Pop Music Radio Formatting

I got a question from the other side of the world; a club DJ who is now charged with being the program director of a music station in a developing country that’s never had a western style CHR/Pop/Top 40 formatted station before. FYI, here’s the email I responded with….a quick blue print of the basic structure as I came to know it.

club DJ is totally unlike programming a radio station.
very few Club DJs have made successful radio programmers
because of this, the thinking must be adjusted.
maybe try to ‘forget’ what you know about club work.

i understand that the cultures and listening habits and
the music preferences of people in one part of the world
may be quite different from others, so not all you read
in my writings will necessarily apply to what you are doing.

some generalizations about Pop Music radio

Small Library: No more than about 1500 songs; but
the most successful stations play less than 1000. there
are many, many “great” records, but there are also
many many listening options. people can find any song
they want on their phone and computer. we must
concentrate on a narrow selection of songs that we
hope will appeal to the widest variety of people.
and…every time a listener tunes it, he/she should
hear a good, favorite song immediately. that is
accomplished only by playing the biggest, most popular
hits all the time, over and over.

Hot (or Heavy) the Top Hits, the most popular of the moment.
usually this will be 9 to eleven titles. scheduled three or four
times an hour. a very heavy turnover…all the songs repeat play
ever 3:15 to 3:45

Medium: the other best new songs of the moment. some re
on the way into the Hots…some have been in the Hots and
are now moving down to less daily play.
15 to 25 tracks….these to play about 5 times a day

Light or (new Add)….new songs added to the library in the
recent days or weeks. five to nine tracks or so, set to schedule
about 3 times a day

Recurrent (Recent Hits) … the really big, popular hits of the
past 6 to 18 months. these all were in the Hot rotation during
their early life. now people love them, but don’t need to hear
them so frequently. set to play each song about 10 times a week.

Power Gold – The biggest of the big hits of the past, all
more than 18 months old. Youth formatted stations may have
songs that are no older than 5 years in this group.
stations formatted for more mature, adult listeners may have
songs that go back 10 to 12 years.
formatted for three to five plays a week.

Secondary Gold…. everything else. “spice” songs, filler
songs used when a few minutes needs to be filled somewhere.
all should have been at least Top 10 chart hits in their
day as a Current hit. Formatted for a few plays per month.

do not be concerned with beats-per-minute..that is useful
in clubs to keep the dance going, but is not important at
all on radio.

be little concerned with Artist Separation. some guys try to
have at least 2 or 3 hours before another song by a hit
artist plays. the audience loves the artist? so play the
artist as often. i set all my artists for a 1 hour separation, no more.
and many times i will break the rule and play two-in-a-row by
the artist. then i will ANNOUNCE that “we’re playing two songs
by the superstar back to back”…and make a mini-event of it.

for music flow rules, i set only two. i forbid two slow songs
from playing back – to – back because i want to run an
energetic, uptempo music mix. if i were doing a “soft” format radio
station, this would not be a concern.

i also put a rule preventing two female songs from scheduling
back to back. this because only about 1/3 of hit songs are by
women singers, so i want that minority to be spread thru the
hour, not playing next to each other. but, sometimes i break
this rule, as well, whenever it “feels” right to me…like
this particular song by a woman sounds good next to
that particular song, so i do it from time to time.

i say: Keep it Under 30 Seconds.
i would tell my DJs: you can talk about anything you want so long
as you are not negative, so long as you are not suggestive or
offensive or being rude. mostly you should talk about the music
and the singers and things in the community and things the
radio station is doing. just keep your rap to 30 seconds or less.
you have six or seven openings for your talk every hour, so you
have opportunity to express yourself and be interesting to listeners.