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A Shift in Listening Requires a Shift in Thinking posted on September 27th, 2023

by Brian Wheeler

There are a good number of ways to manage rotations in MusicMaster. Hour rotation rules are a powerful tool to correct wayward rotations of a category. One such rule is the Shift Rotation rule. The concept is fairly straightforward. You can define the shifts your station employs, then ask MusicMaster to encourage the songs that are scheduled to find different shifts when scheduling. But is this concept outdated?

I discussed this very topic with our own Founder and President, Joe Knapp. He originally broached the subject in a conversation regarding rotations in general. We both agreed that ‘destination listening’ seems to be a rare thing these days. Listener habits are simply not that regimented anymore, and if they are, it’s more than likely going to be due to listeners tuning in for a talk format. There are exceptions to this of course. But even if you do have jocks that warrant shift rotation rules to protect rotations, it’s important to be aware of the limitations of a shift rotation rule.

Let’s take a look at a typical shift rotation grid. To use a shift rotation rule in its pure form, you must first establish your shifts. A typical setup may look like this:

In this case, overnight is shift 1, mornings are shift 2, middays are shift 3, etc. Once the shifts are established, you can now ask MusicMaster to ensure that songs that play in one shift do not return to said shift until that song has been scheduled in X other shifts. Pretty simple stuff, right? But what if a particular song plays at 2:57pm, then plays at 3:08p the next time it plays? As far as the shift rotation rule is concerned, this is a perfectly legal move. This is why one must not use shift rotation as your sole source of rotation protection. It’s a fine start, but it shouldn’t be the only hour rotation rule you use if you’re using hour rotation rules at all.

Since we’ve arrived at the notion that most listeners aren’t destination listeners, is the shift rotation rule a tool of the past? Not necessarily. You can also use the shift rotation rule to protect regions of the day. The shift rotation rule doesn’t necessarily have to mirror your actual shifts. You can set up your shift assignment grid to simply reflect 3-hour windows of time, for example. See below:

In this setup, we’ve regionalized the day without necessarily defining actual on-air shifts. The purpose of this would be to keep the songs moving into different areas of the day without specifically confining the songs to proper shifts. Note the overlap of 11p into the first two hours of the ‘overnight’.

Here’s another grid that I’ve employed at stations I’ve programmed. This grid is a bit of a hybrid of the actual shift rotation grid, but I’ve created a shift for drive time. The idea is to mainly protect the drive times in the morning and evening. If I’ve played a song in EITHER the morning or afternoon drive, I want the song to play in X other regions before it returns to drive time.

It’s important to mention that these rules are quite effective when set up mindfully. You’ll not want to apply a shift rotation rule to a category that is only used in limited hours, for example. Doing so can choke out a category and cause MusicMaster to no longer be able to schedule them. For this reason, it’s suggested that these and any other hour rotation rules are applied on a category-by-category basis, or perhaps using a rule group to isolate specific categories that must adhere to the hour rotation rules. I also recommend setting a Max Days setting on these rules, which essentially ‘lets MusicMaster off the hook’ by establishing a day in which the rule no longer has to be enforced. Let’s face it, sometimes there’s an expiration on rules, as many days have rolled by and the importance of advancing the song into a different shift takes a back seat to getting the song played again.

In most cases, my recommendation is to set individual hour rotation rules for each category as one size rarely fits all. As always, if you have questions regarding shift rotations or any other hour rotation rule, reach out to your Music Scheduling Consultant here at MusicMaster!