Perhaps the most misunderstood programming concept for music-based formats is defining what music variety really is. We think we understand it, but our definition of the term often has as many applications as there are programmers.
Radio stations spend tens of thousands of dollars on research to find out what listeners want. We ask them if they would like their favorite station to play more variety. Overwhelmingly, listeners respond saying they do indeed want “more music variety”.
So, to justify the cost of the research, programmers are tasked to give the audience what they ask for. We interpret the research literally, but decisions made in a vacuum are dangerous decisions.
The common response is to add more titles to the library. Or expand the eras to be deeper. Perhaps we stretch the music genres in the music mix. Or (gasp), all of the above.
Then, we run endless messages on the air and in external marketing campaigns proudly proclaiming that we are the station for the most music variety or the best mix of music. This is often tagged with “so you can listen longer” or “that everyone can agree on”.
The problem is that we misunderstand and mis-apply the meaning of music variety. In almost every competitive situation with a music variety issue, the solution was not to add more songs. In fact, the remedy is often to reduce the playlist.
As Kevin Cassidy, President/CEO of Strategic Solutions Research says:
Music variety is not the opposite of repetition. If you achieve variety, does it lower repetition?
The answer is “no”. In fact, quite often achieving actual music variety on the air leads to very poor results.
It’s clear that listeners say they want music variety. But what do they mean? Do they define it the way we think they do? The way we do? The way we’d like them to?