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Matt Pelishek
Program Director/KAXL

Murder By Numbers



My wife and I went to see a movie years back.  We didn’t know anything that was playing, so we randomly selected Murder by Numbers.  To save you the time, it unfortunately WASN’T about a mathematician using giant, Sesame Street like numbers to kill people.

That really has nothing to do with what I was going to say, except maybe the movie title.  I’ve been having on-going discussions with program directors about the influence ‘the numbers’ have on their decision making.  To be upfront, I know of a few who have said ‘we’re going to be different from everyone, so we don’t care what research says, we are playing and doing what we know is awesome.’  I’m not that guy.  You probably know ‘that guy’ because he is no longer is working in radio. 

On the other side, however, are stations that have removed the art from radio, and simply follow a structure that seems to be working for other, well established stations, because ‘the numbers’ show it.  I think that is the danger of numbers.  The research is important.  Wise, even.  It’s also a detriment to innovation if obsessed on.  Plenty of businesses have simply maintained by following a ‘proven method’ but those methods came from people willing to innovate, and innovation takes risk.  What if, and this sounds crazy, but what if you were to choose to play the song no one else was?  Or not play the song everyone else is. 

What if you were to lean into your instinct that was built over a lifetime of being a radio geek to make a choice rather than what a spreadsheet or Nielson says which is largely built on lots of other people doing lots of the same thing.   Your station won’t crumble if the song you took a risk on doesn’t fly.  The risk is pretty minimal (if you act within reason, obviously) but the advantage of making yourself stand out as the station that is unique in your market is invaluable.

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG)

The radio world is jam packed with creative people.  So often I see a music director or an air talent hired for their creativity, and then not allowed to use it.  Because, you know, numbers.  Replacing the humanity of a station with a popular formula based on precious research is a great way to remind listeners that Pandora is an easier option for the same thing.

I get caught up in that trap all the time.  I’m in the process of reminding myself and my fellow staff that we are called to create, not mimic; to innovate not repeat; to express, not limit. 

Back to the movie.  It was boring.  Let’s not risk letting our stations get the same review that Murder By Numbers did. “It leaves you feeling that it could have been so much more.” 


Matt Pelishek is program director and air personality at 88.3 Life FM in Bakersfield, CA.  At only 5 years old, Matt won a church-sponsored pumpkin decorating contest in 1985.  The pumpkin has since rotted away. Contact Matt at


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