Thursday, December 15, 2011


We all know how powerful "All Christmas Music" stations are this time of year. Stations that go all Christmas in December will roll in big numbers. Probably many in the double digits.

But, you can’t just play all Christmas music and expect to win. There’s a strategy. Here’s three tips to winning with all Christmas Music:

The more you can remind people what it was like to be eight years old on Christmas Day the better. Take them back. Make them nostalgic for yesterday. Do this with imaging and features.

It’s what people want to hear. I would have a classic/standard every other song. Bing, Perry, Burl, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, etc are the artists that bring people back. Have a nice balance between the classics and newer Christmas music. Run a tight list. Play the hits and play them often.

Not just with music, but with imaging, promotions and features. Use little kids. Embrace a charity and give back. Make it about memories, family, and traditions. Don’t think that just playing Christmas music is enough.

Here in Denver, Studio 1430 KEZW does a great job. They are now 24/7 Christmas playing only the classics. The ones that remind people of being a kid. They also are running :60 features talking about different Christmas traditions and how they got started. The whole station is full of nostalgia and it sounds great. Even their website is nostalgic. Check them out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I got this from one of my on air personalities. It's from the book, "The Energy Bus", by Jon Gordon and has some great points.

The day you die, you will still have 30 or 40 emails in your in-box that will not be answered. You’ll never get it all done, so you might as well relax and enjoy the ride.

The best legacy you could leave is not some building that is named after you or a piece of jewelry, but rather a world that has been impacted and touched by your presence, your joy, and your positive actions.

Your positive energy and vision must be greater than anyone’s and everyone’s negativity. Your certainty must be greater than everyone’s doubt.

When you are enthusiastic, you project an energy that convinces people to get on and stay on your bus.

People are always buying you and your energy.

When you use the signs to find the right path and make a decision to follow it, God will move heaven and earth to support you.

The higher you get in an organization, the more it is your duty to serve the people below you rather than having the people below serve you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This is a re-post of something I did last year. I think it's worth seeing again.

Thanksgiving is this week and I thought it would be good to reflect on some things we should be thankful for working in radio. Now before you roll your eyes, I realize the last couple of years have been really tough with downsizing, cut backs, programming options forced down our throats and more. This is not just something radio is dealing with, it's everywhere. All businesses and industries are suffering. Radio is still a great gig and here are a few things to be thankful for:

• We work in radio. We play music and connect with people for a living. Pretty cool.

• We get to go to concerts for free and many times meet the artists backstage.

• We don't have to get up at 5am in the pouring rain to collect people’s trash.

• We get to talk to thousands of people each day that think of us as a friend. We have thousands of friends!

• We get to create magic (or at least you should be creating magic).

• We get to listen to music and get paid for it.

• Many of the biggest stars in country music know us by name.

• The chicks (Just kidding. Seeing if you are still paying attention).

• Our office environment is unlike any other place on the planet. Try working for a lawyer or CPA. Their offices are boring and stale. I've never worked in a radio station where someone didn't have a guitar in their office and played it often.

• Most of us are doing what we've wanted to do since we were kids. I bet most of your non radio friends can't say that.

• Over 90% of all Americans listen to radio each week. That's an impressive number. Very few media outlets connect with that many people each week.

• Each day we get to make people laugh, cry and think.

• Every day is different. Perfect for radio people that have ADD...which is most of us.

• We get free tickets to nearly everything.

• Competition makes us all better and radio has a lot of it.

Stay positive and take this weekend to think about all the great things that come with working in radio. There are many.

Monday, November 7, 2011


With the passing of Andy Rooney, I thought it was time for me to do "Ya Know What Bugs Me (in my best Andy Rooney voice)?"

So here goes. These are a few of the things that I hear on the radio that bug me.

If someone doesn't know that websites start with "WWW", then they aren't online and don't care about the website you are giving out.

There are a ton of them. "Hump Day", "Comin' Atcha", "Around the Corner", "Let's Go To The Phones", "Happy (day of the week) to you", and many more. Why do people on the radio feel the need to talk different than a regular person when they are on the air?

Jocks that run phoners from listeners saying how great they are, or how much they love listening to them. Edit that out.

Also, there are very few real "Legendary" or "World Famous" stations in the country. Those descriptions should be reserved for the true ones. There may have been more legendary stations 40 or 50 years ago, but not today. Listeners don't care. It's hype.

It's the start of my weekend. The last thing I want to think about is Monday morning. Have your morning show promo start on Saturday, not Friday afternoon.

The best radio is one on one. Just YOU and ONE listener. Talk to just one person. Use "you" and "I", not "everybody", "folks", "our listeners" or "all you people."

I hear this a lot. Jocks that talk so fast and sound so rushed (because they only have a few seconds before the listener turns them off) that it's fatiguing to listen to. Let your show breathe. There's no need to sound like you are in a hurry to finish the break.

I get that Facebook is important and we need to be where our listeners are, but I hear jocks that talk about nothing more than their Facebook page. I would bet your AQH is much higher than the number of people that would ever friend you or check out your Facebook page. Even for national shows. Play to the masses and the biggest common denominator. That's your listener, not your Facebook Fans.

OK, I'm stepping off my soap box now.

I miss Andy Rooney.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


With all the recent layoffs in our industry, I thought it would be good to re-visit a past blog of mine on the right way to apply for that next gig.

It’s been my experience whenever I’ve posted for a job opening most of the applicants I get are awful. I’m not talking the demos themselves, but the overall package and presentation. I’ve realized that many people have no idea how to apply for a job in today’s radio environment.

Times have changed. PD’s are doing more and moving faster than ever before. Trying to find great talent to fill an opening is a massive chore. The easier you can make it on me, the better shot you have at getting the gig.

If you are looking for work, this is your one chance to impress me and get my attention.

Here’s a list of what NOT to do the next time you have to send a demo.

