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Shuffle and Shuffling Categories

How often should I shuffle my categories? 

This is purely a personal preference. The main reason to shuffle is to eliminate song sequence “predictability” within each category. Like, a station playing Pop Hits from 2000-2010 wouldn’t necessarily want a listener to notice that every time he heard a certain song by Rob Thomas, about fifteen minutes later he always heard a certain song by Green Day. Now, the chances of that happening, that a listener would notice such a thing, are minuscule. We radio programmers worry much about things that we notice but that listeners almost never do. We are not “normal” listeners, ourselves. Still, it’s your station and you don’t want to have Green Day playing a quarter hour after that Rob Thomas song time after time. So, you periodically shuffle to change the scheduling order of the songs.

What I do is shuffle my Power Currents once a week. These are my highest turnover songs.  I have eleven titles in the list and they each  re-schedule every 3:20. Since this is the first category in the scheduling run, the songs won’t run into Artist Separation or Tempo rules and will almost always schedule in 1-2-3 rank order.  Each song schedules about seven times a day. If a listener spends ten hours a week with my station, there is the chance she might begin to notice some predictability about the way I have these songs paced. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes so, in my mind, when a particular listener doesn’t happen to like those two songs. Then, it introduces the: “Geeze, everytime they play THAT song they always play THIS one!! Ugh!”

I shuffle short lists/high turnover categories like this one once a week.  I do it after I’ve scheduled Friday, before I begin to schedule Saturday.  I do it at that time because the next “pass” through the list is always going to be abnormal. Like, if a song schedules at 11:50pm on Friday and would normally come up again three hours later, at 3:10am, after the shuffle that song may go to the top of the list and be first in line for scheduling in the 12:10 slot, just twenty minutes after it’s last schedule.  The Artist separation rule will prevent it from scheduling there, but it will schedule as soon as it can. With a one-hour Artist separation, it’ll drop in just after 1am.  And some songs that scheduled in the daytime hours on Friday may well schedule in the same hours on Saturday. There’s no way around this little problem; I can’t have a 3:20 turnover on the category, shuffle the songs and still retain that 3:20 turnover until all the songs have settled into place after the next full pass through that category. But, since weekend listening patterns are so different than weekday listening patterns, the chances of the same group of listeners hearing the songs at the same time of day two days in a row are rather slim.

So, I schedule my Current categories once a week.  My Recent Hits (Recurrent) Category has 38 Title, I play two an hour which produces a 19 hour turnover. There is much less chance that any listener is ever going to detect a pattern here since the Recurrent are always formatted thirty minutes apart. Still, I do shuffle this category every two or three weeks.

My Gold/Oldie categories turn over every three-to-five days. These I shuffle only every couple of months. Now, bear in mind, I don’t format any Oldies slots back-to-back on my stations.  If I were formatting an Oldie category several times in a row in my clocks, then I would shuffle it at least monthly. Because I figure one thing listeners will notice is songs played in sequence. If the listener hears the same three or four songs played in order often enough, then that’s something I don’t want to happen. If your clocks are formatted with the same Category used several times back to back, you’ll probably want to shuffle the category on some schedule of your choosing.

Now, again remember: The first ‘pass’ through a category after a shuffle is always going to be an irregular one because all of the Song cards have changed places in the rank order. For small categories, those with only a few titles in them, the Artist separation will ensure there is some spread, a song that scheduled in the eleven pm hour will be prevented from scheduling in the midnight hour, even if it settles into the #1 rank position after the shuffle. For larger categories, those that have turnovers measured in days rather than hours, there’s another rule setting.

On the Category rules screen, see the box:  Allow repeat play after X % of track have scheduled since the last play.

Allow Repeat Play After X-percent

With this rule in place, if a song is in a category with a 3 day turnover and if that song scheduled in the 11pm hour on Friday, then the category was shuffled and the song moved to the top of the category rank order, thus making it eligible for re-scheduling very early in the Saturday log, this rule will prevent it from scheduling until 35% of the Category has been scheduled since that 11pm play. So, the song will probably drop somewhere into the Sunday log.

This “Allow repeat play….” rule is ONLY useful in the shuffle situations detailed in this post.  It Does Not help regular song placement or spread in any way. Like, if you set it at 90%, that will NOT aid or improve the category rotation. Do not use this rule with very small categories, set it a Zero for those.  For other categories, don’t set it higher than 35%.

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