RBR August 9, 2008 - The demands on music scheduling software are higher than ever, with HD-2 formats, online streaming, added non-music content, getting PPM into the mix, prevention of song airplay on multiple stations, the need to use one common database, integration with other software/systems, etc. As technology and the shape of radio keeps changing, we asked some of the players in the music scheduling space to tell us how they're addressing these issues and what's next on the horizon. (the following are the excerpts of responses from Neal Perchuk, VP of Sales USA & Canada, RCS)

RBR: What are the newest features of your system?

Perchuk: We have two main lines of music scheduling. We have a GSelector and we have Selector 15 or actually we call it Selector SQL. The newest features; GSelector is a goal based system. There are two things that really set it apart from everything else. Number one it is written on sequel and it's a single database for multiple channels. Where stations are going as either part of a bigger group or if there is a cluster and there is multiple channels, and especially now with HD-1 and HD-2 potentially HD-3, you're looking at the need to have a single database that can handle multiple channels. It cuts off a tremendous amount of workload. You don't have to enter that song into every database its one database. Yet every channel has its own metadata that they can tag to the song. It's not like they loose anything by having it only on one database they could still make channel modifications. If I'm a classic rock channel and I also have a deep-cuts channel I could list that song with different metadata so I could say a classic channel that has a tempo of four but in the deep-cuts it may be a tempo of five. There is universal information to the song, the artist, album, title, running time everything that is sort of standard and stationary is entered once and then the station itself can add its own individual metadata to that.

Again it's a sequel based database so if you want to run any type of reporting, any kind of sequel queries, how many times was this song played over all my stations? That's a very simple function in our software. It's done in real time you don't have to pull from one database and pull from another database and try to calculate it. It's a very simple function.

RBR: Tell us about your software's platform.

Perchuk: It runs on Windows. It's Vista compliant. Again, it's based on sequel. GSelector is a goals based system which basically just means instead of putting rules down to get an outcome in other words don't do this, don't do that and hopefully it gets you what you want. You just tell the software what it is you want and it automatically figures out all of the rules that go behind that to give you the outcome. It's very intuitive; it's very easy to use much less work than a traditional rules based scheduling. You can go in and override rules so if you're a person who wants to be able to put certain rules in you can put certain rules in that are absolute rules. So you do have the flexibility of doing that and again the algorithm will work around those rules that you set. It's an incredibly flexible system. It can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be but certainly right out of the box just using its own algorithm you can produce amazing schedules really without doing anything.

RBR: How do you offer your system to clients? (What monetary/compensation options)?

Perchuk: We do lease license and we also offer barter. We have a very large barter business a multi million dollar barter business that we started several years ago and we find a lot of groups like it so we've stuck with it. We try to be very flexible in how we deal with our customers whether it be cash or barter or a combination of both. We don't sell our software outright because we feel that customer service and upgrades are a big part of the industry. We roll that into a lease so as part of our lease you're going to get continual updates and upgrades to the software at no charge, it's all a part of the monthly lease. There is no, unlike a purchase where if you want the next version you have to pay for it, you usually pay whatever it is 40 or 50% or 60% of what you originally paid for the software and there is no per say monthly service charge it's all inclusive. So you get not only the software and the license for it and the setup, we actually setup and train. We convert databases from whatever you are using currently and do all that work for you. The monthly service fee would include 24-hour tech support. We have offices all over the world and we have support that's 24/7. We probably have about over 50 or 60 people in the support department at all times and they have an average experience on our software of about eight years. They are really incredibly experienced and knowledgeable. Of course those things cost money and that's a part of the service that we offer.

RBR: What is coming next and when as far as new features?

Perchuk: The big thing for us is integration with PPM data. RCS has the exclusive rights to PPM data for music scheduling for the next five years. We will be integrating our Media Monitors PPM tool into GSelector. You will literally be able to look at songs played on your station over let's say a 20 rotation count and see what happens to your PPM listeners while that song is on at different day parts. It will also be able to automatically look at new songs that are put into the rotation and automatically monitor those songs over whatever amount of time you want 24, 40, 50 plays and be able to give you a report of how those songs are doing as compared to other either new songs or songs in your rotation.

