March 23, 2018

In radio today, is the balance of art and science too much in the science column and not enough art and gut instinct?

Jimmy Steal, Power 106: The balance of art and science is critical to success. We’ve all heard stations that are strategically on point but are as exciting to listen to as watching paint dry, and then there are those stations that try to be edgy or cool with no focus and no idea who they’re audience is or how their audience consumes their product. Every long term successful programmer understands their constituency and knows what their audience wants and expects from them. Without this strategic underpinning your “cool” station is just like a startup that can’t scale because the founders didn’t understand that the users didn’t actually need/understand/care about their product. Create fun-to-use, passionately executed, well-researched under-the-hood brand. It will compel users to consume more of it because they like it, always look to fill a need, you can’t create a need and hope to fill it. This mistake, amongst many others, was made in this market by a major operator who squandered zillions of dollars against us yet didn’t understand basic strategic blocking and tackling and they’ve never real-ly recovered.

Bob Patrick, WXLK: I can’t speak for anyone else and how they go about their business, but I will always trust my gut and market experience over any type of science, call out, internet research, Shazam, etc. We (K92) use a little of both sides to put together our playlists but don’t make changes simply because an app, website or national chart says so.

Brian Mack, WXXL: It’s a business. The goal is quantifiable revenue. Best to use quantifiable data to attain those results. We’re not trying to satisfy our own thirst for the hits, we’re responding to the consumers.

Jon Zellner. iHeartMedia: It definitely can be, depending on the situation but the best programmers know how to interpret all the data we have access to and play the right music for their competitive situation while focusing on keeping the presentation of their brand exciting through creative imaging and effective talent coaching.

Valentine, WBHT: I feel that too many times we rely a little too much on science at the expense of the art. There are a lot of really creative art guys out there that are slightly holding back. I still believe there are some great forms of art being applied out there making some compelling radio. But at the end of the day. It all comes down to balance. You have to respect the science as well.

JJ Rice, WBLI: It’s always a combination of art and science. A smart Brand Manager knows what direction to sail his/her ship while avoiding highly visible icebergs.

Rob Roberts, WRQX: The ability to balance both is key to great radio stations. Sadly, a lot of people are held to an unfair amount of science in their playlists and what they do. Every successful PD and MD should have a bit of play in what they put together. Too much of either is dangerous. It’s different for different people but that’s why some stations beat others even though we can see what each other is playing.

Reid, KZZP/KMXP: For our stations it’s a balance of both. Like Bazzi was purely a gut pick call. Use the data to help make those calls but at the end of the day it’s about song strength.

Kobi, WNRW/WLGX: Yes! We need to be able to program music with more gut than metrics. Sometimes songs might not call out but the downloads and consumption will be through the roof! Should you drop that song based on call out? Trust your gut and your CORE!

Toby Knapp, WASH: Yup. Nothing against the science and data, it’s important, but I think we need to double down on the emotional connection, the real and the personal in order to be even more relevant than the science and data which powers algorithms and ones-and-zeroes which make radio about as predictable as Pandora and Spotify. If you stand for nothing what will you fall for? What makes you different?

Kobe, WWHT: Yes, there are less programmers today who feel that their gut sometimes means more than analytics. There are too many numbers watchers and they’re losing intuitiveness regarding music.

Jonathan Shuford, WRVW: A million percent. The science is important but it can also be such an overwhelming amount of noise that we’re not hearing what our listeners really want.

Jeff Hurley, WHKF/WLAN: A lot of it depends on the situation. Programmers have a tendency to get too focused on the science when the station’s broken, and sometimes the art can get lost when you’re trying to do everything the right way. It really is a balancing act though because you can’t lean too much on the art either. There’s a fine line between the two and it’s up to individual PDs to optimize the formula for their markets.

Kevin Kash, WIYY Baltimore: In the business of radio we’ve all heard the phrase “this isn’t rocket science”. But I’ve seen a few instances over the years where it was treated as exactly that. Gut instinct needs to make a comeback in some aspects.

Rick Vaughn, Power 94.9: This has been an issue for quite some time now. It’s always a balance between the two. PPM has required a little more focus on science, the art part of it is more effective for recall/diary markets. You just have to remember the art side when you’re going thru all the analytics for PPM. You have to take some risks. Everyone is so scared to take risks anymore. Everything’s run off a safe list because of Mscores. We’re all going to sound the same, which is a mad dash to mediocrity.

Paul Kelly, WWAC: Depends how much money you have for research!

Heather Deluca, WSJO: The business has become a bit homogenized because of automation and syndication. Some of the greatest on-air talents were built from working on technique over a span of time.

Java Joel, WAKS: Way too much science, not nearly enough gut. It’s been that way for too long. We need more programmers and less “spreadsheet interpreters”. How many times has your callout dictated you do a certain thing, only to see your MScores go backwards? Callout is an okay tool to have, just as long as you’re not obligated to use it verbatim every time.

Mike “OD” O’Donnell, WKRZ: It depends on the PD. I believe you need to split it right down the middle. Being a good programmer is a combination of a great gut and a great feel for your craft, and the other part is you have to utilize the available industry tools to help you scientifically prove or disprove your music decisions.

R Dub! Z90: Yes. Sadly, too many PDs aren’t allowed or are too scared to do their job: Program Directors should “direct the program!”

Derrick “DC” Cole, WAEB: 100% agree that we have a tendency of leaning towards the science column and sometimes we lose the art form of why radio is so great! I’m at fault too, especially in the world of multiple hats. When I realize this, I step back and remember what makes radio so fun.

Gina Gray, WERO: If you have the tools there, why wouldn’t you use them? Regarding gut, you have to have an instinctive feel for the music that should work in your market for your station. That should be the foundation, and it’s what separates a good programmer from an average one.



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