Richard Gillmann's Top Folk Airplay Lists
Frequently Asked Questions

1. What playlists are counted?
2. How is the top airplay list compiled? 
3. Is sampling fair and accurate? 
4. I'm a DJ and my playlists aren't being counted! Why not? 
5. I'm an artist and not all the airplays of my CD were counted! Why not? 
6. Can you suggest a playlist format that your program tracks well?
7. How can I search the archive of playlists posted to FOLKDJ-L?
8. Do you list all the tracks that are aired?
1. What playlists are counted?

Shows with playlists posted to FOLKDJ-L.  Before November 2014, I only
counted playlists of broadcast radio shows, but now I count them all.
My programs process all FOLKDJ-L playlists that come in to me, but
a few of them never make it here, which I see by comparing the emails
that come in with the FOLDJ-L archives.  I don't know why this is (I have
all spam filtering turned off).  Maybe someday I will switch to
processing the archives instead.

Playlists for shows that aired two months ago or earlier are not counted
for the current month, but will count for the year (if in the same year).
Reposted duplicate playlists are not counted.  If a corrected playlist
is posted, that will count in place of the original.
2. How is the top airplay list compiled?

I have developed an automatic system which tallies most of the playlists 
posted to FOLKDJ-L into a top list posted monthly. Not all airplays 
wind up being counted, but a large enough sample is counted to get a good 
sense of what is popular. So many playlists are posted that counting by 
hand is too much work and so I offer this automated system as a substitute.
My system consists of two computer programs which together compile the top 
songs and albums lists. The first program runs as a "filter" program under 
the Eudora mail program. This program scans playlists and extracts the 
artist/song/album info from each play, which it stores in a spreadsheet. 
My program is limited in that it cannot understand every playlist format, 
but it gets most of them.

Playlists count for the month they are posted to FOLKDJ-L, not the airdate
of the show that the playlist documents.

At the end of the month, I run the second program which processes the 
spreadsheet built up over the month. This program finds the top albums and 
sorts them by number of plays and prints them out in a nice readable 
fashion. It also deals with spelling variations and tries to sort that out. 
If there are obvious typos, I correct as many as I can before posting the 
3. Is sampling fair and accurate?
The point is not to count every airplay, but to find out which CDs are
getting more airplay than others.  It's much like the Nielsen TV ratings
which survey a few thousand households (a tiny fraction of the US population)
to figure out which shows are popular.  It's not necessary to count everyone
if the sample is not biased.
Read about statistical sampling at Wikipedia.

It would be nice to track 100% of the playlists posted, but this would 
require folk DJs to adhere to one of a few strict formats. I don't want to 
try to impose such a rigid regime on DJs and no one else does either. 
Actually some of the most interesting playlists to read follow an 
irregular format, which is perfectly fine as playlists are meant to be 
read by people, not computers. My program is just sort of "listening in."
My automated system gets about 60% of the airplays actually posted, or 
better. This is actually quite a high percentage, I think, and the order 
of the top lists would probably be the same if 100% were counted.

My computer program knows nothing about folk music - it only goes by spacing 
and punctuation. All artists and types of folk music are treated equally.
4. I'm a DJ and my playlists aren't being counted! Why not?

A playlist must be posted during the the calendar month to count
for that month. I only check for the date posted, not the date of the actual
show. A playlist must be posted to FOLKDJ-L to be counted.

I keep a table of the playlist format used by each folk DJ. My scanning 
program sees who posted a message and then interprets the playlist 
according to the format for that DJ. For some DJs, I have the entry "Nix" 
in my table, meaning that my program cannot understand their playlists. 
Here are some of the reasons a DJ may get "nixed".

a. Playlist does not include essential information. I need artist, song 
and album for each play. Label is optional. Some DJs list artist and 
song, or artist and album, but don't provide all three things.

b. Playlist is in HTML like a web page. My program is not smart enough to 
parse HTML, or other rich text formats.

c. DJ keeps changing formats. Some DJs change playlist formats from week 
to week. I have even seen some that change in the middle of a playlist! 
Some DJs post playlists for other DJs, causing the same problem for me.

d. Playlist format is too complicated for my program to follow, or poor 
choice of formats.

