Success - Listener Panels

What is the best way to predict the success of a song before it is added? Our station is convening panels of listeners in our target to evaluate songs we’re considering for adds. I know the small sample size is a concern (about 40 respondents), but there has to be some way we can separate the best songs from merely good songs. Any ideas, Doc? - Anonymous


Anon: I’m having a little difficulty trying to figure out how to answer your question because I don’t know what you mean by the "success" of a song. How do you know if a song is successful? So I’m going to have to work around this problem


First, I commend you for testing the songs you’re thinking about adding. While the sample size is a bit small, that shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t look only at the results of only one test. Take the results from three or four tests of a song and then look at it. By that I mean, take the song’s scores for three or four weeks and compute an average scores. Then look at the results.


But how do you look at the results? The best way is to covert the average scores to z-scores. The top 18% (or so) of the songs should be those that have the best chance of success.


Now here is where the lack of understanding about your definition of a successful song becomes a problem. Your second step should be to track the performance of a song’s z-score to its success. My guess is that the songs with the highest z-scores will be those that are most successful. Once you have done this for several months, you can develop a model of some type that would be something like: Songs with z-scores above +2.0 have an 80% chance of being successful.


By the way, the best way to track this is to compute a correlation between the songs’ z-scores and their success scores (whatever number you use to identify success.) You can do this easily on an Excel spreadsheet. For example, if your song scores are in A1 to A10, and your success scores are in B1 to B10, the formula for the correlation is =correl(a1:a10,b1:b10).


Doc:  Many listeners who use our radio station's website asked if we could put a Sudoku game on the site to give them something to do at work.  I checked it out and can only find syndicated sources that we would have to pay for and I don't want to do that.  Is there any way to get Sudoku games without a fee?  Thanks. - Anonymous

Anon: I hope your listeners don't get into trouble playing games on their computers while they're supposed to be working.


However, there are several Sudoku calculators on the Internet where you can produce your own games, but I think this is one of the best—click here.  It only takes a few seconds to produce a game.

Summer Songs

Do you know where I could get a list of the most commonly thought of summer songs for Top 40 radio.  I need to know as far back as 1990.  Thanks man! - Jason


Jason:  I know I’m somewhat warped, but the first thing that came to mind when I read your question is a jock introducing a set by saying, “To start off the hour, we have four great songs about skin cancer.”  OK, never mind.


I understand your question, but I wonder why there would be songs that are good only during the summer?  If a song is good, does it matter when it’s played?  Hmm.  OK, here are a few options for you:


In a previous question about music themes, another reader sent a note about a book by Jeff Green, The Green Book of Songs by Subject: The Thematic Guide to Popular Music.  If you would like to order the book, click here for the: website, or here for Amazon.


Another approach is to search the Internet.  I set up two Google searches for you.  Not every reference is good, but there are several interesting choices:


Top 40 Summer 1

Top 40 Summer 2


Finally, you may want to check the charts and select your own songs.  Here is the link for Lyrics World that lists Top 40 songs back to 1930.

Summer Songs Revisited

Hi Doc!  I only wanted to comment on something that you said in your response to Jason about summer songs.  You said, “I understand your question, but I wonder why there would be songs that are good only during the summer?  If a song is good, does it matter when it’s played?”


In my perception, which may be different to other people, of course, there are songs relating to a specific time of year.  These are, however, the minority; for the majority of songs, it doesn’t matter at what time of year they are played.


The connection to a definite time of year, in my opinion, comes mainly from the lyrics, but also from the mood the songs create.  When I listen to music, I like to hear songs that somehow relate to the “current state of things.”  When it’s hot, I like to hear songs that say it’s hot, not songs saying it’s cold.  So, songs that relate to things you typically do in summer, like doing something on the beach (or even mentioning the word “summer” in the lyrics), go off much better in summer than in winter where you just can’t do all the things described in the song.  It’s like Christmas music in a way, which typically is only played some weeks before (and up to two weeks after) Christmas.


Another thing is that connections often come from the time of year a song originally charted.  Songs that charted in summer became familiar while doing summer-specific things, so when listening to them again, I remember the things I did back then, which generally works better if the overall setting (time of year) is the same, so those songs that charted in summer (especially when also dealing with summer things) have a slightly higher value for me in summer than they do in winter.


