What I Learned at a Tom Jones Concert

A few weekends ago, Sue & I traveled to Wolf Trap to attend a Tom Jones concert. Tom is 82 years old and his concert was SOLD OUT. Ticket prices for some of the best seats went for over a thousand dollars apiece. So, what was the make-up of the audience that evening? People like us, senior citizens.

America’s Age Tipping Point

Today’s 65-plus demographic in America has increased to 17% of the population, or about 56 million people. Back in 1960, this age group only made up about 9% of Americans.

While the over 65 age group is comprised of 55% women, when you get to those 85 years and older, the percentage of women increases to nearly 66%.

In just 8 more years, 2030, every Baby Boomer will be over the age of 65, and in just four years after that, people over the age of 65 will outnumber children for the first time in the history of the United States.

Music of YOUR Life

Back in the early 1980s, I worked with Al Ham to put his Music of YOUR Life format on a radio station in Western Massachusetts. The format was targeting senior citizens and we played the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, The Mills Brothers, Rosemary Clooney, and Frank Sinatra. The format was perfect for an AM radio station, as the audience we were targeting grew up with AM radio and these artists.

I remember joking that one day, The Rolling Stones would be played on a Music of YOUR Life radio station.

Well, it’s happened. Radio stations like WMEX-LP 105.9FM are thriving by playing the artists of the Baby Boomers, and The Rolling Stones fit right in; Mick Jagger is 79, Keith Richards is 78 and Ronnie Wood is 75. Their average age is 77.

117th Congress

The current Congress of the United States is the oldest, on average, of any Congress in two decades, with half of the members being over 65 years old.

Turning 70

Next month, I will be turning 70. The 50th high school reunion that was to have taken place in 2020, was delayed two years and when Sue and I get together with our fellow classmates, it will be for the Class of 70 Turns 70 reunion.

How Has 70 Years Changed Me?

First, let me tell you that the 18 year old me and the 70 year old me are really not all that different. The younger me has merely become part of the many layers of the person I’ve grown into today, with one caveat: the music that I loved in my youth, is the music I love most today.

This is why it puzzles me that it’s so hard to find my music on today’s AM/FM radio.

We have more radio signals broadcasting into the ether in America, than at any time in our history. Yet, the variety of programming is so very narrow.

It’s Not Unusual

Which brings me back to Tom Jones. When the audience knows the words to all of his hit songs and sings along with him, why is it so hard to hear any of his songs on today’s commercial radio stations? The fact that Tom Jones continues to perform to SOLD OUT audiences should be a wake-up call to radio broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies.

America’s citizens aren’t getting any younger. By 2060, the United States Census Bureau says 1 out of every 4 Americans will be 65 or older.

  • The Motely Fool*, on February 28, 2022, says that as of 2019, the median net worth of Americans under 35 years old was $14,000, while the median net worth of Americans aged 65 to 74 was $266,070. In other words, Americans at retirement age had a median wealth 19 times that of those in the under 35 age group.

Venues like Wolf Trap understand this and know that if they want to stay in business, they need to cater to people who have the money to spend on live entertainment.

Why should radio broadcasters think it’s any different for them?

*The Motley Fool is a private financial and investing advice company based in Alexandria, Virginia.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

17 responses to “What I Learned at a Tom Jones Concert

  1. ds52

    Will miss the reunion as we travel west … dance and chat the night away (and we are going to see Gordon Lightfoot, age 84, when we arrive in Tucson 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rick Starr

    Unfortunately the time buyers at the agencies are still 20-28 years old, and the marketing directors of companies are still buying 25-54 demos mostly. So to have a “new” MOYL you have to make it on local advertising which is increasingly difficult in these over-media-ed days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was the same thing I was told back in the 80s with the original MOYL format. BUT – we built both a big audience and solid advertising base to financially support it. We also sponsored LIVE performances by the the bands we played. That was referred to as “alternative revenue.”

      At our peak, we were giving our 24-hour CHR FM station a run for it’s money with our AM daytimer.


