How Many Songs Are Listeners Exposed To?

Having seen a rise in complaints about music repetition in market studies, we wanted to take a deeper dive into what experiences might be contributing to this perception. Looking at the wider group of stations a listener might have programmed into his or her car radio seemed to be a good way to imagine the actual experience of repetition.

We picked a top ten market and the top cuming music radio stations in the market. Since we were looking for playlist overlaps, we omitted Country and Urban stations. We looked at two recent weeks in July, avoiding the special programming that might have skewed the long July 4 holiday weekend. We ignored nights and overnights because of their lower PUMM levels.

Two weeks. Eight stations. Roughly 17,000 slots for songs in those hours on the group of stations. We filtered out songs that had been played less than four times. We were left with about 1250 songs that accounted for roughly 14,300 of the 17,000 slots, or about 84% of the airplay, during the two weeks.

When we drilled down to the heavier rotations, songs that had played at least twice a day across our panel of eight stations, we found 60 titles accounted for over 20% of the exposure. If you imagined that those are mostly currents and recurrents, you’d be right. Roughly 40 currents and recurrents account for about 17% of the airplay. Knowing burn among your core and outer cume for the titles you’re playing is critical.

Along with those 40 very hot currents and recurrents, there are fewer than 20 non-currents – including over a dozen 80’s titles and ONE 90’s title. These 20 titles figure into a group that comprise a segment of about 100 non-current titles that play a few times a week on at least three of the monitored stations. At about 17% of the airplay among these stations, these are the non-currents that can spike burn scores in music testing – and should be monitored carefully. Even if library tests are outside your budget, you can platoon these stressed non-currents through your weekly (or bi-monthly) music testing.

Depending on format, you may find that some of these non-currents outscore your currents and recurrents. While burn is a potent potential negative, the option to judiciously increase exposure on these titles, while monitoring competing stations and watching scores on these stressed non-currents can give you an airplay advantage (and take some of the heat off recurrents or less-than-developed currents).

In all, fewer than 500 titles comprise close to 60% of the airplay across eight radio stations in this market. When libraries are that tight, station claims of more variety become tricky, especially to jaded listeners. Factor in the annoyance listeners face punching out of commercials on one station, only to land on commercials playing on the next station, and the burden on personalities and promotions to provide added entertainment value becomes apparent.

With more stations playing fewer titles, accurate and regular music testing becomes more important than ever.