Peak Interest

How the songs you hear on the radio are selected.

Think crafting the perfect radio playlist is as easy as clicking the “genius” button on iTunes? Think again. Facing stiff competition from satellite radio, the iPod, and the Internet, local rock station 107.1 The Peak mixes new-age technology with old-school human decision-making to produce its playlists. Each day, a computer program called Selector, the brainchild of Radio Computing Services (RCS) in White Plains, creates a rough copy of the day’s playlist from the station’s 11,000-song library. The software allows The Peak to control parameters like genre, tempo, time-period, and track length to guarantee that back-to-back songs aren’t repetitive and flow well. Program Director Chris Herrmann and his staff of DJs then bring out the red pens. “We react to our own whims to try to find that moment when you hear a song, and that flood of emotions, sense, and smell produces a transformative quality,” Herrmann says.

Since The Peak’s 190,000 weekly listeners range from indie-loving teenagers to nostalgic ex-hippies, picking the right songs is a delicate art. Within every three songs, the station tries to exhibit its wide variety of music (everything from Elvis Presley’s hip-shaking tracks of the ‘50s to the 40 or so newly released albums sent to Herrmann’s mailbox each week). Of the roughly 280 songs played per day, none runs more than three times in a 24-hour period. By comparison, Z100 pumps its top songs every 90 minutes so each track runs roughly 16 times a day. Nonetheless, Herrmann says all stations strive for the same goal of, well, keeping listeners listening.

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