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Matt Pelishek “Maybe The Song Isn’t The Issue”

I love martial arts movies. The rest of my family doesn’t really care about them, but years back I told my wife ‘ok, I know this isn’t what you normally watch, but there’s a kung fu movie I think you’ll actually really like, I want to play it for you.’ At that point, of course, she turned off the TV and walked away, never to watch anything on that TV again.

No, of course not. She watched with me, and you know what? She really loved the movie. I was well aware of her preferences, but there were aspects of the film I knew she would really appreciate. She trusted me.

Or what if I just get a text from a friend that says, “Hey, I heard this song, it reminded me of you”. I’m not going to text back and say “Sorry, not interested. It’s not my style.” Once again, no, because that’s not how people think. I’m actually eager to hear that song.

The only times you might be flat out denied in a situation like that is if it’s a person you don’t know and don’t trust.

It sometimes feels like the way Christian radio treats new and different songs is so far removed from how people actually consume them in real life. When it comes to adding songs to your station, if there is a fear that someone might tune out because a song sounds ‘too outside the format’, that’s not a song issue, that’s a trust issue. What have your personalities and your station done to build trust with the listener? Especially with listener-supported stations that host fundraisers, we know we should build relationships so our audience feels connected. Often the same industry voices that tell us to build relationship for fundraising (“be a friend to your listener”) act like we don’t have that relationship when it comes to new music. Listen, if your listeners trust you enough to invest their hard-earned money into your station, why do we think they don’t trust us enough to present fresh new music to them?

This idea that ‘you’re never hurt by the song you don’t play’ has always been baffling to me. I mean, yeah, I understand in theory it’s maximizing ratings or PPM or whatever, but you can’t stop people from tuning away. In fact, I wonder how many times we hyper-research the data on a song we are worried about, meanwhile people are tuning out because the DJ is reading a list of top 5 places in the US to order mashed potatoes.

It seems like sometimes we can be so stringent about it, that there is no fun in the process, it’s a walk on eggshells and the path through is defined by spreadsheets. I think a little breathing room in your playlist is healthy, and practicing a bit of freedom in your selection process makes you stand out. Here are a few things to consider:

● Our listeners come to us for certain values and mindset. They’re concerned with if a song brings hope, not if the chorus starts in less than 30 seconds. They care about reminders of God’s promises, not ‘a bridge thats a bit too hot.’

● P1s are P1s, they are already with you. They trust you. P2s etc are going to tune away no matter what, so why not step out with a song you believe in, because it’s really good, not because a bigger station had a month of pretesting on it
● You can create the hype over a song. If you believe in a song, tell your listeners! Share the story of the song, and connect them to it. Believe it or not, you can make a song big on your station that isn’t on others (We do this regularly)
● People consume different music. They just do. I’m not sure why we think they will only listen to something ‘right in the middle of the lane’ I’ve never met an actual person who does that.
● Make sure your personalities are being authentic, talking about real things in real ways. This is where that relationship and trust is built that gives you more freedom.
● What if your ‘risky’ song flops? This will sound radical, but, um, just move on. Try something else. You’ll be fine, your station will be fine.

And yes, I’m obviously not advocating to throw ANYTHING on, but I don’t think that’s the concern. We are so risk averse that the real risk becomes going stagnant. Our God is a God of creativity and wild originality, and has given us gifts, from artists, label folks, and programmers, to exercise that creativity.

Matt Pelishek is the program director at 88.3 Life FM, and co-host of the Afternoon Joy Ride. He has been in radio over 20 years, and is just now starting to figure out what most of the buttons do. Contact Matt at Matt@kaxl.com

2 thoughts on “Matt Pelishek “Maybe The Song Isn’t The Issue”

  • Great words, bro! Thanks for sharing. You are speaking my language.

  • I had a PD of a large station tell me once that he always had a song or two or more on that didn’t test well. Why? Because progamming is an art AND a science. You have to trust yourself and your audience. Good words, Matt.


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