Sunday, February 28, 2010


Someone recently said to me when describing a station, “that’s the most fatiguing station I’ve ever heard.” We ended up having a conversation about what makes a station fatiguing to the listener and the damage it can do to your TSL.

Here are some of the most fatiguing things I’ve heard on different radio stations (thank God these all weren’t on ONE radio station):

• Way over produced. I love good production, but loud in your face production really wears on the listener.

• Fully produced imaging and production running over the intro of the song (I’ve heard this a lot recently and it’s brutal). Listeners hate it when we talk over intros, running production/imaging so loud you can’t even hear the intro is as equally brutal.

• Jocks talking “at” me, not “to” me. Be conversational. People don’t like to get yelled at in person, why would they listen to a station where the jock is “yelling” at them?

• Jocks that talk too fast because they want to have energy. Energy isn’t talking fast, it knowing where you are going with your break and how you are going to get there.

• Too much stuff coming at the listener. Letting the show and the station “breath” is not a bad thing. You can do this and still have nice pacing and momentum.

• I’m cool with speeding up song a bit…but just a bit. Stations have are 2 ½ or 3% is a little much and that can cause some fatigue.

• Not being familiar enough with the music. Too many unfamiliar songs when the listen is expecting to know the songs and the artist can be fatiguing.

Step back and monitor your station for listener fatigue. You may be surprised at how many things you are doing that are causing listeners to listen to you a little less.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I lost my job at KUPL in Portland on August 18th. Within a few weeks I was working for Jaye Albright part time while looking for my next full time gig. After four months I landed a new job as the Senior Director of Country Programming and Program Director at the Hot Country format at Dial Global based in Denver. The four months I spent as a “regular listener” changed my programming philosophy forever. In those four months I was given a great gift…to be able to listen to the radio as a real listener, not as a PD. I was able to “listen to the radio, not monitor the radio.” In that time I learned some things that I’d like to share:

Pandora is cool and it defiantly a big competitor to listening. I signed up for a Pandora account right after I was laid off and I love it. The downside, it’s not nearly as mobile as my Ipod (it will be soon), they play commercials and I missed the companionship and information of a personality.

It takes a long time for listeners to get familiar with new music. By the time I started to know and like a new song, it was being moved to a recurrent and I heard it less on the radio.

I listen to a lot of different stations. It would take PPM to tell me who I was a P1 to.

When I didn’t have to “monitor” my station or the market for my job, I listened to the radio less. It was on in the car every time I drove (but not working full time I was driving less). I listened in the bathroom and if I was working in the garage. No longer was I listening to the alarm clock or in the kitchen.

Most of the time I had no idea what stations were talking about since I wasn’t listening as much as they thought I was. There was a lot of “inside stuff” or no real explanation of contesting or bits. I felt like an outsider at a dinner party who was the only one who didn’t know anybody. You need to find a way to explain things all the time.

I don’t care about position statements. I only care about what’s on the radio. I’m smart enough to know what the format is by the song people are playing. I think most people are. Positioning statements can be just added clutter.

I only knew a few stations in Denver (KBPI, KYGO, The Wolf) so when I wanted to populate my pre-sets, I used the scan button until it landed on a song I like and I set the station. I bet that’s how most people find new stations when they move to a new city.

I finally became a real listener and can see how people really use the radio and what drives them to keep listening. It’s tough to do, but challenge yourself to listen like a listener, not like a radio person.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I love quotes. I like them because they are short, memorable and to the point (like all your breaks on air should). This week is nothing but quotes that hopefully will inspire you.

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Harold R. McAlindo

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.
Brian Tracy

You don't lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you'll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.
Vince Lombardi

Formula for success: under promise and over deliver.
Tom Peters

He that cannot obey, cannot command.
Benjamin Franklin

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
George Bernard Shaw

Great effort springs naturally from a great attitude.
Pat Riley

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
George Patton

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
Zig Ziglar

Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise.
Woodrow Wilson

Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders.
Tom Peters

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.
Henry Ford

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
Abraham Lincoln

I don’t know what the key to success is, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Bill Cosby

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
Elbert Hubbard

…and my personal favorite

Beer is proof there is a God and he wants us to be happy.
Ben Franklin

Here’s to a good show and great ratings.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Like most things in radio, a lot of great ideas are stolen or copied from smart people or great stations. This blog is no exception. I wish I could take credit for writing it. It was given to me a few years ago from fellow PD (CBS Radio’s KUFO/Portland) Chris Patyk who was the guest speaker at a college class I was teaching. Someone gave it to him and it had an impact. The same impact it had on me and I hope it does on you. Here are the “Four Agreements.”

1. Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth.

2. Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Programmers Welcome Country’s New Clearasil Brigade, But With Caution

This is Phyllis Stark's article she wrote for on 2/2/10. My comments in the article are highlighted.

by Phyllis Stark,

Less than two months after Taylor Swift aged out of her teen years, Nashville labels have a batch of new teenage acts lined up for release to country radio this year. These include “iCarly” TV star Jenette McCurdy (Capitol), Tyler Dickerson (Lyric Street), Jordyn Shellhart (Sony) and the band SHEL (Republic Nashville) comprising four sisters ages 16, 19, 20 and 21.

This sudden abundance of teen acts is reminiscent of exactly 10 years ago when—following the success of LeAnn Rimes and Lila McCann—there was a previous Clearasil brigade at country radio (all females that time around), including teens Jessica Andrews (DreamWorks), Alecia Elliott (MCA), and a trio of 11th graders known as 3 Of Hearts (RCA), as well as 20 year olds Rebecca Lynn Howard (MCA) and Jennifer Day (BNA).

Of the new batch of teen acts, Dickerson is the first out of the gate. His debut single, “Tell Your Sister I’m Single,” has just begun being worked to country radio and appears to be receiving a favorable response thus far. Dickerson has the distinction of being a teenage boy, something the format hasn’t seen since Blaine Larsen made his debut in 2004 at age 18.

While, of course, nearly everything will depend on the music these teens produce for the format, radio programmers are generally unconcerned about having a new batch of underage acts, even though virtually no country stations actively target teens, or even young adults. Swift’s proven ability to bring in younger demos may have helped pave the way for some younger stars.

“A hit is a hit,” says WBCT Grand Rapids, Mich., OM Doug Montgomery, who is excited about McCurdy’s upcoming debut in the format since he watches “iCarly” with his daughters. “If the song is a hit, it should be played. I don’t really care if is a kid or an extra-terrestrial singing it.”

WUSN Chicago APD/MD Marci Braun thinks this new crop of teen acts will be healthy for country radio. “Bring it on,” she says. “As a format, it can only be a good thing that Taylor brings younger, active listeners to our format. They’ll get to discover other artists, [and] hopefully buy some of their music as well. Plus, I hope they stick around and listen to us.”

Ryan Dokke, APD/MD at WKKT Charlotte, N.C., says if the music is right, younger artists “are great for the format. I don’t imagine we’ll see anything like we’ve seen with Taylor for a while, but if a young artist brings a few stellar songs to the table, it can’t hurt the format by converting a younger group of people to country P1s.”

“I’m for anything that will bring new cume to the format, although the chances of one of these new younger acts having the same success as Taylor Swift is pretty slim,” agrees John Paul, senior director of country programming for Dial Global and PD of the network’s Hot Country format. “I bet one of these new acts will have some success, the rest will probably eventually go away.

But, Paul cautions, “We need to make sure we aren’t afraid to be a country station. Having artists like Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser [and] Alan Jackson keep at least one of our feet firmly grounded in country. I think as long as there is balance in the music we are OK. It’s all about balancing the sound and not leaning too young/poppy or too traditional.”

“Country is the last ‘Big Tent’ format. Everyone’s invited in,” says KPLX (the Wolf) Dallas APD Smokey Rivers. “So it’s important that we not only cater to the center of the audience (35-44), but to also constantly work the edges of the audience demos as well. Mainstream artists that attract the center will always be in abundance. Plus, we can count on Reba, George and Alan to keep the 45+ folks interested. But maintaining a real presence with the 18-34 crowd has always been much harder to do. While younger artists have the potential to bring us much-needed new cume, you have to really pick your shots. But make no mistake; we must constantly be listening for acts that can bring young audiences into our tent now. Young P2s and P3s grow up to be solid P1s.”

