As we continue to hear the buzz word “stories,” it seems to me that people are talking more, but not necessarily being all that interesting. Every movie is edited. Every book is edited (usually multiple times). Highlights are watched more than actual games. Top 10 lists are the vogue, not Top 100 lists. Stand-up comics start with a good 10 minutes, not a 90-minute HBO special.
The cardinal sin in radio is wasting people’s time. And from a coaching standpoint, believe this: if you can’t do a short break, you can’t do a long break. Most people tend to wander around, stagger into “related” thoughts that can easily take us off the main road into the forest somewhere, and instead of taking the First Exit – the first place where there’s a “reveal” of some sort or where the subject resolves – they keep trying to top themselves or fire more bullets into a dead body.
“It is what you make it” – my dad’s advice at various milestones in my life.
There was a time in my career when I considered a radio station no more than the sum total of the things that it did. The deejays, the music, the jingles, the contests. Like a sport being nothing more than the players, the field, the goal posts or bases. If that were true, then places like Cooperstown, New York, or Canton, Ohio, wouldn’t have significance since they aren’t home to the big league players and teams they eulogize.
Here’s how you jump start (or reignite) your creativity: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before.
I say this a lot to talents who are “pleasant” but not really creating anything memorable on their shows. And I don’t really care what that “something” is. The point is to go where you haven’t gone before; to add another arrow to your quiver.
The reply is usually “Like what?”
My kids recently took me to my first outdoor major league soccer game. I mean “match.” It was a lot of fun, but frankly there was a lot of stuff I simply didn’t understand.
Did you know that a referee can stick on extra time at the end for any reason he wants? I was confused. Now, I understand overtime in football, sudden death in golf, and extra innings in baseball, but I had no context for understanding why they kept playing AFTER the clock ran out until someone blew a whistle.
I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING!
No doubt about it, voice-tracking isn’t going away anytime soon. But it sure makes people lazy. However, there’s no reason why a voice-tracked Music Radio show can’t sound like it’s live.
But what happens often is that a jock sits down and thinks “I’ve got to fill 28 breaks” (or whatever the number is) and plows through them as fast as possible.
So here’s a tried-and-true method for voice-tracking that makes it pretty easy to still do a viable show:
Now I have to admit it…
…when I saw this headline I did a little double take.
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone but as a fella who grew up in Texas, I found this headline as wacky as Seattleites voting for Folgers, Minnesotans voting for Cheez Whiz, or John Frost taking the award for the best looking guy in high school. (That actually happened by the way, but not because I was voted that but because I literally “took” the award).
Taco Bell? The favorite? What’s up with that?
Media observer Mark Ramsey suggests that familiarity IS preference. You can’t prefer something you don’t know, and few would dispute that Taco Bell is most familiar.
We all fall into habits, and one I’ve heard a LOT recently is an air talent rattling off the “basics” (name of the station, artist, maybe the song title, the time), then saying his or her name LAST as you “gird your loins” (or gather yourself) to do Content.
The problem with this (besides being lazy) is that the listener learns to recognize this on a subconscious level, so you’re – by definition – NOT doing the unexpected.
Look, we can have a conversation that flows naturally, or we can serve up an agenda of a habitual group of words. This choice is crucial.
And if it sounds in any way like you’re just in “autopilot” mode at the beginning of a break, that sameness from break to break does the opposite of piquing someone’s interest in what follows.
There’s a deeper view of this, too. Except for saying the name of the station the first thing out of your mouth (which I believe is essential – that “branding” thing), all the other elements should vary from break to break. Sameness breeds boredom. Mixing things up just a bit makes what you’re saying be more readily received by the listener (on an unconscious level) as NEW information. It’s science, and it’s the way God made us.
So get off your duff and work at this; it will actually make a difference. Radio is doing a great job right now of holding a gun to its head and saying “Stand back or I’ll shoot.”
We need every little advantage we can get.
Let’s have a little fun this week. Let’s play “You’re the assistant PD.”
Ask each person on the staff to write down the one thing they would change about your station. Then collect all the responses and oh so carefully place them in a special file.
I’m often thrust into a discussion about changing something that is fundamental to the station’s success, whether that be the music, an air personality or two, the station branding, or a promotional or marketing campaign. Just this week I was drawn into a discussion with someone that had a “new” music agenda. I suggested that we should have a “favorite” music agenda.
In a moment of revelation someone might be so bold as to ask, “what do the listeners think?”
Most air talents assume that if you’re on the air, you must have a good voice. But in reality, about half the people on the air in every format I hear have taken that for granted, and stunted their growth.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty impressive voice actors that you hear on national commercials, station Imaging, and movie trailers every day. And universally, the ones who are the most successful have really studied what makes them unique, and how to fully use the vocal tools at hand.
Here’s what I mean…
What if I told you that you can increase your ratings 30% overnight? Admit it. You’d probably be curious, just like when Marie Osmond says she’s lost 50 pounds without exercise AND she eats chocolate cake every day!
People are drawn to black and white opinions because they are simple, not because they are true. Truth demands serious effort and thought.”
Actually, you might increase your ratings 30% overnight, but it’s not because of some magic pill or trick. It’s because Nielsen is changing they way they tabulate when you plug the gizmo in the thingamajig.