My friend and associate John Frost and I have one huge pet peeve – when we walk into a client station and can’t hear it playing in the building.
When we ask why this is so (and we do), we get these really lame answers:
“People are working, and the music distracts them.”
“We want people doing their jobs, not just listening to the radio.”
“The people in the office can’t talk to each other if the station is on.”
And the one I found most insane – “You can hear it in the bathroom.” (Wow! Let’s all go in there!)
No one wants to walk into a shoe store that has no shoes. If I can’t hear your station in the lobby or in the hallway, apparently you don’t have one worth listening to.
Stations that are only an assemblage of “Attributes” are just ducks quacking into a strong wind. You’ve heard these so-called “Positioning” claims: “50-Minute Music Hours,” “12 in a Row,” “Commercial-free hours,” etc.
What programmers fail to realize is that there’s no real Benefit to any of these claims, because we all know that at some point, we’re going to pay for these with an incomprehensibly long clot of commercials. And “commercial-free” isn’t true anyway if you run promos or recorded liners between songs, because SURPRISE!… those are thought of as COMMERCIALS for you.
Several times in these tips, I’ve referred to being on the air as like having a conversation with a friend. But of course, someone who’s just tuning into your show for the first time isn’t a friend – yet.
So if you want to pull that person toward you, follow these two guidelines religiously:
1. Never go so fast that you lose being conversational.
2. Never let the conversation go longer than it should.
It’s pretty obvious that people are tired of fast-talking deejays (particularly in the voice-tracking arena) who don’t sound engaged with us at all. And in coaching somewhere over 1700 people over the years, I’d guess that maybe – MAYBE – one percent of them have a good sense of “how much is too much.” (Hint: “too much” = a lot less than you might think.)
There are two things that will make someone tune OUT fast:
1. Playing a song he or she doesn’t like.
This is why you should definitely want to do music research. The charts don’t say it all, because they’re too general. And what the label reps say is sometimes just a “quacking” noise.
My dear friend Randy Brown, an excellent programmer, put it best when he was accosted by a label rep for not playing a certain song. When Randy told him he didn’t think it fit his station, the rep said, “It’s just one song.” To which Randy replied, “Yes, but when it’s playing, it’s the ONLY song.”
The main challenge in bringing great Content to the table each day is that it takes a little work – something that it seems like the vast majority of air talents now see as more of a nuisance than anything else.
So what we get a lot of the time is the “kicker” story – one of those supposedly “amusing” stories like the “stupid criminal of the day” tripe, or innocuous, space-filling items like one I saw the day of this writing, “What your crush on Keanu Reeves actually means, according to science.”
This is the lamest form of show prep. Here’s why:
There are many things to learn from great movies, TV shows, and books – all excellent examples of storytelling. And one of the simplest lessons came from the very first Star Wars movie (and continues today): the FIRST LINE sets the stage…
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
Bam! In ONE line, you’ve justified everything that follows. And of course, each movie in the franchise then has the “crawl” that explains what’s happening at the precise time of that episode.
The voice tracker scenario isn’t going away any time soon. It’s the nature of the game in today’s radio world. And that’s not really good, because there are many weak things about having a voice-tracked show on the air.
The voice-tracking jock doesn’t know that a tornado is heading toward town. While he or she is doing a “partly sunny” forecast, a warehouse is in danger of losing its roof.
They can’t take phone calls. And since radio is about AUDIO, we get the lame “fix” of jocks reading social media posts on the air instead of having a person call. That leads to mostly boring Content, done in a pretty boring way, and losing the immediacy of someone replying to something you did last break – in their voice, not yours.
The last tip was about a challenge that skews mostly male – the “big” voice. So now, let’s talk about the female voice.
There are some incredible female voice actors and air talents, but the percentage of women who actually get coaching in radio that’s specific to their voices is staggeringly small.
Often, this is the result of today’s radio world. Like many of my friends, I started out doing all-nights, then moved to evenings, etc. where we had time to get our arms around what our voices were most capable of, and how to eliminate the less ear-friendly parts of our voices and deliveries by simply putting in the ten thousand hours that becoming really good at something requires.
This happens fairly regularly when I start working with someone who’s been blessed with a “big” voice.
Almost without fail, these guys have been told all their lives what wonderful voices they have, and it’s really hard for a lot of them, especially in smaller markets, to resist “using” that big chamber too much, or in the wrong way, or for the wrong reasons.
In essence, the air talent’s job is to take us somewhere… a journey, from beginning to end. One break at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.
As you do, either you leave a mental “imprint” on the listener, or you just go by unnoticed, a mosquito making a noise in the background.
While there have been tons of books written about this, one thought, originally from the great acting coach Stella Adler, and used to perfection by my friend Valerie Geller in the Talk radio world, sums it all up: Never be boring.
Stella Adler put it this way:
“You can’t be boring. Life is boring. The weather is boring. Actors must not be boring.”
There’s an easy way to avoid being boring. Simply ask yourself this: “What do I have to offer that won’t be ‘typical’?” Because THAT is what will set you apart from almost everyone else across the dial.