Toxic Tunes

Dear Christian Radio,

No matter how many songs you have on your station’s playlist, each one started out the same: new and unfamiliar. Then, over time, each proves their worth. While the hope for every song added is to become a favorite of your listeners, the reality is only a select few will become a long-term part of your programming. 

These are known as consensus songs; songs that are known and loved by a majority of your listeners. Then there are other songs, let’s call them toxic tunes. These are songs that are loved by some of your listeners, but just as strongly disliked by others. Where do these songs come from?  They come from the same place as any other song, added as a new song with high hopes of success. Knowing in advance which songs will become toxic is just about as difficult as identifying which songs will become hits, and might be quite the lucrative career choice if you had that prognosticating ability. 

One of the most talked about moments of the CMB Momentum Summit earlier this year was the revelation that playlist size is one of the things that the most successful Christian music stations have in common. And that number was pretty small: 250. You could decide to match that number, but how do you eliminate the toxic tunes and play only the most-loved 250 songs?  You do the other thing that these successful stations have in common: test your music. 

Music research is quickly becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. As many of us now face in-format competition in our markets, it becomes even more important to be playing the best song possible…right now. A well-designed music test—one that samples a mix of your listeners and fans of the format—will help you identify those super-star songs and more easily discover those toxic tunes that are causing her to tune out. The knowledge gained through this research can also begin to inform your decisions when selecting new songs to add. 

The days of being the only game in town and “winning by default” are over. Stations that are not focused on delivering the best musical product will miss out on opportunities to impact their community. You have to deliver the songs she wants…now, or she’ll find them somewhere else.

Dwayne Harrison
Music & Operations Director, Your ‘PER
Positive Alternative Radio


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