1) Send everything I asked for in the posting all in one e-mail. I don’t have time to chase you down for your references (I hate the line “references available upon request.” That tells me you don’t have any and you need to call some people to get them). I’ve actually had several people not even send an audio demo with their resume.

2) Don’t just send me a line in an e-mail that says “check out my website” and not include anything else. I don’t have time. I want (and many times need for HR purposes) hard copies of the demo and resume. Again, if I have to chase you down for this, you probably won’t get the job.

3) If you attach your demo and resume file to the e-mail, label it with your name and what it is. I’ve gotten some that were generically labeled “Resume” or “Demo.” I had to re-name them so when I put them into my “Opening” file on my computer, I know whose who. Again, it’s a small thing that can really help a busy PD. A few people did include their name and phone number of the file name. I liked that a lot.

4) Send me a demo that’s about three minutes. One guy sent me an eight minute demo (that locked up my e-mail) and another guy sent me a :14 second, one break demo. Obviously, send your best stuff and put the best of the best at the start of the demo. I know you’ve heard that before, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t put a lot of time or effort into the demo. That’s the single biggest thing you are sending me. Make it count.

5) On the topic of demos, don’t open your audio demo with an artist saying “hi this is (famous star) and you’re listening to …”. I want to hear you, not the artist saying your name. Most PD’s are not impressed by that.

6) Do your research. With the web, you can research a ton about the station and the market. Know who is getting the demo and a little about the station. It’s amazing how many people still write “Dear Sir/Madam. I’m always impressed when someone out of town knows a lot about the station and the area.

This last part is for the PD’s that may be looking for someone.

I was a former jock once that sent out airchecks and never got a call back. It was frustrating and demoralizing. I vowed that one day, no matter how hard it is, I would respond to everyone. Even if it was a short e-mail saying “thanks, but it’s filled.”

We as PD’s owe it the applicants to return their phone calls, or respond to their e-mails. I realize it may not be the same day, or even the same week but as PD’s, its part of our job. I constantly hear PD’s saying “where’s tomorrow’s talent coming from?” If we’re not making time to respond to them (or even offer advice/critiques to them) then we are just as much to blame at the lack of talent as anyone else in this industry.

I was lucky enough when I started to have a few PD’s help me and to this day, I’ve never forgot them and still look up to them. I love this business and think we as PD’s owe it to all talent to give them some attention and coaching, even when they don’t work for us. Trust me, it will pay off.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


1. Do what you love. Jobs once said, "People with passion can change the world for the better." Asked about the advice he would offer would-be entrepreneurs, he said, "I'd get a job as a busboy or something until I figured out what I was really passionate about." That's how much it meant to him. Passion is everything.

2. Put a dent in the universe. Jobs believed in the power of vision. He once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, "Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?" Don't lose sight of the big vision.

3. Make connections. Jobs once said creativity is connecting things. He meant that people with a broad set of life experiences can often see things that others miss. He took calligraphy classes that didn't have any practical use in his life -- until he built the Macintosh. Jobs traveled to India and Asia. He studied design and hospitality. Don't live in a bubble. Connect ideas from different fields.

4. Say no to 1,000 things. Jobs was as proud of what Apple chose not to do as he was of what Apple did. When he returned in Apple in 1997, he took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 products in a two-year period. Why? So he could put the "A-Team" on each product. What are you saying "no" to?

5. Create insanely different experiences. Jobs also sought innovation in the customer-service experience. When he first came up with the concept for the Apple Stores, he said they would be different because instead of just moving boxes, the stores would enrich lives. Everything about the experience you have when you walk into an Apple store is intended to enrich your life and to create an emotional connection between you and the Apple brand. What are you doing to enrich the lives of your customers?

6. Master the message. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter. Jobs was the world's greatest corporate storyteller. Instead of simply delivering a presentation like most people do, he informed, he educated, he inspired and he entertained, all in one presentation.

7. Sell dreams, not products. Jobs captured our imagination because he really understood his customer. He knew that tablets would not capture our imaginations if they were too complicated. The result? One button on the front of an iPad. It's so simple, a 2-year-old can use it. Your customers don't care about your product. They care about themselves, their hopes, their ambitions. Jobs taught us that if you help your customers reach their dreams, you'll win them over.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Like it or not, we’re entering political season and it’s going to be here for awhile.

I was reading an article from Campaign Strategist Mark McKinnon on what it takes for someone to win the Presidential nomination, or any office for that matter.

Take a look at Mark’s “Must Do’s” and see how many similarities there are between his list and a winning radio station or air talent:

The more different you can seem from the other guy, the better.

Look at how successful Herman Cain has been in recent weeks with his 9-9-9 plan. Short, quick, concise.

It’s more important to be human than perfect.

People don’t vote on the issues, they vote on the attributes, and the most important one is strength.

Even when things are rough and not going your way, smile. Be happy.

Looks like we can learn something from Politicians.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


According to the latest Nielsen TV ratings, six of the top ten TV shows are comedies. Three are sports related and there's only one drama in the top 10.

It's crystal clear that people want fun. They want to escape all the grim news of the day. Even if it's only for 30 minutes.

Radio needs to be more fun. We need to be an escape for people that are constantly bombarded with negative news.

I've wrote about this before, because it's important.

Admit it, radio isn't nearly as fun as it used to be. There are many reasons why, but that's a whole other blog. Instead, let's talk about bringing the fun back to radio

I'm not talking having personalities that try to be funny with cheesy jokes. Fun is an attitude. It's your enthusiasm, the smile in your voice, a clever comment. It's making people feel good when they tune in.

Listeners want to feel happy when they listen.

So, next time you're prepping your show and on the air, think fun. Be fun. Have fun. It's contagious.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Interviews are one of the hardest things to master. Many people think they can interview, but most I’ve heard show the opposite. It takes years of practice to be able to nail the interview. Here are a few tips to help you get here faster:

Prepare. It’s amazing how many people think they can pull the interview off by just talking to the guest. You need a road map to help guide you through the interview.