These two points for me would justify the existence of such things as “summer songs.”  Or does your research indicate that most radio listeners don’t share my perceptions here? - Kurt from Austria


Kurt:  Nice to hear from you again, and thanks for the response.


Oh, I think that most radio listeners would agree with your basic points, but I also find that because music is often tied to so many memories, that listeners like to hear their favorite songs at any time of the year (excluding Christmas music.).  For example, some people may feel “down” during the winter and enjoy hearing songs that remind them of summer.


The main point of my answer to Jason is that we can’t assume we know when listeners want to hear specific songs.  People are complex and differ, often significantly, in their tastes, needs, and desires.  I think it’s good to break the mold once in a while so that we can try to accommodate as many people as possible.

Sunday Radio

Why does it seem that not as many people listen to the radio on Sunday?  My phones are active Monday-Saturday, but Sunday is wide open. - Anonymous


Anon:  Why does it “seem” that?  When I see the word “seem” or “seems like,” then I know it’s time to check the data.  I went to Arbitron’s website and found some here.  A quote from that page is:


“Over the course of a week, radio reaches more the 227 million people, or 96 percent of all Persons aged 12 and older. And radio doesn't take the weekend off-more than 190 million people, or 80 percent of all Persons 12+ tune to radio on Saturday or Sunday.”


This information does not support your “seems like” idea about lower listening levels on Sundays.


In addition, your question implies a direct relationship between the number of listeners in your audience and the phone activity during your show.  That relationship may or may not exist.  For example, the relationship may actually be related to the type of listener you have Monday-Saturday and the type of listener you have on Sunday.  It may be that your Monday-Saturday listeners are more likely to call your radio station than those who listen on Sundays.  I’m not sure because I don’t have any data about your listeners.


I realize that the Arbitron data represent radio listening for all radio stations, but the indication is that Sunday radio listening isn’t much different that listening during the other days of the week.  (Although I must add that your radio station may not follow Arbitron’s typical listening data.  You may have fewer listeners on Sundays, but as I said, I don’t have any information to support or refute your statement.)  Do you have Arbitron information to check this out?


I was looking at sunrise and sunset times in our area and noticed the term, “nautical twilight.”  What is that? - Anonymous


Anon:  You would figure that there is only one definition for “twilight,” but no, things aren’t that easy.  Actually, there are three types of twilight: civil, nautical, and astronomical.  I found the following definitions on


Civil Twilight.  When the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon.  This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under good atmospheric conditions in the absence of moonlight or other illumination.  In the morning before the beginning of civil twilight and in the evening after the end of civil twilight, artificial illumination is normally required to carry on ordinary outdoor activities.


Nautical Twilight.  When the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon.  At the beginning or end of nautical twilight, under good atmospheric conditions and in the absence of other illumination, general outlines of ground objects may be distinguishable, but detailed outdoor operations are not possible, and the horizon is indistinct.


Astronomical Twilight.  When the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon.  Before the beginning of astronomical twilight in the morning and after the end of astronomical twilight in the evening the sun does not contribute to sky illumination; for a considerable interval after the beginning of morning twilight and before the end of evening twilight, sky illumination is so faint that it is practically imperceptible.

Super Audio

I was looking for a CD online, and see it has both a regular CD, and a Super Audio CD. What is the difference? - Anonymous


Anon:  Super Audio CD (SACD) is a new technology that supposedly improves the quality of sound over a regular CD.  But I’m not an engineer or technician, so here are three sources that explain Super Audio CD: SACD One, SACD Two, SACD Three


If that isn’t enough information for you, here is an Internet Search that lists more stuff.

Super Bowl - Using the Name

Hi, Dr. Wimmer.  You may need to grab an iced tea as I suspect your answer to this question could be lengthy.  I read your column all the time.  So, I know you'll preface your response with the disclaimer that you're not a lawyer.  That being said...


