Large media markets — like, say, Chicago (#3 in the country behind New York and Los Angeles) — are a double-edged sword. Airplay in one of those markets means a lot more, because more people are hearing it. But because a station in one of those markets has so many more listeners (and therefore so many more requests coming in), it takes a lot more to get a song played via request.
If a station has 5,000 listeners, and they get ten requests for a particular song, that’s one in fifty. They’re likely to play it. But only 5,000 people at most will hear it. If a station has 500,000 listeners, then anything they play will be heard by a hundred times as many people, but it also means that it takes a hundred times as many requests to make up the same percentage of their overall request total.
Or to make it simpler: the bigger something is, the harder you have to hit it before it notices.
The good news is, there are ways to “game the system” and work around that, because for some reason, only the people who track and chart country music seem to have noted these idiosyncrasies and actually done something about them.
You see, on the country music charts, the size of a market gets factored into a song’s position. Airplay in New York or Chicago or Boston or Dallas counts more than airplay in a smaller market like, say, Shreveport, Louisiana. But rock music doesn’t work that way (and neither does pop, dance, hip-hop, R&B, jazz, or anything else) — as long as it’s a market big enough to be tracked at all, a spin is a spin is a spin.
“Big enough to be tracked,” by the way, means being one of the 150 largest media markets in the US. The smallest market that qualifies is currently Montgomery, Alabama, with a total listener base of 308,000 people across all radio formats (so any one format accounts for substantially less than that number).
Now here’s where things get interesting: remember how a spin is a spin is a spin? Well, every spin, whether it’s in New York or Montgomery, gets tracked and ranked, and songs that get a lot of spins are ranked highly. Radio stations look at these numbers, and things that are ranked highly get played more. So getting a song played a lot in small markets can eventually lead to it getting played more in large ones. It’s not guaranteed, of course (radio stations look at things beyond just spin count), but it helps. A song legitimately can build momentum to get up a big hill by rolling down a few small ones.
With that in mind, if you live in a large market and want to hear “I Miss The Misery” on the radio there, you can do two things: First, keep calling your local station and telling them what you want, even if they seem like they’re ignoring you. I promise, they’re not. And second, call in a request for the song to a few of these stations from the lower end of the scale too:
- The X, Peoria, IL: 877-495-WIXO
- The Eagle, Flagstaff-Prescott, AZ: 928-522-8282
- KFLY, Eugene-Springfield, OR: 888-556-9156
- Big Dog 106, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 409-212-1061
- 99X, Shreveport, LA: 318-320-ROCK
(Montgomery, as it turns out, doesn’t even have an active rock station anymore.)