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Songs You Love vs. Songs You’re Tired Of

In the one-programming-stream-fits-many world of music radio, for decades we’ve been trying to find the balance point between playing just the most-beloved songs and minimizing tune-outs and fatigue from repetition.

As we do regularly in client perceptuals, we told respondents in our 2016 NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study who were regular listeners of music radio stations to imagine that they tuned into the station they listen to most for music and listened for the next five songs.  We asked how many of those five songs would be songs they really love and then we asked how many would be songs they’re tired of hearing.

The average number of songs they loved (Title Passion) and were tired of (Title Fatigue) are certainly too close for comfort.  While the numbers vary widely among specific station P1 groups in our client work, the results from this national sample are of concern.  Fatigue from repetition is high – sometimes nearly equal to the number of songs loved (and in the case of CHR, exceeding it).

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Certainly not all the stations included in these data have access to fresh music testing information – and we know not all stations are equally-well programmed.  But, with the challenges facing terrestrial radio, it’s in the best interests of the business that stations overall are perceived as providing great music.

Maybe we loaded the wording of this question too much: “Please agree or disagree: Every radio station seems to play its small list of songs over and over.”  But, corroborating the high numbers for Title Fatigue, repetition is the rule, rather than the exception, for the P1’s in all formats here.

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So, what’s the answer?  With seven broad formats identified here and many more appearing in local markets, there’s certainly no single answer.

  • Maybe it’s more like the Country model, which tends to move songs up and out of heavy airplay more quickly than other current-driven formats.
  • Maybe it’s more “platooning” of secondary titles in gold-based formats, trying to reduce fatigue with those titles that have fewer “favorite” votes among listeners.
  • Maybe it’s reducing stress on secondary titles in all formats – keeping exposure high on the primary titles, but spreading the exposure wider on the secondary titles (again, those with fewer “favorite” votes and, thus, more prone to “burn”).
  • Maybe it’s greater care in horizontal repetition to make sure the same songs don’t play at the same times on consecutive days.
  • Maybe it’s greater care in artist repetition in these days of songs with collaborating artists “featured” on songs that may not carry their name as the artist.

As we’ve opined before in this column, it’s worthy of attention and experimentation.  As consumers get savvier about non-terrestrial options and as cars (and other places) become increasingly internet connected, we need to accelerate our efforts to make our programming great (and not just the least-objectionable alternative).

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