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Shuffling Categories – Update

How often should I shuffle and when should I do it?
There is a different answer for different Categories. First off, be aware that songs within the categories will generally schedule in Rank order. The category scheduled in the first pass almost always does because it will encounter few, any rule violations.  As the next categories schedule, formatting rules come into play and sometimes the ‘next’ song can’t fill the ‘next’ slot, so Music 1 will dig deeper into the category rank order to geth a song that fits with no problem. Instead of scheduling 1-2-3-4, the songs might schedule: 1-3-4-2.

First off:  Whenever you do a shuffle, you should always clear the Played Flags. Failing to do so will eventually (probably soon) begin delivering some rotational anomalies.

The reasons for shuffling are two-fold.  First, songs by the same artists should be spread evenly through the category to prevent them from scheduling consistently close together. If a category has 100 songs with five of them by one artist, the shuffle will place about 20 songs between each of the five.  

Second, we want to avoid the “predictability” of groups of song titles always being scheduled close together. We don’t want a loyal listener to begin to notice “Hum, its seems like every time the station plays this song, that other one comes on right after it.” If this happens on the station a lot, listeners may begin to think they are listening to an algorithm playlist rather than a human-curated Radio station.

Predictability Factor 1 – Hot Currents with Tight Rotations

Example:  The station has 11 songs in Hot Currents and formats 3 Hot Currents an hour; the turnover is three hours and twenty minutes. The category is scheduled as the first pass so the songs always schedule in Rank Order, meaning that every time each song in the category plays, then twenty minutes later the Hot Current in the next Rank position will play. Because of the 20 minute separation, I doubt many listeners will notice a pattern. Still, if someone’s commute is 30 minutes to work, that is an hour a day, five hours of listening a week. I shuffle my high-rotation categories once a week, just before scheduling the Saturday playlist.

Predictability Factor 2 – Categories Formatted For 5 Or More Plays Per Hour

Example: The station has an Oldies category that is formatted 4 or 5 times an hour. The category Turnover is 30 hours, meaning each song gets re-scheduled 30 hours after it’s last play.  In the example below, this means that if a listener spent an hour with the station on Monday morning and then tuned in for another hour at noon on Tuesday, she would hear 4 or 5 of the same Oldies as were played during her Monday morning session. Wednesday evening, those songs would schedule again. The chances that any one listener would be tuned in at those exact times on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are near nil. Most listeners have routine times that they spend with us.  On the other hand, loyal listeners do come back to the station again and again at different times of day and while my hit music station is in the business of playing songs over and over again, I don’t want them to ever think I am playing them in the SAME ORDER all the time.

The songs in the example below will get a repeat play in each daypart every five days. When it does repeat, it will be in a different hour within each daypart.  A category like this shouldn’t be left in the same rank order for months on end. I would shuffle this category once a month.




The Best Time To Shuffle: Before Scheduling a Saturday

The next pass through each category after a shuffle will have some rotational inconsistencies.  For example, if the category has a five-day turnover, a song that schedules Friday evening will normally come up again the next Wednesday.  But the shuffle might place it at the top of the card-stack rank order and it could get scheduled again on Saturday or Sunday. After it does schedule the next time, it will again settle in for its natural 5-day turnover.  (See the graphic below about the “Repeat Play After…” percentage setting)

I shuffle before scheduling Saturday because weekend listening patterns are quite different from weekday patterns.  All the guys who listen while commuting on weekdays have different routines on weekend.  If a song schedules around 7 or 8 am on Friday and, after a shuffle, schedules again on Saturday at near the same time, the audience makeup is generally quite different people.

When To Shuffle – General Guide

Currents that are formatted three to five times an hour with the songs all scheduling multiple times a day.  Shuffle weekly just before scheduling the Saturday log

Recurrents or Recent Hits that are formatted twice an hour with all songs scheduling 5 to 12 times a week.  Shuffle monthly.

Power Oldies or Categories that are formatted four or more times an hour with all songs scheduling 2 or 3 times a week. Shuffle monthly.

Light Oldies or Categories that are formatted one to three times an hour with all songs scheduling 2 to 7 times a month. Shuffle twice a year.


Category Rules Related To Shuffling

The Previous Day Separation rule may be applied to Categories that have songs scheduling multiple times each day.  The rule is unnecessary for categories that have turnovers of two or more days.

The Allow Repeat Play After % Have Played Rule

This category rule is useful only after a shuffle. It shouldn’t be set higher than 35%.


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