What Music Variety Means

by Tracy Johnson

Perhaps the most misunderstood programming concept for music-based formats is defining what  music variety really is.

Radio stations spend tens of thousands of dollars on research, and overwhelmingly, listeners respond saying they want “more variety”. 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?

Often, to justify the cost of the research, programmers are tasked to give the audience what they want. So they interpret the research literally, but in a vacuum.

They add more titles to the library. They expand the eras to be deeper. And they stretch the music genres in the mix.

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Then, they 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, we misunderstand the meaning of music variety. In almost every competitive situation that I’ve found 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.

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Common Music Variety Mistakes

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