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Who Put the Rock into The Roll?

by Jennifer Post Stoudt

Vice president of the fastest growing market research company in America, Jayne Charneski ’95 has found her niche in the highly competitive media environment.

Jayne Charneski '95Talking from a set in Los Angeles to her interviewer in Atlanta, Jayne Charneski ’95 discussed with CNN News the generational differences in music preferences, citing a study that found that nine percent of 16 to 24 years olds were unfamiliar with Paul McCartney. “A finding that seems to blow the minds of adults,” she told viewers.

Vice president of Edison Media Research, the fastest growing market research company in America according to Advertising Age magazine, Charneski is an expert in music research. She regularly conducts projects about music preferences in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East for Edison’s radio and record industry clients.

“Before I worked for Edison I never realized that everything that’s put on the radio is researched,” Charneski says. “I thought DJ’s just put on what they wanted, but that’s not the case. Everything is researched.”

For clients such as Maverick Records and Sony Music, Charneski has worked with recording artists ranging from Alanis Morrisette and The Prodigy to Mandy Moore and Anastacia. Using a unique research method called SingleSelect, Charneski’s work helps record companies make better decisions when deciding which singles to release from a new album, what the artist’s target audience is, and how to market to that target audience. “We walk a fine line between the business end of the music industry and the artist’s end,” she says. “The artists themselves don’t usually get involved in research because they feel their art should be able to sell on its own, but we’re there to sell a product.” Oftentimes, she adds, “research is used as a tie-breaker between the record company and the artist. We come in as a neutral party to say what the public wants.”

Oftentimes, “research is used as a tie-breaker between the record company and the artist. We come in as a neutral party to say what the public wants.”

In 1997, soon after she joined Edison, she found herself traveling along with the Irish rock band U2 on their Pop Tour. “U2’s label came to us with a problem. They wanted to know why their album wasn’t selling,” she says. So Charneski and her team went to U2’s concerts, staked out the entrances and exits, and asked people. “The Pop Tour had an elaborate stage design that was all about our commercial society,” says Charneski. “Many people didn’t get that it was a joke and thought that U2 was selling out. And many others just said they were more interested in the band’s old music, what was familiar to them.” Taking Edison’s recommendations and the public’s word seriously, U2 followed up their Pop CD with a Best of 1980-1990 compilation.

Internationally, Charneski says she has discovered some interesting differences between the musical tastes of various countries and the United States. “In Europe,” she says, “Pop music is socially accepted by men and teens. Everyone listens to it. But here in the United States, even if they do listen to it, most men and teens won’t admit to it.” And in Austria, she says, “They are just blown away by the hard rock music we have here like Korn and Metallica.”

In other parts of the world, like the Middle East, researching music is a brand new concept. During the spring of 2002, Charneski and her team were charged with conducting music research for the U.S. Government’s Middle East radio service, Radio Sawa. Aimed at Arab listeners under the age of 30, Radio Sawa provides music and news programming and serves to balance anti-U.S. government messages aired on the influential Arab television network Al-Jazeera. “They’re really not such a research society as we are,” she says. “Research like this had never been done before over there, so people were really reluctant to share their opinions because they weren’t used to being asked.”

After many taxing one-on-one interviews, Charneski says, “We found that once we described the concept of the station to people, they said they’d listen.” Although, she adds, “when asked if they found out it was sponsored by the U.S. government, their opinions really changed.”

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