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Phantom Burn and Familiarity posted on April 28th, 2022

Phantom Burn and Familiarity

By Joseph Knapp, Founder, MusicMaster Inc.

Shortly after streaming music services made it possible for radio listeners to hear their favorite songs on demand, the landscape of radio changed dramatically. Now your audience can hear any song at any time, create their own playlists and share their playlists with their friends. Most of these services now suggest similar music, leading people to discover new music they’ve never heard before and often music that your station is not playing.

Once upon a time, listeners had far fewer opportunities to discover new music. The biggest influence was radio. Top 40 radio introduced new songs to the audience. Tight rotations made your audience familiar with the new songs. It didn’t take long for them to decide if they liked a new song. After a certain number of spins, the audience would grow tired of hearing the song.

Before music research became popular, it was nearly impossible to determine if a new song was widely liked, or disliked, by your target audience. It was also difficult to determine when a new song had been played often enough for your target audience to grow tired of hearing it. Research made it possible to dump the ‘stiffs’ quickly and move the hits to a slower rotation category at just the right time.

Now that radio no longer controls new music discovery and the exposure of hit music to the audience, music research has become even more important. New songs added to your rotation can burn a lot faster than before, due to additional listening opportunities from outside sources. You may also be missing out on new music that is quickly becoming a favorite of your listeners.

Watching what other stations are doing using media monitoring services can give you some guidance, but it can also lead you to false assumptions. Your market and your audience may have different musical tastes and repeat airplay tolerances. If being local is important to you, your music rotation choices should also be based on local trends.

Is it possible that many formerly local radio stations failed to maintain the audience revenue necessary to support the local programming talent and entertainers necessary to remain profitable and compromised playing a national satellite or syndicated provider instead? Perhaps the cure was worse than the disease for these stations. Bottom line revenue cuts are rarely as profitable as top line revenue gains.

I offer these observations simply as food for thought, but I’m always happy to ‘talk radio’ with anyone!