Stick Out Your Tongue And Say "Aahhh"
January 3, 2014
By John Frost
Goodratings Strategic Service
The beginning of a new calendar is traditionally a time to reflect on the previous year and make some decisions on what you'll change so that you'll have different and, hopefully, better results. Losing weight, stopping smoking, and equipping your skills for a better job are fairly common New Year's Resolutions. I think that the beginning of a new year is also an appropriate time for the annual checkup of your station's music architecture to determine if it's actually doing what you want it to.
The story is told that Vince Lombardi began every training camp with the words, "Gentlemen, this is a football!" Likewise, here are some basics at a very tactical and execution level:
Every music category should consist of songs with a similar value. This value is based upon the song's appeal with your listeners as quantified through music research. Songs that your listeners really love, like the chef's specialties at a restaurant, have greater value to you than do songs that people don't know. Therefore, these songs should be in distinct categories and exposed differently.
Most stations have several current categories. The hots currents are comprised of 5-7 of the most popular songs. The medium currents, then, are comprised of the next tier of songs based upon popularity. The thought is that songs in this category will become more popular if they become more familiar. The medium current category generally holds 7-11 songs. Some stations also elect to have a third tier of current songs played in a lighter rotation, often just at night and on weekends. Because these songs are generally new and unfamiliar, therefore riskier, they are exposed less frequently. This light category holds usually 5-9 songs.
Now let's move the conversation to the strategic level. The only reason that a station plays unfamiliar music, i.e., new music, is that we hope that with the proper amount of exposure the songs have a good chance of becoming popular, and eventually make it to the hot category. No one tunes to a radio station to hear music they've never heard before, therefore don't know, therefore don't yet like. This philosophy applied correctly means that the very reason a station plays a "light" is so that it can become a "medium" so that it can become a "hot".
Exam time! How are you doing? Of all the songs you've added to your radio station in the last year, how many of them ended up in hot rotation? Is your success rate 20%, or 80%? If it's the former, I'd question the value of the category to begin with because songs are not becoming favorites. If it's the latter, you can declare yourself to be program director of the year. (P.S. It's also valuable to make sure that your non-current categories have not accidentally grown larger over the last year resulting in your song rotations being slower than you intended. A good rule--when you move a song into a category you also move another song, the lowest testing one, out keeping the category count and rotations the same).
I recommend that you do this analysis of your music inventory at the beginning of each year. It's sort of like remembering to change your smoke alarm batteries when daylight savings time begins or ends. If you'll do this, you'll get a better sense of the value of your music categories and whether they really are accomplishing what you intended for them.