Friday, March 21, 2014

R Is For Repetition .. And, For Recurrents

The pioneers of Top 40 and country radio back in the 1950's and 1960's felt that after very heavy airplay as currents, recurrents deserved a rest.  For example, Bill Drake dropped all power currents after they completed their run on his radio stations for as long as a year before carefully reintroducing them.

By the early 1970's as research pioneers like Bob Pittman, Todd Wallace, Steve Casey and the country format's Larry Daniels and Ed Salamon, among others, started testing them and learned that this potential category of music was the most familiar and popular, though also often highly burned.

Most of them played two per hour in tiered categories.  Now, many stations play a third (or more!) of their hourly mix from the stay current and recurrent rotations.

If our goal is to keep the song by song hit potential high and competitive while also addressing things that could be driving core country fan's complaints of repetition, I submit that it's crucial to research every song you plan to play more than two times a day so that you know that each tune being exposed 7-8 times a day is more powerful and familiar with lower polarity and negatives than any song being played 3-5 times and those are measurably stronger than the ones you play once or twice a day.

Ideally, that would mean that you should be testing some 70 titles every single week for burn, demo appeal and impact.  But, of course, that would be prohibitively expensive.  So, most of us test the currents and cycle perhaps 25-30% of the recurrents each week, meaning that it can take four to five weeks to track listener responses to all recurrents on the air.

That's the best thing about MScore tracking in my opinion.  You can watch every single song played each week in terms of its ability to drive usage for your PPM panel.

Of course, the minuscule sample size of the PPM panel, let alone just the "switchers" (about half of your total panel) causes tremendous wobbles so it's important to use every other research tool at your disposal so that you can make an educated guess on each play every day - is it a wobble or a real move?
  1. Every recurrent should have burn in single digits, positive passion of at least 35% favorite and 70%+ total positives and combined negatives under 15-20%.
  2. Don't mix recurrents in current or power gold categories.  Keep a tight rein on each category and make sure your balance is precisely what you plan in your coalition-building music strategy.
  3. Make "same hour/next day" rules your new religion.  Spread out categories, artists, song types, genres, et al as widely as possible so every three songs you play proves variety is your goal following only "song power" in importance.
What other ideas do you employ to cut your core listener complaints of repetition at least in half, with the goal of improving your station's average time spent listening at a time when the majority of radio's TSL is trending down in the wake of increased fragmentation and new media competition?

I'd love to hear from you.

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