You spend hours and hours coding songs. It is time well spent because it is the foundation of a music station, but most music software programs are poorly coded, especially when it comes to managing Sound Codes. Getting sound coding right is one of the most mysterious and difficult tasks for a music director.
An over-coded Library can’t schedule properly because there are too many restrictions that paralyze the software. An under-coded library results in a lack of song control and poor music flow.
So what is the best way to sound code the music?
Guide To Get Sound Coding Right
If the clocks and categories are set up properly and working together, most of the heavy lifting is already done. Sound coding is the icing that adds a delicious finish to the musical cake each quarter hour.
Think of it as protection from keeping the audience from over-indulging a music sub-genre. A CHR station playing a steady stream of hip-hop-infused songs becomes fatiguing. So does a non-stop sequence of pop-dance songs or pure pop titles. Sound Codes help you maintain a better balance.
Proper coding with effective rules breaks up the monotony and produces a balanced station that prevents song clumping. But too many sound codes are as bad as no sound codes.
Here are some guidelines:
Add One Code At A Time: Start with just the most important one. Imagine a Classic Hits station with several harder-edged Hair Bands in the library. Start with just that sound code and no others. Test it by scheduling a full week of logs with no other active rules. Adjust the settings until those songs are perfectly distributed. Then add another sound code. Perhaps the next most important category to separate is softer ballads. Test the system again with both codes active. You may want to add another rule so the harder and softer songs can never play back-to-back. Repeat this process for every sound code.
How Many Codes? When you start to realize the benefits, it’s tempting to add more and more Sound Codes. Resist that urge. Only add sound codes to manage the extremes. Once the extremes have been coded, examine the library of remaining songs and evaluate whether the station would sound boring or repetitive if only those uncoded songs played. If yes, you could add more codes (one at a time). Another option is to add a separate code like “M” for mainstream to all uncoded songs, then impose a rule never to allow more than two or three to play in a row.
Be Consistent: Try to apply a sound code to the entire library for one code at a time and do it in one session. This keeps your focus and will allow the songs assigned a code to be as consistent as possible.
One-Person Coding: Group coding doesn’t work because too many compromises are made. Seek input and guidance but remember that the most important aspect of all music system settings is managing each song’s characteristics in relation to the overall library.
Specialty Codes: Once basic Sound Codes are established and tested, add secondary codes. Some stations code longer songs to avoid having too many in one quarter-hour or hour. Or you may need to separate novelty songs. Just remember that every code and rule added causes a chain reaction in the scheduler.
Tweaks and Tips
Here are some tips that will help you avoid frustration in the process
Take a Backup: Always make changes using a backup of the primary music system. Then make a new backup after every successful test of a new code. If you get confused or stuck, you can always restore your last, most successful work.
Remove All Rules: Whenever adjusting or adding a new attribute, remove all scheduling rules for testing except daypart restrictions and artist separation. It’s important to test only the impact of the work you’re doing with no other influences. Once you have a successful test, apply rules that control that code when setting up your next code.
Test Test Test: Run a test log for one day isn’t enough. Depending on your format and library, you may need to run several weeks of logs to evaluate the changes.
Experiment: Try adding more coding with fewer rules and fewer codes with more rules. This requires even more testing, but eventually, it will help you find the sweet spot for the library.
Sound coding is a great tool. It adds a layer of control to a music scheduling system that is impossible with clocks and categories alone. However, it’s not a magic wand that fixes every detail.
This sounds like a slow, painstaking approach, and it is. But it’s the most effective way to get the settings correct. In the long run, it saves more time than it takes and it will make your station sound more consistent.