Listen to the answers. All too often you can tell the person doing the interview isn’t listening to the answer. They are too focused on what they are going to say next. This happens consistently on TV news. The anchor in the studio asks the reporter on location a question that was already answered in the report. There’s no excuse for that.

Ask the question, then shut up and let them answer. Don’t be afraid of having a little dead air between the question and the answer. A little dead air means that the interviewee was just asked a question they have never been asked before and they need to think of an answer. That’s a great complement to you and your question.

Ask a topical question that everybody around the water cooler is talking about. Stay away from cliché questions like “what’s on your Ipod?”, “boxers or briefs?” “who are your idols?”, “any advice for up and comers?” etc. Ask questions people really want to know. That’s what makes Howard Stern a tremendous interviewer.

Keep your interviews short. Shorter interview segments spread out over two or three breaks work best. Remember the big teases to get you from one segment to the next.

Get your guest to tell a story. People love stories and if you ask the right question, you’ll most likely get a story.

If you pre-record your interview (which you always should) make sure that it’s not overly edited. Leave some room to breathe with your edits.

If you have other tips, I'd love to hear yours.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I was recently at a funeral for the father of a friend of mine. I didn’t know the man who passed away, but after the funeral I felt like I had known him for years. All due to storytelling.

His funeral was packed full of stories about the man who died. Some sad, most funny. I had never met him, but that didn’t make the stories less interesting and entertaining. I was riveted hearing things about a man I didn’t know. Honestly, I didn’t want the funeral to end. The stories were just too good.

If you can master the art of storytelling on the radio, you’ll probably always have a job and a huge audience. People want to hear stories, not reports. Stories don’t have to be long winded. You can tell a story in just a few lines and still be riveting, but it takes practice and a plan.

Here are a few storytelling tips that I've learned along the way:

Stories are not reports

The subjects are about common and relatable life events

Have moments of genuine humor

Are delivered one-on-one and allow for interactivity

Are rehearsed so they have maximum impact when told

The listener should think of you as a friend. The best way to do this is to open up and share personal stories, experiences and opinions with your listener.

Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself. Self deprecating is not only relatable, but endearing.

Good story telling not only has the ability to make you stand out and be remembered, but it also can help you feel better

If you want to be known for one thing, be known as a great storyteller.

Friday, September 16, 2011


When talking to consumers, new research has discovered that a sales person who makes an occasional error when speaking far outperforms sellers who deliver their speech perfectly. This totally relates with being on air.

This goes back to something that I’ve preached for years. The best radio personalities are real, genuine and honest. No matter what format they are on. They make small mistakes in their breaks (“err”, “ahh”, etc). It’s OK. It makes you more human and real.

I’m not saying be totally unpolished and not professional. I’m saying the more real you sound, the more listeners will connect with you. The same way a consumer connects with a sales person that makes an occasional error and doesn’t come across too perfect and polished.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Here are some interesting stats from a national TeleNav survey of 514 American owners of smart and feature phones. The respondents were over the age of 16 and the survey was conducted on-line. The emotional bond presented here may useful information for on-air promotion or on a sales call.

• 40% say they would prefer to go shoe less for a week rather than give up their IPhone

• 40% say they would prefer to give up their toothbrush over the IPhone

• 83% think that other IPhone users would make the best romantic partners

• 33% would be willing to give up sex for a week over giving up the IPhone. 70% of those respondents were women

• 70% would give up alcohol before their phone

• 63% would give up chocolate

• 55% would go without caffeine

Sunday, August 7, 2011


My wife recently found a box of cassettes in the basements and asked me “why in the world do you still have these?” I told her not to touch them. They are gold to me. Over 20 years of radio airchecks from various stations where I’ve worked. Some I’ve never heard since the day I did the show.

I bought a machine that converts these cassettes to MP3’s and I can make CD’s out of the audio. I have one cassette player left in the house and I’m sure that will it eventually die.

I’ve been spending my free time listening to these airchecks and converting them to MP3’s. It’s been great. Yes, a little embarrassing, but totally fun.

It reminded me how important is was (and still is) to randomly record shows and keep them…forever. I would recommend randomly taking a show, recording it (no matter how good or bad the show was) and put it your personal achieves.

Someday, you’ll stumble upon them and be glad you took the time to save that show.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Being real on the radio is an art and not one that’s easy to accomplish. It’s takes lots of practice to sound like you are having a natural conversation with a friend while you are sitting in a room by yourself talking into a microphone.

If you can master it, you will pull ahead of mediocre DJ’s who sound like they are just “a DJ talking on the radio.” We all know the most common tactic to making yourself sound real is to talk to a picture posted in the studio. While I think that helps, it goes far beyond that.

Here are a few tips:

Know your audience. It’s not enough to say “my listener is a 35 year old female.” Find out everything about them. Arbitron, Media Audit and Scarborough make finding this information really easy. If you don’t know exactly who you are talking to and who your target is, ask your PD. If you’re the PD, be as specific as you can on who your target listener is and share that with both the air and sales staffs.

Always be open and honest. Never say anything on the air that you wouldn’t say to your friend or neighbor. If you really want to understand this go back and watch the scene in Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” where Howard and his wife were moving back from Detroit and they stopped for gas. It was there he had the epiphany that he needed to be open, real and honest. It has made him extremely successful and famous.

Don’t worry about having a “great radio voice.” In today’s radio it’s more important to be real and genuine. People love listening to and watching real people. Just look at the popularity of TV Reality Shows. They are full of real people.

Practice your breaks on co-workers. If there is something you want to talk about on the air walk around the building and tell them the story before you actually do it on the air. It’s a good way to practice the break and see what people’s reactions may be to your story and delivery.

