Radio Mythbusting – “Do Ballads in the Morning Show Really Hurt Your Listening Curve?”

Radio Wisdom or Radio Myth

Proving a heartfelt belief to be correct or shattering a programming wisdom paradigm are two of the most impactful ways we “win over” new clients when working with radio programmers around the world. We’ve put some popular radio myths to the test in the past, you can read some here (commercials), here (traffic and weather images), and here (too much talk).  Neil deGrasse Tyson once commented that we can only ever measure a thing as accurately as our instruments will allow. Well, at RadioAnalyzer we are big fans of measurements, and our tools just got a whole lot more accurate.

In a recent update to our music testing tools, we added an exciting new way to rate your songs and update your playlists – you can read about it here. We also added another update behind the scenes, the ability to rate the music by daypart. Don’t misunderstand: Its not that we ask a morning show listeners what he thinks certain songs – we actually measure their reaction while listening to songs in the morning*. Testing something as it happens in the environment it belongs in vs. asking someone’s opinion about a general concept can sometimes yield very different results (see various election polls in the past few presidential elections for some stark examples). So this update gave us a chance put an age old radio programming wisdom to the test:

“Don’t play slow ballads in your morning show! Listeners want to wake up, not be put back to sleep”

No Mourning in the Morning?

To keep the target audience and the song selection and development consistent, we focused on Adult Contemporary (AC) radio stations in mainstream markets. We also made sure to avoid any anomalies that could skew our findings – like testing Christmas ballads the week before Christmas.

First off, the average score of all the ballads we monitored in this test was a 6,0 on a 1 to 10 scale – vs. an overall Music score of all songs played of 5,5 – in other words: ballads as a whole tested slightly above average. Breaking down those ratings by dayparts, that is Mornings, Middays, and Afternoon/Early Evening, shows an interesting result.  

While Ballads do perform slightly below average during the Mornings, the strongest drop in listener reaction was midday! This is also not an indicator of overall song performance middays either, as songs as a whole test mostly the same throughout the day.  

Not All Dayparts are Created Equal

Digging a little deeper into the details gives us some more interesting insights. During the mornings, about a third of the ballads tested actually perform better than they do during the day, with about 45% of them testing worse. In the afternoon the positive skew drops to around 16% of the ballads testing better than overall, with just over half testing worse. Notable: not a single ballad tested better during the midday daypart than overall, and 90% of them tested significantly worse.

Actionable Insight

So what does this mean for you and your station’s rotation? Well first of all its a wake-up call to re-think the maxim “no ballads in the morning”. Looking at individual songs, current hit potential made a difference in the overall song reactions as well as a few other factors, but the myth here has most definitely been busted and should not be followed blindly. Strategic rotation of ballads, and very conscious implementation of the songs you do choose to play, and how they fit into a song flow during the different times of day is an important factor in driving your TSL outside of talk breaks and promotions.

What’s your experience with different song types in different dayparts? I’d love to hear about your successes and failures, reach out to me.

*want a primer on our music testing system and how it works? Let us know, we are happy to show you.