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Principles of Music Radio Formatting

In 1984, I launched my music radio consulting business with a self-published book I titled: “The Programming Operations Manual”. It was a collection of my many memos to my past announcing staffs, instructions about how to do radio things, articles I’d published in the radio trade papers and bits of history about music radio that I thought people in this business should know something about. It had sold somewhere beyond 4000 units when I pulled it off the market about fifteen years ago because some parts of it were dated, no longer applicable and whenever I’d skim through it again I always saw sections that really needed a re-write and update; something I’ve still not found time to do.

One thing I did, though, was to pull together the several sections that I thought would be of most interest and help for folks working in this unique profession. This compiled report was available for download from the M1 website until it got a face-lift last year and the link to it got lost in the shuffle. It’s available on the blog now with a direct link under the Tutorials list. Now, I haven’t re-read it all in years and expect parts of it will seem rather quaint today. Still, a whole bunch of radio pros have read and adapted some of the ideas presented here for themselves and it’s still a fairly frequent pleasure for me hearing from some guy (it’s always a guy) who says nice things to me about it.

I am often asked about what might be the “ideal” music rotations, how often should songs in different categories be played?; when should new songs be moved into and then out of Hot rotation? There is no one answer to such questions. First, what’s the format and what’s the target audience? Pop music stations targeting under-30 demos are quite different from successful Pop music stations who’s target audience is over 30.  Hip-Hop stations are generally going to be playing a library that is far smaller with song rotations much more repetitive than are Country or Rock stations. The rotation/repeat-play strategies for an Oldies format are much different from those of a Current Hits station. The point is, all of this is very subjective.  But the framework for formatting a solid music radio station’s music is relatively simple. The ways to actually do the formatting are all just variations on a basic blueprint. This is how I learned to do it.

Steve Warren

It’s a pdf file, about 50 pages. Click here: Principles of Music Radio Formatting