by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

Don’t feel like playing Happy New Year and New Year’s Day all day long? We’ve got you covered with 8 more ideas for your music scheduling of January, 1st.

Almost everyone spins ABBA and U2 on the first day of the year, so you might want to include additional songs (on a lower rotation) for more variety. Helping you stand out as different and refreshing, this arbitrary Top 10 features a couple of less familiar (yet high quality, and mostly contemporary) songs for your New Year’s Day playlist!



Lea Michele’s variant of Auld Lang Syne was recorded for this 2011 movie (image: Warner Bros.)


Feel like you’ve got too many older songs in your New Year’s Day music library? Then you might consider playing This Is The New Year by A Great Big World, a singer-songwriter duo consisting of Ian Axel and Chad King. After being chosen as MTV’s I Used To Be Fat theme song in 2011, the happy-sounding pop composition became their big break. This Is The New Year was also featured in an episode of the musical comedy/drama Glee, where it was performed by the show’s cast, and on the soundtrack of the movie New Year’s Eve.


The New Year’s Eve soundtrack album also includes other suitable songs for your playlist on the (31st of December and) 1st of January. One of the most touching tracks, in our view, is New Year by Kate York. She worked in film post-production and audio engineering, before realising that she rather wanted to write & perform her own songs instead of co-creating those of others. She pursued a career in Nashville, and performed live as an opening act to renown artists. Although it’s not a very well-known song, New Year can be a nice playlist extension.


Another song on the same soundtrack is actress & singer Lea Michele’s version of a traditional and often-covered New Year’s Day tune — based on a Robert Burns’ 1788 poem and a classic Irish folk song, both of which are now in the public domain — proves that standards sometimes can sound fresh again. If you’re looking to play something else at the stroke of midnight than ABBA’s Happy New Year, this interpretation of the famous farewell-to-the-old-year tune could be a good option. Michele’s friendly voice and the fine production turn this ‘auld’ ballad into a contemporary song.



What’s Another Year was Johnny Logan’s first of two Eurovision Song Contest victories (image: RTÉ)


For this position on the New Year’s Day Top 10, we were considering Our New Year by Tori Amos, mainly because it’s a different song from most seasonal music. However, our list already includes several ballads, and this one has a pretty sad mood. Same goes for another alternative track, The New Year by Death Cab for Cutie. So we have chosen for Gonna Make It Through This Year by the Great Lake Swimmers. Not a super optimistic song either, but it has a melodic folk-rock sound that feels like some earlier R.E.M. material. (Just play an uptempo, feel good song next.)


Sometimes, B-sides of a single achieves a status of their own. That’s the case with the flip side of Please Come Home For Christmas, a 1978 holiday tune from the Eagles, originally written by blues singer and pianist Charles Brown together with music producer Gene Redd back in 1960. Especially when your station plays some Eagles or similar Classic Rock / Classic Hits format music as part of the usual output, Funky New Year — indeed, a nice & funky 70’s song — could be added to your music playlist for New Year’s Day.


Fun fact about Johnny Logan: he’s the only artist who has won the Eurovision Song Contest twice so far. In 1987 with Hold Me Now, which he wrote himself, and in 1980 with What’s Another Year, penned by Shay Healy. While one would assume that “What’s another year… to someone who is getting used to being alone?” refers to a man realising that he will never be with the woman of his dreams, this song is actually about Shay Healy’s father, dealing with the death of his wife Mairin. We think it’s an emotional, but beautiful song for New Year’s Day.



Taylor Swift’s New Years Day is a minimalistic, acoustic pop song (image: TAS Rights Management)


A Top 10 of songs about New Year’s Day wouldn’t be complete without this U2 monument of the same name, even when its underlying message is grim. Originating from their 1983 album War — a political statement against global conflicts like the Cold War between East and West at the time — singer Bono’s lyrics refer to the Polish communist government who installed martial law and persecuted the leader of the country’s Solidarity union, Lech Walesa. New Year’s Day has been covered many times over the years, sometimes including Adam Clayton’s baseline (as in Gigi D’Agostino’s 1995 dance remix), and sometimes without it (as in Karen Souza’s 2011 jazz version). Despite its (partly dated) political message, it remains a timeless classic.


Another musical statement comes from another rock band, which had its breakthrough with Iris in 1998. It’s lyrics don’t speak of ‘New Year’s Day’, it’s clearly about the beginning of a new year with words that are speaking for themselves: ‘And you ask me what I want this year… And I try to make this kind and clear… Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days… Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings… And designer love and empty things… Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days’. The theme of making the world a better place fits into this period of evaluating life and making resolutions, which makes this lead single from the 2016 (20th anniversary) album Let Love In a great song to play on New Year’s Day.


Are you looking for a very recent song about New Year’s Day, because you’re programming a Top 40, Adult Top 40 or Hot AC format ? Look no further! Taylor Swift’s fourth single of her 2017 album Reputation is, we feel, an excellent choice for a first-day-of-January playlist. Compared to most Taylor Swift hits, this one is (in a good way) underproduced, as her voice is only backed by guitar and piano. And a contributor of the lyrics database Genius.com observes that her story about a New Year’s party is actually ‘a metaphor to discuss holding on to people, and memories from both good and bad times. Taylor recognises that when the ‘parties’ in her life are over and the ‘new year’ begins, such memories are all she will have left to hold on to and learn from.



Katy Perry’s Firework from her 2010 album Teenage Dream is uplifting (image: Capitol Records)


We think it still deserves a #1 position, as it feels like the perfect opening of the music log on January, 1st, when the clock strikes twelve, and because several generations can still sing along with it. A more modern version of the 1980 song was released in ‘99 by the A-Teens, which might be worthwhile to include in your New Year’s Day playlist as well. Speaking of new interpretations: why not re-record this song with your entire staff as a choir, and play this re-sing version now and then — well-branded as a New Year’s Day greeting from your radio station’s entire team? Or what about including pre-recorded New Year’s wishes (voiced by your audience or your staff) on a self-made edit of Happy New Year with a few instrumental gaps for your VO and quotes? It might add some fun creativity to a familiar song.


Let’s call this the hidden track on our New Year’s Day compilation, because some songs are not officially related to the end or beginning of the year, but feel more like a generic party anthem that you can play during other festivities as well. Even though P!nk’s Raise Your Glass has been featured on the soundtrack of New Year’s Eve, and therefore could relate to New Year’s in the mind of listeners who’ve seen the movie, we’ve chosen Katy Perry’s Firework as the bonus track for this New Year’s Day music list, because fireworks feel more closely related new year’s celebrations. Furthermore, the song’s self-empowerment theme may inspire people to stick to their new year’s resolutions :-). That makes Firework a nice completion of our New Year’s Day Top 10 (or actually Top 11).

* Should Lea Michele’s ballad version feel like a bit too soft for your format, you can consider Mariah Carey’s dance adaptation. The second single of her second Christmas album Merry Christmas II You from 2010 is a re-written variant of Robert Burns’ poem, and also a re-arrangement of the original folk music. As new lyrics had been added, it was re-titled into Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem). In addition to a radio edit, the record label released no less than 9 remixes of extended duration. Music critics were not positive about transforming a traditional poem into a house track. We would agree that there are better versions of Auld Lang Syne, unless this one fits your music format, like when you would be playing a lot of dance on a regular basis.

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.


Callout Research Tips Part 2: From Song List To Song Hooks

by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

Callout research not only tells you how your target audience feels about your main individual songs, but also about (the dynamics between) your essential music clusters.

In our previous article in this series, we looked at setting up your callout research, including criteria to commission panel building or use live recruiting. Once you have your sample in place, you can create the music list and prepare the song hooks for (the next callout wave of) your music test. Radio music research expert Stephen Ryan explains how.



Callout research participants should be able to recognise every song you’re testing, which is especially important when it’s a relatively new release (image: YouTube / Ed Sheeran)


Callout is focused on trending the life cycle of your Currents and Recurrents. Each wave allows you to put your tested songs in a new hierarchy so that your rotations are maximised, and you’ll give the best songs the highest exposure. While some fieldwork companies may mix CATI (Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing) and online methodology to get the sample for each wave, it is more likely that CATI will dominate. You can experiment with how many titles you are testing each time, but when rating song hooks played down a telephone line, respondents can typically tolerate around 30 titles in one session while retaining their full concentration.


When you have the luxury of 44 weeks of almost consecutive callout throughout a year, you may have an opportunity to occasionally test a few older Recurrents, maybe even some Golds. But you basically want to leave the older repertoire testing to an AMT (described in our series on Auditorium Music Testing) and prioritise your Currents & Recurrents for callout. This is especially true when you have 26 weeks of callout; one wave every alternative week, where every slot in that song list becomes even more precious.


