header-image

10 WAYS TO CHOOSE, PROGRAM & IMAGE NEW MUSIC BETTER

by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

How do you prevent listener tune out when you introduce new music to your station playlist? Here are 10 ideas to pick, position & package unfamiliar songs better.

One of the trickiest moments in the hour is when you play a new song that your audience doesn’t know (yet). On the other hand, new releases in your playlist keep your station sounding fresh.  It’s a matter of selecting, scheduling & selling new music so that listeners stay tuned as often as possible.

‘IT GOES BEYOND WHICH NEW TITLES WILL BE CHOSEN’

ADOPT NEW SONGS GRADUALLY

Unless your format is Alternative (where breaking new music meets your listener expectations), you’ll want to introduce unfamiliar songs carefully. Even if you’re a CHR, positioning yourself as, for example, the #1 Hit Music Station which implies that you’re playing current hits, many Top 40 stations are actually trend followers, creating a progressive perception through branding & marketing.

AWAIT THE TIPPING POINT

Unless it’s a highly-anticipated song by a very established artist (think Taylor Swift star power) or unless you’re programming a publicly-funded station, you can let other platforms such as YouTube introduce certain songs. Once a critical mass of popularity has been reached, the (now more familiar) track begins its radio hit cycle. While you can (and should) take calculated risks to keep radio relevant, a thoughtful approach does make sense when stakes are high.

ESTABLISH ‘NEW MUSIC’ WORKFLOWS

Especially when your format is relatively conservative – like the average AC or even Hot AC – it’s good to have a clear policy and list of criteria for introducing new music on your station. It goes beyond which titles will be chosen in that week’s music meeting, as there’s an art to scheduling novelty songs, and an art to imaging new releases. Let’s look at 10 ideas to help you choose, program & package new music!

‘THE MORE CHECKMARKS, THE MORE REASONS TO ADD IT’

A song criteria checklist for playlist additions is a very useful tool for weekly music meetings (image: 123RF / aleksanderdn)

A song criteria checklist for playlist additions is a very useful tool for weekly music meetings (image: 123RF / aleksanderdn)

  1. PUT YOUR AUDIENCE FIRST

Always ask yourself: ‘what does this song really mean to my target audience right now?’ and ‘If I don’t play it now, will my listeners feel like they’re missing it?’ To answer those questions, you need an exact picture of your target listener, and detailed knowledge about their music taste (that you may have learned from your cluster research and mapping studies in recent years).

  1. SET SONG ADDITION CRITERIA

You can make a checklist of arguments to add a song, and review your criteria before every addition. Questions may include anything from ‘Does this song fit our music format and station image?’ and ‘Does it have a great hook or gimmick?’ to ‘Is it hot on social media?’ and ‘Is it featured in a TV show, commercial or movie that is popular among our target audience right now?’ Or, if none of the above: ‘Is it a REALLY great song that feels like a hit and NEEDS to played?’ The more checkmarks, the more reasons to add it.

  1. JUDGE SONGS, NOT ARTISTS

You can make a checklist of arguments to add a song, and review your criteria before every addition. Questions may include anything from ‘Does this song fit our music format and station image?’ and ‘Does it have a great hook or gimmick?’ to ‘Is it hot on social media?’ and ‘Is it featured in a TV show, commercial or movie that is popular among our target audience right now?’ Or, if none of the above: ‘Is it a REALLY great song that feels like a hit and NEEDS to played?’ The more checkmarks, the more reasons to add it.

‘SCHEDULE ‘NEW’ IN BETWEEN POPULAR AND FAMILIAR’

Music directors could use 4 different current music playlist rotations to categorise an upcoming hit song like Blow by Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars – from its introduction and adoption to its popularity and declination (image: Asylum Records, Atlantic Records)

Music directors could use 4 different current music playlist rotations to categorise an upcoming hit song like Blow by Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars – from its introduction and adoption to its popularity and declination (image: Asylum Records, Atlantic Records)

  1. POSITION NEW SONGS STRATEGICALLY

It’s obvious to schedule an unfamiliar song between two familiar ones, but make sure that at least one of the two familiar songs has a high popularity and a low burn (so your listeners are not tired of it). For this reason, you could set up the following ‘music cycle based’ categories:

N – New – unfamiliar songs

C 2 – Secondary Currents – hits on the way up (growing popularity, low burn)

C 1 – Power Currents – today’s top-testing hits (high popularity, still low burn)

C 3 – Tertiary Currents – hits on the way down (high familiarity, increasing burn)

This is useful when you have a current music-based format like CHR, so you can, for example, schedule a new N in between a popular C 1 and a familiar C 3 or a Recurrent.

