Music Scheduling Pro Tip: First Things First
by Drew Bennett
You’ve just taken over a new radio station. It’s time to figure out what’s going on with the music scheduling software. You roll up your sleeves and wade into the data. Where do you start? First things first is great advice for just about every project, and music is no exception.
I schedule music for a few stations in my spare time. It’s fun because different formats offer different challenges. When I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a radio station and their music log, I get to learn a lot of great nuances about the format. It helps to stay up to date about the current music landscape and it allows to me relate to just about any programmer who is tasked with managing a brand and a list of songs.
Each format comes with its own set of issues, challenges and things to monitor but they’re all the same at their foundation. Each database schedules music against a 24 hour period or some chunk of the day. When you build a database, there’s a way of going about it that ensures a good product.
Music Scheduling: First Things First
It can be easy to jump around and find yourself out of order and lost in the process. Here’s what works when building a music database from scratch.
Step 1: What’s Your Cume
Programmers can’t control everything, but the decisions you make setting up your database has a dramatic impact on cume.
What music are you going to play and how much of it are you going to rotate? Decide how many songs you want to spin. There are many deciding factors that come into play here. Take into account your competition, your market, your market’s size, your format choice, your consultant’s ideas, etc.
The main thing is that you come up with a list of music to import into the music scheduler. Once you’ve chosen the songs, you’re ready for the most important step in the entire process.
Step 2: What’s The Turnover?
The turnover of your library is one of the most important decisions you can make. A perfect rotation will determine a lot once you begin to schedule logs. It can determine anything from how long it takes you to get a perfect log to what your audience thinks about your station.
If that sounds like a tall order, it is. Turnover is the most important thing to get right when you build a database. If you want to achieve perfect turnover, start with this.
But the key point is: If your clocks aren’t naturally scheduling music correctly, there isn’t a rule in the scheduler that will correct it for you. There will be problems elsewhere.
Use the hourly category calls and the number of songs in your category to get a great turnover throughout the day and week. Stay consistent with your math, and you’ll avoid a lot of problems down the road.
Step 3: Apply Rules That Fit Your Turnovers
Too often, this step happens before step 2 and that’s where a lot of problems arise. After you’ve come up with a great list of music and you’re naturally scheduling that with some solid clock math, it’s time to create the station’s sound with attribute rules.
Decide the sonic needs at the station and create rules that meet those needs. Keep nothing in the rule tree that doesn’t need to be there. If you’re unsure of a rule and/or what it does for you, remove the rule. Come up with a rule tree that catches unacceptable choices and plays nice with your great turnover. And add the rules carefully, one at a time. That way you know exactly what causes problems when they arise.
You will find that, when done correctly, the log will schedule with ease and your editing time will diminish.
Step 4: Test Scheduling
A rule of thumb:
Schedule one day to see how it goes. But schedule a full week to analyze the library.
Once you have a library, a turnover for those songs and rules to mix them together, you need to schedule several days to see things look.
Schedule several days at a time and look at some metrics. What’s the most played song? Who is the most played artist after seven days? Is that what you want? If it isn’t, revisit your inventory. You may need to rebuild some clocks or adjust turnover to get the sound on the air that you want.
Experiment. Keep working on it, fine-tuning and tweaking to make the software work for you. Not vice-versa.
When you’ve completed these steps you’ll have an excellent database that is ready to go.
Keep these steps in mind when you build new databases. Perform them in order and you’ll keep your databases in great shape every time.
Do you have other tips you like to use when creating databases from scratch? I’d love to hear them. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Drew Bennett
Drew Bennett teaches music scheduling workshops all over the US and Canada as part of his role as Learning and Development Director for MusicMaster. He works with programming staffs in both radio and television. The veteran programmer also handles music programming for Scott Shannon’s True Oldies Channel, is music director at KOKE/Austin and PD for 105.3 The Bat in Austin. Yes, he holds four full time jobs in radio and as he put it, “I’d do it all for free. (Don’t tell anyone!)”