Monday, March 17, 2014

OES ("optimum effective schedule") or OTS ("over-the-top spins)

Optimum Efficient Scheduling was never intended to be a guide to music scheduling, but just as with commercial "ROS" schedules of 12 and 18 times a week back when power rotations contained 9 or even 11 hits and a heavy rotation of 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 hours that math provided assurance to conservative programmers who improved their competition situation by upping the frequency on the most popular songs so that they play more often than they do on the folks across the dial.

With PPM's new math of doubled cume and "time spent exposed" (TSL/TSE) cut in half compared to diary measures, we all applied that old formula and upped the spins at some stations as high as once an hour and more widely two hours.

It seems to work and thanks to MScore tracking, it's no longer necessary to use an abstract formula. 

Now, you can literally watch and see if a higher spin count helps or hurts your usage.  In the chart to the left, one station's panel loves a song while another station in the same market's panel seems to hate it in the same period of time.

As repetition complaints from the small percentage of core listeners who say they have become dissatisfied with their favorite country station have become louder (though still only 15% of all listeners in A&O&B's 2014 survey), I think it's time to admit that there may be a perceptual toll to these tactics.

Yes, it seems that listeners have always said that they prefer variety and want less repetition and those beliefs can be tempered with online, callout and auditorium research, demonstrating that the right songs can be played heavily with "burn" and "dislike" tracked along the way.  Some folks now include "play less, play about the same, play more" in their online testing and listeners continue to say "play more" to the most popular tunes even as they get 75 spins in a week.

So, is it intelligent to simply ignore the repetition complaints and keep adding spins to the strongest titles as OES formulas seem to indicate?  As TSL and TSE drop and cume continues to trend upward, there is a siren song calling for just that.

Unless we're certain that we can keep increasing our cume hyper-spinning a small number of very popular songs - and I don't think we can - it seems to me that it's time to step back and look at the entire MScore, online testing, callout and auditorium data universe and recognize for the country format at least our listeners are extremely accepting of hundred and hundreds of songs which have little negative or burn.  Even with teens and 18-34, country isn't CHR.  We aren't limited to a very small library of common thread songs.

For example, the vast majority - hundreds - of gold, current and recurrent songs monitored by MScore at the average station track from between +4% to -4% which means they are all statistically virtually tied in terms of usage.  Only a very small number - often fewer than ten - float to the bottom having negative usage double the averages.

We are fortunate that our values and lifestyle appeal are pan-demographic, spanning at least five decades.

Let's look beyond one simple formula, use all of the tools to test music in our toolkit and think beyond just heavy play of one or two music categories.

It's time to start working as well on how long our heavy user/regulars listen in each occasion by offering more music new music discovery and impeccable song scheduling variety.

1 comment:

Duane Doobie RadioInfo Music Editor/Director said...

Almost all new and exciting things come from the street up – not from the big companies down. The greatest music and musical movements played on radio throughout its history came from the streets, garages, dance clubs, showcase venues and hybrid combinations of sounds spawned by offbeat and unknown artists that were brought to the public’s attention via daring crossover airplay.

Most of the music being played on today’s commercial radio is extremely corporate – created and programmed by the top down. Way, way, way too much so!

In all the years I have been involved in this scene (music radio) – on so many levels and through so many chapters of modern pop history – I cannot recall it being so plastic, stagnant, and, if you’ll pardon my bluntness, stupid…no, actually more like brain-dead.

The reason I am alarmed by this unfortunate development (and screaming about it in these columns) is not primarily because I still love music and care about its integrity as well as the future of human culture…which I do.

The main reason I am shouting this at the top of my lungs is because I think it is a suicidal course for music radio to be following.

In other words, the “business” side of the music radio “business” is not running its “business” very well.