Consultant Tips: Enough Already!

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on December 2, 2020 

In recent conversations with several Pop and Hot AC programmers, the overall frustration that’s been coming up, are the number of core artists dropping singles as often as a week apart. What seems to be happening is that artists who are on lockdown from touring and now have a lot of free time on their hands are using it to channel their creativity and write songs a lot faster than they used to.

On any given week, there is another big release from a core artist that must be a priority for radio, which prevents opportunity for new artists and variety to be exposed. And on any given week, lately, a song featuring Justin Bieber, whether it’s his or someone else’s track, is released. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all good so far. And I think it’s great for the artists and the labels and for sales and for getting everyone, both artists and fans through the pandemic, but it makes it really hard for radio to strategically balance a playlist so songs become familiar and the audience isn’t experiencing burnout because a station has played a Justin Bieber song four times in one hour.

Another musical challenge right now is the number of Pop songs featuring Country cross over artists or Country cross over songs. It’s a big part of the current Doldrum cycle. So, if stations aren’t careful, making sure that only two of those (at most) play an hour and are extremely far apart, they could end up crossing the pop lane and becoming something their audience isn’t used to. Top 40 and Hot AC audiences are not coming to their stations for Country music.

Keep in mind too, this current cycle of music is predominately medium tempo so that’s another music scheduling hurdle to take on. This isn’t the best time for these kinds of challenges considering the lack of actual local music directors and playlists being curated on a corporate level thanks to all the downsizing in the industry. That’s why it’s important to keep a few things in mind when working through your current music scheduling strategy.

  • First, even if it’s a core artist, will the song have longevity on the station? Especially when we are coming into the end of the year and the holidays (when everyone checks out). Will the song still be alive after the New Year hits? Take that into consideration when adding songs to your playlist.
  • Second, Hot AC, you’re going to need to loosen your artist separation rules and code songs by style and tempo to ensure variety.
  • Third, you’ll need to make sure the same artist plays no more than twice an hour and that the songs are separated at the top and bottom of the hour so there is no artist burn.
  • And Finally, you’ll need to manually schedule songs by core artists and artists with multiple songs out, to make sure that the medium and new singles aren’t being blocked from being plotted (due to artist separation) because of songs in power rotation.

These aren’t new rules for music scheduling. Just a reminder to those responsible, who are frustrated with the time it takes to make sure a music log is right, to do so by hand scheduling and massage your logs. Too many stations sound exactly alike these days, and dull because of the lack of attention to detail. No one can afford that if we want to keep traditional radio alive and moving forward.