I totally agree with Bob Harper about perceptual research being the most important research for programming a radio station, but I could not disagree more strongly with Harper’s previous column about the importance of music testing in programming a successful radio station. Frankly, I believe that over-reliance on this pseudo-science over the last fifteen or twenty years has been the single greatest contributing factor in driving the erosion of listener loyalty to music radio.
If as everyone keeps saying “Content is King” and 75% of the content on a music station is music, why are our music selection methods geared toward making our music content as bland, boring, predictable, and uninspiring as possible?
Music research has homogenized the music selection on radio to the point where the differences between stations is so slight that music listeners have absolutely no reason to prefer one station over another. In my market, the top five Adult 25-54 music stations are in a virtual tie ratings-wise. Coincidentally, 50-75% of the music on each of these stations can also be heard on all of the others.
By becoming so addicted to this “scientific” method for selecting music we have abandoned the most powerful weapon we have for creating a unique identity, differentiating our stations from our competitors, and giving our listeners a compelling reason to make a choice based on preference.
We have allowed a miniscule percentage of our possible audience to dictate 75% of our content based on hearing eight to ten seconds of three-minute, four-minute, five-minute, or longer songs.
Personally, I would much rather put that decision in the hands of experts who possess a knowledge of and passion for music. A quality station with the right on-air attitude and well-chosen songs can essentially create its own hits, not to mention offer a product that is impossible for its competitors to duplicate.