TuneTracker™ QuickTip

A "casual" approach to formatting

A strict parent expects children tow the line, and imposes tight control on their behavior. A casual or permissive parent gives children more freedom to do what comes naturally. We aren't making a value judgement here, just drawing a parallel, and posing the question: As a programmer, are you a "strict parent," or a "permissive parent?"

In modern radio, our tendency is to be strict parents, placing tight controls on the flow of music. d in many cases that's desirable. But in this QuickTip, we'll show you how you can take an alternative approach that, at first, feels a little dangerous, but actually works pretty well.

The "Strict" approach

These days, programmers will often mark the genres, tempos, genders, etc. of their music, and factor all of that in when randomly picking songs for their program logs (playlists). Control is done by limiting which kinds of songs are played, in what order. So entries in your format clock might look like:

Random Genre Bluegrass Tempo Fast Gender Male
Random Genre Mainstream Rating 7 Tempo Medium Gender Female
Random Genre Mainstream Rating 6 Tempo Slow Gender Male

As you can see, there's lots of tight control right in the format clock, which can be good and even necessary for some programmers. The disadvantage is that you risk repeats of songs in a short period of time because your selections splinter the library into many tiny pieces.

The "Casual" approach

Rather than controlling the genre flow line-by-line, you control the flow based on proportions in your library. If you don't want a certain genre to be used more frequently than about every third song, then assure that no more than one third of your library is of that genre. If you want another genre to be heard the rest of the time, assure that two-thirds of your library is of that genre. Then just have TuneStacker randomize from your entire library every time it picks a song. Thus, your format clock be as simple as:

Random Comment Song
Random Comment Song
Random Comment Song

The benefit is that the time before songs repeat is greatly extended. Another plus is that you have less work to do, since songs need only have been identified by Genre and need not be marked by Tempo, Rating, Gender, etc. The down side (or the up side, depending on your point of view) is that you are letting the proportions in your music library and the law of averages assure your listeners get the right mix of genres rather than hard-wiring it into your format clock.

Taking the casual approach means listeners might sometimes hear two or three songs in a row from the same genre or the same gender, which, for some programmers, is just untenable. But as listeners listen longer, the casual approach gives them an overall mix of the right proportions, in a format that sounds friendly and "loose," with a greater degree of unpredictability, and fewer repeats.

The casual approach still allows you to control against things like Artist and Title repetition. That can be done via your ProximityGuard settings in TuneStacker.

Is the casual approach for everybody? No. But it does have merits that make it worthy of consideration when selecting an approach for your radio station.

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