Ever wondered why commercial radio stations seem to play the same songs over
and over again? Strip back the critics and complaints and you begin to understand
the science behind the heavily crafted playlist. Tailor made to specific
demographics, if done correctly a radio station can lead the way in audience
numbers and advertising revenue.
Commercial radio is in the business of growing listener numbers and making
money. All commercial networks abide by rules outlining the percentage of Australian
music that must be played for each format, along with royalties for songwriters and
All commercial radio networks conduct research to determine what songs will work
for each demographic and sex. This involves regular phone calls or online contact with people
who are asked to listen to hooks or short pieces of music to determine whether they love, like,
dislike or don’t know particular songs. Stations will also conduct auditorium tests, possibly once
or twice a year, where a large group will be placed in a conference room and played an array
of songs to gauge their opinions.
Both methods require large budgets, however, what follows are highly confidential,
very important documents that list the most popular songs a radio station could play to
target a particular audience. In choosing the most appropriate songs and the
frequency of their airplay, advertisers and clients can then be sold into the overall
image and direction of a radio station. A focused station may not be the overall
number one market leader, but if it is doing its job in the right demographic, it can
bring a lot of money into the business.
While lovers of music radio who spend a large amount of time listening grow tired
of the repetitive nature of playlists, detailed research suggests that successful music
stations need to pick an audience and play what the majority will like. Even if it’s
over and over again.