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Playing the Music Hits on Sports Radio

 by Larry Gifford for LarryGifford.com’s “Let’s Talk About It” Newsletter.

Listen to the entire LarryGifford.com podcast with Rita Wilde here


Programmers are quick to parrot the music radio philosophy of “play the hits” when it comes to choosing topics each day, but that doesn’t extend to the bumper music being played into and out of breaks. Classic rock thrives in the PPM world and caters directly to M25-54, yet sports talk stations seem to have abandoned it. 

Rita Wilde

“I don’t hear anything that’s really compelling to be honest.” That’s Rita Wilde talking about sports radio’s use of music. For 26 years, as a jock and programmer she really did play the hits at the legendary KLOS-FM in Los Angeles. “I love sports talk radio. I love sports. I’m a P1 of the format. From a classic rock standpoint, I’m not hearing that incorporated at all. I hear people just trying to be cool playing rap and hip-hop. That doesn’t necessarily connect with who they’re trying to reach.”

Wilde cautions sports talkers to not become a classic rock bumper station. You still have to be current by incorporating new acts or mass appeal acts like Black Eyed Peas and Bruno Mars.

So what’s the best way to figure out what to play? Wilde suggests you consult a classic rock station in your cluster if you have one. But there are other ways.

“One thing that I always remember: The music you like when you’re 18 years old will resonate with you for the rest of your life.” Wilde continues, “Classic rock is incorporating 80s and songs from 20 years ago like Nirvana’s Nevermind (released in September 1991) and Pearl Jam’s Ten (released in August 1991). Those people are 20 years older now, so if they were 18 then, their 38 now and right smack in your demo.”

Wilde also suggests you watch crowds at sporting events and see how they react to the music. She thinks hockey is the best at really getting the crowd rockin’. She emphasizes that the music you choose should be familiar – stuff everyone knows. Why?

“The biggest complaints I’d hear from jocks when I’d take them to a concert was, ‘well, they just played all the hits,’ but what’s interesting to note is that when they played the newer stuff off the album people would head to the bathroom.”

Bottom line: Playing the hits is a great philosophy for sports talk radio; just don’t forget its origins or you risk losing your listeners to a potty break. 

Rita Wilde is currently looking for something in “jock and roll” – working in the sports or rock formats. She can be contacted at ritawilde@verizon.net

  1. cindy summers
    April 19, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    Anything (anything : ) Rita does, she will succeed at.
    I believed it from the beginning, I believe in her still.

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