A Musical Christmas Story from the House of Wayne Clouten

Content of BPR

Over the years, BPR has published many insightful articles on the topics of music research, playlist management, and music programming strategy, all of which have laid the foundation for the most successful music radio stations in the world. world. The science is beyond doubt, the results undeniable. Knowing what your audience likes and playing the songs that create and maintain the optimal level of engagement (passion) is what it’s all about. It’s a great universal truth, but I’ve never seen it unfold so clearly and eloquently as on my own front lawn for the 4 weeks leading up to last Christmas.

This is my Christmas story…

My family has always put together a display of Christmas lights, but last year we took it to a new lockdown-inspired level. To be clear, I was just one of the roadies in this saga, all the technical and programming expertise comes from Cherie, my wife. To define the seen, the scale of this year’s show must be mentioned. It involved 2 servers, 2 digital projectors, 6 PCs, 39 remote power supplies, 3 network switches, 4 bubble machines, miles of cabling and around 20,000 programmable RGB lights commonly known as “pixel nodes”. All of this was sequenced to music and broadcast on a low power FM frequency.

The music for the show was carefully selected and represented what I would describe in radio format terms as “The finest mix of Christmas classics past and present”. The display lasted 3 hours each evening from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. involving an hour-long music sequence that repeated. It was great but there was a problem. We noticed that people only stayed for one song. No one looked at the display for a while, which after all the hard work felt like a bit of a bummer.

After consulting with our consultant (me), we decided to remove what we felt were the weakest songs. This increased the rotation of the remaining songs, but we immediately observed that people were now staying for two to three songs, which was better than before but still below our expectations.

Inspired by the results of shrinking the playlist, we’ve now shrunk the playlist even further, so most people now stick around for a full streak. Social media started buzzing as those who had seen our exhibit started talking about it and sharing videos and photos. At this point, I shook my head and smiled, amazed at how well basic music programming theory could apply to something as pedestrian as a suburban Christmas light show.

The final step and what would become the proverbial icing on the cake was to increase the rotation of the songs that people seemed to like the most. This has resulted in families dancing on our lawn, often staying two rotations from the display, and leaving handwritten thank you notes in our mailbox. There were even people who waited for the end of the evening and clapped.

To be fair, the music was a backdrop for the incredible visuals, but we had gone from pop-up tours of our exhibit to families picnicking on the sidewalk, all because we tightened up the playlist and played the tubing.

I have hundreds of statistical charts that demonstrate the effect of strategic music programming, and I can brag about them for hours if you like, but I doubt anything will ever be as powerful an endorsement as the note left in our mailbox below.

By Wayne Clouten, OPI