Adding It All Up


How many did you get?

The question of the week for record promotion people everywhere. Every Tuesday. Every week. Of every year.

And the answer to that question determines the climate for the rest of the week. If you have a lot, “It’s gonna be bright, sunshiny days.” But, “Ain’t no sunshine when there’s none.” Or not enough. Of what do we sing?


In the past two years, actual airplay has radically changed the face of the radio and record industries. It wasn’t long ago that radio stations were still making up weekly charts based on what they thought were the hottest and most-played songs on their stations. Records went up and down depending (in some cases) on the combination of sales, requests and rotations. More often, however, the number on a station’s “chart” was done on the whim of the program director or music director…and a plea for help from the local record promoter didn’t hurt either.

Now all that has changed. The guesswork has been taken out of the equation and the cries and whimpers from the LPMs don’t matter. It’s all “plays,” Bud, and begging and pleading doesn’t cut it anymore. There isn’t a programmer in the world who will increase your “plays” unless he or she believes in the record…no matter how pitiful the wail from a record company.

Honesty is the best policy. Has it really been 200 years since Ben Franklin said that? It seems like only yesterday. And like it or not, things aren’t going back the way there were…even if Barbra was as smooth as “buttah” in her comeback last year.

Wasn’t it only yesterday when “paper” adds were not uncommon and, in many cases, expected? Not anymore, Bud. If it don’t get played, it ain’t an add. Simple as that. And lunar rotation? Used to be you could appease your local friend by playing his record once a day between three and four in the morning. No longer. Monitored airplay made that game of “add-and-cheat” impossible to play.

What is played is what we get. Plays. Rotations. Spins. The old playlist is dead. Nothing remains from the decaying carcass of “how we once did it” except…adds.

How many did you get?

Kind of makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? Unless you got a lot. Which happens occasionally, but not often enough to cure that epidermal condition most often associated with the lack of adds. Rumor has it the mysterious, flesh-eating disease that’s constantly in the news began at Columbia Records when not enough adds were reported and Donnie took it out on a national guy.

So, although we have new ways to monitor actual airplay, although the days of the program director or music director struggling to come up with a station “chart” are long gone, although we have a new, “90s” way of looking at the relationship between airplay and sales, one thing remains from yesterday.


From a program director’s standpoint, most will agree that, as far as adds are concerned, their favorite song is, “I Believe In Yesterday.”

Most programmers want the freedom to test records from time-to-time without committing to an add. In the “old” days, a PD could put new records on his radio station and test audience reaction for a couple of weeks before deciding whether or not the record should be “added” into regular rotation. Now, it’s not a test.

BDS doesn’t differentiate between “adds” and “spins.” Neither do most of those in the record industry. “I don’t care whether he adds it or not, as long as he’s playing it,” is a refrain heard more and more often from VPs of promotion.

But they sure care about “drops.” Whoa. That’s a totally different ballgame, Bud.

It’s easy to explain that a PD is playing the record even if he didn’t add it. But try explaining that a station “dropped” a record when it was never an official add to begin with. It gets a bit hairy.

So, what is the answer?

Record companies, for the most part, still look at adds. How many they get is how they keep score. But it’s more than that. It is also an important indicator that they can use with other PDs to show that a record is real. If all these stations are adding it, there must be something to it.

Conversely, drops are also important. Although every PD wants you to believe that he adds and drops records depending only upon how the records are doing in his market, the fact is that how a record is doing nationally also makes a big impact. If a PD sees others dropping a record, the PD may decide to wait on the record. If all those other radio stations are dropping the record, there must be a reason.

Adds and drops are, for the time being, the most accurate barometer of how a new record is being received by radio…next to actual plays. If a record is getting a lot of adds, it must mean a lot of programmers like it. If a record is getting a lot of drops, it must mean a lot of programmers don’t believe in it. If a record gets a consistent amount of adds each week, a promotion team can paint a picture of a record that is growing. It’s hard to use those brushstrokes if the record is getting dropped after a couple of weeks of play.

Programmers who want the freedom to experiment and test records should be allowed that freedom. Trade magazines that publish charts and airplay information should let individual radio stations determine what is an official “add” no matter how many times a record is played. At Network 40, we don’t list a record as an add until the radio station informs us…whether or not the record is being played. Like it or not, there is a difference between “playing it” and “adding it.”

So, if the question is, “When is an add an add and when is a drop a drop?” the answer is, “When the radio station says so.”

Where is it written that because a station is monitored or because it supplies the industry with an accurate description of actual airplay, it must comply with certain rules it had nothing to do with writing? If we, as an industry, are going to put weight on adds and drops, should we as an industry let determination be made by the radio stations?

What do you think?

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