Music, Rotation, Additions, etc.. running a Radio Station Playlist and Rotation

In this age of internet radio and corporate radio for AM FM and Satellite, the idea of music rotation is to me a lost art.  To run a radio station you don’t just throw 100 songs on and play whatever whenever.  This actually may be the case with some of the internet stations, but that’s okay for them.  Your typical FM station now has their music all programmed by a service.  Many stations use a preset format, like Virgin Radio, Jack FM, Froggy etc.  These stations for the most part are all playing the same music.  By that I mean if you turn on a Virgin Radio station in one city and then another city you will find they are playing the exact same music.  In some cases, with corporate giants like IHeart Radio, you can hear the same DJ’s or shows on multiple stations.  There was a report at one time that one announcer was being used on over 600 different stations.  That in itself isn’t a factor in the music programming, but, if a station doesn’t use their own people on air, they aren’t going to program their own music.

These formats are very tightly controlled and there is indeed a lot of payoffs going on to get music played and heard.  Most will deny this kind of thing, but the bottom line is that it is the truth.  For an unknown artist to get on some of these stations it is virtually impossible.  The ability for new and independent artists to get their music played and discovered has always been difficult, but on Terrestrial Radio or Mainstream Radio, whichever you wish to call it, the odds are against them even more so no.   Satellite radio really is not a factor in this discussion because to be blunt, Satellite radio has become an IPod or MP3 player in the sky.  Most channels you listen to repeat every 6 hours, so if you listen all day you will hear the same stuff 4 times.  Boring!

We get to internet radio, and most people think they can just start a station and play what they want.  It isn’t quite that easy, and the politicians and music industry in general worldwide has made it incredibly difficult for online stations to operate.  There are rules and guidelines that don’t exit in Mainstream radio, not to mention the usual licensing fees that go along with broadcasting music.  You didn’t know it cost money to broadcast?  I won’t even begin to get into the actual dollars involved, but if you are going to operate legally, because every country has different licensing companies and rules, for each country you broadcast into you have to pay for the right to do so.  In some countries there are even multiple companies that represent different artists so you are paying all of them.  Now the independent artists don’t fall into this class because as they are called, they are independent.  This explains why so many online stations play nothing but independent music.  There are no royalty fees to be paid so you can operate a considerable amount cheaper than those, like myself that play mainstream music.

When I decided to do a mix of mainstream and Indie music it was done with careful consideration and a great deal of time was spent developing the clock or rotation order that I use on KB Radio.  This is also going to be used, with some variation on KB Country Radio as it continues to grow.  In the beginning when it was just 3 hour podcasts it wasn’t a factor at all, but when I went to 24 hrs live streaming, the number of songs played every day grew 10 fold.  So let me throw some numbers at you, and show the development of my rotation.

The station plays approximately 350 songs per day, give or take, which works out to over 2500 a week.  It would be simple to just take 2500 songs and let each one play once than start it all over again next week.  But as a listener, you want to hear specific songs sometimes, and others not so often.  I also had to factor in that with the streaming service I use, that there needs to be some allotment for commercial time, and while you may not hear any, at specific times during the hour, other countries are actually hearing commercials.  The mainstream music i have selected and you hear daily is not divided in any way.  I have options to separate songs based on years, speed, type etc but I was fortunate to discover that most of the songs I program in that category work well with each other.  Will you hear some odd mixes from time to time, Ozzy Osbourne into a Simon & Garfunkel tune.  Sure, it happens, not very often and when I program the list I check it often daily when possible to look for mismatches.  That may not be as efficient as setting up the parameters before I establish the playing order, but I believe music is fluid.  Timing can change things and you just never know what will happen, so as hard as you try to avoid certain circumstances, it’s not always possible.  These mainstream tunes are also changed up to some degree from time to time.  A recommendation from a listener for another song and things like that will add to the list, and at some point you can have too many songs in that group so some have to come out.

When it comes to the Indie music it has been an issue that is always changing and in many ways becoming more difficult.  Here is the problem, KB Radio has gotten too popular,.   LOL  I know that sounds like a stupid thing to say, but let me expand on that radical comment.  When we signed on to 24 hrs we did not have the same number of Indie artists on our playlist.  As such at that time the rotation was very different and many of the artists were getting their music played 4 to 5 times a week.  Some would have 2 tracks playing as well, so they were getting a lot of airplay.  As the station grew and more artists learned about what we were doing musically more and more music was sent to be considered for airplay on KB Radio.  My goal all along was to be as consistent as possible with the sound of the station.  With this in mind, and my lack of interest in all ways in Rap music it was immediately dismissed as being played at all on KB.  Thrash metal or over the top stuff is also on the general no play list.  As such with the number of artists and amount of new music being sent, I had to develop the system I am now using.

