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Posted By: Jim on: 07/14/2007 08:38:18 EDT
Subject: RE: For John's Eyes Only - Nobody Else Will Be Remotely Interested!

Message Detail:
John wrote........

That's an impressive history, Jim!! Thank you!

Jim replied....

Not really impressive. I would still prefer to have been on-air for one hour in New Jersey!

John wrote....

May I ask, in that Programming Manual, did it suggest what kinds of songs to play at particular times of the day?

Jim replied.......

I will answer this question, but I notice I am now dominating the forum, so I will definitely have to bow out before I am (politely) told to go!

First off, the manual was written by Steve Warren, who had worked with Buddy Deane, and apart from advice etc, contained some hilarious stories.

Anyway, the Manual did suggest kinds of songs for different periods, but these manuals were usually written for PDs of US stations nearly all of which catered for niche markets (Top 40 or Sixties or Disco or Classic Rock or Country or R&B etc) and so they suggested rotations working from a playlist of perhaps 50 to 400 records only, with the ability to put the entire library of 400 disks in boxes on the desk beside the DJ if you felt like doing that.

We however, having the sole licence for the franchise area, were obliged to cater for an audience from 15 to 59, so we were working from a library twenty times greater (at one stage we almost reached 3500 songs), which took up the entire back wall, ceiling to floor, of the studio.

Also, the US manuals were written pre-computer, suggesting for example that the best way to rotate songs was to place the entire collection of disks in a specific order in different coloured-coded boxes, allowing the DJs to pull from the boxes in a pre-designated sequence.

This would not work for us - we needed the disks labelled from 1 to 3500 or we would never be able to find one when we needed it for request shows.

Accordingly, I wanted to use a computer from the first day for three reasons:

(1) We were picking from a very large number of tracks, snd I did not want too frequent rotation of the popular tracks, to avoid burnout.

(2) Not all the DJs would be familiar with every track in the library. Remember, they were being asked to play music from four decades, and sound enthusiastic about each track, and so for the first few months when we operated without a playlist while typing it into the PC, DJs were asked to play (let's say), two 50s, four 60's etc., and it is was not unusual for a DJ - born perhaps in 1970 - to run out to ask if a particular track he had picked to play next, was a fifties or sixties track - and if so, which was the A side!

(3) We were obliged to return hourly playlists to IMRO (the Irish equivalent of ASCAP/BMI), which contained the performer's name, song title, record label name, music publisher's name, etc., so I wanted all that paperwork to automatically come off the computer to save labour.

Accordingly, when I entered each new song into the computer, I would assign several different codes.

(In all honesty, I cannot recall the exact codes now, but in 1989, they were something on the following lines):

PERIODS 1 (1950's) 2 (1960-1964) 3 (1065-1069) etc, in segments up to 1985-1989.

TEMPOS 1 Very slow 2 Medium 3 Fast 4 Very fast

VOCAS 1 (Male lead vocal) 2 (Female Lead Vocal) 3 Instrumental

ROTATION 1 (Primary) 2 (Secondary) 3 (Tertiary)

The rules I programmed in had several purposes:

PERIOD: Depending on the time of day, and the presumed demographics of the audience at that moment, I might aim (in 1989) at an hour segment of 2 50's, 4 60's, 4 70's, 3 80's with the remainder currents in the early morning when the audience was predominantly adult, going to an almost 78's 80's currents rotation in the evening when it was mainly 13-29 listeners. We also had different rotations for weekends.

TEMPO I aimed to avoid two consecutive identical tempos.

VOCAL I aimed to avoid two consecutive female lead vocals (although as about 75% of the playlist comprised male lead vocals, we did not mind several lead males in a row).

PERFOMER NUMBER Each performer was assigned a number, to avoid playing the same performer twice in one hour, although DJs still had to check their playlist to make sure that a current they wished to play, was not being performed by an act already in oldies rotation for later that same hour. This could happen with people like Elton
John, Billy Joel etc.

ROTATION This was more complex. Songs were assigned codes by me to bring about what I considered to be a suitable rotation. This coding meant I could increase frequency or reduce frequency, so that if a record got overplayed, it could be pulled back, or vice versa.

