Moneyball: Facing the Realities of 2024 Budgeting

Stressed Santa Claus preparing gifts

Holiday decorations are appearing in stores. Christmas music is appearing on the radio. Starbucks is serving peppermint mochas. All of these add up to one thing: it’s budget season for radio stations.

Of course, most managers and programmers are being asked to trim budgets; to do more with less; to make the hard choices. Some managers will be asking programmers to replace local music research with using Mediabase monitors from in-format stations that seem to be doing well. Some will suggest using national research in place of research done in the market they serve.

You might anticipate that NuVoodoo has an opinion about this – after all, we’re a vendor. Music research is among the services we sell. And we think it’s a terrific tool for stations. As corporate level client put it, “When we do a good job using the music research we get from you, the ratings go up.”

With so many people using DSPs like Spotify, Apple Music, and the like for some of their music listening, it makes radio’s job that much harder. DSPs give users endless flexibility – and learn our tastes over time. Not in the mood for a song chosen by a DSP? Skip! The parallel solution for a person who isn’t enjoying a song that comes on the radio is to … change stations!

Creating a radio station music log is tough stuff. A non-radio acquaintance once extolled the shared playlist they’d created with three friends. She admitted guiltily that she sometimes skips the songs selected by her friends – and realized that her friends may do the same with her picks. Imagine her playlist as a Venn diagram with the overlapping circles representing her picks and those of her friends. A radio station playlist is that idea on steroids: hundreds or even thousands of overlapping circles and the places where the most circles overlap becoming a single playlist and music schedule to try to satisfy all those listeners.

Observing what’s on other stations and knowing what songs are popular nationally both help to narrow down what songs might be included in a playlist. But just as different network TV shows perform differently in the ratings in local markets, popularity of different songs can vary across different markets. When library-formatted stations (Classic Hits, Classic Rock, Variety Hits, etc.) and even gold-based stations (AC, Rock, Urban AC) rely on about a quarter of their total playlists to cover over half the slots in their music logs, it’s critical that they’re playing the right songs for their markets.

At NuVoodoo we’re sticklers about collecting great samples and employing rigorous quality control, but we know the realities of radio budgets. We remember the days when station budgets would support upwards of $30K for a library test (and we’re aware of some of our competitors who are still quoting those sorts of prices). We have great library tests starting at under $10K for 400 titles and 100 rigorously screened respondents. At NuVoodoo we work to find ways to deliver great research at reasonable prices so you can make better radio.