The Return of “Relax”

by Edison Research President Larry Rosin

With the resurgence of Soft AC radio stations has come the revival of a word that had been all but banished from broadcast radio: “Relaxing.

Coming in with all the “Breeze” stations and their cousins are slogans like “Relaxing Favorites at Work,” and “Lite Relaxing Favorites.”  Stations are once again touting the “user benefit” of relaxation. 

What’s interesting about these stations grabbing hold of ‘the R word’ is that it was once heavily used by many stations, in particular those that were once the Soft ACs in their markets.  These powerhouses, now almost all positioned as “Mainstream AC” (think KOIT, WLTW, WBEB, and many others) made the move away from “relaxing” and it was almost assuredly the right thing for them to do.

Research performed that guided these stations away from “relaxing” showed convincingly that their listeners preferred both the music and the message geared around some form of “picks you up and makes you feel good.”  Music that makes the workday fly by faster.  While few people flatly rejected the word “Relaxing,” the research for these stations consistently showed they would be in a stronger place highlighting a more upbeat ‘mood service.’

It’s worth noting that ten years ago many markets also had “Smooth Jazz” stations providing relaxing music in competition with those Soft ACs.  Those are almost all long gone, meaning the “softest place on the dial” position was wide open.

The rather rapid success of some of the stations that have launched into the “relaxing”, sort of old-school Soft AC position has caught many industry observers by surprise.  Part of the success is surely related to just how far some of the “Mainstream AC” stations had traveled from any kind of relaxation mood service.  There were some people still listening to legacy brands who had been taken to a place a bit too contemporary and upbeat, and they are happy to have a place that delivers a slower pace and intensity.  Without doubt the formatics of the new Soft ACs are PPM-friendly and most launched with particularly light spot loads. 

To the above explanations I will add a further observation – maybe this is a format just made for these times.  The research work we do relating to news and opinion these days expose us to an enormous number of people who are simply exhausted by the news cycles, what they see and hear from Washington, and tense situations around the world.  People across the political spectrum are stressed out.  In blows a station called “The Breeze,” or “The Sound,” providing familiar favorites that soothe instead of stress.  Who isn’t looking for THAT kind of mood-service these days?

About Edison Research:
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to a broad array of clients, including Activision, AMC Theatres, Disney, Dolby Laboratories, Google, Oracle, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Pandora, Samsung, Siemens, Sony, The Gates Foundation, and Univision. Edison is the leading podcast research company in the world and has conducted research on the medium for NPR, Slate, ESPN, PodcastOne, WNYC Studios, and many more companies in the space.  Another specialty for Edison is its work for media companies throughout the world, conducting research in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Edison is also the leading provider of consumer exit polling and has conducted face-to-face research in almost every imaginable venue. Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool, conducting exit polls and collecting precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major presidential primary and general election.

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