Don’t write out your breaks word for word. It could sound like you are reading it instead of talking about it. Instead, bullet point it on paper and practice it before you go on the air. Have a LAST WORD on your bullet points and when you hit that word, move on. Don’t feel the need to keep adding words when you have made your final point.

Jerry Seinfeld made his fortune on observing others doing every day things and putting a relatable/humorous slant on it. You can do the same. Look for everyday things in your world and work to find a way to talk about them on the air; of course keeping them as brief as you can while still being relatable and interesting. Remember, they don’t all have to be funny. Relatable and real is the key.

Don’t feel the need to always have a punch line at the end of your break. 95% of the time they won’t be as funny as you think they are. It’s OK if you just end the break and move on. It may feel odd doing it, but it sounds so much better than trying too hard to be funny.

Talk “to” not “at” the listener. Nobody wants to be talked at.

Finally, when you aircheck your self don’t listen to it the same day it was recorded. Wait a few days. You’ll be able to really hear what you sound like when you’ve forgotten what you talked about. When you listen, ask yourself “would I like to be stuck in a car driving cross country with this person?”

Bottom line, most people would rather be with a real communicator and friend than “a DJ talking on the radio.”

Monday, July 18, 2011


All did recently "10 Questions" with one of Dial Global's syndicated morning jocks. Jeff Young works for me on the Hot Country format as is based out of LA.

Started at KXFM in Santa Maria, CA, playing what passed for Triple A rock then. Jumped to Top 40 at KRIZ in Phoenix a couple of years later, then on to Detroit and L.A. before getting into programming. PD at a few stations then to morning drive for a few years at rock and pop stations from Houston to New York. Finally landed at Westwood One in the mid-90's, since acquired by Dial-Global. Worked 70's, Groovin' Oldies, and Hot AC formats before settling at Hot Country a few years ago.

1) Currently you are doing mornings on the Hot Country format at Dial Global as a solo player, after working many years with partners. What do you prefer?
Solo. Teams and ensembles sound great if the chemistry is right, but test tubes do explode. That's usually because management throws talent together without knowing whether they'll actually be able to co-exist in a small room for several hours a day without killing each other. Pros make it work anyway, but it can be miserable. I've had three bad and only one good team experience.

2) You are in the studio from 2:30 to 9:30! First of all what time do you go to bed and then wake up?
Show prep never ends. I'm usually still online researching and fine-tuning until about 9pm, then up at 1:30a. I keep saying "I'm going to bed at 7:30 no matter what. Ok, maybe 8." Never happens. Sundays are for sleeping.

3) Give us a snapshot of that time in the studio-how many hours of that are you on the air and then the rest is production time?
I'm on-air for 4 hours, and then interviews and promos, etc. afterwards.

4) How many markets are you in and how do the local stations customize and localize your show?
Dial-Global Hot Country is probably on about 100 stations, but in some markets they have their own morning talent. I don't know the exact number. I'm apparently on in enough places to justify my paycheck. As long as that keeps coming and my key fits in the back door at 2:30 every morning, I'm good!
As far as the way the affiliates weave DG talent into the local scene, we all cut liners and weather, etc., to keep it sounding local and timely.

5) You have been with the network since 1994-what kinds of changes have you seen?
Liners were still being mailed to affiliates when I came on board. It's all digital now, with nary a roll of recording tape, CD, cart, razor blade, or grease pencil in sight. Come to think of it, we even had to go outside back then to grab copies of USA Today from in front of the door. I recall fighting off the occasional Stegosaurus to get to the paper.

6) Before joining the network, you worked many formats at local radio stations. Do you prefer being at a network, and why?
I love network radio because I used to have to actually move to a town if I wanted to work there. Now I'm everywhere at once. I do miss meeting locals at hardware store and car dealer remotes, though, and telling them "sorry, I'm all out of t-shirts." I actually meet more listeners on Facebook than I ever did in person anyway, and learn a lot more about them. It's amazing what people reveal online - without being asked!

7) You've done a lot of formats-why do you love Country?
Country today is what Top 40 was when I was growing up. There's a great deal of variety in the music. When I punch up a pop station, it's hard to tell the difference between many of the artists. What amazes me is the number of young people we have listening. Aside from the cliché drinking songs that seem to hang on, there are plenty of love and lovin' life songs, too, with superb writing from the likes of Sara Buxton, Chris DuBois, Taylor Swift, etc. And unlike some pop songs, you rarely think you're hearing a munchkin sing.

8) Do you interview many artists on your show, and do you do them 'live' or 'recorded' and again, do you have a preference?
A ton of 'em. Country superstars are available and love to talk. Ronnie Dunn was on recently. I said to him "thanks for being on the show - we both know you don't need the PR and you'll get played no matter what", and he responded "I DON'T know that. You're talking to the most afraid guy in show biz right now." Most are very down to earth and grateful for their fans and their success. I never go live in case one of them feels the need to say a bad word that day. It's rare, but it happens.

9) Do you talk to a lot of air personalities at the local level who want to work for the network? What do you recommend they do?
As far as the application process, nothing out of the ordinary. Send demos to whomever you want to work for. Once you're on the network, you have to have a "big picture" mentality, keeping in mind that some listeners will be in the middle of their daily routine, while others may be starting or ending their day. You don't want to give away the ending of a TV show that hasn't aired in some places yet. No specific weather references allowed. You can't always be sure that an affiliate is carrying your next hour, so you can never tease anything in that hour. I don't do a four hour show; I do four one hour shows.

10) How do you interact with your all-star PD Johnny Paul? We imagine he yells a lot.
Boy have I worked for the "yellers!" John Paul is not one of those. He's proof that nice guys don't finish last. It's interesting because he is in Denver and some of us are in L.A. He listens to us on any number of affiliates that stream the format. He'll drop a note with a suggestion whenever he feels the need, does an aircheck review every few weeks, and keeps us up to date with daily memos. We have jock meetings via Skype when the need arises and he visits LA.