The trick was to avoid burnout on the more popular oldies. We knew from phone research and requests, which ones worked, and we did not want to destroy them by playing them too often. Frequently this happened when an pdie also became a current, because of its inclusion in a movie.

I had problems with "Unchained Melody", "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", "Crazy", "Stand By Me" and similar songs that became current hits through movies or commercials, and so were getting over-played.

Again, people asking for special occasion requests tended to pick the same songs - "Happy Birthday Sweet 16" - "My Dad" - "Mama" etc.

The system was programmed to pull the tracks out in three sweeps of five per hour. Our licence permitted three ad-breaks per hour totalling no more than six minutes, one at 20 past - one at 20 to and one coming up to the news on the hour, so the first sweep would run from 00.03 to 00.20: the second from 00.22 to 00.40 and the third from 00.42 to 00.58.

Technically, with 3500 tracks, allowing for 16 tracks per hour for 22 hours per day (2 hours had to be spoken programming), we could go 10 days without repeating a track, but it did not work like that, because the rotation could mean you might hear the one more heavily rotated track every day or every second day, while you might hear a less-rotated track once a fortnight.

Currents were not entered into rotation - they were chosen by the DJ on air depending on his gut feelings, and/or requests in for that particular song.

When they were no longer currents, I would leave take them out of the studio for six months, and then poll the DJs as to which ones should be entered into our database as 90's tracks.

I still have the original database, and this is the entry for the first track I ever typed in!


TITLE That'll Be The Day

PERFORMER The Crickets



WRITER(S) Holly, Allison, Petty

PUBLISHER Southern Music





All of this detail had to be entered for every single track, and as we only had one PC, it took us several weeks just to enter the first tracks.

However, once entered, I could update it in one hour a week with the new add-ons.

Once all DJs had accepted the idea of playlists (and there were some mutterings of discontent), I allowed them some leeway to not play a listed record if they particularly hated it, and if enough of them hated the same record, I would pull it out of the library altogether, even if I sort of liked it myself! Also, if a dedication demanded a specific oldie, and it was suitable, they could substitute the oldie requested for a record from the same period on their listing, as long as this did not happpen every hour.

Initially however, I demanded everybody stick rligiously to the playlist, and that insistence gave me my first baptism of fire, as a PD.

At 8am each morning, just after the news, we used to broadcast the daily obituaries and funeral arrangements for the area - a very important feature in a country like Ireland, where attendance at funerals of a neighbour, is almost obligatory.

One morning, about ten to eight, the DJ rang me, saying he had a problem with the playlist.

Having got to bed at 4am after filling in for the idnight-3am jock who had failed to turn up, I was not happy to get the call, and very rudely snapped - "Stick to the playlist and don't be bothering me".

At about 8.30, the girl on the switchboard called to tell me that there were complaints coming in from all over the place, over the DJs "bad taste".

When I got in, I discovered why.

He had stuck as I insisted, to my playlist.

Having read out the day's obituaries in a solemn voice, ending with the tag phrase, "May they rest in peace" - he then added, "And now, back to the music. Here is Eddie Cochran, and "Three Steps To Heaven".

Listeners (and more importantly, funeral directors) were not amused, assuming that he had done it as a joke!

From then on, I had to add an extra coding - preventing songs like "The Steps To Heaven" - "Theme From Mash" (with its opening line "Suicide Is Painless"), and many more, coming up in any 8am-9am segment!

DJs also were asked to listen to the hourly news, and make sure that the first few records after the news did not seem be a comment by us on a major story. If for example, a politician had just been on the news denying some wrong-doing, records like "Liar Liar" by the Castaways should not be played immediately after!

I learned a valuable lesson - PDs may be useful to maintain ao over-view, but the guy on the ground at that
moment, is still the best judge of all.

John wrote....

I would NEVER refer to anything as "Oldies". I would NOT want my listeners to feel "Old". I like the "Gold" phrase to your shows.

Jim replies....

I totally agree. I hate the term "Oldies" being used on air. I always used the term "Gold" and apart from the specialist oldies shows, I asked DJs not to give out the date of release of any record.

Nothing worse, when you're thinking to yourself that you're looking pretty good, to have some idiot presenter
introduce a record you remember as if it were yesterday, as having been released 50 years ago today!

That really cheers you up!

And that has to be it. I am taking up too much space, (not to mention too much band-width!).

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