You can be the judge, but listener stats don’t lie

When presenters aren’t on air you’ll likely fall back to a curated playlist of tracks you expect your listeners to enjoy – ideally you have selected ‘sticky’ tracks.

Selecting tracks that keep listeners tuned in to your station is an art and clever people are paid lots of money to select the songs DJs play on commercial radio. Track selection and rotation is often tightly controlled – which is why you frequently hear the same songs played by lots of stations over and over.

Now, while you may want to do something different you still need to keep your listeners in mind.

Every station will find an audience, no matter if you play solid Goth Rock, 80s House or whatever genre you pick, or even a tiny niche within an obscure genre – you will find an audience. It may not be in your town – reducing your ability to sell advertising – but you will get a following.

The question you need to ask yourself is ‘how successful do I want to be?’.

Now, while you may have selected a cracking set of songs for playout, you can’t be certain your listeners are as passionate about all of them as you are.

Thankfully, most auto-playout systems will tell you what was playing when listeners stopped listening to your stream. That is the beauty of digital streaming technology.

With a careful review of how many people listened to a particular song you can start to identify the tracks that were playing when listeners moved away from your station.

Now, did they move on because that song was playing or because it was time for them to do something else and stop listening anyway? You will never know.

However, my bet is that if the track was strong enough they’d hang on to listen to the end no matter what. So let’s assume they moved on because the track was not one they wanted to hear. How many listeners clickes away when that track played?

Point being, if you can see that listeners switched off when a particular track played then it’s a good bet it’s a bad track for your audience.

You can argue all you like, the track might be a personal favourite of yours, but your listeners switched off when it came on. It’s time to delete it from your list.

And like in the world of retail shopping, the customer (listener) is always right.

Now, do you replace it with something else? Maybe not right away (unless you are a station that plays just new music in which case your hand is forced every week).

But, as you start to identify the tracks that cause listeners to move on so you will start to keep listeners for longer. There will be – by definition – fewer ‘turn-off’ tracks.

It’s not hard work to identify the poor performers, but it is time consuming. And like in the world of retail shopping, the customer (listener) is always right. No matter what you think, if listeners switch off when a particular song comes on then you have to delete that track from the list.

Listener requests

Ask your presenters to keep a list of listener requests for you because these can be a golden guide to what your listeners want to hear. If you see particular tracks being requested – and you don’t have them on your auto-playout list – then consider adding them to the rotation.

As we used to say in my glory days as a mobile and club DJ – play to the audience while also knowing what’s best for them. It’s all a matter to stats, experience and judgment.

Song listening stats are clear, the judgment is in your court. Think sticky.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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