Determining what gets played on the radio in Augusta, or anywhere else, is equal parts science and art.
All three major station owners in Augusta rely on corporate-funded research to determine playlists for their hit-music formatted stations and, to a lesser extent, their classic and oldies stations.
They receive new playlist additions, called "adds," on a weekly basis from regional and national programming executives who track record sales, trade publications, listener requests and what's being promoted by the record labels.
Larger broadcasters may also rely on telephone surveys and focus groups to find out what songs people like and what they are tired of hearing.
Though most decisions are research-driven, local stations are given a little leeway to test new songs on their audiences.
"We have some input, our operations manager more or less picks out some things he likes," said Dennis Jackson, manager of Radio One's Augusta cluster.
In the Augusta radio market, if a station's listenership slips by a single share in the Arbitron ratings, it means the loss of about $100,000 in advertising revenue. So not much is left to chance.
For the most part, the 22 local stations responsible for more than 90 percent of Augusta's $15 million radio market operate the same as the 11,000 commercial radio stations nationwide: They keep playlists small (research shows most listeners find a comfort level through repetition), the song selection is solidly mainstream (to serve the core station demographic) and the hits get heavy rotation until they are no longer hits.
However, there are a exceptions to the rule, one being the two-hour "Homegrown" program that airs Sunday nights on Beasley Broadcasting's WCHZ 95.1-FM. It showcases mid-level bands who send in CDs from throughout the Southeast.
Co-host Joe Stevenson is the singer/lead guitarist for People Who Must, an Augusta band that flirted with mainstream success in the mid-1990s.
"It really is kind of the last free-form on radio," Mr. Stevenson said of the show. "We don't go by playlists. We play what we get and what we like."
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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