Broadcasting, Programming, Getting Started, Guide

Updating Your Radio Station's Music Library

As with everything else in life, music trends change. Songs that were once popular are old news, and new songs that were once unheard of are suddenly all the rage. How do you know when to phase out old music and add in the new? And, how should you go about the process of updating your library? Let's talk about it.

Adding Music

New songs are released all the time. Contemporary stations in particular should keep tabs on these new releases, especially if the song is from a station superstar (an artist your station already plays in heavy rotation). That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t add new music from an unknown or up-and-coming artist, but new music from artists your listeners are already familiar with is a perfect place to start when adding fresh music to your library.

Your station can’t rely on new releases from just the superstars though. So, how else can you determine if a new song should be added to your library? Utilize streaming services, music news outlets, music blogs, and social media to find music (both music that's newly released and just new to your station). Consider songs you hear in movies, TV shows, and even commercials. Credible charts, such as the Billboard Hot 100, are other sources to keep an eye on when adding new music to your station’s library. Ultimately, you're the expert on your station, meaning you know best what kind of music fits into your station's programming. So, rely on your instincts. If you enjoy a new song, even from a completely unknown artist, and you think your audience will like it, add it!

For more info on keeping up with music releases, check out this article.

Category Changes

Adding music is the first step to updating your library, and category changes is the second step. There’s no set time for a song to stay in a particular category. Some songs remain popular for a long time while others die out quickly, and your category changes should largely follow those trends. Changing categories is more of an art than a science though. You can listen to your instincts and refer to charts, but you should also stay tapped in to your audience's direct feedback. Category changes can be grouped into three different types: Increasing Airplay, Decreasing Airplay, and Dropping from the Library.

If you've never categorized your library before, you can learn about it here.

Increasing Airplay
In any given week, most songs won’t change categories. The A-Hot Currents category is for songs maintaining popularity, B-Medium Currents category is for moderately popular songs, and C-New Currents category is for new songs that haven’t been played enough to be properly evaluated just yet.

The A category is reserved for the most popular and familiar songs. If the song hasn’t been played for four to five weeks, it’s probably not familiar enough for this category yet, except for the occasional brand new song from a station superstar.

It might seem like the time has come for a song in the B-Medium Currents to move on up to the A-Hot Currents category, but there’s nothing to remove from A. What do you do? Since maintaining consistent category counts is important, don’t change a thing. Keep the song in B until you can properly place it in A by removing something from A (either dropping an A song entirely or moving it to D-Recurrent).

Decreasing Airplay
Once a song has reached its peak, you may want to keep it in rotation because it truly reached "hit" status. This is what the D-Recurrent category is for. Generally speaking, only songs that have reached A-Hot Currents rotation should be considered for the D-Recurrent category. Consider bumping a song from the A category into the D category only when you’re confident that it is past its prime though.

If a song isn’t good enough to advance beyond the B or C categories, it probably shouldn't ever be added into Recurrents. If a song hasn’t performed well enough to get out of C or B, it should be dropped completely from your station’s music library.

Dropping from the Library
It’s rare that a song will be successful enough to move through all of the categories, from C-New Currents all the way to the last category E-Gold/Oldies. Many get dropped without ever getting put into heavy rotation (A-Hot Currents). How do you know when it’s time to drop a song from your station’s library?

Songs that move through the categories tend to generate a lot of audience buzz. It can be argued that the life or popularity of a song is based on the audience buzz. So, if a song in the C-New Currents or even B-Medium Currents category has been there for a few weeks and your audience gives you no indication that they care about the song, you may want to consider dropping it completely from your station’s library. As with all other aspects of music programming, the focus should be on your audience and their preferences.

For more info about programming, see our articles on Music Selection and Playlist Creation and Rotation Clocks.

For more info about the importance of keeping your programming updated, see this article.

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Article Image: Annie Theby via Unsplash.

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About Sarah Osborne

  • Pennsylvania
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About Michelle Ruoff

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania