Do More Music Morning Shows Work?

Do More Music Morning Shows Work?

by Tracy Johnson

Throw this question out to a group of broadcasters and just sit back and be entertained. The debate over more music or more personality is a passionate one.

While there are certain situations when de-emphasizing personality may make sense, at least short term, it’s not a long-term solution.

Regardless of what research reports indicate, most stations won’t win in the morning without a personality driven show.

Stations that rely exclusively on music to win, not just in mornings, but in all dayparts, are being left behind by stations that offer compelling entertainment beyond the songs.

Do More Music Morning Shows Work

It may not be reflected in this month’s PPM results, but measured against other sources of entertainment (Spotify, Pandora, streamed audio channels, etc.), if you don’t have personalities, you don’t have a defendable audience.

Why The Emphasis On More Music?

Yet more and more programmers are removing the fun from their stations because ratings services don’t seem to reward it in PPM. When the music stops, meter carries leave, they think. I’ll leave the Neilsen ratings rant for another day, but short-sighted decisions (and budget cuts) are partly responsible.

You can also blame research. Or more accurately, the misinterpretation of information gathered in research. Mark Ramsey points out:

There are two kinds of answers to research questions: true answers and right answers. True answers reflect the real opinions and behaviors of our audience. “Right” answers are those that are socially correct. For example, some questions have “right” answers such as “Do you spank your kids?” But these questions are rarely answered truthfully. The same is true in many radio research projects. Listeners will always say that you play too many commercials, talk too much and repeat songs too often. But these are “right” answers, not necessarily “true” answers.

And, they’ll always tell you that the DJ’s talk too much, and they listen for music. These are “right” answers. If you interpret strategic projects literally, the audience’s ideal hour would include:

  • 55 minutes of music
  • 40 minutes of fun and information.

Plus, we have to play 18 minutes of commercials, and then there’s a couple of minutes of traffic, news and service information. That hour is hard to program (sarcasm intended). It’s like McDonalds finding a way to serve a fat-free Big Mac and not compromise taste. It doesn’t work.

There are compromises. To win, you have to understand what the audience reacts to, not merely what they say they want.

Why More Music in the Morning Is the Wrong Approach

The reason music in the morning usually doesn’t work is that it can’t gather momentum. There’s rarely a water cooler discussion about the DJ who introduces the new (your format’s hottest artist here) song.

And those listeners who are attracted most to air talent? They’re the most important of all listeners. They listen to more radio, and they are far more likely to engage with the ratings services. This study is from NuVooDoo Media. Their findings clearly show how heavy radio users are significantly more interested in personality.

And isn’t that who we should be trying to engage the most? The heavy users of radio?

Radio accelerates it’s journey to irrelevance against other music services when we focus on music at the expense of personality.

Listeners seek humor, companionship and conversation to get going. Give them a smile or a laugh to start the day. Fulfilling the “most music” promise doesn’t leave room for a enough personality to earn a connection with the audience.

What To Do if You’re On A Show Playing More Music

Unless you’re rated 25% higher than the other dayparts on the rest of your station, don’t even suggest that management allow you to play less music. They’ll think you’re completely nuts. They may think the reason you’re rated higher is because of the music.

You have to earn the right to reduce music and you do that by demonstrating an ability to attract an audience to your personality.

The best approach is to agree to gradually expand the amount of personality within the music oriented format. This builds a bridge from current audience expectations (music) as you build a new reason to listen (personality). Suddenly changing the mix of personality and music on your show will likely confuse your audience and drive away those that liked the show as it was.

In the meantime, embrace the music as a part of your show’s entertainment package. Don’t treat it as an interruption. The fastest way to make someone like you is to love the same things they do. In this case, the music.

Crossing the Bridge

Here are 5 easy-to-follow guidelines that will help you achieve this:

Keep Music Flowing

Don’t stop the music for content. Keep the music flow going. Keep it clean and smooth, not choppy. However, you should have a personality presence between every song and element, as much as the format allows. It doesn’t have to be long, just be present.

Master Word Economy

Master the art of personality over the song introductions. If the song intro is 7 seconds, sound great and entertain in 7 seconds. Don’t waste the opportunity. JoJo Kincaid is a master at entertaining inside the format with an economy of words.

Long In/Short Out

In music oriented shows, length of breaks is a greater concern, and clutter is more likely to be obvious. Be Long In/Short out” in every stop set. Out of music is a time of heightened attention. After a group of commercials, your talk gets lost in the clutter anyway. Stacking too much chatter after the break creates listener fatigue and contributes to “too much talk” perceptions from music fans.

Music Content

Create features around the music. Look for ways to add personality-oriented entertainment that supports and showcases the music, spotlighting your personality and involvement with the music. There are some great ideas here.

Relate In Every Break

Don’t waste any opportunities to entertain. Are you reading a liner card? Stop it. Relate it. Entertain with it. Weather? Inject personality into it. I call it ize-ing your show with content additives.


There are many ways to win, but in the long run, personality will emerge as the champion. More music can’t hold an audience’s attention. Not long-term, anyway.


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