Size Does Matter… And It’s Not What You Think

By David Kidd, BPR

Listeners of music stations usually place Music Variety amongst their most desired programming priorities.

The problem is that inexperienced program directors, and sometimes experienced program directors who should know better, often misinterpret what the audience is saying by simply adding more songs into the mix, broadening out the universe both in titles and music genres.

The end result is a weaker music position that lacks focus.

Top Five Variety Myths

  1. More songs equals better variety. Wrong
  2. Adding songs from genres outside my strategic centre will improve music variety. Wrong
  3. Increasing the number of songs will improve variety and reduce repetition. Wrong
  4. More songs will increase TSL. Wrong
  5. Adding songs from eras outside my strategic centre will improve music variety. Wrong

Adding more songs, songs from eras or genres that are not part of your overall strategy will have the opposite effect…..they will dilute not only music variety but, worst of all, negatively impact your best music position…and ultimately, TSL and possibly cume.


Because when listeners speak of wanting “music variety” they’re actually saying they want a “variety of the songs they love”. Usually when program directors increase the size of the universe they do so with songs that have weaker test scores, are more unfamiliar or do not “fit” the format. That is, songs the audience doesn’t “love”.

BPR’s research conducted in markets around the world shows that the stations with the tightest universes often have the best variety scores.


Because they only play the killer songs and their strict adherence to the station’s music policy ensures a powerful execution of the strategy.

If your variety scores are not what they should be, examine your logs…..look for clumping of genres, too many songs with similar tempo scheduled together etc.

Are your listeners complaining that they’re hearing the same songs over and over? Maybe they’re right. Check your horizontal and daypart rotations – are the same songs being played at the same times? Don’t forget listeners are very habitual with their listening patterns.

Depending on your format, make sure you have multiple clocks to achieve better music variety. Altering the category position from day to day and hour to hour decreases the chances of these habitual listeners hearing the same songs.



Perception is reality. Best Music and Music Variety are crucial perceptual “hills” to own for a music station.

Formulate a strategy for your music position, execute that strategy flawlessly and sell it to your listeners. Best Music and Music Variety must be key elements of both the strategy and execution.

As with everything about your radio station’s programming, owning the Music Variety position is a strategic exercise.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from Sun Tzu……

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”



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