The choice in music is what makes a radio station stand out, but who chooses the music. Most people mistakenly believe that their favorite radio DJ makes the choice and they can play whatever music they want. You can phone them up and make a request and in a couple of minutes your favorite song is on the air.
No, that’s not how it works…
So who chooses the music?
Well, 90% of the time what you hear on the radio is chosen by the radio station’s program director and they are the ones in charge of scheduling what music you hear. The catch is they only schedule the music they don’t select it from their personal library of music. Here’s a short video explaining the job of the program director.
So the question remains who decides what your favorite station will play? What songs that will make it into rotation on your favorite radio station are chosen by focus groups. Special focus groups comprised of local listeners get to listen to new music and vote, this determines what makes it on the radio. These are the songs that make up what you listen to all day at work, music chosen by a focus group.
The songs that the focus group have voted on make it to what’s called “music logs”. The music logs are what are used as an actual scheduled play list for that particular day. There is scheduling software a program director uses to ensure that you don’t hear the same song everyday at one o’clock. They also make sure that not too many slow songs are played consecutively, putting the listeners to sleep. They also make sure that the music fits with the genre of the radio station. Imagine the shock if Marilyn Manson was played on a country station.
What do the DJ’s Do?
In the DJ booth your favorite radio personality uses this same program to play the music the program director has scheduled in the music logs. Once upon a time, a DJ had to actually play a CD or if you’re old enough you can remember them playing records on a turntable. Now everything is done by computer. This makes the DJ’s job much easier if somewhat less personal.
Today DJs only have to turn up their mike to talk between songs, they don’t have to bother with anything else the computer system will take care of it. There are very few radio stations that even allow “requests” anymore and that is usually only during a scheduled period of time. The job of a radio DJ has changed in the past 30 years. It has become more about their personality than about their love and knowledge of music.