When designing your song list, start with all songs from your highest-rotating category, and work downwards from there. Begin with your Power Currents, followed by your Power Recurrents, and your Secondary Currents. Depending on how many slots are then still available, you can then include some songs from your Tertiary Currents and/or New Songs. Prior to testing them in callout, you want to play new releases for a couple of weeks first. Because while all songs on your test list will have varying degrees of familiarity to your audience, every tested song must be familiar (and that includes those new additions). There is a way to make sure that only familiar songs will be included in your music test results.



Radio exposure is still a major factor in building song familiarity (image: 123RF, Antonio Li Piani)


As outlined before, you can use a 6-point scale to distinguish between Favourite, Like, Neutral, Burn, Negative and Unfamiliar. Instruct your participants to avoid rating a song they’re not familiar with and to select ‘Unfamiliar’ instead. Some research methods aim to predict the potential of a song that may be heard for the first time, but callout is not the place for this experimentation. If a song is tested too early, and there is a high Unfamiliar score (over 20-25%), it’s often accompanied by a high Negative rating. However, for a lot of songs, as the Unfamiliarity lowers, so does the negativity. If you took a view on the early ratings of such a song, it may be prematurely removed from the playlist.


There’s a smarter way to see the potential of a new and still a bit unfamiliar song. When you’re using an index-based metric, such as a Pop (Popularity) score, you can calculate a PTL (Potential) score to predict what would happen to the Pop score if the Unfamiliarity score would reduce to zero. Take the existing Unfamiliarity score, and then apportion it pro-rata to the existing Favourite, Like, Neutral, Burn and Negative percentages. Potential is a helpful indicator, but the result can be distorted if a song has an Unfamiliar score that’s too high. So make sure that all tested songs (are all likely to) have an appropriate level of familiarity.


Building a song’s familiarity used to depend only on radio exposure. Within a New Song category, they would get a limited exposure for 3 weeks until the total number of plays reached around 60-70. The song would then be familiar enough to put it in callout. Today, we consider a song’s exposure on many different platforms, including streaming, download & online services. While it may shorten how much radio exposure a song requires to hit an appropriate familiarity level, it’s still important to add new songs and expose them to your specific audience prior to testing. While streaming service stats are a good indicator of a song’s potential, the way a radio listener consumes a song is quite different.



Similar to music scheduling, you want to apply some sort of artist separation as well as genre, tempo & gender spread to your callout research music list (image: Ryan Research)


Once you have constructed your list of songs, carefully consider the order in which they will be played during the test. Look at ordering your callout song list in the same way you would schedule a perfect music hour. Therefore, separate similar genres and tempos, and avoid playing too many male or female led songs in a row. In recent years, we have seen how the window between the release of a current song and the next song from a particular artist has dramatically shortened. At the time of writing, Ed Sheeran released two songs (described as two ‘A’ sides) simultaneously; Castle On The Hill, and Shape Of You, which have hit the number 1 and number 2 position in charts across many markets. Justin Bieber and Adele are examples of current artists who often have even more songs in high rotation at the same time. Therefore, you want your callout music list to have appropriate spaces in between.


We should mention at this stage the issue of possible ‘list bias’ from using the same list order for every respondent, as people may give higher importance (or at least different importance) to elements that are higher versus lower in the list. In music testing, the concern is that songs heard at the start of the test could be viewed (or heard) differently than those toward the middle and end. To alleviate the concern, some may consider to randomise the order of songs played to each respondent. However, randomising will remove the ability to create a balanced and nicely spread list of songs.


Across the thousands of callout waves we have processed, analysed and reported on, we have seen no real evidence that any form of list bias has become a significant issue. Remember, this is not an isolated AMT; a callout wave is one among many. If there is a concern, ensure that your song list for the next wave is in a different order (where it contains a significant number of the same songs). When your CATI system allows, you can use an inverted list, where 50% of the sample hears your test songs in the order from 1-30, and the other 50% hears them in the order from 30-1. This way, you’ll retain a good spread of artist, gender and tempo. If such a potential bias existed, you would see noticeable bouncing on the trends across multiple waves.



Therefore, keep your song hooks short, and their duration consistent (image: Ryan Research)


Having designed the list of songs, you now need to prepare the respective hooks. The format required (wav, mp3, ogg, etc.) will depend on the requirements of your fieldwork company’s CATI system. At times, you may simply be required to provide them in wav quality, and they will convert them accordingly on receipt. From the preparation point of view, the main thing is to let every hook truly represent the song, and base the hook on the song’s most recognisable part(usually the chorus). Selecting the best part of the song really comes down to your expertise and skill.


The most difficult ones are often Dance songs, which are primarily instrumental and/or have elongated chorus sections that are difficult to capture in a short sequence. You may have to test specific songs over a longer period of time. In a number of radio markets, Manuel Riva & Eneli’s Mhm Mhm, which you could describe as a ‘catchy’ track, retained a high Unfamiliar score for some time, despite a consistent exposure (both on air and across streaming services). It took more time than usual for the hook to sink into people’s minds as representing a song that they recognise.


If you are happy with the hooks, just make sure they are not unnecessarily long. Most hooks can be edited down to 7 to 9 seconds. Keep in mind that when you are testing 30 songs, and each hook is 9 seconds in duration, the result will be about 270 seconds (or 4.5 minutes) of audio. Take that to 12 seconds each, and you’ll get to 6 minutes — without gaps in between to take the respondents answer. In addition, keep all song hooks to a consistent duration. As people go through the test, they’ll get into a rhythm, and subliminally get used to the average duration of each hook. If they have listened to a series of hooks with an average length of 9 seconds, and are suddenly presented with a hook that is 14 seconds long, they may feel there is a deliberate emphasis on that particular hook (and view it differently).



It’s good to spot shifts in popularity of (relations between) music genres (image: 123RF / joris484)


Once your music list and song hooks are prepared and sent over to the fieldwork company, there is one more important thing to get into the habit of doing. Prior to the launch of every callout wave, get the fieldwork company to call you and go through the survey. It allows you to check that the song list and song hooks are in matching sort order, and to hear how the song hooks are sounding when they’re played from the CATI system down a telephone line. While they will be in mono, and not exactly in the best audio quality, check if they’re loud enough and not unnecessarily distorted. Distortion may occur when you forward a wav version which the fieldwork company then converts to another format.


Every callout survey should be a blind test regarding two elements. The first, as mentioned in previous articles in this music research series, is that each panellist used should not be aware of why they’ve been selected other than ‘we are interested in your view on songs as a radio listener’. The second is that the interviewer should give or infer no information about title or artist. Respondent should simply listen to the hooks, and give their response.


Finally, consider adding music genre / music cluster testing. Looking at music styles there defining your format lets you notice any changes in your overall music appeal, as well as any changes in (dynamics between) the popularity of certain music genres. However, you’ll also get some of these insights from testing your individual songs. When many songs in a particular genre start to show less potential, then the overall exposure of that style may need a review. If you intend to test genres, do so prior to testing individual songs (and clearly explain that you want them to judge the overall style; not the individual fragments). Then, prior to testing the individual hooks, explain that now they should focus on rating each song one by one. To keep YOU hooked: the next article in this series on callout research is going to cover the interpretation and analysis of the results you’ll get from each callout wave!

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.



by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?* If you’re looking to give your audience a great party soundtrack, check out these New Year’s Eve songs across several music genres.

There’s a lot of great music for New Year’s Eve to attract listeners who prefer radio above a self-made playlist or streaming service. And, when you promote it well, also in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, your party soundtrack might help you gain positive music images and increased audience reach during the holiday ratings sweeps!



From the movie Toys comes The Closing Of The Year by Wendy & Lisa ft. Seal (image: Thomas Giger)


Happy New Year? In a list of songs for New Year’s Eve? Well, Kid Rock is singing: “When that ball drops on New York City… When that clock strikes I’ll pull you near… Just to wish you Happy New Year” — so it is not the new year yet. In fact, near the end, it’s revealed that this story is actually taking place way before the holiday season: “Yeah it’s September, but with you here… Every night is a Happy New Year”. However, as most lyrics are about the anticipation of a new & better year ahead, we think this song from his album Rebel Soul is a great one for New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Day).

9. PRINCE – 1999

There are several songs with the year 1999 (and 2000 or 2012) in the title, and some people might argue that these are (literally) outdated by now. As there never was a serious millennium bug, and there never was an apocalypse, Will 2K and 2012 (It Ain’t The End) seem more like ‘nice to haves’ than ‘must haves’ on a New Year’s Eve playlist, indeed. We would like to make an exception for Prince’s 1999, the iconic title track from his (1982) album of the same name & fame. Thanks to several re-releases, including in its namesake year, 1999 has become a popular New Year’s Eve anthem.


