Playlist Fatigue – Definition and Causes

You know the symptoms – you think you have heard this song too many times and maybe can even guess which song will come next. More people are contracting “playlist fatigue”, and not just when they are at home listening to their CD collection. Playlist fatigue also comes from mobile music sources such as FM radio (as a result of massive ownership, format and programming consolidation) and even from MP3 players with either low capacity drives or owners who don’t hassle with updating the contents.

New Radio Sources Ramp

Just as consumers evolved their video viewing habits from a “producers sponge” to what Arbitron calls “on-demand media consumers”, they are now demanding variety, control and convenience in their audio experience. In fact, variety and control are the two main reasons consumers are flocking to Internet radio and satellite radio, according to surveys from Arbitron and a 2005 study funded by the National Association of Broadcasters. Both Internet and satellite radio have cleared technology and regulatory hurdles to ramp their breadth and depth as shown in the graph below.

Content Variety – Pulling from Deeper Pools

Who can deliver audio content variety and where do you get it? If you take a look at the potential content used by audio sources, you get a feel for the issues around content variety. For example, in the chart below, we show the total song content of the two most popular content pools used by US broadcasters – BMI and ASCAP. If a station licenses both, they have a about eight million songs they can broadcast. However, even some of the new stations that brag about their large playlists typically only use a weekly playlist of a thousand songs. This is about the same size as a 4GB MP3 player capacity. Even if the station didn’t repeat any songs, you would be assured of hearing a repeat after listening for about 66 hours, which is unfortunately about the same length as the current workweek.

In contrast, we estimate the pool used by Internet radio broadcasters is closer to the size of the Gracenote CDDB database – currently more than 40 million songs. Internet radio broadcasters use digital song versions to stream, and the CDDB database represents the work of all those who digitized their CDs and albums and uploaded the song title information to CDDB. While it is not easily determined how broad a chunk of this pool is being dished out across Internet radio stations, a look at the variety of stations gives you a clue. Shoutcast, one of the content sources with the highest total listening hours per week, has enjoyed over a 70 percent growth rate in the number of channels over the last four years. As a result, its total listening hours has increased at about the same incredible rate. If you take a look at the Shoutcast directory, you will see a huge variety of channel types, from typical smooth jazz to stations which specialize in southern rock or even those which play Frank Zappa 24/7.

Satellite radio has also arrived to deliver variety not found in terrestrial radio. Surveys show that satellite radio users report that their most positive experience with the purchase is the “variety of content”. As a result, consumers have adopted XM satellite radio faster than many other new consumer electronic device types such as CD players, MP3 players, VCRs, DVRs, MP3 players, etc. And, beginning in 2005, satellite radio customers also can access much of the content via the Internet, giving them access when they are out of satellite or repeater reach (i.e. in offices or rural homes). Forecasts show that consumers will continue to flock to both of these new audio sources rapidly in the coming years.

Putting it all together – Variety, Control, Mobility

The “On Demand Media Consumer” wants more than just variety – they also want control and mobility. The new Internet radio and satellite radio audio choices to date require consumers to compromise in one or more of these areas. Satellite radio receivers are very mobile and offer some degree of control, but don’t provide access to the incredible variety of Internet radio. Internet radio is largely received by consumers on desktop or laptop computers, which are getting lighter, but don’t yet fit in a pocket or on your belt.

To date there hasn’t been a way to bridge the gap. A new program might help users do this.

SelectRadio™ software was designed to bring new levels of variety, control and convenience to the portable audio experience. Beginning with handheld Pocket PC devices, SelectRadio delivers the variety of XM Radio’s Online channels, a directory of 1000 Shoutcast channels, and the ability to add your own Internet radio favorites to the directory. You can search your channels with a comprehensive genre list, or enter specific terms.

SelectRadio software brings some unique new capabilities to live radio listening such as the patent-pending HyperScan™ feature, SnapTrack, and scheduled timeshifting. HyperScan allows you to monitor “what’s playing” on multiple channels in parallel so you can easily see new artists or switch to stations with a touch of the screen. It also can be set to automatically “seek” or “skip” specific artists automatically. Of course the live listening requires an internet connection, which can be provided through a USB link to a connected desktop or directly with wireless Ethernet on PocketPC models equipped with WiFi. You can find out more about all of the features and compatible handheld models at

Getting New Content

Many users are digitizing music, using mobile wireless devices but still getting playlist fatitue. Others are using the Internet to tap the digitized libraries of many sources. These streaming audio sources are expanding rapidly and many are commercial-free and subscription-free. With the new audio sources and software such as SelectRadio, you too can find the cure to playlist fatique!