If my station is doing a promotion for the football game that happens next month in Jacksonville, are we legally allowed to call it a “Super Bowl” party?  I was told that “Super Bowl” is copyrighted and radio stations weren't allowed to use that phrase.  Is that Red Fox droppings or not?  IF it is, that don't be right yo.


Anyway, alert your wife 'cuz you are the man and she may want to know the answer.  Have a groovy day, Doc! - Anonymous


Anon:  Hi to you too.  You are correct in guessing that I will say that I’m not an attorney and my comments should not be interpreted as legally correct opinions.


However, yes, “Super Bowl” is copyrighted and trademarked and you might have a problem using “Super Bowl” in then name of your event.  Here are two good articles that go into more detail: Super Bowl 1 and Super Bowl 2This may not “be right” to you, but that’s the law.


Based on the things you said in your question, I would guess that you read the column all the time.  Thanks for that and I will alert my wife.

Super Power Radio Stations

Well, I proved myself right...the only one in the building who knew there were stations running stronger than 100k.  They said Uh-Uh...I said Uh-huh...and then I threw WMC-FM in Memphis at them.  It feels good being right...rarely do I gloat...but on this day...I'm walking around wearing my “I'm with Wrongo” shirt.


Anyway, I know there are a handful of 300,000 watt grandfathered 3 call lettered stations peppered around.  Are there any newer stations over 100k?  Are there any over 300k?  C) What's the most powerful station in the country?  I know there are a lot of factors involved, but consider wattage alone. - Anonymous


Anon:  From what I can find, it looks like WBCT-FM in Grand Rapids, MI is the most powerful station at 320,000 watts.  Here is a list of the Super Power FM stations, and for more information, I set up a search for you.  Click here: More Stuff

Susanne Langer

In one of the articles you wrote somewhere, you mentioned someone named Susanne Langer. Who is she? - Anonymous

Anon: Susanne Langer (1895-1985) was a well-known American philosopher. She was born in Manhattan to German immigrant parents, earned a bachelor's degree from Radcliff in 1920, and a master's and Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard. Her most popular book is Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art, originally published in 1942.

I’m not sure which article of mine you are referring to, but I frequently use Langer’s ideas about persuasion, specifically that an ambiguous message tends to be more persuasive than a specific message.

For example, using Langer’s idea for a radio station commercial, it is more persuasive to say that your radio station plays "soft rock" music (and play a few hooks) than to go into detail about your playlist, your rotations, and other things. Tell the people in abstract terms about the type of music your radio station plays and let them fill in the rest.

Another example in radio is a slogan. A slogan such as "More Music . . . Less Talk" is very effective because it allows people to interpret the message in their own way. What is "More music?" I have no idea. More than what? In addition, what is "Less Talk?" Less than what? I don’t know that either. Nevertheless, it sure sounds good and I can interpret the message in my own way.

Sweepers and Liners

I love your column. It’s very informative, especially to a guy who is relatively new to the radio business. Do you think it’s important for a station to put some sort of sweeper or liner identifying the station after every song. Does this change depending on the format of the station. Thanks and keep up the great work! -  Jason


Jason: Thanks for the comments about the column. I’m glad you enjoy it. On to your question . . .


You have to ask yourself, "Did he take six shots, or only five." Oops. Wrong answer.


Put yourself in the place of a typical listener. What are you doing when they listen to the radio? Are you paying 100% attention to the radio? Do you know which radio station you’re listening to at all times? Do you remember that you hit the button to go to another radio station? And more.


All of these answers should lead you to one conclusion: Most people don’t remember a lot about what they’re listening to on the radio. They also don’t remember a lot about what they watch on TV, and that’s why nearly all TV stations and channels have the ID bug in the lower right hand corner of the screen.


TV viewers don’t complain about the bug and radio listeners don’t complain about sweepers, liners, and IDs. These items are not considered "talk" by listeners.


The name of the game in business is awareness. There is nothing wrong with making listeners aware of which radio station they are listening to, even if the information is presented after every song. You can’t use a visual bug the way TV stations do. You must use an audio bug.

