Every programmer knows what their strongest songs are, or at least they should. They’re the big hits that listeners can’t get enough of. The turn it up songs. These are the songs that guarantee a win in the button-punch test. That’s when you punch buttons between several competitors to see who’s winning the song-to-song battle at that moment. It would be great if every song were a mega-hit. But they’re not. So good programmers sprinkle them consistently through their clocks. That’s called the spoke theory of music programming
Spokes hold wheels together and keep them spinning. Without spokes, a wheel would spin out of control and eventually become distorted and useless. Think of programming clocks as the wheel. The spokes are the most valuable songs in the music library. If the spokes are clustered on one side of the wheel, the wheel is unbalanced.
And if power category songs all fall in the same quarter hour or two, the clock isn’t balanced.
The spoke theory is key to consistent music programming and library management. Using spokes (the biggest hits) to protect weaker songs allows the luxury of a slightly larger music library with little compromise in overall appeal. This is particularly valuable for stations that use song platoons in recurrent or gold catgories.