  1. HAVE A CONSTANT PLAYLIST

You could use a fixed song amount for current music categories. Example: when each hour includes four Power and four Secondary slots, you may always want five Power and 13 Secondary hits in the respective categories. It ensures a balanced rotation and consistent flow week by week, and evokes a quality playlist — taking one song out to put another one in now requires really strong arguments. The downside is that you might not always have five true Powers, in which case you could switch to an alternate set of clocks, optimizing category exposure to category content.

  1. PRESELL NEW MUSIC ALWAYS

An unfamiliar song should always be pre-sold (over the intro). The most common way is to let presenters announce new music with real excitement. Also, give people a reason to stay tuned or come back soon, by mentioning which (incentive) will follow after. “Coming up: Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello, but first a great new track by Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and a man who wrote 170 songs, including six number-1 hits – Chris Stapleton! From Ed Sheeran’s No.6 Collaborations Project comes a new single called Blow, and that’s new music for you — from WXYZ.”

‘LET YOUR STATION VOICE INTRODUCE (OR BACKSELL) PLAYLIST ADDS’

When new songs don’t have a jock talk in front of them, a power intro can be used instead (photo: Flickr / Vincent L)

When new songs don’t have a jock talk in front of them, a power intro can be used instead (photo: Flickr / Vincent L)

  1. BACKSELL NEW SONGS CONSISTENTLY

PPM data shows that virtually every second, listeners tune out and others tune in. Those who join you while you’re spinning an unfamiliar song many not have heard you announce it. To stay with our example: if there’s no talk scheduled after Blow, there should be one after Shawn Mendes to identify and ‘own’ the unfamiliar (but possibly soon to be very popular) composition. “Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello on WXYZ, and before that, new music by Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Country star Chris Stapleton, it’s called Blow. To see all music we play, go to wxyz.com — keyword ’playlist’ — or download the free WXYZ app in the App Store or Google Play.”

  1. PRODUCE MUSIC FORMAT EXPLAINERS

To accelerate the adoption of new music, you can create format-explaining hook promos where you’ll follow techniques of music scheduling, embedding new songs in between familiar ones. “WXYZ plays the hottest hits…” (hook of C 1 song) “… tomorrow’s hits…” (hook of C 2 song) “… and the best new music…” (hook of N song) “… Today’s Best Music is on WXYZ”. If you have a secondary station voice, you can let him or her announce the corresponding artist names and song titles, and include these in your music promo as well. It will help you to further claim the popular artists and upcoming songs as your discovery.

  1. CREATE POWER INTROS & OUTROS

Power Intros (or Power Outros) are another great way to let your station voice introduce (or backsell) playlist adds, especially at new music positions without jock talks before or after. Also for non-stop or music-driven hours, it’s very convenient to produce your new songs in a Power Intro & Outro version. A proven intro concept is a quick ‘sneak preview’ where you can pre-sell unfamiliar songs with a hook at the beginning. Again, the song’s artist & title can be identified by your secondary station voice; your main station VO can do the lead part.

‘ALWAYS FULFIL YOUR FORMAT PROMISE’

Even though it’s important to presell & backsell new songs well, your core music playlist and your main station positioning should be communicated first & foremost; your listeners have to remember what you mainly stand for (image: 123RF / Dan Grytsku)

Even though it’s important to presell & backsell new songs well, your core music playlist and your main station positioning should be communicated first & foremost; your listeners have to remember what you mainly stand for (image: 123RF / Dan Grytsku)

  1. MARKET NEW SONGS WELL

If properly marketed, playing new music can be a competitive advantage. Classic Hits CBS-FM in New York City once played two currents an hour, branded as ‘Future Gold.’ If your main format is not new music, don’t emphasise these exceptions – otherwise they’ll weaken your listener expectations and station image in the long run. Keep your key proposition top of mind. If you want a progressive CHR image (and emphasize that you play the best current hits, and discover the best new songs), you can use a generic positioner like Today’s Best Music instead of Today’s Best Hits. Always fulfill your format promise.

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431 (1)Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.