1) You are a real 'radio guy!' Are there hobbies that you have outside of radio?
Photography and 3 Card Poker.

2) What are some of your favorite new Country artists right now?Jason Aldean, Eric Church, and Ashton Shepard come to mind. Many others. Reba's not new, but just keeps getting better.

3) If you are getting up at the crazy time of like 1am what time do you eat breakfast?
About 12 hours later. Too busy to eat, but still getting fat. Haven't figured that one out yet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Reading a list on the radio of any kind is bad, especially a "here's the top 10 ways to…"

Lists on TV are different. They have graphics and more time to pull it off. Time is tight on the radio. Without graphics and having someone just "reading" the list gets confusing and boring.

The only thing worse than a list on the radio, is a list with a ton of numbers, stats and percentages. No matter how you deliver it, it will be really hard to follow, confusing and boring. Listeners are only giving you a few of their seconds to decide whether they will stick around. Make every second count.

Plus, listeners can see the same list you are looking at somewhere online. It's not original content. Nothing is special about it.

Instead, focus on the top 5, or better yet, top 3. Don't give the entire list. Give highlights. Turn the spotlight on the listener. You can even start the conversation with the best three on the list, then have listeners call in with their ideas. That's something original that nobody could find anywhere else. You created exclusive content for your show.

Just putting in a little extra thought into the "list break" and not just ripping and reading "the top 10 things….", your bit will be exclusively yours and far more entertaining.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I got some feedback from my last blog entry on "Developing Yourself Off The Air." Here's one from Sam Alex, Morning Show Producer at WMZQ in Washington, DC.

John - Here my thoughts from your blog.

-Read. Go to the library and check out books on business, life and everything else.

-Meet people. Join groups/organizations where you don’t know anyone. Co-ed soccer, alumni group, etc. Volunteering is another great way.

-Spend money. Take a road trip, go on your dream vacation…now.

-Use your radio skills in another medium. Stadium announcer at local college, host show on cable access TV, read books aloud to kids/senior citizens.

-No tech. Pick a time frame every day where you aren’t allowed to use your computer, cellphone or anything else with an on/off switch.

Sam Alex
WMZQ, Washington, D.C.

You can check out Sam's website at or listen to him live at

Friday, June 24, 2011


I got this e-mail from a reader of my blog.


As a radio personality, what are some of the things I can do to develop myself daily (off air)?

Your thoughts and advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Here was my response:

Here's my top simple things you can do:

-Have a life outside of radio. Get away from the station. Escape the day to day. Live life and have fun. Surround yourself with friends outside of radio. People who don't care that you are on the radio.

-Take in all things Pop Culture. Be up on everything your audience is up on (TV shows, movies, video games, magazines, etc).

-Stay up on technology. It changes every day. Know what's out there and what's coming. Embrace it, learn it and be open to changing technology.

-Have a hobby. Do it often. Radio is not a hobby.

-Take ALL of your vacation time. It's always amazing to me the people that don't (or won't) use their earned time off. It's part of your salary. Use it. Get away.

-Exercise. Be active. This will lower your stress levels.

Hope that helps.

If you have more, I'd love to hear them. Leave them here, or e-mail me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


This was sent to me a few days ago. It's just too good and too true not to share.

A friend of mine does research for large media companies and discovered what listeners really want.

It’s so obvious, but really put things in perspective.

No, listeners aren’t asking for Two-for-Tuesday, 10-in-a-row or Free Money Friday. It’s not Traffic & Weather together. Not even Lite Favorites from the 70s, 80s, 90s and today.

Listeners want to feel happy when they listen.

Somehow, radio has forgotten that. But it makes perfect sense. Life is hard now. Everywhere you turn, the news is grim.

Slow economy, scarce jobs, natural disasters, foreclosures, wars, gas prices, declining schools etc. People are bummed and looking for relief.

Where can people turn for FUN? It should be US! We are their escape! We play music for a living! So, we should have the monopoly on fun.

I’m not suggesting that you tell jokes or try to be funny. Fun is in your attitude, your enthusiasm, the smile in your voice, a clever comment.

Fun comes when you talk TO listeners and share a common experience.

So, next time that you walk into the studio, remember that Job #1 is to make your listeners happy. They sure won’t get that from an iPod or Pandora.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


When times are tough and uncertainty is everywhere, leaders need to rise up and take the lead.

According to the US Army, here are the Principles of Leadership (U.S. Army. October 1983. Military Leadership (FM 22-100). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office).

1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement - In order to know yourself, you have to understand your be, know, and do, attributes. Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening your attributes. This can be accomplished through self-study, formal classes, reflection, and interacting with others.

2. Be technically proficient - As a leader, you must know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees' tasks.

3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions - Search for ways to guide your organization to new heights. And when things go wrong, they always do sooner or later -- do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge.

4. Make sound and timely decisions - Use good problem solving, decision making, and planning tools.

5. Set the example - Be a good role model for your employees. They must not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see. We must become the change we want to see - Mahatma Gandhi

6. Know your people and look out for their well-being - Know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your workers.

7. Keep your workers informed - Know how to communicate with not only them, but also seniors and other key people.

8. Develop a sense of responsibility in your workers - Help to develop good character traits that will help them carry out their professional responsibilities.

9. Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished - Communication is the key to this responsibility.

10. Train as a team - Although many so called leaders call their organization, department, section, etc. a team; they are not really teams...they are just a group of people doing their jobs.

11. Use the full capabilities of your organization - By developing a team spirit, you will be able to employ your organization, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities.

How many of these are YOU doing today?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I've been saying for several months now that “Country music is bigger and better than it’s been in over a decade.” Proof of that is what has happened this week on three of the most popular shows on TV (Idol, Celebrity Apprentice and Rascal Flatts being the last musical guest on Oprah).

