10 Tips for Better Music Scheduling
by Robert Johansson
1. Avoid Mismatches: Make sure you do not have a mismatch between your
music library and your music strategy. Very simply, are you playing the right
The right strategy and the wrong songs will not help you achieve your goals.
Review each song in rotation and determine how it contributes to the strategy,
then recode the library and run the analysis tools to check against your desired
2. Mathematical Rotations: Proper turnover ratios are critical to the efficient
scheduling of your categories.
The wrong turnover will make it more difficult to schedule songs — or even
worse, songs will play in the same daypart or hour day after day.
Avoid having the same or similar turnover for multiple categories, or your rotation
patterns will become predicable.
Example: A six-song category played 1 time every hour will naturally be played
every six hours, with a risk of having the song play at 0600, 1200, 1800 & 2400
Remember, what does the computer know about the music?
3. Consistent Coding: In so many cases, stations have multiple people entering
the songs and determining the sound coding. When a computer receives
inconsistent parameters and values, the result probably will be inconsistent, too.
Review the coding of your entire library at least once a year — more often on
contemporary music station.
And this must be done by one person — or by a small group, all at one time.
The best way to do this is to set up a list of typical songs that describe each code
used by the station, and use this as a guide.
4. Rules and Parameters:
Rethink which rules really matter to your station.
Prioritize. Don't use more rules than needed.
The rules used must be in sync with the coding of the library.
Watch out for which rules are breakable and which are unbreakable. Too many
unbreakable rules will give you a false sense of security, while really working
against the natural flow of your station.
One typical problem is "Artist Separation." A separation of two hours with a
category turning over in five hours will keep other songs by that same artist from
If "variety" is your claim, make sure to have rules that deal with Type, Style, Era
and Tempo activated and leave others turned off.
5. Building Clocks: Build clocks that communicate what's really important for the
To satisfy your listeners, you need to create clocks that make sure you're never
far away from the songs that are most important to them.
If you are playing "spice" songs or new unfamiliar music, play them between your
truly strong songs.
Example: If you're a CHR station, make sure to play your new cuts next to
your "important songs" like Power currents or Power recurrents.
6. Multiple Clocks: Use multiple clocks to avoid having songs play in the same
clock position every time.
With a better match between the number of songs in each category and the
number of different clocks, you can achieve a flow wherein the songs get
exposed in different positions within the hour.
With a setup of 5, 7 and 9 currents you can be very successful with four different
sets of music sweeps where these current songs can appear in both first,
second, third and fourth quarter hour.
7. Sound Code/Type/Category Balance: Poor balance can make a station sound
Five songs from Type A in one hour and none in the next hour can communicate
two different types of stations.
An even exposure of all your played sounds is the way to go. This is especially
important for your edgier sounds.
The solution is primarily in Category Setup and secondarily in your Rules
settings. By making sure to set up rules for your truly "edgy" sounds, you can
control their distribution more easily.
With too many rules for core sounds, you will make it unnecessarily harder for
your music scheduler to work well.
What does your music say about your station?
8. Inconsistent Categories: Each category should communicate one general
In many of the databases I review, I see big problems with categories
communicating too many things.
When that happens, the station is less likely to deliver the balance that they strive
to achieve in each quarter hour.
A power category with too many songs, for instance, risks not being able to
Are all songs in the category really Power songs? If a category consists of both
very new songs and former power songs, it is performing two different functions
for the listener.
Depending on the way these songs fall, the balance from hour to hour can be
uneven when it comes to familiarity and strength.
9. Uneven Exposure: Poorly designed categories and clocks often result in
some songs in a category receiving a lot of exposure, while others in the same
category receive very little.
If an average secondary song receives more airplay than many powers because
the computer finds it easier to schedule, you need to fix either the categories or
the rule settings.
This also happens more often if you experience too many unscheduled positions.
10. Vertical and Horizontal Separation: Many stations make an effort to use rules
to keep titles well separated.
If a category is out of balance and the rules are too strict, you can end up
scheduling the same songs at the same time day after day...or every second or
The scheduling software cannot perform miracles. If the natural rotation of
a category is an even 2 days, there is only so much it can do to correct this
If your rules are too rigorous (and without a clear hierarchy), the scheduler must
compromise somewhere to the detriment of your strategy and your TSL.
Rethink how listeners are using the station. If the average midday listener is not
listening in the evening, then a 1 day/1 daypart separation is more effective than
a 2 day rotation for your station.
Robert Johansson of Better Radio Programming
is a European-based music programming consultant
specializing in optimizing and creation of music databases.
© 2007 by Robert Johansson
All Rights Reserved