Radio Politics 101: West Coast Motivation
Now, the radio perspective: Radio is, like any other company in this world, a business, with the bottom line of profits. Radio plays what listeners listen to, period. Radio sells advertising inventory against its ratings, which are controlled by a randomly surveyed group of people in each market that wear a pager-like device that captures whatever these people listen to and report back to determine each station’s rating. The more listeners, the higher the rating, the more money stations can charge for advertisements.
In addition, every radio station does expensive surveys with its listeners to see what songs react well so they can play those, thus attracting ratings. With several competing stations in the L.A. market now playing similar music (KIIS, AMP, Power, and to some extent other stations even in the market target many of the same demos), and with competition, each station has to be even that much tighter—playing a song people don’t like or know (yes, radio is all about what listeners are familiar with—listeners listen to what they know historically—it’s a fact) will cause them to change stations, thus losing ratings and giving them to a competitor. This being said, the argument that L.A. radio is going out of its way to not support L.A. artists purely doesn’t make sense—if listeners were demanding to hear all West Coast artists, or even more, they would be playing them so they would get higher ratings and more ad dollars.
Continuing on the radio argument, playlists are determined by the Music Directors (and ultimately Program Directors) at each station, and backed by expensive research, success of songs across platforms (if MTV is playing a video or song non-stop, it’ll be very familiar to listeners already), and by chart positions. Critics will say certain DJs have the power to break records and play what they want, which is not always true.
On certain mixshow lists, DJs will be required to play songs on the playlist exclusively, sometimes with the option to add in a quick mix of one song they can choose per shift, but for the most part, it’s out of many DJs’ hands (many DJs aren’t happy about this and wish they had more freedom, but it’s a job at the end of the day). In addition, keep in mind that DJs need to keep ratings up, or they’ll be axed, and if the majority of listeners are requesting the Black Eyed Peas, that’s what you’ll hear.