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We Get Letters - The Programming Model

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Great column today (as usual). Since a lot of what you said about music -- a/k/a "most of what we air" -- validates my own philosophies and methodologies, I would share my thoughts with you as further validation of what you wrote. Your music choices should be based on local callout (if you have it), the National Research that comes from a variety of sources and trades, and using monitoring services to track stations that are similar to your station.
Working with Guy Zapoleon, I have constructed three Station Portfolios in Mediabase for my ongoing use. One consists of Classic Hits stations in 17 markets, all in the top 40 markets, which Guy knows to still be doing the online version of AMR. The combined spins in the airplay monitors are my primary indicator of what songs should be my Powers. He and I also created a portfolio of 27 stations in the top 60 markets, including four Adult Hits stations that have a high concentration of 80's titles; these stations do not -- to the best of our knowledge, do any listener-based research but are highly rated. I combine those spins with the Power stations to determine my Secondary titles. Finally, we created a master list which adds to those 44 stations another 38 Classic Hits stations in smaller markets (even two in unrated markets) which I use both to determine what songs are valid Fill titles and track airplay on my "Forgotten 45s" library to guide me as to which songs need to come back for that feature sooner than others. (I also have my own portfolio of 27 Alternative stations which have high amounts of 80s play in their gold rotations, which I use to program the "Flashback Weekend" show.) Of course, the rules are different for current-based stations, but this seems to work for Classic Hits. Music should be on-point and should be scheduled so that each quarter-hour is representative of the format.
The way I do it, most of the hour simply alternates Power and Secondary. I have a "crossover New Wave hit" category which replaces a Secondary during the hourly "Eighties Music Marathon", and a droppable Fill right before the two primary stopsets (we do three, which I will get to in a minute). The "Forgotten 45" feature around :35 replaces what would be a Secondary so that it is always followed by a Power. Apply the theory of instant gratification. That is playing people’s favorite songs frequently. No one ever complains that you’re playing their favorite song too much. They complain about the songs that they do not like.
This should probably be three font sizes larger and in boldface, Mike. I have seen too many stations fail because the PD fell into the trap of thinking the Power songs are "burning out", when in fact those are the main reason people are listening. Reference how I create my Power category: If those aren't the absolute most popular songs for Classic Hits listeners, what are? That's why those songs are 50% of the clock, and it will not surprise you that with 125 songs in that category, I only have 10 to 12 that shift between that and Secondary week-to-week based on airplay. (And I like shifting those "on the border" songs because that temporarily increases the play on those songs which would burn out if I kept them in Power all the time.) The trick -- and too many PDs have failed to understand this, too -- is to set the scheduling rules so songs always play in a different daypart from the last play, and when they do come around to a daypart again, to play in a different hour (and, if possible, in a different quarter as well). A huge percentage of listeners, as you and I both know, tend to tune in for short periods, multiple times per day, and at approximately the same times every day as dictated by their personal schedules. Bounce the songs around and they'll think you have a huge library consisting of nothing but songs they want to hear. As long as you are doing all of the above, you are practically guaranteeing that every time someone listens, they will hear a subset of their personal favorites, and are more likely to stay through the ones that aren't "favorites" but which they will tolerate (presuming you're choosing the right songs in all categories). Music Quantity is important. Long music sweeps. Fewer Stop-Sets. The objective is to build time spent listening, but being known for long music sweeps can build your cume numbers, too. If a listener knows that you play the most music day-in-and-day-out, they’ll come back more frequently. We know that TSL (Time Spent Listening) is built by repeat tune-in. We're somewhat in a hybrid model, which works because I have no PPM market stations (at least not yet). We are doing three stops per hour, at approximately :20/:35/:50, with the Marathon running from :50 to :20. (Automation does a real-time update @ :18 and :48 ... the third stop floats and is exactly three songs after the :20 stop. Fill songs are just ahead of the :18/:48 update, obviously.) Sidenote; playing fewer commercials is a successful rating strategy that should build revenue through ratings. The decrease in spot-load would need to be dramatic and noticeable. No one disagrees with the statement that radio plays too many commercials. All three stops are limited in length to under three minutes each, which lets us also use a positioning imager of "the 51 Minute Music Hour". (This works very well in ABQ, where our main competitor runs 11 minutes of commercials per hour, in two stopsets, from 5:00am to midnight.) I'm trying to get the benefits of combining strategies here. Also, that "Forgotten 45" feature plays out of the :35 stop, with a produced intro, and a shotgun jingle after the song tag straight into a Power. On the question of weekend programming: No syndicated features here. The all-New Wave "Flashback Weekend" is our own creation, and now runs for four hours both on Friday and Saturday evenings. Doing that "in-house" lets us say "93-7 KRKE" and "The Eighties Channel" a lot in addition to the program name. And you will be thrilled to know that I still have the legendary Don Elliot as the voice of my produced imaging. Have a great week, my friend! ================================== K.M. Richards
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