As the chief programming officer at iHeartRadio, Tom Poleman oversees the music programming for over 850 radio stations nationwide and for the company’s music streaming service.
His corresponding wealth of industry knowledge and access to up-to-the-minute data on popular music trends make Poleman an ideal candidate to wager a prediction on the trajectory of this summer’s pop charts.
Poleman spoke to Business Insider last week and walked us through his process of predicting “the song of the summer.”
Poleman said he works with his team to analyse the movements of streaming and radio charts. To get ahead of the game, he also speaks with artists and label managers about the new music they’re set to release.
And through iHeartRadio’s various listening platforms, Poleman said he can gather intensive data on fan reactions to fledgling hits, both on broadcast radio stations and in curated playlists on the company’s streaming service.
“There’s a symbiotic relationship between when we play a song and what all those data indicators say, so we can check that cause and effect pretty quickly and find out if something’s going to connect,” he said.
Radio is still the main source of “mass awareness”
Poleman explained how, even in the age of streaming, broadcast radio remains the most dominant influence on the pop charts and the strongest predictor of a song’s commercial success. He said that broadcast radio still accounts for around 86% of all music consumption, while digital listening and streaming account for just 14%.
“If you look at music consumers overall, streaming is actually a relatively small portion of that universe,” he said. “Streaming is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle, especially for record labels and artists, because it’s a massive income source, but in radio, we have to think beyond just that small subset of consumers to the wider audience.”
In ranking his “songs of the summer,” then, Poleman said that he picked artists whom he had seen or could see generating “mass awareness” across multiple markets of broadcast radio.
“The ones that can cross multiple genres are the ones that can obviously get mass awareness,” he said. “An artist like Cardi B can cross multiple formats, as can Ariana Grande. And Post Malone – I mean, the guy’s got hits at multiple genres right now.”
Here are the top 11 candidates for the song of the summer, according to iHeartRadio’s Tom Poleman:
11. Drake — “Nice For What/TBD” (Album drops in June)
10. Shawn Mendes — “Nervous”
9. Anne-Marie — “2002”
8. Sam Hunt — “Downtown’s Dead”
7. Bazzi — “Mine”
6. Calvin Harris — “One Kiss” (feat. Dua Lipa)
5. Camila Cabello — “Never Be the Same”
4. Post Malone — “Better Now”
3. Ariana Grande — “No Tears Left to Cry”
2. Childish Gambino — “This Is America”
1. Cardi B — “I Like It” (feat. Bad Bunny & J. Balvin)
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