A less familiar, but, we think, touching New Year’s Eve (and Christmas) theme comes from two ladies who once toured with Prince as part of his band The Revolution, before becoming a successful solo act and hitting the charts with Waterfalland Are You My Baby. In 1992, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman teamed up with Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel (a.k.a. Seal) for The Closing Of The Year on the soundtrack of the fantasy/comedy film Toys. Also thanks to additional vocals from the movie’s musical cast, it’s one of those magic radio songs for New Year’s Eve.



It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve is featured on the album Barry Manilow Live (image: Arista Records)


Just like Kid Rock’s Happy New Year, this track by the American Country duo Sugarland tells a holiday-related love story that is taking place somewhere before Christmas, as Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are singing: “Maybe, baby… I’ll see you this Christmas… What do you say… Or maybe, baby… Ill see you on New Year’s Day”. Maybe Baby (New Year’s Day) is therefore suitable to be played before & during Christmas, as well as on New Year’s Eve (and on New Year’s Day).


‘Van the Man’ has created a massive musical heritage over the years. Who doesn’t know rock classics such as Brown Eyed Girl, or acoustic ballads like Have I Told You Lately? One of the Belfast Cowboy’s less-known hits can be nice for New Year’s Eve, as he sings “I want you to come back home in the Celtic New Year” (even if Samhain actually starts November 1st). A radio station in Ireland, where many listeners will be familiar with this Gaelic tradition, would probably feature this track from the album Magic Time around the end of October (and beginning of November).


Despite a melancholic sound, this is an optimistic New Year’s Eve song. “We’re not alone, we’ve got the world you know… And it won’t let us down, just wait and see… And we’ll grow old, but think how wise we’ll grow… There’s more you know, it’s only New Year’s Eve” is what the singer-songwriter says on the record. If your station already spins Mandy, I Write The Songs and Looks Like We’ve Made It on a regular basis, It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve might be a nice one to add to your music rotation for the last day of the year.



It is Snoop Dogg’s New Year’s Eve ft. writer & producer Marty James (image: EMI, Capitol, Priority)


Country, Folk and Soft Rock are music styles blending in many songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter. The singer-songwriter peaked in the 1990s with no less than ten Top 10 singles on the Country chart, including Shut Up And Kiss Me (number 1 in ‘94), and with her album Come On, Come On (four million copies sold). A more obscure song in her repertoire is New Years Day from the 2012 album Ashes and Roses. The song’s tale begins on New Year’s Eve (“We are sitting at a table in a bar in Baltimore… It’s the last night of December”), and ends on New Year’s Day.


More Indie & Alternative is the end-of-the-year song of Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen (better known as MØ) from 2014 . “We forget about our problems… We got time to share all of those things in the New Year… Got a problem, baby let it be, hopped up on my back… Have a happy New Year’s Eve”, the Danish singer-songwriter says in this almost hypnotic song full of synth & electro sounds. We think that it can be a nice fit for modern alternative or progressive formats, as well as refreshing for some current mainstream stations.


Another less conventional New Year’s Eve anthem comes from hip hop artist Snoop Dogg and singer-songwriter & record producer Marty James — one of the co-writers of the worldwide hit Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber. We’re actually surprised that New Year’s Eve was only released as a promotional single in 2010, and didn’t make Snoop Doggs following album Doggumentary. It’s a pretty cool track, especially when you’re a Rhythmic or Urban station (for which it might be more of a challenge to find suitable holiday songs).



The Perfect Year is the positive expectation of Dina Carroll’s New Year’s song (image: Thomas Giger)


Our Top 10 of songs for your New Year’s Eve playlist ends on a high note: a feel-good ballad with a positive outlook, trusting that next year will be one full of love. “Ring out the old, bring in the new… A midnight wish to share with you… Your lips are warm, my head is light… Were we in love before tonight?”, Dina Carroll sings before heading to the chorus: “We don’t need a crowded ballroom, everything we need is here… If you’re with me next year will be the perfect year.” May it be the same for you!

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (mentioned in the intro) is a New Year’s song from 1947, penned by Frank Loesser and recorded by many artists, including Ella Fitzgerald in 1960, and Diana Krall in 2005. Together with Bing Crosby’s Let’s Start The New Year Right (One Minute To Midnight), also from 1947, it is the oldest New Year’s song in modern recording history that we have been able to find. These were not included in this Top 10 as their sound is more traditional than most stations would play nowadays — even if these standards are basically timeless songs about New Year’s Eve.

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.



by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

A music director in a developed market needed a category setup for his music format, taking his Adult Top 40 against a leading Hot AC and a tight CHR.

I’m receiving many inquiries from our readers regarding song categories lately, so I thought of sharing the following case with you. Maybe you have the same or similar questions, or would like to think along. With permission of the person who’s submitted the request, I’m sharing his inquiry and my answers here, hoping it will give you additional ideas and perspectives to optimise your music category setup as well. So here we go!



Your audience should feel a difference between recurrents vs. classics, so you want to move Recurrents over a certain age to Golds when they qualify (images: Def Jam, Atlantic Records)


A radio programmer from the UK recently emailed:

Hi Thomas,

I hope you’re well. I’m a member of your site and so far it is proving so helpful. I’ve only recently taken over the whole of the music scheduling for our station in [a local market in the UK]. 

I’ve managed to steer the station through a complete rebrand from Hot AC to full CHR with new clocks. Your site really helped me out with understanding the mechanics behind taking 8 massive songs, making sure they are spread evenly, etc.

We have [a market-leading Hot AC] and [a popular CHR] down the road. We’re going for a CHR sound with oldies thrown in, like Ne-Yo, Flo Rida, etc. These are songs that are too hot for [the Hot AC brand], but too old for the strict [CHR station] logs.

At the moment I’ve got everything Top 40 in the typical A, B and C categories, then Recurrent for hits no longer in the Top 40 or that are old, like Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran, and then an Old Recurrent category for things like Ne-Yo, Flo Rida, etc.


I’ve then got a problem I’m wondering if you can help with. The station had set up a 2000s category, and this seems to have anything from 2000 to 2010, but crosses over massively with some of the Old Recurrent tracks (date wise).

How would you categorise all of this? Is it okay to have your Old Recurrent list spanning 10 years of music, or do we need to separate them out a bit more? Do we categorise it based on how much of a great song it is, or how old it is?

Thank you for your questions! I’ll start with the first one, which is connected to an important concept:


In a pretty competitive market like yours, you definitely need a very distinct music profile. Your Adult CHR programming strategy (positioning yourself in between your Hot AC and CHR colleagues) seems like a smart move, because even while all 3 of you do have music crossovers, at any given time you’ll play some songs that they won’t play (and they’ll play some songs that you won’t play).

As you’re a local station in the middle of two giant national brands, they will probably not respond to you (not change their format to grow closer to yours), so you should be pretty safe with this. To make your audience understand your unique selling point regarding your music, you’d want to expose your ‘USP songs’ often enough to be noticed. You could schedule a recurrent or a classic once every 3 songs, for example in an ‘A, C, Recurrent — A, B, Gold’ sequence.


To establish a very clear music image, help your listener to (subconsciously) understand your music format, and to (subconsciously) keep your categories apart. I’d stick to one single theme per category, and make sure that every theme/category is different enough from any other theme/category. In this case, your audience should be able to feel a difference between recurrents vs. classics for your format.

You can establish an age border for Recurrents, like ‘maximum 3 years old’ (which is a lot for Recurrents already), and create a separate (Gold) category for older titles that still deserve to be played after passing the 3-year line. To maintain your desired CHR sound, carefully choose which Golds you really want to keep playing, or you may end up with a Hot AC image after all (getting too close to your competitor in terms of era).



It’s not Uncle Ben’s Voltaire quote from Spider-Man, but you get the idea (image: Columbia Pictures)


As you focus on Adult CHR 00s classics with an Urban Pop flavour (Ne-Yo, Flo Rida) and your Hot AC friends are leaving those out — and, as I see, play many 80s & 90s classics from various music genres (Madonna, The Goo Goo Dolls) — it looks like you can perfectly feature 00s & 10s classics that fit your Urban & Rhythmic profile indeed. As your library titles go back to the year 2000, you may want to spread your Golds into sub categories that allow you to create era balance in your clocks. Then, your category setup may look like this:

  • A, B & C: 2017
  • Recurrent: 2015-2017
  • Gold Recent: 2010-2014
  • Gold Classic: 2000-2009

or, when you’re not necessarily looking to split your Golds at the turn of a decade, like this:

  • A, B & C: 2017
  • Recurrent: 2015-2017
  • Gold Recent: 2007-2014
  • Gold Classic: 2000-2006


Regarding your second question — should we categorise based on how much of a great song it is, or how old it is? — both! The above 6 music categories are great basic descriptions of a song’s life cycle, but you also want to categorise your Currents, Recurrents and Golds based on popularity. (For Currents, you’re already doing that with A, B & C.)

