(By Randy Lane) Talent wants to play less music, management wants to play more. Does your station run into this dilemma? How do you resolve it? How much music to play in the morning is one of the most common questions we get from clients.
Conventional PPM wisdom is that radio stations have to play more music in the morning to win. This view is valid in some situations, but not all. The strategy of playing more music in the morning works for new formats, stations that are re-establishing their music position, and morning shows that are under-performing their station’s average share in the ratings.
When a show’s ratings are significantly outperforming the station, many listeners who prefer other music formats are tuning in just to hear the show. Then the music actually causes a loss in time spent listening. Country fans might love the Top 40 show, but not Rihanna every 75 minutes. Or pop fans might like a rock morning show for the funny, edgy content, but switch stations when Metallica comes on.
The amount of music played in the morning is directly proportionate to the quality of the content and how the show performs against the station’s average ratings. Assuming that your commercial count in the morning is typical (14 minutes per hour) and the average song length is approximately four minutes, consider the following as a guide for the number of songs to play:
- New format launches: 12 songs per hour
- Re-establishing a music position: This is a tricky one. When the show is substantially outperforming the station, leave it alone. If the show is near even to the station average: 8-10 songs per hour
- Under-performing the station average in the target more than 10%: 8-10 songs per hour
- Even with the station average in the target: 7-8 songs per hour
- 10-15% above the station average in the target demo: 4-6 songs per hour
- 15-20% above the station average in the target demo: 3-5 songs per hour
- 20% or more above the station average in the target demo: 0-4 songs per hour.
The song count averages will vary by format expectations. Male-targeted Rock stations can get away with less music in the morning. Conversely, there is a higher expectation for more music on Country and older-targeted AC stations.
When two or more stations in the same music format are in a head-to-head battle, the station with the highest-performing morning show will seize the day. The song count on these shows can be decreased on passion music formats like Country, yet it is best to stay close to the competitors.
Gradual changes are less noticeable. Drop one song per hour for a period of time that coincides with the ratings. Be sure to play the most familiar and multiple-format appealing songs on high-performing shows since they are attracting listeners with other music preferences.
Randy Lane has worked as a DJ, program director, and general manager. He launched the Randy Lane Company in 1996 with the mission of developing morning shows and coaching talent. He has collected numerous industry awards, including Billboard’s “Consultant of the Year” for Adult Contemporary and Top 40.