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?
New songs are released all the time. Contemporary stations especially should keep tabs on these new releases, especially if the song is from a station superstar -- an artist or band 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 established acts tend to be preferable.
Your station can’t rely on new releases from just the superstars. How else should you determine if a new song should be added to your library? Consider songs you hear from other outlets such as other radio stations, music videos, movies, TV shows, and even commercials. Marian Hill’s “Stroll” suddenly became popular on radio after Apple’s iPhone 7 + AirPods commercial was all over television.
Besides charts, music from other outlets, and new releases from station superstars, you should rely on your instincts. If you enjoy a new song, even from a completely unknown artist or band, and you think your audience will like it, add it!
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. Changing categories is more of an art than a science -- you can listen to your instincts and refer to charts (don’t get too far ahead, though), but the best way to gauge this is direct feedback.
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-Recurrents).
Remember, 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-Recurrent category only when you’re confident that it is past its prime.
If a song isn’t good enough to advance beyond the B or C categories, it should never be put into the recurrent category. 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 the categories, from C-New Currents all the way to 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 requests from audiences. It can be argued that the life or popularity of a song is based on those audience requests. 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 many other aspects of music programming, the focus should be on your audience and their preferences.
This post concludes our series on the principles of programming music radio. We hope you found this helpful and informative! At the end of the day, the blog posts in this series are just here as guides -- not hard and fast rules.
Article image: Annie Theby via Unsplash.