Friday, 5 March 2010

Own your music: Selector (and other scheduling systems) tip 4

Number four in a series of tips for Selector (and other scheduling system) users.

When I talk about ownership, I’m talking about really getting hold of the material you’re going to play. Simply put, if you have no real idea of what’s important in your library, or why, you’re going to sound messy on air. A  big, deep repertoire is a wonderful thing. But it's absolutely no use to you, unless you know what you’re going to do with that repertoire. If you think about it; you win. If someone else does the thinking, or worse, nobody does the thinking, you lose.

An example: A small-scale station was setting up at the end of last year. They had no money for a library. So staff lent their own CD collections to copy to the station server. This is not at all unusual. They happily ripped everything they had: complete albums, dozens of them. This rapidly built up a library of several thousand cuts. However, the station’s system just happened to be off-line… so, no CDDB/Gracenote, and no artist or title recognition. Giving a database full of Song1, Song2, and so on, performed by Artist1, Artist2… and so on.  And, because they were ripping complete albums, including hits packages, that database was also full of duplicates. That’s a nightmare scenario, one which will take far more time to correct than it would have taken to think about core material in the first place.

I’ve seen this happen too on courses I teach at college radio – I do a couple a year. Hundreds of tracks get dumped into memory, just to get something to work with. That’s not building a library.

Here’s why. Take a look at your Ipod. Chances are you’ve done much the same thing, especially if you’ve got a lot of memory and you want to have a BIG library to brag about. And how is that huge choice working for you? Have you taken the time to go through everything in iTunes and prioritise every single track in to favourite and less favourite? I'll bet you haven’t. What about deleting stuff? Tricky. I bet your shuffle play is… random.

Here’s the thing. Even through we’re in the era of single song downloads – a healthy development - we’re drowning in easy availability. We don’t value songs for themselves anymore - that’s so last century. Music, like so much else, has become commoditised, and it’s not healthy.

I believe that each song needs to be looked at hard by any radio programmer, before being put forward for scheduling. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not arguing for 100-song playlists like they have at a lot of stations in the US these days. There’s no reason not to go ahead and build up a huge library. Just make sure, before you do, that there’s a good reason to add each song in the first place (somehow, ‘I just like It’ isn’t quite enough).  Thinking about your stuff before you add it also helps you to build a coherent structure for your scheduling system. Core songs by core artists – no matter what your format – is a great place to start. You can work it out from there.

And it might be wise to make sure you’re online when you're ripping :-).

If this has been useful, pass it on to friends and colleagues. It’s on me. If you'd like more, on a 1 to 1 basis, reply to me through the blog, or email me via the website (link at left under Work-related).

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