Music discovery still drives a lot of radio usage, so smart programmers aggressively play defense anytime another station or medium grabs a hot, new buzz track. Of course, you want your listeners to feel that they hear everything they might possibly love from your station, so they never need to worry that they might be missing anything during the time they spend with you.
Playing everything, obviously, isn't the way to do that. Judgment is part of a smart programmer's daily toolkit and choices must be made.
As record labels lose the highly-profitable CD album as their revenue source, they are trying alternative marketing techniques, many flying below the radar so as to avoid fan confusion on which of multiple current releases is "the hit."
Joe Nichols' label has been asking radio to play one song, an upbeat novelty, while Joe has been on TV talk shows, the video channels, online and in his concerts performing a very moving personal narrative which his fans have been calling radio, requesting.
Kenny Chesney cut a hot, fun tune for ESPN last fall that was released as a single to iTunes and other music download sites in December, just as his label is imploring radio to wait until Monday, February 8, for the release to radio of "Ain't Back Yet", which is from his 3D movie retrospective of last summer's arena tour. What listener wouldn't expect to hear both of them on their favorite country station?
Not to be outdone, with her benefit telethon performance last night, Taylor Swift added a critically-acclaimed possible third new song for radio to be playing today "Breathless," originally recorded by Better Than Ezra (and of course every song on the Haiti fund raiser is also available on iTunes too).
Add that to her new album's title cut, which is being promoted to radio and also her song from a new movie which she's doing on TV trailers and appearances, and just debuted at #1 on iTunes only last week.
When does "music discovery defense" end and total confusion begin?
With radio playing 20 to 30 currents these days (except for the first hour of the four hour countdown shows), certainly we can't expose half of them by just three or four superstars (or can we? You'd probably lose your reporting status if you did try that, a fate - some seem to feel - that is the same thing as becoming completely invisible).
Programming has always been about figuring out what listeners care most about right now and prioritizing/reflecting those values in the most entertaining ways. There's too much going on every day to expose and talk about, let alone play, everything.
Great radio makes life simpler for listeners by filtering what they want and need to know about.
Winning radio makes the right choices.
Seemingly, never more so than right now.