Getting your tune some airtime

Recipe for radio-friendly songs

10 May 2019 | Art and Entertainment

Different radio stations have rules in place on the specifications to be met for a song to be play-listed. tjil took some time off to engage with music compilers of local radio stations on what these specifications are and what it takes for your song to be on high rotation.

Jean-Louis Knouwds, music compiler and radio host at Kosmos 94.1 told tjil that there are certain criteria that go with the broadcast conduct that helps them determine radio friendly songs.

“To begin with, you cannot broadcast content that has swear words or songs with explicit content. Of course there is radio edit which makes our work easier but it is advisable to not submit music with foul language,” said Knouwds.

Knouwds added that different radio stations have different policies that govern their playlists.

He mentioned that at Kosmos 94.1 they like to refer to it as giving a song line A and line B; a song must fit between those lines. If you get a song that falls outside that scope which is not what the station deems their sound, that song is then likely not to be playlisted.

“We are a commercial radio station and commercial stations have a standard sound across the globe. Whatever song is played must sound commercial. It must be produced properly and have good sound quality,” said Knouwds.

In terms of the format the songs should be saved as, Knouwds shared that at Kosmos 94.1 they broadcast in windows audio file.

This means that if you bring an MP3 it converts it automatically. He said when it happens that they receive a song and the format is not recognised by the system - which hardly happens, they then let the artist know but they try to convert it on your behalf.

“The only problem is that the sound quality is then compressed. But most of the general formats are recognised by our system,” said Knouwds.

Shona Ngava the music compiler at Nust FM said the current accepted format for digital radio stations is 325kbs per second or more and normally the song is an MP3 file because it's best for maximum listening quality.

Ngava added that MP3 formats are widely respected for making it easy for the human ear to pick up instruments and the vocals of the artist, stating that it's also a great source for saving songs because the song does not lose much of its quality.

For Ngava, any song with blatant foul language is not radio friendly. “In this day and age, it seems that an overwhelming amount of pop songs have questionable or foul language in the lyrics,” said Ngava adding that some of these songs, just to garner air-play, will release a “radio edit” where either a bleep, a blank space or an instrumental flourish such as a record scratch or a guitar riff may be mixed into the tune in place of the profanity, thus making it playable.

Ngava also mentioned that songs with questionable themes and content like strong sexual messages or songs that may for example promote racism are usually not radio friendly.

He said those types of songs will rarely if ever get air-play, even on radio stations that will occasionally let a minor curse word slip by. “Most radio stations don't want to deal with the possible problems that these types of songs can present,” shared Ngava.

Also contributing to the dialogue was Rapids FM's Elizabeth Mwengo who doubles as a presenter and head of programmes at the station. Mwengo said that radio is unlimited in terms of reach and caters for everyone.

“So any song with blatant foul language is not radio friendly; radio must educate and inform so everything that goes on air matters.”

“Even though swear words can be bleeped out radio also entertains and who wants to hear one long bleep song? Every second counts on radio so any song longer than about four minutes is not radio-friendly,” said Mwengo.

Mwengo said that Rapids FM mostly caters for the two Kavango regions and thus the artists on high rotation at the station are mostly from the Kavango regions.

On challenges faced by music compilers at radio stations, Ngava said one of the main challenges is the quality of the songs that are currently being produced is not up to standard and this makes it hard for music directors to create diverse playlists to cater to the different listeners.

“NUST FM is an urban radio station with 80% local music. The most popular genres are hip-hop, Afro-pop and kwaito. Getting a variety of songs from other genres is also difficult because there is not much of a library that we can go to, to source music,” said Ngava.

MICHAEL KAYUNDE