Listen to the Music by James Curran

If you had a look at the new playlist we sent out yesterday you would have noticed a healthy six additions from musical friends old (Oasis & Snow Patrol) and new (MGMT and Glasvegas). But probably you have noticed too that the playlist itself has got bigger! The second such increase in size since our launch in October last year. Music is,like most things these days (recessions?!), cyclical. Sometimes trying to find good and appropriate new songs for our playlist is like trying to explain to a Daily Mail reader that we don’t all still want to live in the 1950s – it is not easy! But that is not the case at the moment with a plethora of great new music around and rather than ration our listeners we want to give them more – hence the increase in the size of the playlist.

At Absolute Radio, we are still striving to bring to our listeners the best in real music – old and new. And four months in I had a look at our most played artists since launch and came up with the top 20 below.

1 COLDPLAY
2 KINGS OF LEON
3 KILLERS
4 SNOW PATROL
5 OASIS
6 U2
7 RAZORLIGHT
8 KAISER CHIEFS
9 QUEEN
10 KEANE
11 STEREOPHONICS
12 ELBOW
13 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
14 REM
15 NICKELBACK
16 ROLLING STONES
17 BEATLES
18 DAVID BOWIE
19 POLICE
20 BLUR

A couple of things struck me about this list. It helps to be British (14 of the artists are from the UK; 4 are American and there is one each from Ireland and Canada) and oh yes… it helps if your band name starts with the letter ‘K’ (4 in the top 10)!

It still baffles me why most UK radio shies away from exploiting this rich musical heritage – as there are not many, if any, stations out there playing both The Beatles and Elbow – but especially when they are happy to serve up a diet of Lady Ga Ga and The Saturdays instead! Anyway that is just my view what do you think?

Comments (11)

  1. Rob @ February 4, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    While it is commendable that Absolute plays good, old music, it is a shame that the back catalogue tracks that are played are the same two or three big tunes by each artist.

    For example, the only Bruce Springsteen tracks that seem to get played are Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark and Born in the USA. How many albums and hits has he had?

    Likewise, the only song by James I ever hear is Sit Down. It is frustrating when most bands have lots more to offer than just their biggest one or two songs which we have all heard a million times before anyway.

    Your variation of tracks per artist is very narrow and this is what makes Absolute (and Virgin before it) unlistenable for more than for an occasional, single day.

  2. Marty from new yawk @ February 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    As someone who listens more than human beings should probably be allowed to listen, the greater variety of tracks is much appreciated.

    And just in case there was any concern, I am not missing tracks by James Blunt.

  3. Jason Bourne @ February 4, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I do applaud the fact that more songs are on the main playlist now and the station isn’t ignoring a lot of great new bands and songs like they seemed to as Virgin.

    However, I can’t be all one way with my praise. You claim that Elbow are one of your most played bands but I would bet that ‘One Day Like This’ has by far and away the most played track. Almost 95%. Can I ask why? They have a great song called ‘Grounds for Divorce’ and ‘The Bones of You’ on the same album so why not give them a whirl too?

    I’ve heard Geoff Lloyd on his Hometime Show and on Xtreme saying how much he’d love to play different Elbow songs such as ‘Grounds for Divorce’ – but who is stopping him and other presenters from doing so? It seems like he’s been told he can’t play any other Elbow song apart from ‘One Day Like This’.

    It’s the same for the Kings of Leon – fine, we’ve heard ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’ to death so why not give some of their older songs a play?

    If a band brings out a new single – then why not give some of their older stuff a play too? Starsailor have a great new track out – so lets play some ‘Poor Misguided Fool’, ‘Four to the Floor’, ‘Silence is Easy’ too.

    Kerrang – a station I don’t particular enjoy but have heard having lived up in the Midlands – have a feature whereas they play an older song – then their new one to contrast the sound and see where they’ve been and come from to where they are now.

    Come on Absolute, you’re doing well on the music side but still could improve more.

  4. Niko @ February 5, 2009 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    I second both Marty and Rob’s comments. I appreciate the variety, but still am frustrated that the same tunes are being played – perhaps with a bit of Boo Radleys thrown in.

  5. Tim Vernon @ February 5, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Hello Rob, Jason, Niko

    I look after the music here at Absolute, along with James Curran.

    You’re absolutely right: an artist like Bruce Springsteen has had dozens of hits and that’s why he is an Absolute core artist.

    Of course some of his songs are more popular than others and we would be foolish if we did not play Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Born In The USA more often than some of his lesser hits. However if you listen long enough I guarantee you will hear a wide selection of Boss tracks.

    Last week was in fact Bruce Springsteen week on Absolute Evenings. On Monday the 26th of January we played his new album WORKING ON A DREAM out in FULL, without interruption – 13 new songs!

