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CURRENTS VS RECURRENTS Programming A Radio Station: Maximizing its success

Obviously the most important factor to a successful radio station is to create the best playlist possible. It’s important to categorize each song in your music library correctly. Here we will examine the industry standard with category structure which have proven throughout the entire music industry to maximize success.

There are three general categories within the radio industry.

“Currents” are the newest songs which are still on their way up the charts and being promoted and marketed by its respective record label. They can be the newest releases or even a little bit older releases which have proven to be a hit, but still at their peak.

“Recurrents” are recent hits that are past their prime (typically six months to two years old). They are the opposite of “Currents”. They are on their way down the radio charts, but still play an important place at a radio station to listeners.

“Gold” or “Oldies” are older hits (more than two years) that a radio station audience still enjoy. How far back these songs go depends on the station. Top40 stations (also referred to as CHR within the radio industry), songs usually go back approximately five years, but no more than 10 years. Country, Adult Contemporary and several other formats can range anywhere from 20 to 30 years back. 


CATEGORIES / ROTATIONS Effective Rotation Creates A Hit For Your Audience

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of programming new music at your radio station. By far this has been a proven programming treat which not only keeps your listeners engaged, but keeps them coming back for more

Below is a typical breakdown between programming categories.  You’ll notice the “Current” category is broken into three categories (Heavy, medium, and light), along with the original “Recurrent” and “Gold/Oldies” categories.

The most fundamental way a radio programmer can “tweak” their radio  sound (and target audience) is by adjusting the amount of songs played in each category.  By adjusting the number of songs in the library per category, per hour directly reflects how many times a song from that category could be played per hour. This will affect the turnover of individual songs in rotation. More on this latter.

Heavy Rotation
Heavy currents are the biggest hits and receive the fastest rotation as they come up far most often than any other song. Songs rarely start out in this category, but rather build upwards on your playlist to this category. Newer songs tend to start out in Light Rotation or occasionally Medium Rotation.  A song needs to prove itself to your audience in order to move itself up the ladder in rotation. Creating a hit for your audience does take time to grow and occasionally needs to be boosted upwards to grab a foothold. 

Medium Rotation
Songs in the Medium Rotation category receive the second fastest rotation right after Heavy Rotation. Occasionally songs can start out in this category but not often. If they do start out in Medium Rotation, they are usually new songs from already established artists. The majority of songs in this category have moved their way up from the Light Rotation.

Light Rotation
Light Rotation songs are new songs from new artists. As the song becomes more popular with a station’s audience, it moves up to the Medium Rotation and eventually Heavy Rotation categories. However, not all songs move up. 

Beloved songs from the Heavy Rotation category will be transformed to Recurrent category once the novelty wears off. Not every song will get thrown back into rotation in this category. Typically, its for the best of the best performers on your playlist (or to continue to keep your playlist fresh sounding). These songs typically stay in this category anywhere from six months to two years.

Gold, also known as Oldies, are the best of the best of. The once “greatest hits” which have come from the Recurrent category. They stay in rotation in this category for two to ten years. 

KEEPING YOUR STATION FRESH Retain your listeners for years

Power Recurrents are a great programming strategy to grow your ratings because they make your radio station sound both familiar and fresh. 

All radio stations rarely play only new releases, as this has been a failed experiment for years. Including Power Recurrents into rotation in your format clock has been a proven method of success. Playing those great-testing ‘recent former hits’ not only works great for all formats of radio stations, but gives their audience music they can sing along to.