Thomas Giger, source material: 123RF / scanrail

MAKE YOUR GOLD FORMAT SHINE, AND YOUR STATION RATINGS POP! (2)

by Thomas Giger of www.radioiloveit.com

You can program Classic Hits (or similar music formats) using classic category setups based on music library decades — or do something different and distinguish your sound.

Playing power songs for your entire demo, yet focusing your efforts on your core target is what we covered in Part 1 of this series for Gold-oriented music stations. The example formats shown were audience-category based, instead of using plain decades or eras, but there are even more ways to build smart categories and rotate them effectively. In this article, we’ll discuss a different method to create a music format.

‘The smaller categories are, the broader you want them themed’

For a Classic Hits station playing a few hundred best-testing songs, Pop, Rock & Dance, split into Power & Secondary rotation where necessary, may be sufficient (image: Thomas Giger, source material: Sire / Warner Bros., Blue Sky Records, EMI / Scotti Brothers)

For a Classic Hits station playing a few hundred best-testing songs, Pop, Rock & Dance, split into Power & Secondary rotation where necessary, may be sufficient (image: Thomas Giger, source material: Sire / Warner Bros., Blue Sky Records, EMI / Scotti Brothers)

Define your library segments

“I don’t like using decades as categories. But what are the alternatives?”, a Classic Hits program director recently emailed me. As other music programmers may have the same relevant question, we’ll dedicate this post to it. While decade-based definitions can absolutely work, you could, for starters, consider using era-or demographic-based folders instead, as explained previously.

However, these are still time-oriented categories. So what’s a truly different way to schedule your songs? Indeed, music genres! But how you do it makes a real difference. The basics are as usual; you first analyze your playlist for common music genres. When you spin Classic Hits for 35-54 (hits from late 70s to mid 90s), your basic genres may be Pop, Rock and Dance.

Code your individual songs

To make that easy, define every genre using core genre songs. You can use those as reference tracks whenever you (re)code your songs. It helps to code every song based on ‘dominant genre feel’. The following classifications are obviously arbitrary, but that’s cool as long as 1 person codes all songs (ideally in 1 session), and does it consistently:

Pop: anything without a dance beat and without strong guitars (the safe middle of your playlist)

example: Madonna — Borderline

Rock: everything with a dominant guitar

example: Survivor — Eye Of The Tiger

Dance: everything with a powerful beat

example: Dan Hartman — Relight My Fire

Build your genre categories

In competitive markets, you may have a very focused playlist of a few hundred songs, and a small number of categories with each a broad theme — so rather have one ‘Dance’ category for all rhythmic genres (Soul, Disco, Funk, R&B, etc.) as opposed to sub categories for each. The smaller categories are in terms of number of songs, the broader you want them themed to avoid rotation problems (like extremely high turnovers compared to other, equal categories).

If you’re a broad Gold format (like Classic Hits), Pop, Rock & Dance categories – split into Power & Secondary rotation level where necessary – may be all you need. If you’re a segmented format (like Classic Rock), consider a limited amount of sub genres as music category themes. Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is may go into Rock Ballads (or ‘Soft’), The Doobie Brothers’ Listen To The Music into Pop-Rock (or ‘Medium’), and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck into Pure Rock (or ‘Hard’).

‘Segueing from song to song, sometimes you’re lucky’

You could, for example, align the last note of Can’t Fight This Feeling with the first beat of Africa (image: Thomas Giger, source material: Epic, Columbia)

You could, for example, align the last note of Can’t Fight This Feeling with the first beat of Africa (image: Thomas Giger, source material: Epic, Columbia)

Determine your category exposure

Part 1 showed how to create a music flow with your desired category ratio, a concept we can expand to genre-based categories. If you’re a Classic Hits, and your mapping study shows a big fan base for mainstream Pop, and smaller ones for Pop-Rock and Pop-Dance, then you may play 2 Pop : 1 Pop-Rock : 1 Pop-Dance. You could work with Power & Secondary rotations for Pop, but may want to play only Power for the ‘riskier’ categories; Pop-Rock and Pop-Dance. The three genre categories we have here, combine very well, which matters a lot.

Playing popular music for your format target demo (and scheduling it well for a great on-air flow) is just one aspect. Having a clear proposition, delivered constantly for a consistent experience, is another. It’s important to have compatible genres in your music format. When you’re (known for) playing 80s & 90s Pop-Rock, and your music research indicates that your target demo also likes Daft Punk’s One More Time, does it fit in a format cluster based on David Bowie, Queen and The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Too much variety affects your audience expectations and brand image.

Create your jingle grid

Once you have your genre categories, you spread them out over each hour, and this is where an alternative method for scheduling comes in. You can use your station imaging as your format clock base, positioning your categories around a grid of jingles! Depending on how many jingles you have, you can put individual jingles on fixed positions, or (better) create categories for certain jingles and rotate those on fixed positions. If you’re a Classic Hits playing Pop, Rock & Dance, your imaging package should reflect those styles, so you can schedule jingles accordingly.

