Do Radio Stations Listen to Each Other?

i’m not sure if this is the right forum; but if it isn’t, i’m just making the mods’ pay more worthwhile. anyways, do DJ’s (especially on Top 40 stations) listen to their competition and deliberately play the exact same song five seconds later, or doesthis happen just because of people who call up multiple stations to request the same song?

People calling in requests have no effect on what songs are played at any good-sized station. The stations know that someone will call in asking for a Britney Spears song and will throw their request on the air when it comes up in the play list.

Playlists for the standard chain stations are programmed by a very small number of companies who all use the same sort of data and methodology. So a slow song is good at one time, a fast at another time. Certain songs go well back-to-back, etc. It all adds up to generic pablum mindless stuff on all stations. So of course they are going to sound alike, even down to the order of many songs.

It’s all about the payola. Record companies pay the radio stations to play certain songs that they want to become hits. So you’re going to hear those songs all the time.

Big radio companies, such as Clear Channel, own hundreds of stations, sometimes more than one in one city. Often, they are automated, and they only have the illusion of a live disc jockey. The voice you hear, and the playlist, is exactly the same for many different stations. Cackling morning drive-time folks are often cackling in several cities simultaneously. Actual live DJ’s are fewer every year. I’m not making this up. I wish it were a lie.

In Indianapolis, two country stations that seem to be rivals are owned by the same company. One targets a younger demographic. A pair of self-amused morning guys, Bob&Tom, do a mostly-scripted shtick every day that’s also broadcast in a handful of other cities. Amusing folks who seem to randomly call in are part of the team.

I could tell you more about the linkage among music stores, promoters, big music companies, and broadcasters, but, hey! You’ll have more fun finding out on your own.

Actually, I think they have to monitor each other; the Emergency Broadcast System requires it. Still you have to wonder. It seems like whenever one station plays the Beatles or Stones, they’ll pop up a few minutes later on another station. And a few weeks ago I heard “Black Magic Woman” on two stations, and they were only about one second off.

Harvey: How could the EBS require that stations monitor each others’ transmissions? It really doesn’t make much sense to me, even during an Emergency: If you get the call to broadcast your This Is Not A Test transmissions, why would you care who else is currently on and whether they’re complying or not? A cite would be nice, anyway.

As to your second part: Read the posts above yours. They’re all operating from the same set of guidelines and the same research. If the Book says to play the Stones, then the Beatles, then Elvis, they’ll all play Stones-Beatles-Elvis without fail. If the Book says to play Velvet Underground, NOFX, and then squawk like a castrated chicken, you’d hear some mighty interesting radio during your morning commute.

I guess I was remembering something old. The Emergency Alert System now uses digital decoders. But there used to be people at radio and TV stations whose job was to monitor other broadcasters waiting for the system test.

Here is an old mailbag report on the Emergency Broadcast System. Cecil also did a column on it that does not appear to be archived.

I am a college DJ, and the DJs don’t have to do anything to trigger an EAS alert. If the NWS deems it necessary, it’s automatically triggered. The system pulls normal programming off the air and diverts to the EAS signal. So we don’t have to monitor anything. If we listen to another station, it’s by our own choice, although, as a general practice, we keep our office stereo tuned to our station. That helps us monitor broadcast quality.


A good place to start is to check out the website of RCS which is becoming the industry standard through software as Selector, Master Control and Linker. Once you know what these programs do, we can continue the discussion.
Basically, as with any industry, it’s about the money. Minimize costs, and the thing that costs the most is staff.

The talk about payola is just plain stupid and urban legend territory.

I have noticed that radio stations tend to synchronize their commericial breaks, at least. This does make some sense, since people are likely to switch away to other stations once the commericials come on, and if the breaks weren’t roughly synchronized nobody would ever listen to the ads and the stations’ revenues would plummet.

Well if you’d like to test your theory just compile a huge spreadsheet from this site:

Former Radio Station DJ checking in about the EBS:

We’d run the ‘test’ as often as the FCC required. We didn’t ‘monitor’ other stations.

When a real EBS broadcast came through, it came through on its own set of speakers. We’d pot it up and send it out. It only happened to me once, and scared the sh*t out of me when it came in (tornado warning).

Aside: My wife and I drove from NC to GA today and juggled FM stations along the way. The “country oldies” station from NC played ‘Desperado’ by the Eagles. We lost the signal during the next song and switched to the “classic rock” station from Atlanta. You guessed it. Desperado. I haven’t heard that song in 10 years. I heard it TWICE in 10 minutes today.

I’m getting a tinfoil helmet.

When I was at Boston University, I approached a major radio station to look for an internship. They set me to work-- listening to a competitor and making a list of the songs they played. There were four interns doing this. (And I only lasted about two days of it before getting very bored and quitting.)