If you are in sales and pitching new clients (or dealing with people) who don’t think country music is mainstream, part of pop culture and extremely popular, you may want to remind them of John Rich, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and Rascal Flatts.

Nearly 30 million people watched the finale of American Idol and over 122 million votes were cast. A new record.

America knows that these two are all about country music and will be heard ONLY on Country radio (they are the most Country sounding songs ever to come off of Idol, IMHO).

While I work with multiple formats, I'm extremely proud today to be a part of Country music and Country radio.

Spread the word of Country music and Country radio's power!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I’m not sure what to call it, so for lack of a better term, I’ll call it “Playing With Song Titles.” It sucks. If you do it on air, stop.

I’ll explain what I mean.

I always hear jocks come out of a song (all different formats) and try to be cute and clever and tie in the title of the song they are announcing to something they are saying. In working with stations all over the country, here’s a couple of actual examples I’ve heard on the air:

“Travis Tritt’s T-R-O-U-B-L-E. You’ll be in some trouble if you don’t listen this weekend to win…”

“Lady Gaga and Born This Way. Hey, I was born this way and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Hahahaha…”

Really? That’s the best you’ve got? You basically have said nothing. Real people don’t talk that way. Where’s the listener benefit? Listeners don’t mind talk, as long as it’s relevant, relatable and focused. Tying in the song titles are none of those. It’s just a bunch of extra words that make you sound dated, unprepared and like you have nothing better to say.

In my opinion, there’s no exception to this rule. Just don’t do it. It’s not needed.

Don't waste the listener's time. Say something more meaningful.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


This is a letter I got from one of our Dial Global Radio Network affiliates. I'm not sure who wrote it or when, but it has some really good points.

I was totally enamored of radio when I was a kid. It was far and away the coolest thing I had ever stumbled across. I would dial around at night and knew the addresses and store hours of more businesses in Oklahoma City and Minneapolis/Saint Paul than my own town. I would listen until the moment I had to either turn the radio off or risk perishing from a lack of sleep the next day, and even then if it took me too long to fall asleep I'd flip it back on… just in case I was missing something really great. I had cousins who lived outside of San Francisco. They used to send me cassette recordings of Dr. Don Rose's show on a regular basis. And I couldn't wait for our trips from my hometown to the big city of Denver so I could glue myself to the mighty KIMN-AM. In an effort to sincerely give up for Lent that which meant the absolute most to me, I spent the Lenten season of my 14th year on the planet not listening to radio for 40 days. It damn near killed me. Did you ever feel like that about radio?

When was the first time you ever walked into a radio station? Ponder it for a minute and fix the experience in your mind. Spend a few moments remembering how you were really feeling at the time. Were you nervous? Excited? Awe-struck? Think back to your very first time with your hands on the controls. Your hands. Running the board. How did you feel? Thrilled? Paralyzed with panic? Confident? On the verge of passing out?

Later, I changed my major to Mass Communications. My parents completely passed out. I blew full steam ahead. I had my first full-time radio job within one semester. Before that, though, I remember taking my own vinyl albums over to the campus station to spend time in one of the "practice rooms" — crappy little boards and crappy little turntables hooked up to crappy little cassette decks. One night as I was leaving the dorm a friend asked if I was going to be on the air on the campus station. "I wish," was my answer. At that point I couldn't even conceive of being paid to do radio. My only goal was to actually get on the air, even if it was for free, on a low-power FM that had approximately 12 listeners. Were you ever that focused? Did you ever feel that excited about pulling an airshift?

Edward Deci, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, conducted an experiment that revealed an almost universal human foible: What used to be fun turns into drudgery once a paycheck is attached to it. His research was among the first of literally hundreds of studies showing that our internal drive to achieve that which we genuinely love can get very easily sidetracked. Just find a way to get paid for it.

Deci found a group of college students who loved solving puzzles. They were divided into two groups: Those who would continue doing the puzzles on their own time, and those who would actually be paid to do them. After evaluating the test subjects he found that those who were being paid to do what they used to really enjoy grew very resentful of having to solve the puzzles. Even though the people in the "paid" group originally expressed just as much of an interest in working these puzzles as the "unpaid" group, they very quickly lost their interest when they HAD to do it.

Consolidation, fears about the economy (and about losing a gig), non-radio people buying radio stations… it's all added up to equal a big ol' Politically Correct Ball of Blah. And if what you're presenting on the air is a Big Ball of Blah, what on earth is keeping your listeners from turning to their iPods? Why would they choose to spend their time with someone who doesn't even sound interested in being there? Think back to your first real radio gig. If you've been in this business more than a few years, you probably remember all kinds of crazy stuff going on… things that would probably get you fired now. But you probably also remember actually liking the people with whom you worked, and you might even remember hanging out at the station during your free time, just because it was fun and you felt alive and you were having the time of your freaking life.

Remember when you first got your driver's license? How you would BEG your parents to let you go to the grocery store just so you could have a few solitary minutes behind the wheel? What do you think about driving now? Probably not much, and you might even resent it. It's become one of those things that we adults have to do to get through our daily routines. Equate it to your work in radio. Has that which used to be such an absolute blast turned into just another task, or even worse, something that you really don't even enjoy doing?

Yes, the industry has changed, but perhaps your attitude has changed, too. Perhaps you now take for granted that which would have blown your mind back when you put your hands on that control board for the first time: You get paid for this. You probably don't get paid much, but that's not why you got into this business. Take a few moments focusing on why you did get into this business, and ponder how those very things never did leave. You just stopped paying attention to them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I recently got an e-mail from a medium market PD. He told me that one of his jocks said “but why do I have to do that? I’m the star.” Really? Are you kidding me? In today’s radio you’re going to have that attitude?

Let's serve up some humble pie.