Music research indicates that only a small amount of songs is really hot, so when you’re indexing say 400 tested songs along a 1-100 scale, considering ‘80+ scores’ as your most popular songs, you may end up with just 40 titles (10%) that people really ‘love’, and 360 titles that are ‘nice’ or ‘okay’ (just an example). So it does make sense to factor in the popularity, for which you could fine-tune your song category list like this:

  • Current A / Current Power (very familiar, and very popular)
  • Current B / Current Secondary Down (very familiar, but on the way down)
  • Current C / Current Secondary Up (less familiar, but on the way up)
  • Recurrent Power
  • Recurrent Secondary
  • Gold Recent Power
  • Gold Recent Secondary
  • Gold Classic Power
  • Gold Classic Secondary


Of course, we now went from 6 to 9 categories, and to adjust a well-known movie quote: with great amounts of music categories comes great responsibility for music directors. Especially smaller categories (like power categories) come with a greater risk that a certain song will end up in the same position within the hour if you were to use the same format clock or category sequence everywhere (also depending on whether there’s a great amount of unbreakable scheduling rules).

The more song categories you have, the more format clocks you need, which is luckily very easy when you have a main format clock with several different variants that you then alternately schedule in a rotating clock grid. You can find more information in a previous article about Contemporary Hit Radio music scheduling & format clocks. I hope this is helpful for now, but do let us know if you have any more questions about music categories for your music scheduling.

In Music Scheduling Q&A #2, we’ll talk about how many songs there could or should be in a given music category!

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.


12 CHR Music Format Clocks You Can Adjust & Apply Today [Download]

by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

Wanna’ revamp your Top 40 radio format music-wise? These 12 Contemporary Hit Radio music scheduling format clocks may help you get going.

As a music director, you’re busy dealing with programming & music meetings, record labels, station events, and — last, but not least — your daily music scheduling duties, including at least an hour of manually tweaking a prescheduled log. You might be doing that for several stations in your cluster. One of your long-term goals may be to revisit your format clocks to optimise your music flow, but what if you can’t find the time? Use us as a resource! Below you’ll find 12 CHR music format clocks that you can download for free.

‘Have a recognisable rhythm & flow


This CHR format is focused on newer hit songs of less than 1 year of age in a 2:1 ratio compared to older hit songs of between 1 and 3 years of age (format & image: Thomas Giger)

Distinguish your music categories

In case you do have a few minutes :-), I’m happy to share which thoughts have led to these Top 40 radio format clocks for CHR music scheduling. First of all, you’d want to clearly define your song categories. I always stick to the essential ones, and make sure that every single category has one theme only. Our music format clock for Contemporary Hit Radio therefore includes the following music categories based on the typical hit song life cycle:

Categories for newer hit songs:

  • Current New: a new release with potential to become more familiar & popular
  • Current Secondary Up: a current hit that is becoming more familiar & popular
  • Current Power: a current hit that is very familiar & popular (and now at its peak)
  • Current Secondary Down: a current hit that is familiar, but becoming less popular

Categories for older hit songs:

  • Current Stay: a current hit that is very familiar & popular, but a bit older (up to 12 months)
  • Recurrent Power: a recent hit that is very familiar & popular, but a bit older (12-36 months)
  • Recurrent Secondary: a recent hit that is pretty familiar & popular, but a bit older (12-36 months)

Choose your format boundaries

You’ll notice there are no Golds, as I believe that a pure CHR station (for which I designed this format) should be playing 100% currents. I know, there are several Top 40 stations playing some classics, including very successful ones. I’ve been to LA last April, and heard Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie (2006) and Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body (2003) on 102.7 KIIS FM with just a 33-minute separation. There’s basically nothing against adding spice, and throwback songs are one way of achieving it. But from a brand image point of view, I wonder whether a real CHR should play tracks that are 11 and 14 years old — even when they test well for the higher end of its (typically 18-34 year-old) target demographic.

Yes, a 34-year-old was 23 when Shakira topped the charts, and might have discovered that song while listening to KIIS back then (still being loyal to the station now). But someone who is 23 now might perceive it as an older song. Sure, it makes sense to reward the older end (with the greatest spending power) of your 18-34 demo. But on the other hand, also (Hot) ACs are playing Hips Don’t Lie. Shouldn’t a Top 40 play what listener expect — Top 40 — and nothing else? (Exceptions: tomorrow’s hits, and recurrents that sound & feel current. New songs add freshness; recurrents add (familiarity and) balance. When Dance and R&B dominate the charts, Pop and Rock recurrents make the variety.)

Deliver your format promise

A good music clock should have a recognisable rhythm & flow, representing your format proposition in a very short amount of time. Therefore, this format clock is based on 2 contemporary songs versus 1 older song, in a steady rhythm of ‘now, now, then; now, now, then’. The station’s music core consists of power & secondary currents, which are always tied together to support the station image for hit music. Because there is just 1 older song in between them, the station sounds very much like ‘now’. When tuning in during a music sweep, the listener will usually hear one of today’s hottest tracks within 10 minutes. Once an hour, a new song is featured on the position where normally a secondary current is being played. (Both are relatively new songs, and both are not at their popularity peak.)

To maintain your current hit image, reviewing all categories on a weekly basis (and cleaning them up on a monthly basis) is mandatory. When you do music research where you not only test power & secondary currents through weekly callouts or online panels, but also (a part of) your Stay Current and Recurrent library, then you’ll be able to do this well. It allows you to only keep songs in rotation that listeners really want to hear. When you want a strong image for current music; really want to be the (#1) Hit Music Station in the market, set an age limit for music you play (such as 3 years). Anything older would really have to test ‘through the roof’ for you to keep on spinning it. Below is a representation of Clock A:

Create an uneven rotation pattern


A power current category of 7 songs in combination with this clock creates a song rotation pattern across multiple days for a good song spread (format & image: Thomas Giger)

Ensure your music familiarity

To schedule weaker songs in between stronger tracks, a secondary current (or a new song; close to a secondary current in terms of age) is mostly followed by a power recurrent (or a stay current). The only ‘weak spot’ in this format might be that, maximum twice an hour, a secondary current is followed by a secondary recurrent. But that secondary current is always on the way up! A great new song (which is already a bit familiar) always sounds fresh and exciting, so listeners may be more likely to accept the (bit older-sounding) secondary recurrent, also because that is always followed by a power current. A secondary current on its way down is followed by a strong song in the form of a power recurrent. (Playing a secondary current on its way down and a recurrent back-to-back is not perfect, but should be no problem if the most often-played currents are rested for a few weeks before they’re moved to recurrents.)

Maintain your age balance

That we’ve chosen to separate secondary currents between those on their way up vs. down has other benefits as well. It allows us to keep secondary currents that are on their way up away from new currents (as both are new songs, even if there’s a difference in familiarity that justifies separate categories). Furthermore we can ensure that every hour includes a certain amount of say rising vs. falling stars in our contemporary hit repertoire. Otherwise, every hour could be sounding different; one hour might be full of relatively new songs, another of relatively old ones. This format makes sure that secondary currents on their way up vs. down are balanced with both categories alternately appearing twice an hour. (Same thing goes for power vs. secondary recurrents.)

Fill your categories strategically

This format clock is built for high rotation of limited numbers of A songs; common practice in competitive markets, and designed to hold 6 or more songs in Power Current. It allows songs to travel through every other category slot within the following hours, before being scheduled in the same category slot again. A category of 6 power currents would naturally rotate these songs through all 4 other positions before reappearing in the original place (6 hours later). However, 7 songs would be better, because then it takes 7 hours before all songs fall into the same slots. It will create an uneven rotation pattern that moves through several different dayparts & days, as 24 hours / 7 hours = 3.4 hours (uneven number).

‘Integrate with your main music formats’


Not hindered by a completely different morning show clock, your music scheduling software has a better chance of creating nice rotation patterns for your songs (format & image: Thomas Giger)

Format your morning show

Your breakfast show is obviously one of your key time slots, therefore they deserve to have their own set of clocks. You probably have much more spoken content (as well as longer commercial breaks) during those hours, and you may want to play only strong songs during morning show hours. We’ve created an alternate version of each of the 6 main format clocks, allowing you to showcase only familiar & popular songs in morning drive, based on the following:

Categories for newer hit songs:

  • Current Secondary Up (included for freshness)
  • Current Power
  • Current Secondary Down

Categories for older hit songs:

  • Current Stay
  • Recurrent Power

Follow your main structure

These morning show clocks fit the overall station format with contemporary vs. recent hit songs in their 2:1 ratio, and once again a recognisable rhythm & flow of ‘now; now; then, now; now; then’. The difference is that all categories within the morning show format clock are either a best-testing track — power current, power recurrent or stay current — or a secondary song that is at least familiar to some degree. These morning hot clocks include 2 secondary currents on their way up, which are still gaining familiarity but are great for freshness, and 1 secondary current on its way down, which is usually a very familiar one (as it’s either a former power current or a former secondary current that was on its way up).

