly radio stations can assemble and broadcast amazing artist tributes. It’s just one of many shared experiences that our industry is perfectly suited to deliver.

What’s new is that we have Dial Report measurement data to actually count what’s happening on-air in near real-time. And those stations connected to TagStation can get a crystal-clear look at how listeners respond. That means when they tune in, when they tune out – and when they’re hanging on through every last song.

Programming can use Dial Report’s Listener Intelligence data to understand how tributes like the one to Tom Petty might be tweaked even further to keep listeners engaged. Or if they even need to be. Maybe it’s alright.

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