    And 2 days later Ben Jones revealed the Top 10 Bruce Springsteen songs, as voted for online by Absolute Radio listeners, and played them ALL back to back.

    The results as follows:
    1. Born To Run
    2. The River
    3. Born In The USA
    4. Thunder Road
    5. Dancing In The Dark
    6. I’m On Fire
    7. Jungleland
    8. Philadelphia
    9. Glory Days
    10. Hungry Heart

    When was the last time you heard Jungeland on the radio? 9 minutes of The Boss at his epic best.

    For good measure we also played some of the songs that just missed out: Human Touch, Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Sherry Darling and The Rising. What a treat for Boss fans!

    Its not just our evening shows either.
    Across our standard music programming we played 10 different Bruce Springsteen songs during the month of January. Not many other UK stations are likely to match this. And this coming Sunday I know that Christian is planning to play a live version of Thunder Road on his Uncut show between 5 and 8pm. He’s a big Boss fan.

    The key to the variety in our daytime output is the NO REPEAT GUARANTEE.

    From the end of the Christian O Connell Breakfast Show at 10am to the start of Geoff Lloyd’s Hometime Show at 5pm, Monday to Friday, we never play the same song twice.

    The No Repeat Guarantee dictates that we dig deep into the catalogue of each of our core artists.
    Oasis and Queen each have nearly 30 tracks in rotation. Coldplay have 20 – not including all the live tracks we’ve featured recently – and The Killers a healthy 10 tracks.

    If you like Kings of Leon, then during the No Repeat Guarantee, you won’t just hear Sex On Fire and Use Somebody, you should also hear classics like The Bucket, Molly’s Chambers and Fans, alongside the new single Revelry.

    Elbow’s One Day Like This is a simply exceptional song and there’s good reason why we play this above and beyond all other Elbow tracks. It was one of the defining tracks of 2008.

    However if you want a little more Elbow fix why not check out Geoff Lloyd’s Absolute Xtreme show – on Sunday nights from 8 till 10pm. In recent weeks Geoff has played Mirrorball, a gorgeous album track from The Seldom Seen Kid, and also their cover of U2′s Running To Stand Still, available on the forthcoming Warchild compilation.

    Geoff is also a big James fan and has featured fan favourites like Johnny Yen, Sometimes and Waterfall on his Sunday night show. Tim Booth actually joined Geoff on Hometime (weekdays 5-8pm) in December and Geoff played Born of Frustration and Laid, two of their very finest songs. In January we played 4 different James songs across our normal music programming.

    There’s always more variety if you search for it.
    Geoff’s Sunday night show is a great place to start.

    And in the week Ben Jones often has something special up his sleeve in the last hour of his show (11pm-Midnight Monday to Thursday).

    Next week is Morrissey week. On Monday night at 11pm you can hear The Smiths classic album The Queen Is Dead in FULL at 11pm. And on Wednesday night (11th Feb) at the same time, 11pm, Ben will be counting down the Top 10 Morrissey & Smiths tracks as voted for by Absolute Radio listeners. I look forward to hearing the results!

    In the coming weeks we’ll be profiling U2, Aerosmith and the Foo Fighters on Ben’s show – plenty of catalogue songs that you rarely hear on the radio. Hope you get a chance to hear some of them.

    All the best,
    Tim Vernon, Music Producer, Absolute Radio.

  6. Rob @ February 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Tim, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    I think it is quite telling that all the examples you cite are for special artist events (where by default you will play a wider selection from one artist) or non-peak hours programming. It is easy to try boost your musical credibility in these periods when fewer people are listening.

    When I am interested in is your bread-and-butter daytime playlists which inform music on the most listened-to shows but unfortunately the most repetitive due to the poor variety of tracks per artist.

    Elbow was a perfect example (thanks Jason) and if we dared listen for longer I’m sure we could find countless other examples.

  7. James @ February 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rob

    Thanks for your input

    I note your concern about our ‘bread and butter daytime lists ‘ not containing a variety of songs by specific artists . Tim did however make reference to ten different Springsteen titles being aired across January . He was actually referring to those ‘dayime’ lists when he mentioned this – the song titles aired on daytime hours in January were as follows

    Dancing in the Dark
    Born in the USA
    Born to Run
    I’m On Fire
    Cover Me
    Glory Days
    Streets of Philadelphia
    Hungry Heart
    The River
    Thunder Road

    And it is actually 11 titles when you add in the current single ‘Waiting on a Dream’ ( which in spite of Bruce having the No. 1 selling album of the moment is not even in the top 50 most played tracks on British radio – again it is Absolute Radio that is leading the way by continuing its support for the track). This does not mean that other Springsteen titles are precluded from being played on daytime and in fact Brilliant Disguise , Tunnel of Love and Secret Garden have all had daytime play in the short history of Absolute Radio , just not in January . As Tim says some songs are admittedley played more than others but that is not a decision we have arbitrarily made . Each month we collate the opinions of literally hundreds of listeners ( across a year it is several thousand) to discern their views of the songs we play . It is they , not us , who determine which songs get more play than others. Personally I don’t think Bruce has made a finer song than ‘Thunder Road ‘and our listeners tell us they are happy to hear this song but they also tell us that they are happy to hear others more – their choice, not ours.

