The decade brought on the advent of 'commercial free' sweeps, hours and even days. In Detroit WLLZ launched with months of commercial free music into a crowded rock battle and wiped everyone with format leading shares in the debut book. We had every kind of name you could imagine to package 20-40 minute blocks of music and the long music sweep fever became a part of nearly every music format.
Contesting was also a part of the marketing. Stations started building in 20 song marathons every few hours and backing it up with - 20 songs or $20,000. Many DJs in those days of live control rooms feared skipping a song or having an unforced error cost the promotional budget 20K during their watch. Others set their clocks to always promise 8 in a row every hour or some always played 25 minutes music sweeps with only 2 tops sets in the hour. It seemed there was no end to innovative clock systems to build in music sweep tactics. It kept us busy in Selector and no doubt made many a traffic director duck when we came into the room.
This tactic clearly worked for many stations. The WLLZ story may have been extreme but you could see a number of other stations pull in stronger TSL with the music sweeps. The problem is that wars started and the music sweeps also didn't lower the commercial load - it just moved more spots into some hours and less into others. While you reaped more TSL in this hour it was quickly give up in the next hour with long stop sets.
There were also lots of concerns from the sales teams. Going on the air and proclaiming that 'commercials=bad' wasn't exactly making it any easier to convince the clients that radio was their best friend for marketing their brands with those 'evil commercials.' By the mid-90s the more music/commercial free tactics started to fade. Between the sales concerns and the over hype of nearly every station trying to out due their competitors in the arena it looked like the fad had run it's course. But like any fad it can, and probably will, come back.
PPM has brought new life to the 'B97 (((MONSTER))) Music Marathon' with the long music sweeps playing a role in the TSL tactics and strategies today. In fact they are really enjoying a bit of a comeback. In PPM the minute by minute - hour by hour - tracking of the tune in and tune out shows that the music sweeps are effective. In the PPM markets there are commercial free days and hours built into many logs and dayparts. Programmers have started to look at every hour and plot where to pull in the most benefit from TSL more music tactic.
Next week we'll see the TSL tactics start to shift back to more of the Money Ball - Arbitron Data analysis side of the quest. Thanks for stopping by and let your radio friends in on this series. Improving, keeping and developing TSL will be radio's key need as more and more media options evolve in the digital world. We all need to master the art of TSL.