Looking to lift up your midday radio audience? Try some uplifting music. That’s a lesson from 10 classical radio stations that have been jiggering their midday playlists with help from a listening study backed by CPB and conducted by the Public Radio Program Directors Association. Eight of the 10 stations saw their midday audiences grow after changing their mixes of music — some grew quite significantly — and the two that lost audience suffered only very small declines. The study began in 2007 when researchers hired by PRPD played 150 half-minute samples of classical pieces for test audiences in four cities.
As we debate how best to program classical music on public radio, we seem often to take for granted that we face an “either/or” conundrum. We seem to assume that our music can only serve either mission or market, can only please either music lovers or music likers, can only achieve the music’s full artistic potential or build audience. I believe that a “both/and” solution to the puzzle exists at a sweet spot in the middle of these divergent pairs of broadcasting goals, a solution which surpasses mere minimal compromise. Please note that my belief is not based on any kind of argument for or against the inviolable sovereignty of classical music. This will be a radio-based manifesto, not a music-based one.