Rotate your format clocks

Apart from rotating your songs, you want to rotate your clocks, which helps you create a consistent flow throughout several days and weeks. You’ll notice that morning show Clock AM (‘M’ for Morning’) is based on main Clock A; Clock BM on Clock B, and so forth. It will integrate your breakfast music format with your main music format. Listeners should feel an ongoing music flow from early mornings all the way through morning drive and office hours. And not hindered by a completely different morning show clock, your music scheduling software has a better chance of creating nice song rotation patterns over the course of multiple days. Here’s a representation of Clock AM:


This morning show format clock is based on the main station format clock, but adjusted to a greater amount of speech and a higher load of commercials (format & image: Thomas Giger)

… and here you can see (a part of) the clock grid that unites all 12 music formats in one flow:


It will take 6 weeks until the same clocks appear in the same hours (format & image: Thomas Giger)



31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.



by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

How to build a new station in a competitive radio market? This case study of Australia’s smoothfm is teaching good lessons for every launch team.

Australia’s NOVA Entertainment is mostly known for its CHR brand NOVA, but is now even more successful through their Soft AC format smoothfm with FM frequencies in Sydney and Melbourne, and DAB+ coverage in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Marketing director Tony Thomas shared at Radiodays Europe 2017 how they succeeded to introduce a new brand in a crowded marketplace by answering unfulfilled needs and creating positive images.



smoothfm’s brand concept is based on emotional positioning (image: NOVA Entertainment)


Owner Lachlan Murdoch (indeed, son of media entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch) had a good reason to pop champagne recently, when GfK Australia presented their radio audience measurement report for Survey 3, 2017, according to which smoothfm is now the #1 music radio station (and #1 FM radio station) in Sydney with a market share of 11.3% (up 1.4%), right after heritage AM talker 2GB (11.4% share, down 0.2%). Looking at the Australian radio ratings archive, it’s evident that smoothfm’s ratings have been rocket fueled lately. A year ago (Survey 3, 2016), smoothfm’s share in Sydney was 7.7%. Now, again, 11.3%. In Melbourne, they’ve jumped from 7.4 to 9.3% (up 1.9%) compared to this time last year.

The new station’s launch on May 21, 2012, meant a format flip from Classic Rock (on what used to be Sydney’s 95.3) to Soft Adult Contemporary, based on research. The company (then named dmg Radio Australia) decided to do a market study to find the best music format. The result showed an opportunity amongst 35-54 year-old females, which Tony Thomas calls “a very attractive market to go after” as “there’s a lot of them, and they spend a lot of money”. That part of the Australian radio audience wasn’t being served back then, as the Australian radio market in late 2011 was dominated by CHR, and male-oriented formats like Rock. “There was this huge opportunity.”


The history of smoothfm’s two current FM frequencies starts in 2004, with a station called Vega that offered a mix of both music and talk that was unsuccessful. In 2009, Vega was rebranded into Classic Rock, but that station was insignificant in terms of ratings as well. “It was languishing in the 3s, which, in Australia, puts you in the ‘irrelevant pile’ pretty much.” In early 2011, a strategy was formed to turn things around, but in a way that would not alert competitors of their plans.

Instead of immediately launching a new brand, it was chosen to put the existing stations on hold first. “We turned them into jukeboxes called 95.3 and 91.5, and effectively let them run on autopilot.” A task force of 10 people — no one else knew about the new strategy — was formed, and over the course of 2011, they “slowly evolved the bridging station” step by step towards the new format, so it would not be something completely new to listeners.


Keeping their female audience in mind, they built the station on a feeling. “It was not a format launch. We developed an emotional position”, the marketing director says about smoothfm’s ‘relax’ benchmark. “That gave us a really clear filter for everything. One of the most important things that have driven the success of the station is a very strong and clear strategy. That clarity around the strategy produces a really strong and consistent execution opportunity.”

They went out to interview radio listeners from the target demo. Those conversations with 35-54 year-old women in Sydney and Melbourne made clear what went on in their lives, and what they were looking for. “The consistent thing that came out was this busyness. Their lives are busy, and there’s a lot of noise in formats that were being presented to them in the market; a lot of CHRs.” Therefore, it was chosen to let smoothfm be ‘your easy place to relax’.


Michael Bublé shows some self-deprecating humour in this TV spot (video: NOVA Entertainment)


Apart from some playlist tweaks, Thomas considers their brand to be really consistent. “It’s the same station that we launched five years ago.” He thinks it’s a very efficient concept as well. “It’s got huge margins. We haven’t got overpriced breakfast show hosts; it’s a station that is very profitable, and very unique in the Australian market, which is generally loaded with very expensive talent.” Another benefit is the format potential, as “the station has seen enormous growth over the last five years by top and bottom line; there’s huge growth in the market amongst that demo.”


When developing smoothfm’s brand values, the launch team had a task to establish pride in people’s choice of a Soft Adult Contemporary format. “It’s really easy for a Soft AC, based on the music playlist, to be perceived as daggy and old. Therefore, we had to build an aspirational brand that had a level of sizzle.” While their core audience is 35-54 years, they wanted to be be attractive for a broad(er) cume to take the station to number 1. To introduce the brand to all of these people, the strategy was to offer as many occasions to sample the format as possible. He doesn’t specify how they did that exactly. It might have been a combination of on-air promotion and off-air marketing.


To give the launch an attention grabber, they approached Michael Bublé through Warner Music. “His music was a perfect fit for the station playlist, and his character and personality were appealing. The footage was shot in LA, involving a woman who comes home, exhausted from a long day. She turns on the radio, tuned to smoothfm, and closes her eyes. Then, Bublé sits down next to her, and begins to sing. “I presented an idea to him on the set where she opens her eyes, and is absolutely blown away. He goes: na, na, na; I want her to tell me to shut up. That’s what made the ad.” Bublé also officially launched smoothfm during the More Music Breakfast Show with Ed Phillips on May 21, 2012 at 7am:



Tony Thomas explains their playlist is designed to reflect a certain mood (image: Radiodays Europe)



Contrary to stations who focus their high-profile personalities on weekdays, smoothfm likes to combine a weekday schedule of experienced radio professionals with a weekend line-up of well-known media personalities, such as TV stars hosting a weekend slot. It provides opportunities to create “some profile and buzz”. Furthermore, smoothfm has a weekend slot with rotating artists, hosting a show. Stars like Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton and James Blunt play music and tell stories. Tony Thomas sees it as another way to profile the station.


Under content director Paul Jackson, who’s programmed UK stations like CapitalRadio X and Virgin Radio, smoothfm’s playlist has been built around a certain feeling, rather than a specific genre. “Everything is crafted together to provide a different feel at different points of the day. It’s a very distinct sound; very unique in the Australian market.” Key artists include Adele, Bruno Mars, Billy Joel, Mariah Carey, Neil Diamond, Sam Smith, Elton John, and of course Michael Bublé.


While their core product is still radio, smoothfm aspires to be more than a station. “When you’re developing a brand that primarily exists on air, it’s really important to bring it out to people; let them experience it.” NOVA Entertainment is evolving smoothfm into a 360° brand with on air, on screen, online, streaming, experiential, social, events, and music. Some of these extensions not only offer cross-promotion possibilities, but also new revenue potential (see part 2).

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.


From Europe with Love: 10 Ways We Achieve Music Variety Despite Genre Quotas

by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

Achieving quotas can be a serious challenge for radio stations. Luckily, there are many ways we use our music quota rules for maximum advantage.

‘Make the best of existing music quota’

Music quota are beneficial for a few mass-appeal stars (photo: Columbia, images: Wikipedia)

Music quota are beneficial for a few mass-appeal stars (photo: Columbia, images: Wikipedia)

Know your format regulations

Maintaining cultural heritage; ensuring format variety; supporting record companies; protecting public radio / restricting commercial radio… whatever the motive may be, you must face the music as a radio broadcaster. Canadian content requirements for Canadian music on radio stations dictate that 35% of the music aired each week must be Canadian content. For commercial stations, that rule applies to the hours between 6am and 6pm, Monday through Friday. Even CBC / Radio Canada has to play 50% locally Cancon. In addition, 65% of the popular music on all Canadian French-language stations has to be in that language. Commercial stations are ‘getting away’ with 55% of that between 6am and 6pm on weekdays.

Influence market developments collectively

france-country-borders-and-french-flag-colors-01France has a less complex rule: 40% of all music has to be in French language, half of which has to be made by new artists. A collective radio industry push for more workable guidelines finally seems to be gaining traction. Politicians are willing to reduce legal quota for French songs to 35% (or to 15% for stations that specialize in foreign music), but all stations have to air more new music.

