BILLBOARD #1 COUNTRY AIRPLAY SONGS

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....again, every year I critically eye what goes on at #1 on the Billboard Charts, to see what the consumer expects at #1..every year is different, but kinda the same...check out what I mean.
There are some very interesting things that will strike you when you take a look at the the comparison between the Country Airplay #1s and the Hot Country #1s.
Firstly, is the sheer number of Airplay #1s compared to the Hot Country #1s....38 Airplay #1s compared to 11 Hot Country #1s.....over three times as many....
.....and, there were several songs that did not go to number one on the Billboard Airplay Charts.  Girl Crush, Tennessee Whiskey and  Craig Wayne Boyd, "My Baby's Got a Smile on her Face" did not achieve number one Airplay, but did on the Billboard Hot Country charts.

INTROS
As you would expect, all of the #1 Airplay records had intros...although there were a lot of 12,13,and 14 second intros the average was 18 seconds. Again this means that they were probably aimed at radio.

FIRST USE OF "YOU"
There were only three songs that didn't use the pronoun "you", the other 35 #1s all did. The average number of seconds to first use of "you" was 33 seconds. If you remove the average 18 second intro it becomes on average 15 seconds from when the vocal kicks in.
Again the pronoun "You" is a trigger word...it invites the listener in.

STRUCTURE
If you look at the structure of the airplay #1s you see that it shifts back to the listener radio expectation. A total of 20 of the 38 #1s are 3rd form(verse,chorus,verse chorus middle 8/bridge, chorus and out)...ie:"don't bore us get us to the chorus". 6 #1 s are in the 2nd form(verse, chorus, verse, chorus, instrumental, chorus out)
About a third, 12, are in the 4th form which is a Pop structure...different expectations implied here.

2 MINUTE WALL
As you would expect every single Number 1 on the Airplay Chart has either a Middle Eight/Bridge in or around the 2 minute mark...there a couple that do it slightly before 2 minutes or leave it almost the the 2.45 mark...but again, the listener gets "antsy" around the "two minute wall" and needs something to re-engage them with the song.

TIME TO FIRST USE OF TITLE
Bearing in mind that the audience expectation is that the singer will reach the title of the song in about a minute. By totaling the times of all the 38 #1 songs from the start of the song to the title or hook, it's an average 61 seconds to first use of title at #1 on the Airplay  charts...but you have to remember that the average intro is 18 seconds, so then each #1 achieves first use of title in 60 seconds.

BEATS PER MINUTE
Only 6 #1s of the 38 were over 100 BPM (Crash and Burn at 128 BPM) The remaining 32 #1s reflected the need of radio for beats that were required by a sedentary audience. Apparently radio is the format of choice for Country.

FADE/DEAD END
There are 30 dead ends among the 38 #1 records on the Airplay Charts. Again, this works so well for "singles" because the listener feels cheated when the song dead ends....and this makes them want to hear it again.

GENDER
There was only one solo female to go to #1 on the Airplay Chart, Kelsea Ballerini, although Grace Potter sang with Kenny Chesney on "Wild Child" and Ashley Munroe duetted with Blake Shelton on "Lonely Tonight".
However, 37 #1s were sung by males. Groups and bands fared well..Old Dominion, Zac Brown Band and A Thousand Horses, all male, had number one records...

Also, if you look at gender as you look at writers, Hillary Lindsay, Kelsea Ballerini,Melissa Pierce and Heather Morgan had #1s as writers.
But of males, Ashley Gorely had 7 #1s, Josh Osbourne and Shane  McNally  had 4 #1s, Chris DeStefano had 3 #1s and Sam Hunt,Luke Bryan both had 2 #1s.....Of the 106 writers who shared a #1, only 4 were female.

So, if you want a hit that will go to #1 on the Country Airplay Chart
Have on average an 18 second intro
Make sure that the artist is speaking directly to a "you" within 15 seconds on average after the vocal kicks in
Write the song in third or second structure...but don't be afraid of 4th form.
Get me to the first use of title in 60 seconds or less
Hit the middle eight/bridge or instrumental between 2 minutes and change
Keep it  under 100 BPMs...86 would work really well!
Dead end the song
And aim at a male artist....or not!
Seeya on the charts!

Again, I would like to thank Anna White, Holly Chester, Suzanne Lee and the ASCAP interns Katherine Ross, Andrew Anto and Sara Barron, who helped to compile the mountain of data needed for me to distill this down to a few pages...I certainly couldn't do it without you all!

Ralph Murphy