There is nothing "wrong" or "bad" about being "nixed." Your playlist 
format may well be full of rich, complex narrative intended for other folk 
DJs to read, not computers. This is a fine thing.

If you're "nixed" and you want to change your format so that my program can
accept it, please write me at and show me a few sample
airplays in the new format. Then I can tell you if that will work, and
"un-nix" you.
5. I'm an artist and not all the spins of my CD were counted! Why not?

About 20% of the DJs posting playlists are "nixed" and their playlists aren't
counted (because my program is unable to parse their playlists). Even for DJs
who are not "nixed" my program does not identify 100% of the entries.
Sometimes there are problems from extra long song titles or artist names or
album names that overflow onto several lines. Often DJs will play several songs
from one album and vary from their format to list this. This throws my program
off track. Sometimes you'll see an entry like "I played the first six tracks
off of so-and-so's new album." My program does not understand English, needless
to say, and so nothing gets counted. 

Sometimes album names are a problem. If an album, especially a "Various Artists"
album, has a common title (one used by several other albums), such as "Holiday
Sampler," then my program may not keep them straight. Albums with long names,
oddly spelled names or punctuation within a name are more likely to lead to
variations in the playlists (and you know what they say about computers:
Garbage In, Garbage Out). Typically my program catches about 60% of posted
airplays, but percentages of 40% to 80% are common. 

Sometimes artists send me a complete list of their airplays for the month, which
they have compiled by reading all the playlists, and ask that I use the count of
this list. I won't do this, as I feel that it would be unfair to the other
artists, who have not had the benefit of this human intervention.
6. Can you suggest a playlist format that your program tracks well?

My program can deal with two basic formats: (1) artist song and album 
in any order, separated by some consistent punctuation, or (2) artist song
and album in a table, using spaces to make the columns line up. The record
label can be there, too - that is optional.

An example of (1):

Karan Casey \ Another Day \ Distant Shore \ Shanachie

Greg Brown \ Vivid \ Slant 6 Mind \ Red House

Ray Wylie Hubbard \ Rooster \ Growl \ Rounder


KARAN CASEY--Another Day--Distant Shore (Shanachie) 
GREG BROWN--Vivid--Slant 6 Mind (Red House)
RAY WYLIE HUBBARD--Rooster--Growl (Rounder)


Another Day
Karan Casey
Distant Shore

Greg Brown
Slant 6 Mind
Red House

Ray Wylie Hubbard

An example of (2):

Another Day          Karan Casey         Distant Shore 
Vivid                Greg Brown          Slant 6 Mind 
Growl                Ray Wylie Hubbard   Rooster

If you're using the Spinitron program, here's how to set it:
For each airplay, have it list artist, song, album and label (only)
Chose "Text List" for the format and "For reading by a human."

Tips for DJs to make their lists more readable: (1) be consistent. Rigid 
even. (2) use a format with some kind of punctuation between artist, song, 
cd. Something like a ; or \ or a -- is good, but preferably not commas, as
these can be part of the artist, song or album name. One item per line 
works well too. (3) if you play several songs from the same album, list 
them all out and repeat the artist name and album title. Don't use ditto 
marks or lump them together. (4) Write the artist name the regular way, 
e.g. "Doc Watson" not "Watson, Doc" This gets real confusing when we get 
to "Watson, Doc and Merle" - compare to "Peter, Paul and Mary" (yikes!). 
(5) If you put lots of comments after each song, then leave a blank line 
before the song to tell more easily where the song begins and the comments 
leave off. (6) Use the word "playlist" in the subject of your playlist 
posting, so the program can easily tell if the message is a playlist.
(7) If you have such fields for each airplay as date, time, duration,
name of composer, try to put these at the end, rather than the start
of each airplay - my programs aren't always able to skip these things

If you do change your format to be more easily read, please send me a 
private email so I can un-nix you. I'm
7. How can I search the archive of playlists posted to FOLKDJ-L?

See the article about searching the FOLKDJ-L archive.
8. Do you list all the tracks that are aired?
No, only the more popular tracks are listed.  The more airplays the CD gets,
the more tracks will be listed.  The program will always list at least one
track.  This is done to keep the chart readable and to keep it down to a
reasonable size.

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