Implement music quota creatively

While music quota are beneficial for artists and labels that specialize in that particular genre, they can be a challenge for current-intensive formats like CHR when there is not enough suitable new music available. While the music industry and governments accuse radio of playing the same few (best-testing) songs over and over, the radio industry maintains that listeners want to hear those power songs again and again, and don’t want (too many) unfamiliar songs. There are 10 creative things you can do as a PD / MD to make the best of existing music quota.

‘Wait with alternate versions until the original work has become very familiar’

Listeners usually accept those after the original got a lot of airplay (image: Parlophone, Atlantic)

Listeners usually accept those after the original got a lot of airplay (image: Parlophone, Atlantic)

  1. Connect your quota titles

When an artist or a band has a new album or (comes to your radio market for a concert as part of) a new tour, it’s your opportunity for a studio interview, live showcase or music feature. You can air an interview (or short highlights from the complete conversation that you can put on your website), and spice it up by playing related songs before and after. The interview (clip) is kind of the mortar in between the music bricks; it’s a legitimate reason to play several tracks by the same artist back to back. If your music quota is measured in minutes per hour instead of songs per hour, then you can further benefit from this concept. How?

  1. Enhance your quota songs

plus-signs-in-orange-and-blue-circles-01You can get instrumental versions from record companies, or edit song intros into music beds, and run these underneath the interview. In addition, you can create talk-over beds for jocks, made from instrumental parts of popular quota-matching songs edited together, or use hooks from these songs in your music promos and format explainers. That’s a lot more quota minutes!

  1. Widen your music library

Assuming you want to reach your music quota by playing best-testing songs a lot, find additional versions to (sometimes) use instead of the official single edit. Playing an acoustic version of dance remix helps you create (a perception of) music variety despite high rotations. For stations with new music quota, remixes are great. I know of a Rhythmic CHR with an obligation to play lots of new music that plays (also self-produced) remixes of current hit songs, which officially makes them ‘new releases’, even if they’re originating from an existing song. In general, you want to wait with alternate versions until the original work has become very familiar by having received a lot of airplay in your market.

‘Let songs support your music quota’

One way is to produce special radio versions containing local language parts (image: Warner)

One way is to produce special radio versions containing local language parts (image: Warner)

  1. Shorten your non-quota songs

When music quota is defined as number of songs per hour instead of number of minutes an hour, you can edit (secondary) non-quota songs into a shorter version by shortening long intros or instrumental breaks, or (worst-case scenario) take out 1 phrase plus 1 chorus, unless it’s a song of which many people know the lyrics by heart, or a pop classic that’s considered to be a holy grail. It allows you to play one or two extra (primary) quota songs an hour, while maintaining your music format (like also playing lots of international hits) and meeting your listener expectations. But what if your legislators are smart, and have defined music quota percentages based on number of minutes rather than number of songs? Then this editing tactic will help you anyway :-).

  1. Stretch your quota songs

pro-tools-music-editing-looping-instrumental-song-parts-02You can edit (primary) quota songs into a longer version by looping instrumental parts and repeating hook & chorus parts. A simple 1-minute extended version per (primary) quota song could add up to several extra quota minutes an hour. When you do it artistically, the artists and labels should be okay with it, as they’ll receive more song exposure.

  1. Localize your power categories

Building and maintaining a good relationship with the local music scene can be good for you. Collaborate with local artists and labels to produce covers of international hits to let songs support your music quota. If local artists usually sing in English and like (more) airplay on your station, request that they produce a special radio version (exclusively for your station) with the right amount of local language parts so it will match the music quota criteria. I recently heard a French version of Keep My Cool by Madcon. The Norwegian group reproduced their English language song with French vocal inserts (covering over 50% of its duration in order to be recognized as a ‘French’ song) for exactly that reason.

‘A diffused music promise can weaken listener expectations’

Better than this is choosing one language ratio, and sticking to it all day long (images: Wikipedia)

Better than this is choosing one language ratio, and sticking to it all day long (images: Wikipedia)

  1. Support your local talent

You can scout new talent at your own station events (like outdoor music shows) to support local music. Work together with recording studios to local artists’ homemade demos into ready-to-air music productions, giving them media exposure and giving you new material. Another benefit: many people are still going to radio to discover new music (and expect radio to curate new music), so your (Top 40) station may benefit from getting the image for discovering and building new talent. Do you want to take things to a top level? Launch your radio company’s own record label as an additional income stream, like UK-based Global is doing.

  1. Merge your non-quota songs

pro-tools-music-editing-cross-fading-instrumental-song-parts-04You can sell multiple international songs as one item. Some CHR stations in Canada are running a ‘Six Pack’ where they play 6 English songs back to back, but mixed together — which, according to the letter of the law, counts as just 1 English track. This way, they have to play fewer French songs to make the station’s music quota that day.

  1. Maintain your format consistency

You probably want to make your morning show and drive time show as attractive as possible, and that usually means playing less (domestic) quota hit songs than (international) non-quota hit songs during those hours. However, I’ve heard of a Top 40 station in France that on Saturday & Sunday mornings, when most people are sleeping, goes 100% French so they can play much less of it during more audience-intensive hours. But you risk is diluting your music promise. For programming strategy as well as brand management reasons, you want to have a relatively consistent music mix, so your listeners will know what to expect because they’re getting what they expect — any day, any time. Also on Sunday morning at 7:01. Successful programming is consistent programming.

‘Find a win-win compromise’

Suggesting workable alternatives to government officials can be worthwhile (image: Thomas Giger)

Suggesting workable alternatives to government officials can be worthwhile (image: Thomas Giger)

  1. Get your quota elsewhere

In some countries, broadcasters can (collectively) negotiate with media regulators to lower your quota percentage. You could even propose launching a sub brand, where you will play (the majority of) local music. For example, if your license includes an obligation to spin 40% music in the local language, you can first propose to play 20% on the main channel and as much as 60% on the secondary channel; an average of 40%. Or suggest dividing music quota over different distribution channels of your main brand, like 20% on FM & DAB, and the requested 40% on your web stream by (only there) replacing (4 x 3-minute / 3 x 4-minute / 2 x 6-minute) stop sets of ads & promos with quota music. Find a win-win that will make politicians still look good, while serving your strategy much better.

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.



This is a guest post by Stephen Ryan of Ryan Research for Radio))) ILOVEIT

If you run a music station, your music fans are driving your ratings, so your callout research should be focused on your P1 nucleus (and that of your main competitor).

Following a 3-part article on auditorium music testing, radio research specialist Stephen Ryan was kind enough to also share best practices on how to do callout research the right way. Being on top of your (and your main competitor’s) Music Core is essential to spot music preferences regarding current and recurrent songs. But how to recruit a reliable sample for your callout research, even if you’re not a heritage brand? It’s one of the questions answered in this guest post.



Choose participants who listen to radio for 15 minutes a day or more (image: Apple, Thomas Giger)

Choose participants who listen to radio for 15 minutes a day or more (image: Thomas Giger)


In previous articles in this series, we have seen how tighter research budgets have meant that programmers often need to decide and focus on the best music research methodology for their radio format. In recent articles, we looked at best practices in the recruitmentexecution and interpretation of an auditorium music test. An AMT is best suited to formats that are more heavily reliant on gold songs, while callout research is most fit for formats where current & recurrent songs tend to dominate the playlist. While an auditorium music test is a snapshot of a song’s popularity at a particular point in time, callout research helps you to get an ongoing trend indicator for the life cycle of a song, from its initial exposure to peak rating to then popularity decline (normally through ‘burn’, where listeners are getting tired of a song). As with an AMT, you’re looking for a hierarchy for songs tested. However, for callout, that hierarchy will be dynamic.


Traditionally, callout research has been CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) based. The panel is initially recruited based on quota criteria. Then, on a regular basis throughout each month, a subsection of the panel will be called for each survey (normally referred to as a ‘wave’). It’s good to test a maximum of 30 songs per call. Keeping in mind that a panellist will listen to song hooks through a telephone handset, it was found that they can tolerate listening to about 30 songs in one session while retaining their full concentration.


We’ll discuss online research in a later article, but it’s interesting to note that the current recommendation for a survey conducted on a mobile or tablet device is a duration of 7-8 minutes. If you have 30 song hooks, plus validation questions (to define factors like gender, age, TSL, cume, and ‘music core’ listening), this equates to about 7-8 minutes, so it looks like the 30-song rule will live on in the digital age. To ensure that you don’t end up with ‘light’ radio listeners, you always want ask a Time Spent Listening related question as part of your recruitment filters, and set at a minimum of 15 minutes a day (or even up to one hour a day). If you accept ‘light’ radio listeners in your panel, you may not get a true picture of ‘burn’for the songs tested.



