Do Radio Stations Overplay Music?

November 19, 2009

Now, if you know anything about me,  you know that I live in a small bubble and constantly listen to the radio. It’s my little world, I think mainly on the basis that I never made it as a Superstar DJ. I digress, and I shouldn’t.

The reason for my inane post today, (apart from the fact that I can’t move from the chair I’m in because my back is killing me so much – see this tweet) is that I recently found a gem of a link (maybe it isn’t that hidden, but I’ve only just come across it), that compares Absolute Radio’s Playlist, to other Radio stations and has the total playcounts over a week.

Personally, I don’t think advertising the fact that you’ve played Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap 55 times in a week on one of your radio stations, compared to twice on NME Radio, a good thing to shout about. Surely it just means that you’re overplaying that song, and people are going to get annoyed with it. Actually, I’ve not heard that song in the past week, so obviously I missed the two times that NME Radio actually played it. Currently my Radio Station of choice is NME Radio. It used to be BBC 6 Music, until George Lamb came along, and now I have no DAB in the car, so have no way of listening while out and about.

Now for the anal boring bit, because I’m going to concentrate on that song for a moment. 55 times in a week, or  7.8 times a day

Now I fully understand that the “average” radio station listener only tunes in for 20 minute blocks and actively listens, and I use the phrase activley listens, because many people will have the radio on in the office, but not notice it there. However niche/specialised radio stations surely have a non average audience, and in this instance, I am defining non average as someone who will listen for a longer than average period.

I’m definitely a non average listener, racking up about 4 – 5 hours in a normal working day of radio listening, less, if I decide to listen to something specific on my iPod or Spotify. The extremes of my job, and certain long distance travelling means that I have a lot of time on my hands, just travelling, while trying not to crash my car.

A few weeks ago, I started work at 6am, tuned into the radio, (ok, streaming on my iPhone, but it is still a radio station) drove to London, which took a whopping 4 and a half hours thanks to the crappy MondayMorningTraffic™, and on the way back the same day, added another 3 and a half hours of listening. So that’s 8 hours of listening in my standard working day. Now, if I had listened to Absolute Xtreme, I would have heard that one song, 2.6 times. Multiply that by 5 for my working week, and take into account that on normal days, I listen a few hours less, I would have heard it over 10 times in a week.

I think that is nearly approaching torture with the repetition. XFM doesn’t improve with 33 plays over a week. However great a song is, surely twice or three times a day is MORE than enough for it to be heard. 14 – 21 times a week should be a limit. Maybe having some regulation in there, that limits it will expand peoples music tastes, and knowledge, and more artists will be able to make money from music.

I fully understand that it works perfectly fine for someone who listens for 20 minutes in a day, because they’ll probably hear that song twice in a week, I just think that Absolute Xtreme, which is only available online, on TV, or DAB in London, is a niche station, and isn’t something that someone listens to in the car on their daily commute, as much as say the normal Absolute Radio, or BBC Radio 1/2/3/4/5Live, and that should be promoting new music before it is released, not continuously playing it once it has been released, or at least dropping out of the charts, and playing a variation of the same artist, promoting different songs by them, from their album. I know singles are what average radio listeners want to hear, but why do some radio stations not entice people with different songs, that could have a positive effect on the album sales, and thus ensuring that record companies stop fucking whinging about how downloading is killing the music industry, when it clearly isn’t.

Maybe I’m being cynical here, but for a radio station that actually thinks it is good that it has played a song that many times, then I think you might be slightly out of touch with your listeners, and what they want. Or am I just bitter that I didn’t make it on the radio so I can subject people to my music tastes.



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