It's 6:00 in the afternoon. You leave the radio station on a beautiful sunny day and head for the car. With the sun roof open you're headed down the road. You turn the radio on, and find Zac Brown “Colder Weather" playing. Next, it's Ronnie Dunn with "Bleed Red" followed by "If I Die Young” by The Band Perry.
Most things considered, this is a pretty good mix of great songs. But, the slow tempo of this set has you driving off the road. These songs looked pretty good a few hours ago on your music scheduler, but the reality of actually hearing them played back to back is a different story.
Artist separation, era, genre, texture, turnover, and tempo are the major concerns any music director faces each week.
They are all important, but I’d say #1 simply must be consistent tempo of your station, designed to bring listeners “up” when they turn you on.
In addition to proper setting of your music schedulers rules and policies, consider the following tips:
- Pay attention to tempo when moving songs to and from current categories. Try and keep songs with more tempo longer in categories that turn faster. Balance tempo as you build categories.
- Weed out all "OK, barely made the cut" ballads from your radio station. Add slow songs from new and second tier artists slower than up tempo songs. When deciding on the criteria for sorting an auditorium or an online test into power, medium, and light categories, consider using different criteria for up and down tempo songs.
- Allow songs with greater tempo but slightly lower research scores to make the cut to hotter rotations, and place songs with higher scores and lower tempo in slower rotations.
- The important thing here is to make that decision yourself.
- Do not let your music scheduling software program your radio station based on the rules you have placed on it.
- That is to say: avoid forcing tempo on your radio station by playing second and third tier songs more often than power records simply based on tempo.
- Take control by making these decisions yourself on a song by song basis. This is called manual editing, and no schedule should ever be merged until you’ve taken the extra time to do this.
- Decide what songs are deserving of a particular category based on available resources (research, artist acceptance, song performance, and tempo) and make sure the songs in these categories are turning over correctly. This ensures a proper rotation based on all the criteria, not just tempo.
- Do it right the first time. Give plenty of consideration to every song when coding for tempo. The little bit of extra time now will pay high dividends later. If you code a song as "medium" tempo, consider how it will play next to a song coded as "slow," etc. Is it really “medium?” Or, should it be medium slow? The more “mediums” you have, the lower the average tempo of the station will be.
- Pay attention to texture as well as tempo. A down tempo song with a positive message will not slow your radio station down as much as a slow song with a negative message.
- Don't just focus your attention on too many slow songs back to back. Too many fast songs in a row means you'll have fewer up tempo records in the next sweep or the next hour. Keeping fast songs from playing together will help your scheduler find available tempo "at the top of the stack" when it is needed.
- Most important, make sure the tempo problem you're hearing is not just the music.
- Evaluate all the non-music elements on your station to make sure they have energy and sizzle.
- Reinforce the importance of a bright, positive delivery every time your air staff opens the microphone.
Finally, most listeners are more likely to stay with a slow ballad they truly love than an up tempo song they consider "just OK."
If music tempo is the only consideration for the excitement and energy found on your radio station, perhaps a surplus of ballads is only part of the problem.