Sweeping Quarter Hours and More

OK Doc, here are three questions: (1) Can a radio station be considered successful without great ratings?  (2) I’ve heard it’s always good to “sweep the quarter hours.” What, exactly, does that mean?  (3) How much autonomy should a PD have?  My PD has four bosses—an OM, market manager, GM, and corporate programming dude.  It seems like at least one of them is on the dude every day about something. - Anonymous


Anon:  And here are three answers:

  1. The usual approach to defining success is to reach the most listeners.  If you have a radio station that has only one listener, most people would probably say that it’s not successful.  However, a radio station with thousands of listeners would be considered successful.  But there may be an instance where audience size doesn’t matter, but I have to say that examples are hard to come by.  It could be that there is someone who merely wants to provide entertainment to anyone, and if the audience consists of one person, then that broadcaster would consider the radio station a success.  In today’s world, most radio stations are operated to make money, and the way to make money is to have many listeners.  The stations that make the most money (usually) have the most listeners.  So, that comes down to ratings.  In today’s world, a successful radio station is considered to be one that has high ratings.

  2. Arbitron ratings are based on quarter hours—a person is counted as a listener if he/she listens for 5 minutes in any given quarter hour.  The idea of sweeping quarter hours is to have a program or segment air in more than one quarter hour.  For example, a program, song, or segment that airs from :10 to :20 “sweeps” two quarter hours.  The radio station gets credit for 2 quarter hours, not one if the program, song, or segment aired between (let’s say) :05 and :15.  This approach is also used in TV.  That’s why you usually won’t see a commercial in a program until :20 after the hour, or :35, or :50.  TV programs sweep the quarter hours to get credit for two quarter hours instead of one.  Do you understand?

  3. The PD should have one boss—the GM, and it’s up to the PD to go to the GM and have him/her get the other people out of the programming department.  They don’t belong there.

Syndicated Morning Shows

Love your column! Need some good advice: We need a good, syndicated morning show that would be appropriate for a Hot AC radio station in a small market in the South. (We already use John Boy and Billy on our rock station). Keep in mind, we are in a conservative town and don’t want anything to "racy." Can you make a recommendation or two, other than Bob/Sherry and Bob/Tom? Thanks! - Debi


Debi: Thanks for the comment about the column.


I generally don’t make recommendations about products in the column because my goal is to remain objective. So, in this case, I’m going to suggest that you take a look at the "Industry Links" on All Access and go to the "Show Prep and Entertainment" section. You’ll find many syndicated shows listed there.


Also, go to Google and search for "syndicated morning show." You’ll find several listings.


Finally, you might want to call a few PDs of other Hot AC radio stations around the country and ask them for some advice. I’m sure they will be happy to help.

Syndicated Shows

I am a student doing a radio project and I would like to have an idea of how much ESPN charges radio stations to syndicate their shows, could you help me out? What about CBS network? Thanks in advance. - Peter


Peter: I asked my friend Paul Douglas (Cox Syndication in Atlanta) for help in answering your question. Here is what Paul said:


Generally speaking, radio stations that affiliate with ESPN or CBS network news etc, don’t pay for the programming, but they’re required to carry network inventory.


For an ESPN show, like Dan Patrick’s 4-hour midday show, a radio station would likely be required to carry four network spots an hour. For an affiliate of CBS news, a radio station would carry 60 or 90 seconds of network inventory each hour to get the CBS newscasts every hour.


For the most part, networks require local stations (affiliates) to air network commercials as "payment" for carrying the show or program. The payment, then, is whatever the radio station charges for spots.


Roger, I am looking for info on syndication.  Are there agencies to contact to look into getting a show into syndication?  Are there any websites to help in the process of trying to get syndicated? - Chris


Chris:  I have answered this question a few times in the past.  What I have learned from people in the business is that it’s not an easy process to get a show syndicated.


First, you need a unique idea.  You may be able to convince a syndication company to immediately produce the show, but that’s unlikely.  What you’ll need to do is get the show on the air somewhere and prove that it’s going to attract an audience.  After you have a track record, you can contact a few syndicators.  Here are two Google searches for you that lists companies: Syndicators One and Syndicators Two.


In addition, I also set up a few searches for information about getting a show into syndication: The Process One and The Process Two.  Not all of the references are relevant, but I think you’ll find the information you need.  Good luck.


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