  3. The company I work for has learned that, especially if you can combo sell an oldies station with a “classic hits” station, even IF the oldies are on an AM station, you can make enough money on them to justify keeping it running that way. I have been in countless Facebook battles with ad agency types over just this point…and every time…tell them to check out the “Ad Contrarian”. I harken back to a time back in the 1980’s when I briefly considered trying to get a job as a radio copywriter for a local advertising agency. Thought I was a shoe-in because I had written successful radio ad copy for about a dozen years. Nope. The agency wouldn’t even interview me. Why? The official answer, “you haven’t ever worked in a retail store”. THAT, alone explains “agency think”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jim Rich

    Well said. This is something I’ve been preaching for years. Conglomerate radio doesn’t want to SELL RADIO…they are merely ORDER TAKERS. That’s why they only program for the low hanging fruit. Perhaps one day they will learn to follow the money. The live oldies show I did on WLTA back in the 80s was one of the most successful time periods for the station. In other markets I put Drake Chenault’s Classic Gold on the air and we rocketed to the top of the ratings in less than six weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Andy Lindemuth

    My wife are 60 and we just saw Ringo Starr who is 83 years old. Everyone in his All Star Band are in their 70s. The audience was primarily people of that age group as well. $200 a ticket for 2nd level seats. Next week we see Billy Ocean and tix are $150 each. Seems like a bargain. You never hear Billy Ocean on the radio and almost never Ringo. You’re right! Something is being missed on the platform.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Robin Miller

    Although my wife & I performed rock and American Songbook jazz for more than 50yr semi-professionally (for pay but not full-time), the music we listen to most on radio is classical (streaming on KUSC, WRTI, WFMT, WWFM, WVIA, etc.). Many public and college stations play classical and jazz, and I suspect this too is on the rise with an aging population. Acoustic music, for which we have a remembered sound reference from live concerts, also is more demanding of reproduction equipment for verisimilitude. So high bit rate streaming 128+b/s is required for listening at concert level, along with low distortion speakers and and subwoofers for the lowest fundamentals of double bass viols, contra bassoon, grand piano, and concert bass drum (up to 25 acoustic watts peak live). Also acoustic music is best heard with the finest recording techniques including very little level compression to preserve natural dynamics, as opposed to the “Volume Wars” of pop music radio and carried over to CDs. More recorded history (acoustic classical & jazz) is not available on digital, but on “vinyl,” which typically cannot be over-compressed, thus sounds more natural, and is the source for much acoustic music on CDs and ingested for automation on radio.

    Get Outlook for iOShttps://aka.ms/o0ukef ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For years I have said, “We are not our parents’ generation”, but nobody wants to admit that! Our parents were old in their 50s, as Baby Boomers we will always be 18 years old in our minds, even if our bodies betray us from time to time! No more do you hear, “I’m a Buick man” like from our folks’ generation. We are not stuck in our ways and I think are more responsive to advertising than Madison Avenue will acknowledge! We are retired and have time for things like cruises and big vacations. Many have disposable income or a house that is a bank, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it cost. We are a very viable generation in the market, but nobody gives a damn because we are a demographic that carries a cheap, stuck in our ways stigma that was hung on our age group in the 60s, when most of US were that generation buying pimple cream that everybody wanted to pander to! Wake up folks! We’ve got Money, we’ve got time, and we grew up being influenced by new products and advertising! We may belong to AARP, but most of us aren’t buying the cell phones with huge buttons, or walk in tubs they always seem to advertise! We are, however taking the $10,000 European River Cruises, leasing new cars every 3 years, and buying new gadgets almost daily. It’s time for people to understand that there’s money to be made on us old folks and to also understand that shutting us out of your consideration is NOT a smart business move!


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Walter Luffman

    I’m a Baby Boomer. While age and death are thinning our ranks, there are still a lot of us and many of us are still very active; as retirees. we have free time and, in many cases, at least some disposable income.

    But we are not the only generation that enjoys “Baby Boomer” music. I have three tickets for a Chicago concert next month; the youngest of us is in her mid-50s (younger than the band itself), the other two are in our 70s. In recent years I have attended a number of oldies shows featuring acts from the mid-’50s to the early ’80s. The Top 40 and Classic Rock generations produced the music of OUR lives; I almost-never tune into “modern music” stations.

    The audience for oldies is there, and it’s an audience with plenty of money to spend. We might actually be larger, in terms of spending cash, than the companies that cater primarily to our population segment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You for sharing your story Walter.

      One of the big realizations I’ve had, is that I’m no longer saving money for retirement. I’m now retired and it’s time to spend money, for our enjoyment and the enjoyment of our family and friends.

      I really don’t think the people who buy and place advertising have ever figured this out.

      I’ve written about my early years in selling radio time and calling on a businessman who told me he loved seniors. Why? Because they will buy what’s new today and if something comes out better tomorrow, they will buy that too.

      That’s not the case with young people, who take the position of, why buy it now when something better will be coming along next year.

      Today’s Baby Boomers are the people with the most discretionary income — and they’re not afraid to spend it, if you make them want it badly enough.


  9. I hear classic rock in both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and it matches our “sound”. This is in a small progressive mountain in North Carolina. Our own playlist is heavy on classic rock, folk, jazz & blues from the 50-80s. http://www.wpvmfm.org

    Liked by 1 person

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