But Rivers urges caution as well. “Taylor is fulfilling a need right now for the younger female side of the audience, but her success doesn’t signal a sudden shift in our core audience’s expectations,” he says. “The basic radio rules still apply. Over-delivering on new, younger acts will cause a station to become unfamiliar and that spells disaster. To work the younger fringes of the format adequately, you only need a couple of strong acts to break through. But you have to closely follow the audience’s lead to know who those artists are.”

Despite teen acts being well below the target age of most country stations, programmers say the audience is not as concerned with age as with content.

“I don’t think the younger demo cares about the age of the singer, but I’ve heard from many upper demo listeners (45+) that aren’t Taylor fans because they can’t relate with songs like ‘Fifteen,’” says Paul. “The older the audience, the more the age becomes a factor.”Montgomery agrees that “songs like ‘Fifteen,’ because of the narrow appeal, are going to be a concern, but no more so than songs about putting asses in sand like Zac Brown Band’s ‘Toes,’ because some listeners are upset by the word ‘ass.’”

“The core audience [instinctively] knows when an artist is too young for the station,” says Rivers. “Men especially notice it. They are also vocal about it if they sense they’re hearing too much of it. But I think the country audience also understands that you have to play newer and younger acts. The key is whether there truly is something compelling with the artist, their back-story or the song. That’s why Taylor’s music has worked so well for us. She’s so unique a talent that she immediately breaks through. The teen acts that are sure to come along will not have such luck. Taylor was first in that particular category, and first in wins.”

Braun is unconcerned about the age of the acts not matching radio’s target audience. “These teens and young adults will grow into our demo,” she says. “If we balance it correctly, we can both serve our demo while trying to bring in the younger audience. But balance is very important.”

Dokke is also among those who think the audience doesn’t care about how old the artist is. “We live in an age where a lot of the listening is controlled by ‘the kids.’ If the songs are great and relatable, whether targeted to the middle of the demo or younger, then I don’t think it matters the age of the audience,” he says.

Still, Dokke cautions, “I hope we don’t see every label trying to create a version of their own Taylor Swift. I don’t think I totally understand the rush to put these 14 and 15 and even 16 year olds out there so soon. Why can’t we let these kids finish school and have normal lives?”

Monday, February 1, 2010


Meeting with your air staff on a regular basis is key to the long term success of your station. I know from personal experience that consistently meeting with your staff is a challenge. Demands on PD's time are at an all time high. But spending some one on one time with your air staff needs to be at the top of your “to do list.” Here's a few air checking quick tips to make the meetings more productive and less of a drain on time.

 Radio people love to talk radio. Meeting with your air staff doesn't always need to be an air check meeting. Sometimes just “talkin' radio” is enough. For a jock, getting some one on one time with the PD can easily make the difference on how the show sounds, even if the PD doesn't even offer any critiques.

 Never critique a show without having audio to play for the jock.

 Whenever possible, use simple logic and analogies. It makes it easier for the jocks to learn and remember what you are asking them to do.

 If you use Audio Vault, ask your GM or engineers about getting AV Logger. It's an awesome program that makes doing air checks extremely easy.

 Don’t feel the need to give the jock a laundry list of things to work on. Sometimes just two or three key points are all you need to make a difference.

 Prepare for the air check meeting. Take some time before the meeting to listen, write up some notes and be prepared with what you want to say.

 Always give the jock written notes recapping the session. Chances are they will only take away a couple of things you tell them. Give them a written re-cap and they will remember everything you said.

 Start with positive feedback and always keep the meetings positive. If jocks dread the meetings, the chances of them getting anything productive out of them are slim.

 Leave no grey area. Be very black and white when telling the air staff what you need and want them to do. Leaving them guessing and not clear on the goals doesn't do anyone any good.

 In the meeting, don't talk about any other jocks on the staff. It's all about the person you are meeting with.

 Never tell the jock to do something that you can't back up as to why you want it done.

 Tell your staff to listen to their voice tracked show while they are on. Listening to themselves in real time is one the best forms of air checking.

 If you have out of market voice trackers, spend time with them on the phone. They work for you and need to hear directly from you what is working on their show and what isn't.

 Have a plan and make sure the staff knows it. Nothing is worse than a radio station full of air talent that isn’t aware of the plan. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

As a PD, you are responsible for everything that comes out of the speaker. Your air talent is a majority of that time. Just spending time with them, having an open door policy and being honest with your talent will have a huge return on your time investment. If it's not a priority, make it one. It's a win-win for everyone.