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Randy Lane

How Much Music Should You Play?


This question comes up a lot.

PPM conventional wisdom is that radio stations have to play more music in all dayparts, including 6 a.m.-10 a.m., to win. This view is valid in many marketing situations, yet not all. The strategy of playing more music in the morning does work for new formats, stations that are re-establishing their music position, stations with a new competitor, and stations with morning shows that are not outperforming their station's average share in Arbitron (6 a.m.-12 m).

If you have a question about music quantity, and your station is not in one of the example situations above, do this right now. Look up your station ratings information, in your target demo, for total week and 6a-10a, and see if your ratings are below, matching, or above the total station average. For example, if 6a-10a is a 5.0, and 6a-12mid is a 4.0, you are outperforming the station by 20 percent. If 6a-10a is a 3.0 and the 6a-12mid is a 4.0, you're under-performing by 25 percent. (Junior-high word problems come in handy sometimes.)

When a show's ratings are outperforming the station, the show is bringing in listeners who are not P1s to the format. At this point, the music becomes a hindrance to a certain extent, as, for example, Country fans might love the CHR show but not the Rihanna every 75 minutes. Or Pop fans might like a Rock morning show for the funny, edgy content but not be big fans of Rush.

Music-To-Content Formula

The amount of music played in the morning is directly proportionate to the quality of the content and how the show performs against the station's average ratings. Assuming that your commercial count in the morning is typical (12-14 units per hour) and the average song length is approximately four minutes, consider the following as a guide for the number of songs to play, based on ratings in your target demo:

* New format launches: 12 songs per hour
* Re-establishing a music position: 8-10 songs (depending on the show's success and tenure)
* Under-performing the station average more than 10 percent: 8-10 songs per hour
* Near-even to slightly above the station average: 7-8 songs per hour
* 10-15 percent above the station average: 6-7 songs per hour
* 15-20 percent above the station average: 4-5 songs per hour
* 20-30 percent above the station average : 0-4 songs per hour

The song count numbers above will vary somewhat by format expectations. Gradual changes are less noticeable to listeners. Drop one song at a time to make sure the ratings and quality of the content stay stable or improve.
Note about song titles: Play only the most familiar and multiple-format appeal songs in the morning, particularly if your show is out-performing the station average. High-performance shows are attracting listeners with other music preferences just to hear your show. An unfamiliar song causes tune-out. This strategy would not apply to new formats and stations re-establishing their music position.

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