On my radio · Trivia

100 Rounds of Pop Master

Pop Master, the pop quiz that takes place every weekday on Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 show at 10.30am, is the most listened-to slot on UK radio, apart from breakfast shows. Every Monday to Friday around 7.5 million people tune in, as I noted here, in my original Menu Item about Trivia. I catch up with it most days, on the iPlayer if not live, and have heard all of the 100 Rounds since Easter. I have also been making a note of my scores. Pop Master is, like all good quizzes, a bit of fun, and keeping a record of my scores might not be quite in that spirit, but I’ve done it and the results are recorded below. Don’t hate me. But if you have no interest in pop quizzes, stop reading now.

If you want to check out any of the last 30 days’ worth of Pop Master follow this link to the “Available now” list of Ken Bruce episodes, play any of the shows listed and jump to around 59 minutes in. Each day’s competition takes about 15 minutes, including the introductory chat, the song in between the two rounds and “a few hello’s” to the contestants’ friends and family. If you’re pushed for time you can skip through all that and hear the questions in around 8 minutes, as I sometimes do.

The format is straightforward: two contestants each face 10 questions including 3 bonus questions. The bonus questions are worth 6 points each, others are worth 3. The top score available is therefore 39 points per round. Regular bonus rounds include Eurovision (most contestants are wary of this one), Real Names, Once at One, One Hit Wonders and “Same Title Different Song”.

The winner goes through to the 3-in-10 round, in which they have 10 seconds to list 3 Top 75 hits by a named artist. Some days are easier than others. I can name 3 hits in 3 seconds by The Jam, Abba or Slade but struggle to name 3 in 10 by bands like Shalamar, The Script and Imagination.

If the scores are level after the two regular rounds there is a tie-break: the contestants take it in turns to answer questions. Whoever wins goes through to the 3-in-10 round.

Anyone who scores 39 points in a regular round wins that day’s quiz, does not have to do 3-in-10, and goes through to “Champions League Pop Master” at the end of the year. Most years this happens fewer than 10 times. Anyone who scores 36 points and gets 3-in-10 will usually go through to “Champions League Pop Master” too.

As with all good quizzes, nobody ever gets zero. Ken Bruce makes sure of that, and the opening question is usually a straightforward one to put the contestant at ease. Examples: What was the name of Gladys Knight’s backing band? Which duo had a #1 hit in 1981 with “Tainted Love”? Errol Brown was the lead singer in which band? The answers: The Pips, Soft Cell, Hot Chocolate. If you found these difficult then maybe Pop Master is not for you. But it is for me, and I have been pleasantly surprised by my scores. I have, unsurprisingly, been entering them into a spreadsheet and have let Excel do some work. It’s a lazy Sunday evening, Glastonbury highlights are on the TV, this is the harmless way I spend some of my time.

Here are the results for the 50 days from Monday 17 April 2017 to Friday 23 June 2017:

Minimum Score: 21 (5 times)
Maximum Score: 39 (28 times)
Total Points Scored (from a possible 3900): 3325
Average Score per round: 33.25

There we have it, a snapshot of the last 100 rounds. As part of his introductory chat Ken Bruce usually asks, “What sort of score do you usually get?” Typical answers include: “mid-teens”, “I’ll be happy to get 3” and “I once got 39 but I’ll be happy to get 20”. Nobody has yet said:

“Well, Ken, I have analyzed my last 100 rounds and found that my average score is 33.25. My lowest score was 21 (on 5 occasions) and my Mode score was 39, which I have managed 28 times, including two days (3 May and 16 May) when I scored 39 on both rounds.”

And nor will I, because I have no intention of calling in and taking part in real live Pop Master.

UPDATE: I continued to keep track of my scores during 2018. The progress is recorded here (“600 Rounds of Pop Master”).



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