Long gone are the days when DJ’s were stars. Times have changed. While radio is still huge (294 million American’s will listen to the radio this week), listeners use radio more as an appliance. They don’t think about it. They turn it on when they need us and turn it off when they are done. Competition is everywhere for radio. It’s not just another station anymore. 30-40 years ago when all people had were their radio’s and a few channels on TV, then maybe you could be a star. But not today.

Very few listeners think of you as a star, at least the normal ones that know how to use PPM or fill out a diary. It’s time to stop trying to be a star and become a companion. That’s what people need. That’s what people want.

Don't make your show about you, make it about the listener.

Be a friend, not a star.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Voice tracking is a way of life for most radio stations, programmers and air talent. Voice tracking doesn’t have to be negative. It can be a useful tool to have key talent on the air more often and to keep the station sounding consistent on weekends and holidays. Voice tracking the right way can not only make you sound live, it can free up talent to do other duties to make your radio station even stronger.

Here are a few tips to make your voice tracking sound as live as possible:

Always cut your voice tracks as close to the time they are going to run as possible. This will put you in the right frame of mind for your show.

Live shift or voice tracked? They need to sound the same. Be consistent.

Prep and prepare. Just like when you are live, bring your show prep and use it.

If you fumble or make a mistake, leave it in. It will sound more live and real this way. Most likely your live show isn’t perfect, your voice tracks don’t have to be either.

Find ways to reference the time. You can say "coming up in the next ten minutes before 1 o'clock I’ve got…" or "a few minutes after two." Simple tricks like this will make you sound even more live.

Be topical and in the “now.” Talk about things happening in your area while you are on the air.

Reflect your day part. If you are tracking midday’s talk about being at work. If you are tracking afternoons, keep in mind people are ending their workday and heading home. Tracking overnights? Most of your listeners are working a third shift or can’t sleep. Talk to them. Simple words will help you connect with what listeners are doing in different day parts.

Have a three ring binder that has all the exact same promo copy, liners and station information that’s in the studio. Consistency is key.

Never feel the need to say the day of the week (“…with you on a Monday”). It doesn’t make you sound any more live to say the day of the week. You just create useless words by telling people something they already know.

Think of your voice tracks as “a show”, not “a shift.” This goes for when you are live as well.

If you have the technical capabilities to run phoners, do it. They will make the show sound extremely live and help connect you to the listener.

Just like when you are live, think of just ONE listener. Use “I” and “you”, not “we” or “us.”

Above all, take some pride and put forth some effort in your voice tracks. A little extra work can make good voice tracks great.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I recently got an e-mail from a reader of my blog in Africa. Ayo Owodunni works at The Beat 99 in Nigeria. I was instantly intrigued by radio on the other side of the world. Radio is HUGE in Nigeria (people spend a ton of time in their cars. Traffic is a nightmare as you can see from the picture above that Ayo sent me). Ayo agreed to answer some questions about radio.

I went to high school and University in New Jersey. I actually attended Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. I joined the college radio station my sophomore year based on a tip off a friend. He simply said, “Ayo you have a big mouth and the radio station is looking for people to fill up program time." I ignored the big mouth statement and simply joined. That was the first time I ever got on radio.

I currently run five shows. I run a real estate show which airs every Monday from 12 noon to 12:30pm. I run a political program titled "Meet the Candidates" on Saturdays from 11am - 12noon. The elections are around the corner and there's a lot of excitement, anxiety and a whole lot of mixed emotions amongst the people. The previous election in 2007 was rigged so a lot of people have lost a lot of faith in the electoral process here. There's so much corruption in the political system so people have tuned off completely when it comes to politics. What's also interesting is trying to find the fine line, they are tired and frustrated but there's a need for change.

Our station is focused mainly on the youths so they are totally not interested in politics anymore. I basically interview political candidates and accept calls, texts and messages from our Facebook fans. I run another show called Fresh Beats. It's a new program that just started four weeks ago. We've spent sometime promoting and hyping this new show. The show is dedicated to unsigned/unrecognized artists looking for airplay. We've asked all musicians to bring their CDs to our office. We have a team of people who simply listen to the music and separate the good songs from the horrible songs (we get a whole lot of horrible songs) The idea is to basically get people to listen to the songs within this hour, text in their favorite artists and the artists with the most texts get their song on regular rotation, and come in for an interview at the station. We are now trying to involve a well known Nigerian producer who would give his feedback and advise to our top selected artists on how to make their music better. I also run a Sunday morning gospel show (8am to 11am) and a Sunday afternoon show from 12 -6pm. Nigeria is a very very religious country. There are churches on every corner and almost on every block. People enjoy listening to christian songs on Sunday and hearing a lot of inspirational, motivational talks. This is actually my favorite show.

I am also part of the production team so I come in each day at 8:30am.
Due to the crazy traffic situation in Lagos, Nigeria, I have to leave the house by 6am to get to work by 8:15. I settle in, write down my to do list of the day and go about doing it. I enjoy going online to research a lot of positive motivational articles and stories to jot down to share with listeners during the weekend show. I also make sure my guys are listening to the artists trying to get their songs on Fresh Beats (and also making sure no one is collecting a bribe from these artists). I end up leaving around 6pm each day to get home for 8:30pm.

The group meets once a month and we're asked to bring in tapes of our recorded airchecks. We sit together as a group (all the on air personalities) listen to each tape and give feedback. We also bring our questions, concerns to our program director. Our program director has been in the radio business for over 20 years so he's well rounded and has a lot of knowledge.

I am currently new in Nigeria (came back in 2009) and also new at the radio station (started working here in December and actually just got my first show two months ago). I do hope I am able to start making appearances soon. I have been asked to MC a school pep rally, an entertainment magazine anniversary show and the launching of a new youth magazine.