There are basically 4 kinds of Indie Music for me at KB Radio.  I say me, even though I have recently taken on help with programming etc,it was entirely me who developed this system, so if people get pissed off about any part of it, blame me alone.  LOL,    So there are 4 kinds of music, the first is the music that is perfect for KB and the sound we are going after.  These songs get a higher rotation, not nearly the same as what Indie artists used to get, but a lot more are getting heard at the same time.  The music in the group will get played 3 to 4 times a week, or about 7 times every two weeks.  This could be any time of day or night.  This group also you should know has to be limited.  To achieve this kind of rotation it has to be capped at a maximum number of songs, within 4 or 5 usually.   The second group is larger but this group will only play once per week in comparison.  These songs could be here for any number of reasons.  They may have been in the higher rotation and are working their way out of the playlist.  They could be on the fringe of the KB Radio sound but we still want to give air time.  Lets be real here and remind everybody that a lot of Indie Music is self-produced, and some of that quality can be a bit lower, and as such a good song may lack the quality to get on the air more often.  This group again is capped at a maximum number of songs in the lineup.

We get to the third group of songs and that is music, we give a play or spin to on our Indie music show, but from there is not in the rotation, and may get played again in a future Indie Show.  At one point this group was also drawn from by another Indie Music show that is no longer in production, so unfortunately they will get played very seldom.  The final group is of course the music that is just not going to get played.  It may not fit the format, or in a moment of total brutal honesty may be so bad I just can’t subject my listeners to it.  That however is a subjective statement and just my and now Veronica’s opinion.  But we strive to pick songs that will appeal to our listeners.  Yoko Ono has a ton of fans and continues to make music, for reasons I will never understand.  But someone likes it so that’s good for her.  That is why I will never tell someone that I don’t like their music.   I know another Indie Music station that the wannabe Music Director actually emails artists to tell them they have no talent and should stop trying.  Somewhere there is a lightning bolt with their name on it for being so F’ing arrogant.

So each week  we go through the music that has been sent and figure out where to place it.  Now if it’s placed in high rotation, than one has to come out of that category.  If we add 10 into that group 10 come out.  As I stated some go into the lower rotation and others right out, but again if they go into the light rotation, and I am adding to that with new music as well, basically one for one, each song added another comes out.  Deciding which song comes out can be extremely difficult for me because i talk with so many of these artists.  I worry about feelings being hurt, or people getting the wrong impression about why or how these things happen.  Thankfully it doesn’t happen often, and honestly has only happened once and that was just this last week.  I was both insulted and pissed off about this artists reaction and questioning of my actions.  The person inside of me said, “really, what the hell is this shit?”  The diplomat in me explained politely the entire process and provided some documented information as well.

So that was part of the reason for writing his blog, but also because as we continue to grow these same decision-making processes are going to get tougher.  The last terrestrial radio station I worked in, I was also music director there, and every week we had similar meetings.  At the end of those, there was no communication to tell an artist we weren’t playing their music.  We usually added 1 or 2 tunes a week, and the rest sometimes more than 100 were set aside and basically forgotten.  No bonus spins to give airplay, no lighter rotation, to keep music in the mix.  The music business has always been an incredibly tough industry to make a living in, be it an artist, radio or broadcast related or producers and others.  It will only get tougher, so if you don’t have the strength to deal with rejection you are in the wrong business.

I will finish with a couple of stats that I am proud of and am very happy to share.

  1. Since going 24 hrs I have played more than 800 different Indie artists introducing their music to listeners in a professional manner.
  2. With the rotation I use I believe it contributes to the familiarity of Independent music with listeners to KB Radio.  As such apart from specialty shows like the 70’s and 80’s, Indie music is the most requested music at a rate of 9 to 1.  For every 10 requests I get 9 are for Indie tunes and 1 for mainstream.
  3. We don’t charge for airplay.  We don’t even lay out rules for how to send your music to KB.  Some stations have long forms to fill out, and you have to meet certain criteria of which if you don’t cross your T’s and dotted your I’s, they will simply delete your email.
  4. We try to respond to every single email we get in some fashion.  I would say we are 99% successful and I am proud of this as well.
  5. We treat everyone the same whenever possible.  Have we dealt with jerks or assholes?  Absolutely.  Some prima donna’s whose head’s are so full of shit whenever they open their mouth it pours out.  Yes Army people, some of you are on that list.   Always remember, I don’t need you.  I don’t say that with any arrogance.  I work my ass off to promote Indie Music and artists, but you come at us with crap, that 4 minute spot your song would have been in can easily be filled with someone else’s music.  They don’t need to do anything to get that, other than to treat me with the same level of respect they would like.

I digressed a bit there in the end, but now that you understand the process etc, you also learned that I am basically a no-nonsense person.  I have fun, as much as I absolutely can and give 100% to do what I do.  FYI and not that it matters, but I don’t make a dime doing this, work probably 80 or more hours a week, and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Comments are always welcome, and if you are an artist that is interested in your play times etc, I have everything logged from the first time we fired this station up.  I can tell you every song and when it was played, so if you need some information or would like some information, please just ask.  I will help if I can.


Al Yardy


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