If you’re segueing from a Pop into a Rock song, 3 options for ‘jingling’ in between are (1) a classic, Pop-to-Rock transition jingle, which would be more complex to automatically schedule, (2) a Rock jingle, or (3) a Pop jingle! Option 3 is less common, but may actually create the best flow, because the jingle is in the style of the song that the listener has just heard, and therefore it feels like part of the song – or a ‘branded outro’. As long as that jingle has a relatively neutral ending (not too much of any genre, and with medium tempo vocals), you can start almost ‘any’ song after it.

Use your sweepers alternately

Segueing from song to song, sometimes you’re lucky to, for example, align the last note of REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling with the first beat of Toto’s Africa, letting the first song’s musical ending run through the second one’s clean intro. When you make sure that song keys match or are compatible, and that song textures sound right together, you can even mix the musical outro of Can’t Fight This Feeling with a musical intro, like that of Reamonn’s Supergirl. To identify your station over such segues, you may use a sweeper or a jingle acapella in the right key. Apart from that, you may wish to alternate sung jingles and voice-over based sweepers in general.

Attaching jingle categories to fixed clock positions will help you control your flow of music genres precisely, as you can exactly choose sort of jingle should be adjacent to which sort of song. Code your jingles like you code your songs, so you can define rules, like that (in case of Option 3 above) a fast-tempo ‘Hard’ song should be followed by a jingle that (starts) in the same way. Make every hour sound slightly different by creating various clocks (by turning your ‘clock wheel’ one or more positions each time), and scheduling all clocks a smart ‘clock grid’, so that for at least 9 days (for which you need 9 clocks), for mathematical reasons, each day starts with a different format clock.

‘A music format for a Classic Hits station in a PPM radio market’

This format has a genre ratio of 2 Pop : 1 Pop-Rock : 1 Pop-Dance (image: Thomas Giger)

This format has a genre ratio of 2 Pop : 1 Pop-Rock : 1 Pop-Dance (image: Thomas Giger)

Optimise your station flow

Here’s a music format for a Classic Hits station in a PPM radio market, featuring 2 stopsets an hour, containing 15 minutes of spots. There’s a genre ratio of 2 Pop : 1 Pop-Rock : 1 Pop-Dance, and we can match music genre categories with jingle genre categories, according to Option 3 above. Apart from a main jingle category, there are Top of Hour (TOH) and Out of Break (OOB) jingle categories including 3 genre versions (Pop, Pop-Rock and Pop-Dance) in each, so every TOH / OOB can be matched with the following song (as, in this PPM format for daytime shows with full spot loads, all Top of Hours and Out of Breaks are preceded by ads; not by music).

Jingle TOH // Pop

  1. Pop Power

Sweeper

  1. Pop Secondary

JOCK TALK

  1. Rock Power

Jingle // Rock

  1. Pop Power

Sweeper

  1. Pop Secondary

JOCK TALK

COMMERCIAL BREAK xx.20 (5 minutes)

Jingle OOB // Dance

  1. Dance Power

Sweeper

  1. Pop Power

JOCK TALK

  1. Pop Secondary

Jingle // Pop

  1. Rock Power

Sweeper

  1. Pop Power

JOCK TALK

  1. Pop Secondary

Jingle // Pop

  1. Dance Power

Sweeper (may be dropped)

  1. Pop Power (may be dropped)

Jingle // Pop (may be dropped)

  1. Pop Secondary (may be dropped)

JOCK TALK

COMMERCIAL BREAK xx.50 (10 minutes)

Design your clock variants

An example of creating various alternative clocks based on this master clock, you may imagine turning your ‘clock wheel’ one or more positions to the left or right, so you will create variety while maintaining stationarity by consistent category ratios and format flow. Just slightly change song orders to continue your overall format. Moving our master clock two positions clockwise will give us the following clock variant:

Jingle TOH // Rock

  1. Rock Power

Sweeper

  1. Pop Power

JOCK TALK

  1. Pop Secondary

Jingle // Pop

  1. Dance Power

Sweeper

  1. Pop Power

JOCK TALK

COMMERCIAL BREAK xx.20 (5 minutes)

Jingle OOB // Pop

  1. Pop Secondary

Sweeper

  1. Rock Power

JOCK TALK

  1. Pop Power

Jingle // Pop

  1. Pop Secondary

Sweeper

  1. Dance Power

JOCK TALK

  1. Pop Power

Jingle // Pop

  1. Pop Secondary

Sweeper (may be dropped)

  1. Rock Power (may be dropped)

Jingle // Rock (may be dropped)

  1. Pop Power (may be dropped)

JOCK TALK

COMMERCIAL BREAK xx.50 (10 minutes)

Based on an average duration of 3.5 to 4 minutes per song, there’s a chance that #13 and #14 won’t play. If those are powers (like in the example above), it may feel a waste, and it might be tempting to always schedule two Secondary Pop songs at the very end. However, does your station sound consistently strong enough if they do play? In your music scheduling software, songs that didn’t play can be marked as ‘unplayed’, so they don’t end up at the ‘bottom of the stack’ but can be rescheduled again soon. It helps you to maximize your library and preserve rotation patterns. Happy programming!

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.