The Lemming Effect: Why you Should Focus on What your Listeners Want to Hear

By Peter Don, BPR

There’s safety in numbers – right?

Sometimes there are good reasons to follow the advice contained in these old aphorisms but in using this principle to choose the music you play on your radio station might be the worst thing that you could do.

Let me explain.

Take the example of a ‘hit’ song that becomes a hit mostly because everyone else is playing it but not many people actually like it. The programmer who spends a lot of time following the music played on their competition or on the station they particularly like in another city but nobody knows the songs.

Often decisions about songs played can be justified by  “ ….. station XXY is playing it a lot, they must have good research on it …”  however listeners don’t often share the same interest in other stations and are even less interested in what may be playing in another city.

In BPR’s recent All Audio Survey the main reason that people return to radio after listening to streaming, podcasts, their own playlists etc etc is MUSIC. That means that radio’s curated music mix is one of its key strengths and for many people the reason they choose the station they listen to.

Whether your station is chosen because it plays the best new songs, contemporary music or older hits the principle is the same – playing music your listeners know and like is the most important thing that you can do to attract or satisfy them.

In the digital age when listeners can choose any station anywhere, people mostly don’t! Successful programmers who understand this also know the importance of well-crafted music programming based on well-chosen songs to deliver both passion and variety for their listeners.

Great music research comes after you have agreed on a clear strategy, and is based on the right mix of core and secondary listeners. Music programming must deliver music passion. – songs that listeners love.  You will never do that by following the crowd and simply doing what everyone else does.

In recent times we hear the criticism that  ‘.. all stations play the same music …’ due to factors like more networking, group playlists or cost savings at the cost of hometown heroes. Music that is chosen for your listeners in your market can help focus on individual needs and market preferences.


If listeners choose music as a reason to listen don’t they deserve better?




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