Your guide to jobs in UK radio and audio

Music Team

Music Programmer

Similar roles include: Music Scheduler, Music Producer
Career Level: Mid-level


What Do They Do?

Music Programmers work to ensure radio stations are able to play music that best suits their audience.  They will manage “core” playlists of classic and contemporary songs, and also manage the process of getting new songs played.  This will involve speaking to record pluggers (who promote new music), listening to new songs, attending playlist meetings, and then working how often and at what time of day these songs should be played on air.

A Music Programmer’s daily tasks may include:

  • Managing playlists to keep the station/s sounding fresh, and ensuring shows and presenters have everything they need in terms of supporting information around those playlists
  • Discussing music policy for the station with the rest of the music team to ensure the station is positioned correctly
  • Holding meetings with record labels, pluggers and agents to talk about new music
  • Attending playlist meetings to discuss whether new songs will get added to the on-air rotation of songs, and which specific playlist they will join (and equally deciding when currently playlisted songs should be retired)
  • Managing the process of inputting songs into the playout system – ensuring they are clean from a language point of view, but also have the correct metadata so they can appear in the expected places
  • Dealing with incoming requests from the radio station’s producers about new music, or any specific playout system queries they may have
  • Conducting music analysis and panel test research to make sure songs are working well for the audience (particularly important in commercial radio)
  • Planning music for specific station events – like anniversaries, live events or notable calendar events like Christmas or New Year
  • Keeping on top of admin like making sure PPL and PRS requirements are being fulfilled.

Who Do They Work With?

  • A Music Programmer will work within their own team which may include a Head of Music, Editor, Assistant Producer, Music Coordinator or Music Analyst.
  • A Music Programmer will also work with the station’s programme teams, producers and production companies.
  • A Music Programmer will report to the Head of Music
  • A Music Programmer will also liaise frequently with music industry label managers, agents and pluggers.

What Skills Do I Need?

  • A Music Programmer needs a deep knowledge and passion for music, with experience of scheduling music being very desirable.
  • A Music Programmer needs excellent editorial judgement and to have detailed knowledge of the station’s music policy, Editorial Guidelines and the content of the station’s broadcasting license.
  • A Music Programmer will have excellent forward planning and organising skills, as they are responsible for large amounts of information and data, and may need to schedule music months in advance or for specific special events.
  • A Music Programmer will be an expert negotiator, persistent and diplomatic as they need to get the best music on their station.
  • A Music Programmer needs to be flexible and adaptable, and able to work across different stations and specialist music shows as required.
  • A Music Programmer needs strong interpersonal skills and be a confident communicator, as they will work with a wide range of people internally and liaise frequently with the wider music industry.

How Do I Get This Job?

You don't need to have any particular qualifications for this job - but you music be passionate about music and will live and breathe it, attending gigs regularly and have your finger on the pulse of the music scene.  Music team members may come from a radio or music background, and will be very well-connected in the music industry – and may have put on their own gigs, or written about music in other contexts.  Some Music Programmers will have done a radio degree and may have worked in student radio, programming their own playlists and may have done an internship or work experience in music teams.