The 2020 Countdown By The Numbers: Post-countdown wrap-up with Bruce Warren and Dan Reed
After just over a week of nearly-nonstop playback, The 2020 Countdown wrapped up again today with Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” once again being voted at number once. On Twitter’s super active #XPN2020 hashtag, many folks community found this unsurprising, but also acknowledged that the countdown was about the journey, about connecting with one another as a community of music listeners, rather than an actual barometer of quality. And that’s partly what XPN program director Bruce Warren and music director Dan Reed talked about in the post-countdown wrap-up.
“People needed to hear this music,” Warren said. “We needed to bond together and be the great community of XPN listeners and members we are.”
Warren and Reed used the hour after the show to break down the process of the voting. Listeners were asked to vote for up to ten songs they considered the “all time greatest,” and their lists were then weighted, they said — so their number one pick received ten points, their number two pick received nine points, and so forth.
2473 ballots were submitted, which represents less than one percent of XPN’s total listening audience of 300,000 people per week.
Not everybody chose ten songs — the average number submitted was 7.2 songs; some ballots had band names or song names misspelled; one ballot said “Not Thunder Road” ten times, and the ballot was obviously discarded.
Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” came in at No. 42 in 2014 and No. 19 in 2020
Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” came in at No. 57 in 2014 and No. 16 in 2020
Bonnie Raitt and John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” came in at No. 137 in 2014 and No. 15 in 2020
The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” came in at No. 22 in 2014 and No. 9 in 2020
Of the profusion of classic rock in the top 100, and in the most played artist breakdown, Warren says “I think this speaks to the age group of the people who listen. The average age of an XPN is 56 years old, so classic rock dominates.”
Reed and Warren also took calls from fellow hosts and members of the programming staff: Mike Vasilikos, who many called the unsung hero of the countdown for compiling and programming much of what we listened to all week, talked about the challenge of making songs fit into each hour, “especially with some of these 20-minute long prog rock songs.”
Midday host Helen Leicht called in to talk about why there is such a hunger for prog rock in Philly, pointing to the Album Oriented Radio format in the 70s that stoked its popularity. The countdown hearkened back to that, she said: “you’re listening differently, there’s no repetition, you’re digging into this music that meant a lot to a lot of people.” World Cafe contributing host Stephen Kallao called in later in the show to talk about an offhanded reference he made to the “Philly Prog Rock Kabal” that became a big point of the conversation.
Kristen Kurtis of the XPN Morning Show, who kicked off the countdown last Thursday at 8 a.m., reflected on the incredible conversation with the XPN music community that unfolded over the past week. “It was really special and fun, and I cherished every second.” She said. Reed and Warren also asked her to speak to why she thought we didn’t hear more 90s music in the mix, and she said that folks who came of age in the 90s have a lot of extenuating circumstances in their lives — kids doing virtual school from home, or caring for elders, or younger millennials working essential jobs. “A lot of people are reverting to comfort music,” she said, rather than voting in a radio poll.
Summing it up, Reed underscored the fact that it was about bringing people together and having fun. It may have been called “Greatest Songs of All Time,” he said, “but that was just hyperbole to pump it up. There’s no way of saying what’s the best song, the best book, the best TV show. It’s your favorites, it comes down to what you like.”
Listen to the entire #XPN2020 Countdown post-game show below.