    I do think you will find it difficult to find another station that delivers the variety of songs by a given artist that we do . Tim mentions the variety of songs played by other artists too – Oasis, U2 , Killers and so it goes on .

    And again it is our listeners who are telling us they still love Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This . As soon as they tire of it they will let us know! In fact Elbow’s album is about to re-enter the top 10 album chart this week. Absolute is playing this track more than any other station in the UK at the moment ( in fact most never bothered to give it any play at all! ) and I know from my own conversations with their record company that they feel the album’s current resurgence is being helped by the play we are giving ‘One Day Like This’ . There are people out there still discovering this track for the first time , precisely because it got so little airplay elsewhere, and voting with their feet and going out to buy the album . By way of comparison Lady Ga Ga’s ‘Just Dance’ got over 2300 plays on Uk radio last week – Elbow got just 85 and 30 of those were across Absolute Radio and our sister station Absolute Xtreme !

    I do take your point about specialist music programming but believe me fewer and fewer major radio stations are doing this sort of programming so it is never an easy option.

    Absolute Radio played over 1600 different tracks in January . That is roughly five times as many as Capital , Magic , Heart or your local radio station . And it is a good couple of hundred more than Radio 2 which before Absolute Radio came along was the radio station that prided itself in giving most variety in terms of the different tracks they played. And that does not mean we will only ever play those 1600 or so songs – some we will continue to play , some we will rest and we will start playing some that we have never played before.

    If you would like to suggest a few titles you think we should be playing I am happy to ask our listeners or perhaps you wouid like to attend one of our open Playlist meetings , which are held weekly at 430pm on Thursdays ? You are more than welcome to come along

    Best wishes

    James

  8. Jason Bourne @ February 6, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the replies from the guys from Absolute. It’s great we can have a platform like this to discuss the programming and music. However…

    No one is saying that One Day Like This shouldn’t be played – of course it should be played but Elbow have more great songs on the album that you mention. Showcase more of them if you’re so happy to help them drive up album sales. I just cannot fathom why you don’t play Grounds for Divorce or The Bones of You whatsoever.

    Mirrorball was played on Xtreme and I heard it – and I take your point but this is on a specialist programme and not during the bread and butter daytime playlist.

    No one has yet given me a good enough reason as to why you don’t play the Elbow songs I’ve suggested.

    More positively, I’m over the moon that you’re putting more and more tracks on the playlist that 6 or 12 months ago wouldn’t have got a look in as Virgin.

    I’d love to attend a playlist meeting at somepoint, but I would suggest these bands be considered to be played more on the station:

    Idlewild – You Held the World in Your Arms
    The Delays – Long Time Coming
    Embrace – Gravity, Ashes, Nature’s Law
    Feeder – Feeling a Moment, Forget About Tomorrow
    Guillemots – Trains to Brazil, Annie Lets Not Wait
    Jack Penate – Torn on the Platform, Have I Been a Fool
    Jet – NOT JUST ….GONNA BE MY GIRL
    Kate Nash – Foundations
    Mystery Jets – Young Love, Two Doors Down
    We Are Scientists – Impatience, After Hours
    The Thrills – One Horse Town, Big Sur

    I’m not saying play tracks that will sound massively out of place but more songs that already compliment what’s being played and bands people will already be aware of.

  9. Dan T @ February 7, 2009 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    It’s great that Absolute is playing more music variety, and actually doing it.

    It’s sad that Absolute is probably the only commercial station in the UK that is not actively going for the 25-40 year old female market.

    The only thing is that sometimes the same songs by the same artists do come around just a little too often. Just a little. I listened for around twelve hours a day a couple of weeks ago, and to the station’s credit I only heard the same song three times, and the third time was at around 3am. But it would have been better to hear a different song by the same artist.

    Not that it massively bothered me; it was a good song (I forget who and what), and it WAS 3am.

  10. Tim Vernon @ February 9, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Hi Jason, Thankyou for your interesting set of selections which we will certainly discuss. A few of the songs you have suggested have already been tested with the audience and we occasionally play. Great you can make Open Playlist and we look forward to hearing a suitable date to see you.
    Tim.

  11. Jason Bourne @ February 10, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I can make it next week and the week after assuming it’s still on a Thursday afternoon at 4:30pm?

    So whichever is fine by me if it’s alright with you.

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