Broadcasting, Programming, Getting Started, Guide

Creating a Daily Playlist

When programming your station, you have a couple of different choices: AutoDJ, LiveDJ, and Scheduled Events. If Scheduled Events are your primary focus, you might consider creating a daily playlist to keep your programming fresh, diverse, and engaging. When it comes to creating daily playlists for your station, there are three main keys: balance, superstars, and simplicity.


A balance of styles, eras, tempos, and textures will draw an audience in. Playing all sad, slow songs will get old fast, while constant upbeat and energetic songs might get to be a bit too much.

Every hour of programming, commonly referred to as Rotation Clocks, should be balanced. You don’t want to fall into the habit of playing one very specific category all the time. That said though, while variety is important, consistency is also necessary. As a listener, how strange would it be to listen to metal, country, and gospel all within the same hour?


Who are the most important artists that your station plays? Make a list of the top 10 or so. If you have a pop station, for example, your list might include Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Mariah Carey, Madonna, and Britney Spears. Your superstars should be the artists that are relevant and staples within your particular niche.

Play those superstar artists frequently, with the DMCA in mind. Update that top 10 list a few times a year since trends change. This is especially important for contemporary music stations. Superstar lists for oldies stations may remain static for much longer.


When it comes to rules/codes for your playlists, use only what you really need. Simplicity is key! The more codes you try to follow, the more complicated it becomes for you to curate quality playlists. You need just enough codes to follow to ensure nothing bad happens, such as boring the audience or being noncompliant with copyright laws. Below are a few examples of important codes you definitely want to follow.

  • Artist separation - Setting up a rule to limit how many times an artist or band is repeated in a given time period is important to provide a variety for listeners. It’s especially important for internet radio stations as they must comply with the “sound recording performance complement,” which prohibits a Webcaster from transmitting within any given three hour period:

    • (A) more than three different songs from the same album, with no more than two such songs transmitted consecutively.
    • (B) more than four different songs by the same artist or compilation, with no more than three such songs transmitted consecutively.

  • Vertical and horizontal song rotation - Predictable patterns are typically the biggest complaint heard from audiences, not repetition (unless a severe instance). Make sure you don’t play the same pattern of songs every single day around the same exact time.

  • Tempo - Most stations won’t want to play too many downtempo songs in a row. On the other hand, some stations may want to control tempo in the other direction and avoid playing too many uptempo songs together.

  • Music style - Top 40 stations categorize and separate pop from rock from hip hop in order to achieve a great mix and variety in their playlists. Oldies stations take a similar but slightly different approach, categorizing Motown, British Invasion, and Surf music, for example. Other stations, such as classical and jazz stations, will have categories for different styles or subgenres within their genres.

For more info about playlists, see our articles entitled How to Make Great Playlists for Your Radio Station and Music Selection and Playlist Creation.

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