How To Build An Ironclad Playlist Guaranteed To Win; Radio's Moneyball!
March 8, 2016
It was late Fall, 2008. I was about to land the gig programming Denver's KS107.5, KQKS. I had just turned down a gig in San Francisco as OM of KMEL and KYLD, which opened the door for KQKS PD Cat Collins to leave Denver and return home to SF for his dream gig, so now I was interviewing for the job he was leaving.
I always love to see people have their dreams come to fruition. Click to read, "Are Your Dreams Coming True?"
Lincoln Financial owned the Denver property at the time and John Dimick, SVP/Programming & Operations and Denver Market SVP/GM Bob Call and I spent the morning hours into the early afternoon; quality time, discussing radio programming, marketing, promotions, philosophy and management style, among other things. No stone was left unturned.
Then Bob asked a pointed question, "What do you think of the music on KS107.5?"
The Berth Of A Station
Before I tell you what I told him, this is where I introduce the mechanism to building the playlist that will win in your market, or any market, any format, any day.
For years, CBS owned Top 40, KZON in Phoenix struggled to compete, but then Gillette took over, with no research, no market history and something amazing happened. He won. Gillette used the playlist.
In 2004, I was hired to build 96-1 The Beat in Charlotte, but before I hired a single jock, I used the playlist. In 60 days, we showed up in the ratings. In 90 days, we were the number one Top 40 in Charlotte, toppling WNKS.
In 2008, an Urban station in South Carolina went from 16th place to number one. Chase Gore used the playlist.
If It Plays In Peoria, It Will Play Anywhere
In 2009, when CBS Top 40 92-3 NOW rapidly jumped from a 3.0 to a 3.8, it did so when it was using the playlist, so much so, that Dom Theodore gave this chart a name, "The Moneyball Chart." Click to read, How Rob Miller Saved NYC.
I am presently using the Moneyball chart in the Christian format, and if you haven't seen the ratings increases of WAY-FM in West Palm Beach, Louisville, Nashville and other markets, I encourage you to check those out.
Presently, I have stations in Miami, Denver, Dallas, Portland, Ft. Myers, Birmingham and 13 other markets utilizing the market specific Moneyball Charts, and the results speak for themselves.
In 14 of those markets, the station using this method is either the market leader or is victorious over a competitor. 3 stations that have only used this method for less than 9 months have enjoyed their greatest increases in five years. 1 station hasn't seen a single gain in the ratings, and the other has just switched formats, but has begun its flip using this formula.
Viagra Was Also Discovered This Way
I found this formula through trial and error, and a big failure, my own as a programmer in New Orleans at WEZB from 1998 - 2000. We had built the most amazing air staff and camaraderie of the entire staff was of the rarest kind.
Musically, even though we dug into local flavors, we couldn't do anything better than tie KHOM, Mix 104.1, a station licensed to Houma LA.
And then I got fired, joined Joel Denver at All Access and for the next five years, did nothing but talk music and radio with some of the greatest programmers ever, but also, some of the lousiest.
I began seeing the clear difference between winning and losing, being innovative and being too safe. You can win doing both, but innovation usually gets you promoted, so I began taking mental notes, but I assembled a weekly playlist back then that I titled, "The Winners List."
Even The Losers Get Lucky Sometimes
It was simply a playlist from the stations we spoke to who I determined were the winners. For four years, I watched this playlist determine hits, and I saw many of these programmers climb from nowhere to rock star status, including Michael Bryan, who was in New Orleans as an MD at that time, and Tommy Chuck, who was in Chattanooga.
It was about this time that I got a call from a distraught programmer who was asking if I knew of any openings. He had just gotten word that because of his station's 18-month decline in ratings and worse, his competitor now beating him, that he had 90 days to turn things around, or it was curtains. He admitted that he'd tried everything, and that it just wasn't working.
It reminded me of me in New Orleans. Click to read, Hollywood Hamilton & Stacey Brady Save New Orleans.
And from there, I began working with him daily, listening to his station on a dial-in listen line and giving advice on all things programming, but mostly music.
Moonlighting For Chump Change
I compared his playlist to "The Winners List" and instinctually I knew just playing these songs wouldn't cut it, so I began comparing also to his competitors list just to see; and that's when I saw the pattern of his market.
He didn't use research. His company couldn't afford it, but his competitor did, so knowing his competitor programmed directly from research, I took the Top ranked songs from their list and applied a made up equation to them, and then compared the outcome to record sales in the market. I took the top songs from that list and made up an equation.
As a wild card, I used Big Champagne file sharing information; made an equation out of the top songs and put all of the results in a spreadsheet.
90 days wasn't enough for him to beat his competition, but the increases bought him time, and by 120 days he surpassed his competitor. A year later, his competitor switched to Country.
The Call From Denver
Because of the Big Champagne and sales influence, the list looked slightly risky with songs that weren't at the format yet, like Evanescence 'My Immortal.' While there weren't many, the few that showed up became the difference makers.
It was four years later when Bob Call asked me, "What do you think of the music on KQKS?"
I had done my Moneyball chart for the Denver market before the interview, and by this time, there were more sources of music information, and I had found a way to include them all into the chart. When I did my comparison of the KS107.5 list and my Moneyball list, they were so close, it was eerie. This meant somebody knew what they were doing.
Here's how I answered the question. "Musically, this is the least broken radio station I've ever interviewed to work at."
The Truth Shall Set You Free
With that Bob Call took a moment to credit the job that MD John E. Kage was doing in the interim, and then we continued our discussions.
I left Denver on a Friday morning, returning to Charlotte. The weekend passed, then the workweek, and about lunchtime on Tuesday, I got the call from Mr. Call, who delivered pleasantries and then said it was the right thing to elevate John E. Kage.
I didn't disagree.
I always love to see people have their dreams come to fruition.
To see sample results of this chart in action in your market; simply ask. Moneyball charts are made available weekly for cash, and also by barter through Benztown. email@example.com