Frost Advisory #524 – I Never Know What I Think About Something Until I Read What I’ve Written

Have you ever missed something that was right before you? A changing traffic light? A quickly moving thunderstorm? A Labor Day sale at the 24-hour dental floss store?

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it doesn’t have when you’re actually living it. It’s as though the whole thing were designed to be understood in hindsight, as though you’ll never know the meaning of your experiences until you’ve had enough of them to provide reference.”

Donald Miller

524 weeks ago I penned Frost Advisory #1, a fairly presumptuous title considering I had no idea if I could come up with #2, much less 524 of them.

In case you missed it, writing every week for 52 weeks over the span of 10 years is 520. This is Frost Advisory #524.

For years my pal and mentor Alan Mason had insisted that I start writing. I’m not sure whether he thought I had something worth saying or he figured that would keep me quiet for a few hours. Frankly, after reading Alan’s stuff for years I was just flat out intimidated. It felt like Robert Frost telling me, “You should write poetry!,” or Donald Trump saying, “You should tweet!”

The process of writing every week for over ten years has challenged me to think through strategic concepts, consider new ideas, and to look for real life applications. It has forced me to challenge my own biases and experiences, and to attempt to communicate, whether to the novice or the expert, how these ideas can transform a radio station.

In other words, it has forced me to think about what I really think.

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.”

William Faulkner, winner of the Nobel Prize
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Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #377 – The Film Editor’s Eye

In the movie world, a lot rests on the Film Editor’s “eye.”

“Errors of continuity” – like a shirt tucked in one moment, then untucked in the next shot, then a moment later it’s tucked in again – can ruin the film.  The Editor is always on the lookout for things that, somewhere in the brain, just don’t “add up.”  Those little things destroy credibility.

I hear the same type of things all the time in radio, but of course, they’re spoken rather than pictured.  For example:

An air talent refers to something that I wouldn’t have a clue about unless I was listening 15 minutes ago.

Or a jock goes to a contestant or a caller and says “Hi, Marsha…”  How did you already know her name?  Not logical.

The jock says “Jennifer tripped over it…”  Who’s Jennifer?  Your wife?  Your daughter?  Your dog?

Keep in mind that my timeline (as a listener) isn’t the same as yours.  Don’t assume that I know what you’re referencing.

Frost Advisory #523 – What We Can Learn From A Piece Of Cardboard

There’s a pandemic going on. Perhaps you’ve heard about it.

It’s affected almost every area of our lives, from what we wear and where we go, to our work, to school, to church, to getting together with Fred and Ethel for a game of Pinocle, to attending sporting events.

While it’s true that the pandemic has forced the major league baseball season to be played in front of NO living, breathing fans that does NOT mean there are no fans.

“Every medium carries within itself inherent limitations, and every artist also comes with limitations. True creativity is not the outflow of a world without boundaries. The creative act is the genius of unleashing untapped potential and unseen beauty with the constraints and boundaries of the medium from which we choose to create. Creativity not only happens within boundaries and limitations, but in fact it is dependent on those limitations.”

Erwin McManus, “The Artisan Soul”

If you watch a major league game, you’ll see the stands littered with cardboard cutouts. There are season ticket holders, there are celebrities, and at Petco Park in San Diego, true to their brand identity, there is a section of cardboard cutouts made up of strictly pets.

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Take 6: Where Testing Meets Tempo

You may have noticed a lot of passionate talk in CCM regarding the music lately. In some circles, it seems “Worship” music is now the bane of programmers and armchair programmers’ existence.

Well… that sound code is dominating playlists and music testing, and our listeners for one… aren’t sick of it. It’s also the sound code that typically has the most emotional connection for our listeners.

The role of Worship music in CCM is a great debate starter. Let’s just talk about addressing tempo issues that can come along with slower Worship hits.

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Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #376 – Be a Part OF the Music

What really works in any field isn’t much about finding something completely new as it is about finding a way to build on something old, but making it better.  We’ve had phones forever, for instance.  But the Blackberry, then the iPhone, changed what we can do with them – and what we now EXPECT from them.

The point is, there’s a tendency to categorically reject “old” ideas, and that’s often the biggest mistake.  Radio is making one now.  With all the technology we have available, and all the “sabermetric” data we now use, we’ve largely lost one thing that used to be the core of every great station – the connection to the music we play.  Simply put, I rarely hear a station anymore that respects the music at ALL. Continue reading

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #375 – The “Chopped” Criteria

“Chopped” – the TV show on The Food Network – wasn’t in my sphere of awareness until just a couple of years ago.  My wife is addicted to watching people compete in this cooking competition where contestants are asked to take “basket ingredients” like yak thighs, pine cones, elderberry stems, and the bumper from a 1964 Buick, and make a meal out of them.

It’s fun, and the competition is serious, presented in a “steel cage gladiator death match” format.  But since I’m always looking for ways to help people sound better, what resonates with me is the “Chopped” criteria: Presentation, Taste, and Creativity.

In radio terms, you can always work on Presentation – even when the goal is to avoid sounding “presentational.”

Taste is any easy one.  It’s mirroring the taste of your listener.  You’re “cooking” for her or him.

And Creativity is simply the biggest dividing line in radio.  If you haven’t found your creative “muscle” yet, listen to great stations, read great books, watch great movies.  Soak it up.  Just like you would that redeye gravy that girl from Louisiana just made on Chopped.  Yum.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #374 – Dog Chasing Its Tail

The other day, I heard a morning team launch into a subject that should have taken about ten seconds to set up, but they took 4 times that.  The classic “dog chasing its own tail” scenario.  Lots of activity; no real progress.

Without quoting them, let’s compare it to a movie.  Where the scene description would be “Doorbell rings.  Then cut to the door being opened,” we instead got the meaningless (and uninteresting) details.  The wife heard the doorbell ring, then told her husband, who was chilling out on the couch, to answer it, and even though he didn’t want to, he made himself get up and do it anyway… blah, blah, blah.

Cut to the chase, for crying out loud.  Remember this:

Too many words “getting started” always leads to a letdown at the end – if the listener even makes it TO the end.  The impact will always be reduced, no matter what.

Doorbell rings.  You answer it.  WHAT HAPPENED? THAT’S the important part.

Frost Advisory #520 – It’s About Identity

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.

The good news? Our format is a lifestyle format. The bad news? Our format is a lifestyle format.

This old pandemic has revealed a perspective on the latter.

When there is…

no more driving to and from work…

no more being at work while having your kids in school…

no more driving to and from church on Sundays…

…key opportunities for listening go away.

Having said that, many Christian music stations are performing quite nicely through the pandemic, at least from a ratings perspective (and donor support, as well).

I have a theory about that.

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