Listening to broadcast radio at work has long been a ratings staple, whether your market is measured by a paper diary or a meter. In the case of the former, respondents have been known to write a line down the diary page from 9-to-5, bringing great happiness to program directors. With meters, the pathway isn't as rewarding, but ratings analysts agree at-work listening can be a wonderful benefit for stations that promote, market, and program to the at-work daypart.
Yet, many stations avoid this obvious ratings goldmine. Nearly 20 years ago, Edison Research conducted their first workplace survey revealing what most programmers knew all along – at-work radio listening is a common practice, especially for format like Adult Contemporary. But as that study discovered, Classic Rockers are big at-work consumers, too. And thus began years of “Workforce” style promotions and contesting designed to reap ratings benefits.
But what if there are other upsides to listening to the radio on the job – including higher productivity and greater focus?
Last month's Inc featured a story by Tom Popomaronis says music at work cuts both ways. It can help you learn and get things done, but it can distract as well.
What are the distinctions?
Popomaronis cites a scientific study that reveals when trying to learn new information, music can be hindrance, providing a multi-tasking scenario that interferes with taking in new information.
Similarly, the findings indicate that absorbing new music while working is problematic as well. Record labels may be chagrined to learn that workers struggle to assimilate new stuff while trying to keep earning their paycheck.
But the converse is positive – especially for radio stations that play familiar, popular, and obviously strong-testing music. Popomoronis says music you like actually puts you in a better mood to get things done. It helps the brain release neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine – pleasant hormones that make you feel good while working. Familiar music works whether you're engaged in a repetitive job, but it also can be effective when performing complex tasks – like surgery. Doctors have become famous for rocking out in the OR or mellowing out to classical music.
Another positive for music on the job is the noisy environment. Ordinarily, that can be an impediment to productivity. Enter music that can block out the excessive noise that gets in the way of an effective work environment. Once again, this is where a favorite radio station can be a great antidote to a cacophonous workplace.
Perhaps this research ushers in a new way for music radio stations to position their at-work listening benefits:
“More dopamine, less talk.”
“Rock out at work – get that raise.”
“We're the neurotransmitters authority.”
“Music you can sing along AND work along to.”
OK, maybe not.
But in all seriousness, there is a lot to be said for promoting and marketing great music while consumers earn their paychecks. In an economy where the unemployment statistics continue to inch downward, there's upside advantages to the at-work benefit.
More information on music and mood is available here.
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Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.