Using re-validated panelists several times saves you time and money (image: Ryan Research)

Using re-validated panelists several times saves you time and money (image: Ryan Research)


Beginning your panel construction prior to commencing any callout waves means that the heavy lifting is done at the start. When your panel has been built correctly, then by definition the compilation of the sample for each wave becomes quicker and more efficient because you are dipping into a pre-validated pool. You can use each member of the panel several times, thus saving on the cost of having to find new people based on your recruitment criteria for every wave. The initial panel build (and the actual callout conversation) should remain blind. The quotas are built along set criteria, but your participants should not be aware of why they’re being recruited, other than you’re interested in their view on songs as a radio listener.


As large local and international fieldwork companies have access to large proprietary databases, there is a growing trend toward moving away from a panel build, and recruiting the required sample as each wave is required. Others still favour the recruitment of a panel to get multiple chances to validate the respondent, firstly when they are initially recruited, and then always before they are invited to a survey. Whether you want to use a panel or live recruitment for each wave depends on budget, but the composition of the sample and the consistency of that composition are key in generating solid and reliable data. If you want to see trends, you need consistency.


Later, we will outline how to build an initial panel if you’re a new station (or recently flipped format), or if you don’t have a sufficient audience base to build an appropriate sample. For now, we’ll assume that your station does have some heritage, and a quantifiable audience. This normally means that it’s included in official audience ratings, and that you have access to your radio station’s ratings data. It helps the fieldwork company to calculate the cost of recruitment. It goes without saying that, if you are not in the top tiers of the ratings, this will have a significant impact on the cost of your fieldwork in case recruitment criteria are based on ratings.



In case you have a limited budget, you can often use a 100%-female sample, unless your station’s music format is specifically targeted towards a male audience (image: Flickr / Yu-Jen Shih)

But if you have a limited budget, you could use a 100%-female sample, unless your station’s music format is specifically targeted towards a male audience (image: Flickr / Yu-Jen Shih)


Your focus should be on a 10-year demographic, which represents the target audience — leave the sales target to the sales people. As callout research is most efficient for music formats with a high level of Currents & Recurrents, that 10-year demo will lean toward young adults (20+), and potentially teens. When you rely on consistent trends, young adults are the ones providing consistency. If you do intend to (or need to) include teens in your research, include at least an equal amount of young adults. Teens go hot or cold on songs very quickly. While in particular male teens can help you spot potential future hits, check the more consistent views on songs provided by young adults. This way the real hits will have a longer lifespan.


We often hear how teenagers are listening less to radio (even if usually in terms of TSL, instead of not listening at all). It is important to remember that today’s teens will also grow into young adults — and when they do, they may take their behaviour patterns with them. It means that in the future, the consistency currently provided by young adults may then become less so. That is something you will need to monitor then, but for now, those 20-plusses still provide that necessary balance.


When we refer to teens, this would normally be those aged 15-19 years, but keep in mind that laws about using young people for research will vary from country to country. Check with your fieldwork company if there are legal restrictions imposed on your market. As explained in How To Make Your Auditorium Music Test Count, it’s good to know that you can usually focus solely on females — even if your actual format also appeals to males. Obviously, there are certain formats that are considerably male oriented, and for those, this ‘female rule’ does not apply. Ideally, you should have a usable sample of both males and females, but in case you’re working within tight budgets, this simply may not be feasible. For this article, we will use an example of callout based on 20-29 year-old females.



Reducing that from 30 to 20 can decrease your total sample from 150 to 100 (image: Thomas Giger)

Just reducing your Other Competitor(s) Music Core from 30 to 20 allows you to decrease your total sample from 150 to 100, potentially saving you 33% of your budget (image: Thomas Giger)


Before looking at the most effective panel size, you need to decide about the required sample size for each wave. In a previous article, we outlined a strategic approach to decide on the composition of the sample for an auditorium music test. There is a common thing with callout, which is that you want to have an absolute minimum of 30 people in any cell or cross-tab that you want to look at in isolation. An AMT is open to who actually turns up during test night, so an over-recruitment is required. This is not the case for callout, so you don’t need to over-recruit to hit your sample target. Regarding composition, the ideal one (for the overall panel, and for each wave) is this:

  • 100% of the sample should have listened to your station in the last 7 days
  • 50% of the sample should have your station as their ‘station to listen to most for music’
  • The remaining 50% of the sample should include one or more stations, with the same (or with a similar) format as you, that compete directly with you on the position of ‘station to listen to most for music’, like 30% Music Core of your main competitor, and 20% Music Core of either your second-biggest competitor (or an amalgam of several minor, while still significant, competitors)


The decision is really based on your individual market competition. If you want to break out the Other Competitor(s) Music Core (so either that single secondary competitor, or an amalgam of secondary & tertiary competitors), that group will need to include a minimum of 30 people. If they are 20% of your total sample, then 30% (your main competitor’s contribution) will be 45 people, and your own station at 50% will be 75 people. That’s a total sample of 150 people.


Should 150 people be too expensive compared to your music research budget, then something needs to be sacrificed. Initially, try to maintain the sample levels for your Station Music Core and Main Competitor Music Core, and only reduce the sample for your Other Competitor(s) Music Core. While you will not be able to look at your secondary and/or tertiary competitors in isolation, you can look at your Main Competitor Music Core and at a combined Main Competitor and Other Competitor(s) Music Core (where at least you see an influence from those other competitors). That combined cross-tab is sometimes referred to as Disloyal Cume. Reducing the Other Competitor(s) Music Core sample to 20 people (which is 20% of the total sample size) will drop the total sample size per wave to 5 x 20 people = 100 participants.



More time between different waves for the same participant means higher cost (image: Ryan Research)

More time between different waves for one participant means higher cost (image: Ryan Research)


Once you have chosen the sample size for each wave, the next cost implication is how many waves there will be in the year. As budgets began to get squeezed, a lot of stations dropped from what would have been 40-44 waves of callout a year to about half that amount, and moving toward having a wave on each alternative week. Let’s say you want 26 waves across a 12-month period. When starting with a new panel, have some waves across consecutive weeks, just to have a chance to check the consistency of your samples before moving to one wave every alternative week. In this example, we have 150 people in each sample (for each wave) based on our composition quotas, and 26 surveys across the year.


Another cost implication comes from 3 criteria:

  • how many times you will use a single panellist before he or she is retired
  • how many waves must be passed before that single panellist can be re-used
  • which margin is required to cover the attrition (loss) of panellists across the year

You want to take a pragmatic decision on how many times a particular panellist is allowed to be used before being retired. The fewer times you are prepared to use one and the same panellist, the greater panel (and the higher cost) you will have. Your fieldwork company should be able to guide you on a realistic number.


Next, you need to decide how long a panellist will be rested between their involvement in one survey and the next. You want to put the emphasis on the period of time between surveys, rather than the number of surveys. Think of it this way: if you set it at a 4-survey gap and you are doing weekly callout research, a panelist would be used once a month. But if you are doing callout sessions every alternate week, then a panelist would be used once every 2 months. Also, keep in mind that the wider the gap for a single panellist between one survey and the next, the larger the panel for your music test — and, again, more people means additional cost.



Any callout wave should only include respondents who were not part of any music research over the last 6 months, and who also did not participate in any other survey over the last 3 months (image: Thomas Giger)

Only include respondents who were not part of any music research over the last 6 months, and who also did not participate in any other survey over the last 3 months (image: Thomas Giger)


There is one main factor that is out of your control, which is the attrition (or loss) of panellists. Today’s overall lower tolerance for market research will make some panellists leave early on their own volition, so factor in an extra margin in the total panel size to accommodate this. Before, you may have been okay with 20%, but today, you’re likely to need a much higher margin. We mentioned earlier that you could reduce costs by doing live recruitment (using proprietary databases) for each wave, rather than first building a panel. With currently growing attrition rates, the advantages of revalidating and re-using each panel member may become outweighed by the pure cost of building that panel.


Once your various parameters are set, you can calculate the required panel size. Based on a 150 sample per wave, 26 waves, and 4 week gap between them, and on using each panellist 5-6 times with a reasonable margin for attrition, you are likely to require a panel of about 1.000 people. If we had based our calculations on a 100 sample per wave, then the total panel size would likely be around 700 people. Your fieldwork company should be able to advise you on your own market considerations.


Similar to auditorium music test recruitment, if you let your fieldwork company use an existing database instead of recruiting people who’ve never been part of any of their surveys, make sure that they don’t enlist participants who have been regular survey respondents in the recent past. As always, you want to avoid using ‘semi-professional’ respondents. It is worthwhile making some additional stipulations, like that no respondent has been used in any kind of survey in the last 3 months, and that no participant has been used for any kind of ‘radio’ and/or ‘music’ research over the last 6 months. Especially if a participant is to be used on a repeat basis for music research, you want to add criteria for ‘how many’ and ‘how often’ as outlined above.