The Media Monitors ART tool basically puts a face on PPM. It takes all PPM minute-to-minute data and literally tracks it through your day, week, month whatever and literally shows you how the listeners are coming in and leaving. A program director can actually sit with talent and now have facts to know if a morning show gag or whatever does or doesn't work--this is literally minute-by-minute data. It's a phenomenal tool and of course on the music side just to be able to see what happens when Billy Joel is played at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Friday; if that's a positive or a negative over 50 plays, etc. That's some pretty impressive statistics to have and be a part of your music scheduling.

RBR: What audio formats can your system handle?

Perchuk: All major audio formats.

RBR: How many station clients do you have in the US and globally?

Perchuk: First of all let me give you some statistics that we monitor. We have 75%, 155 of 206 music stations in the Top Ten markets. We have about 63% or 366 of the 577 of markets 11 through 50. So when you add those up, about 1,900-music radio stations in the United States. About another 8,000 worldwide--it's about 10,000 stations.

RBR: What other than music can your system handle, in the way of liners, jingles, news bites, etc?

Perchuk: All of the above. It has a built in platform called Linker to the system and Linker can schedule any of those and more. As a matter of fact it has been adopted to be used in music videos. We do Music Choice. It's actually been used to do commercials, video playback it's incredibly adaptive so any of those that you mentioned plus more.

RBR: What features or benefits set your system apart?

Perchuk: Well, the inclusion of PPM. The integration of PPM data is really a tremendous advantage. Obviously the single database to multiple channels cuts a tremendous amount of time off on workload. As a matter of fact groups can now ingest all of their music in one location for their entire group. You could have one or two people replacing 20 people's labor time. The other thing is it's Internet based. A program director can access their GSelector from anywhere in the world, anytime, anyplace. It has a thin client that works on any outside PC and you're able to schedule and to run reports in real time.

RBR: What's new or planned for remote access to your system?

Perchuk: GSelector is Internet based, thin client based and access capable through user login and password and it's available anywhere on any Internet based system.

RBR: Tell us about your ability to also schedule online streams and HD multicast channels from one system.

Perchuk: GSelector is single database multi channel so being able to share the database you're actually able to schedule multiple channels at once and resolve any conflicts. In other words if I'm doing the classic rock and then on HD-1 I'm doing deep-cuts and on HD-3 I'm doing another type of rock format I can actually schedule all three channels at once and it will automatically tell me if there is any conflicts. It will automatically tell me you know you have a conflict in channel 1 or you have a conflict with channel 1 and your primary channel. It's something that satellite radio stations are dealing with as well. There is a lot of overlap because they are dealing with separate databases it's very difficult to figure out where the overlap is.

RBR: What kind of assurances can you offer long-term customers that your systems will be upgradeable to whatever tomorrow's computers will demand?

Perchuk: One of the important things about the way we do our business is that we are always investing in the future. We always make sure that our current software is adaptable to new technologies. GSelector is completely XML meaning that it can talk to other systems via XML. It can take in information via XML. That's the trend is that the music scheduling system now all of a sudden has to communicate with a lot of information whether it be analysis information that can be ported into the system like PPM data or being able to tell other systems of availability like your automation system. We have always kept on the forefront of that. Our GSelector product is completely integrated into our automation system. If you make a change in GSelector it automatically changes in NexGen. If you make a change in the NexGen automation it automatically updates GSelector. We are constantly trying to push the envelope and I think our clients see that we are always adding to the software. That's a part of their right as leasees of the software that we continually to put new features and functions into it.

RBR: How do you handle concerns of stations seeking long-term assurances that existing software will meet the demands of the next several years?

Perchuk: We develop our software years out. In other words we developed software with multi-channel capability three years ago before HD was even in the realm of possibilities. We try to really keep our technology out in front and I think that it's evident in the technology itself. We are the first to have goal based music scheduling. We're the first to have Internet ready software for music scheduling. We're always on the forefront.