I love to sample other radio stations throughout the country, stations of all formats. Top-40, Hot AC, AC, Country, CCM, Greatest Hits etc. Most of these formats put out good music and thrive on the tempo of the station. While not shying away from a well-placed ballad, the majority of their songs drive the tempo of the station forward. It’s toe-tapping at its best.
One thing that I’ve noticed in our format is the lack of fun and tempo in our music selection. It’s epidemic. Just look at PlayMPE. We have more slow songs than up tempo in which to choose from our format.
You can argue that the best testing songs in our format are the worship ballads. And you’d be right, they are our best testers. It’s what Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns and Hillsong Worship have made a career on. There’s nothing wrong with them. We need those songs for sure. Plus, songs with tempo usually takes a back seat in our tests, so we should just play the biggest hits even if that means a boatload of ballads, right?
Before I answer that, let me share with you this anecdote. I love ice cream. It’s been my favorite since I was a kid. In fact, those of you who really know me, know that I once ate 8 Blue Bell ice cream bars while working our Celebrate Freedom concert. Let me be the first to tell you, eating 8 ice cream bars while working outside all day on a 100+ degree North Texas day does not do your gut any favors. As much as I still love ice cream, if that’s all I ate, I would be grossly overweight or dead from diabetes.
Those worship ballads are our format’s ice cream. You have to have it, you want it, especially cookies ‘n cream, but you need some other foods and flavors to fill out your meal. There is a sameness to those ballads.
I’ve heard many stations that will play two, three sometimes four or more of those songs in a row. Your listeners are either turning your station to see what else is on or they’re driving off the road. If you’re only looking at testing numbers to program your station, then you’ve given up the thought and feeling behind your station. Use your gut. Bring up your tempo. Find variety. Sprinkle the ballads in, they are certainly needed, but spread them out.
I have built KLTY around tempo, I’d argue we’re likely one of the hottest Christian AC stations out there. And it’s worked out well for us. Not only do we compete with the plethora of other Christian stations in the market, but we go head to head with the legendary top 40 in our market as well as the AC and Hot AC formats. We do that by the mix of music as well as extraordinary talent, involvement in the community and great contesting. But strip all that away and it gets back to just the music. When listening to KLTY, I want the listener to feel encouraged, loved and uplifted. But I want them to have fun as well. I want them to turn up that new TobyMac song with windows down…ok maybe this time of year in Texas, the windows are up with the AC on full blast…but you get the picture. I also want a station I enjoy listening to when I’m away from the office, and I do. I am a P1 of my own station and I love how we sound.
So, look for variety. Bring up your tempo. Have fun, let your hair down, be more like your audience. Your listeners will thank you.
Program Director, KLTY
Mike Prendergast, Program Director for Salem Dallas’ 94.9 KLTY has been with the station since 2005, serving as PD since 2009. KLTY has long enjoyed success in Dallas/Fort Worth most recently achieving an overall #1 Persons 6+ this past October and setting a station record for share and another #1 this past January 2020. Mike married his high school sweetheart Teresa 23 years ago and has two daughters, 18 & 16, the oldest about to head off to college. When Mike is not working in Christian radio, he’s spending his time with family, with the Youth at church or trekking across the country seeking all kinds of severe weather including tornadoes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms.
Article reposted with permission from Christian Music Broadcasters