Monitoring your (P1 audience) Music Core is essential in callout research (image: 123RF / blankstock, Thomas Giger)

Monitoring your (P1) Music Core is essential in callout (image: 123RF / blankstock, Thomas Giger)


There is one drawback of building a panel. The recruit is based on a set of criteria that is then set for whole duration of research (like 26 waves in this example). This is not helpful if you are a new station, or if you have flipped format recently, because you don’t have an established quantifiable audience base yet. Changing the criteria midway through can prove expensive. In these scenarios, using a live recruit across each wave may be the better option where it would be easier to change the criteria in gradual steps as your audience hopefully grows. At the beginning, you could set a music filter based on your format as your main criterium (either to include those music fans you do want, or to exclude those music fans you don’t want). You can combine it with a quota for your Main Competitor Music Core; your biggest competitor’s music fans of which you wish to attract a part to your station.


Using a music filter can also be cost effective if your station is currently on the lower end of the ratings. As mentioned before, the biggest drawback of not having a solid sample of your Music Core is that you don’t get a true indication of ‘burn’ on the songs from people who listen to you most. They are the people who will likely notice your rotations. Getting those rotations wrong can have a detrimental affect, especially on your Time Spent Listening. If you need to start with an alternative filter, such as music genre, then move to recruiting a decent sample of your Music Core listeners as soon as possible. In the next article in our radio research series, we’ll look at some best practice in deciding which songs to test in callout research, and how to approach the interpretation of callout results on each wave.



How To Make Your TOP 40 Radio Station A Massive Hit

by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

Rolling format clocks for less predictive positions and maintaining genre balance for more satisfied audiences matters in scheduling music for Top 40 radio stations.

Music scheduling for Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) formats causes an interesting challenge: how to create enough variety despite a limited playlist? Consultant Robert Johansson likes to use various clock grids for better song rotations, and look at demographic clusters (not just main scores) in music research to create mass-appeal song sequences.



Can I Kick It?, A Tribe Called Quest, single cover

(Power current) song rotation patterns can improve by kicking one or more songs at midnight (image: JIVE Records)


Having a small music playlist and still creating a good music flow seems like quite a challenge.

“The fact that you might spin the most-played song 140 times a week now is adding to that”, Johansson confirms. As rotations have increased, so we can’t apply the same scheduling rules as we did a few years ago, he prefers to use several different clocks for better music scheduling. “When you’re playing 5 ‘A songs’, you need to create variety in where they are positioned, and what kind of songs they’re surrounded with.” He likes the Rolling Clock feature (included in one of the bigger music scheduling programs) to create a lot of different clock variants in a heartbeat. For a particular station, he defined about 50 different format clocks for its daytime programming alone.

radio-music-programming-format-clock-grid-song-categories-spreadsheet-03DESIGN FORMATS IN SPREADSHEETS

It’s important to keep an overview of all clocks, and practical to create them in a spreadsheet first. “So we know in which quarter hours we expose certain songs, how we are going to have a good flow from day to day, and whenever we’re going to use kicks.” Kicks are commands that tell your music scheduling software to drop a certain amount of songs at a certain time (like midnight) to achieve a better day-to-day rotation.



So if you play 1 song an hour from your ‘A’ list, you can now have 4 songs in this category — as you no longer necessarily need 5 or 7 songs to let them naturally rotate through different quarters, hours and dayparts?

“It’s better to have a number of songs that creates a natural flow, but the Kick is a good function that can help you. Because you don’t know if you really always have 5 songs that are going to fit in this high-rotation category.” Another client of Robert Johansson has different sets of format clocks to choose from, depending on how many songs are to be included in their power current category: 4 or 5. “Then don’t have to say: we must find 5 ‘A’ songs. If you just have 4 ‘A’ songs, it’s good to have a different set of clocks to switch to.” He adds that having two different clock grids (one for 4, and one for 5 ‘A’ songs) is sufficient.



numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, red color, decreasing intensity

High-rotation (power current) music categories ideally exist of 4 or 5 best-testing songs (image: Thomas Giger)


Why wouldn’t you make a third clock grid for say 6 ‘A’ songs?

“Whether you play 4 or 6 ‘A’ songs is huge difference. And if you’re going to play 6 songs in ‘A’ and play 3 each hour, you’ll end up in a rotation pattern where songs tend to play in the same quarter hour. But if you play 4 ‘A’ songs each hour, like 1 every 15 minutes, and you have 5 songs in that category, songs usually do not appear in the same quarter hour.” Johansson likes to create rotation patterns that schedule songs in as many different quarters within an hour as possible before they return to the same quarter hour slot.

radio-music-research-callout-test-results-20-34-year-old-audience-demographic-03USE PASSION AS CRITERIUM

What do you think of playing 7 songs in ‘A’ when you play 4 of them an hour? Or is that too much to create a feeling of passion?

“Whenever I see callout results, the index scores usually drop off after 5 songs. Sometimes it’s 4, sometimes 5 or possibly 6. Usually, if you have 7 songs, there is not as much passion in song number 7 as in number 1, 2 or 3 coming out of your callout research.”



In his opinion, it matters what kind of rotation you’re using for your power currents (‘A’ list songs). For example, having 7 hit songs in ‘A’ and playing 2 each hour (rotation of 3.5 hours) or 3 each hour (rotation of about 2.5 hours) is okay. “But if you end up playing ‘A’ songs around 1.5 hour in separation, then I would not play as many as 7 in that rotation.” Robert Johansson advises to limit music categories of songs with a high exposure (like 140 spins a week) to 4 or 5 songs. (It will ensure that every ‘A’ list song really is a power current — a current hit for which your target listeners are feeling a strong passion.)



Love Yourself, Justin Bieber, single cover

This American Top 40 station played Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself every 71 minutes (image: Def Jam Recordings)


Coming back to the mentioned 50 format clock variants, how do you go about implementing those?

Johansson explains that some of these format clocks are specifically designed for certain dayparts. For example, a station could use 7 clocks per 6-hour daypart, and rotate them through this daypart. If a certain clock plays in the ‘noon hour’ on Monday, it plays again in the ‘1 PM hour’ on Tuesday. It’s common to use a dedicated set of hot clocks for morning shows (as they feature more talk breaks compared to middays). Some programmers use alternate clock grids for afternoons, evenings and weekends, too. “A station could have a more uptempo or more current feeling during evenings as compared to daytime. It depends on what the station wants to achieve, but it’s common to feature more new music in the afternoon than in midday.”

radio-programming-4-dayparts-01KEEP PRIME-TIME PLAYLISTS FAMILIAR

A radio station’s overall music format and playlist balance should be reflected in every program clock, although some categories can be dayparted, like those for brand-new music. Many stationsdon’t play unfamiliar new releases in morning drive, and add new music slots to late afternoon, evening, night & overnight clocks. This ensures a familiar-based music output during ratings-driving morning show and 9-5 office work hours.



Robert Johansson notes that when he started in radio 20 years ago, a rotation of 50 plays a week (every 3 hours and 20 minutes) was considered to be a lot. Just a few years ago, 100 spins a week (every 1 hour and 40 minutes) was still exceptional for power currents. Boy, have things changed! Mediabase airplay data from January 26 till February 1, 2016 reveal that format icons KIIS-FM Los Angeles and Z100 New York play ‘A list’ songs around 110 to 120 times a week(every 1 hour and 25 to 30 minutes, thus appearing in every sixth quarter hour on average). Another iHeartRadio Top 40 outlet, Now 105 in Norfolk, holds the rotation record for that week with 142 spins for Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself, therefore repeating it once every 1 hour and 11 minutes (thus in every fifth quarter hour) on average.



radio music programming, format clock hour, song categories, music genres, male versus female (or both) audience segments

Your music flow should include enough variety to stay interesting for every target segment


Music directors want to expose ‘passion’ songs, but they might want to avoid ‘burn’ increase. So where do we find an equilibrium of satisfying listeners without irritating them?

“When you look into music research, you can really see how different people think about songs sometime. There is a huge diversity in music taste. It’s a lot about deciding: who is your target; who are you playing the music for?” Johansson advises to create a balanced song sequence to keep every segment of your target audience tuned in, which goes for CHR / Top 40 as well as any format for that matter. “If you play one song which is just for a part of your target, it’s okay, but if you play two of those songs back to back, which is not good, people are out. See how different clusters rate the songs. Not just look at the main score, but also at which part of the audience is driving the score. So the best-testing song might not always be the best one for your station in this regard.”

31a8ca497da06282eb497b8005c82431Thomas Giger is a European radio broadcasting specialist and publisher of Radio))) ILOVEIT, based in the Netherlands, and serving the radio industry worldwide.