The radio business in Nigeria is a HUGE industry. Due to the state of the transport system in Nigeria, an average Nigerian spends HOURS trying to get from one place to another in the economic hub of the nation (Lagos) The train system has been shut down for decades (due to mismanagement, corruption and bad leadership) so there are a lot of cars on the road. The roads are really bad with potholes and cars that are just not fit for driving...all this causes a lot of traffic on the road. On a regular Sunday (no traffic) it takes me 25 minutes to drive to work. On a week day the same drive would take you 2-3 hours. Now imagine trying to make appointments through the day. Driving to work and back can easily take 4-6 hours of my time. That's not mentioning the other hours I need to go to different places and still face the same traffic. All in all an average Nigerian can be exposed to over 6 hours of traffic on a daily basis. Since we don't have access to TV in our cars yet, we're still tuned in to radio stations to keep us entertained and informed on what's going on around us. The radio is an average Nigerians best friend. Everyone here has their favorite station, favorite personalities and favorite shows.

We've not had any issues with budget cuts or staff cuts lately. Like I said the radio business is a huge industry and it has been projected to keep growing until the leaders begin the reform the economic sector of the country. Companies are still advertising and people are still buying airtime to run their shows.

Our company has three stations under its belt. Classic FM 97.3 (which plays a lot of old school music ranging from 70s to the 90s from Nigeria and abroad).

Beat 99.9FM which is geared towards to the youths and those who are
youths at heart and finally 102.7fm which is a local station...the
local language is spoken and it's geared towards the average citizen.
I work for Beat FM 99.9. We have two stations that are our competitors.
Cool FM 96.9 and Rhythm 93.7. We sound a like and play the same kind
of music. Our radio personalities sound a like also. I believe the only
difference is the content provided by the presenters. Everything else
sounds the same. As of now Naija 102.7 also has a competition with
another station called Wazobia They are also a local station. (actually the only two local stations in the Average Joe is listening to either of the two)

Classic 97.3 won the radio station of the year award last year. They are only
two years old (actually all the stations are two years old) so my hope is
the awareness continues to grow and the content continues to expand)

Yup....we are live on air. click on the listen online button and voila! You’re tuned in.

I miss US a whole lot. I miss listening to KWY news early in the morning on the way to school or work trying to catch up on all the latest news. I miss listening to power 99fm in Philadelphia, PA to keep up with all the latest hip hop and R&B songs. Unfortunately there's a new policy in the US where you can't stream your radio station outside the country (I can't listen to my favorite stations again over here) but here's all I have to say...Keep on doing what you love doing. I don't think we realize how many people we touch daily with our voices. We are a voice of hope, a voice of change, a voice of joy, a voice of information, a voice of entertainment to the people out there. Don't take your job for granted and always remember your responsibility. Also I would like to beg us all to spend more time adding value to the lives of our listeners. There's a station I listen to here every morning on my drive to work (I try to listen to all the stations to figure out exactly what they are doing) they spend time giving career tips on a daily basis. They do this for just about 30 minutes a day but I LEARN SO MUCH FROM IT. Please add value to the lives of your listeners. They will thank you for it years down the line.

You can e-mail Ayo at

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I spend a lot of time listening to personalities in all dayparts from all over the United States and Canada. One thing is clear, there’s not a lot of prep going into these shows. I hear a lot of wasted breaks. If I could see the live video feed from the studio I’m sure it would look something like this; the personality is reading the paper or surfing the web, the song is nearly over, in a rush grabs the headphones, clears the throat, takes a breath, turns the mic on and then says “here’s Brooks and Dunn’s My Maria on KXYZ.” WOW! Magic. Pure magic.

I’ve always used this analogy when working with jocks, say you are emceeing a sold out concert. There are 15,000 people (close to a large/major markets AQH) looking at the stage. The road manager hands you what they want you to say. You’re a little nervous, pacing and practicing. I bet you spend at least five minutes working on your break. You get on stage and nail it. It was perfect and thousands of people cheered. Why wouldn’t you spend that much time and focus on each of your breaks when you’re on the air? You have thousands of people listening, granted you don’t see them, but you and I both know they are there.

Many people may only hear you talk a couple of times each day. Use every opportunity to showcase your station and talents. Having the internet makes finding relevant show prep easier than ever. Here are a few tips to help you come to the studio prepared and find things your listener really cares about:

First thing is to know your audience. Not who you want them to be, but who they really are. If you’re not exactly sure who your target is, ask your PD. Once you know, then you can customize your show prep to them.

I learned from Jaye Albright years ago to “bring five things.” It instantly changed not only my show, but the whole station. Before you enter the studio find five things that are going on in the world that you want to talk about and your listener wants to hear. They can be local, national, personal, etc.

The internet is an endless source of prep. I love You can search news by most popular and most viewed. It’s a great way to find out what people really care about at this exact minute. You can also find a ton of local stories by simply entering your zip code.

Have more prep than you’ll use. If you have prep left over, then you came to your show with enough.

When prepping for your show always try to find audio to use on the air. Talking about Dancing with the Stars is good; having audio from the judges or the contestants reaction makes it great. Imagine how boring a TV newscast would be without video and graphics. Radio needs audio to enhance our product.

Prepping for your show shouldn’t be something you do ten minutes before you go on the air. Show prep is 24/7. There are a few things that are essential to have with you all the time. Pen and paper to write down things that you may want to use on the air and a digital audio recorder. We’re an audio medium and you should always be on the lookout for recording things from real people you can use on your show. Finally, go buy a HD Flip Mino Cam. The sound quality isn’t great, but the picture quality for a camera that small is awesome. Use the camera for your website. Video on the web is what pictures were in 1998.

Remember, having show prep isn’t a green light to talk and have long, unfocused, rambling breaks. No matter how much show prep you bring with you, it’s more important to keep your breaks brief and focused.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


There are many factors that go into making a winning radio station. One of the most overlooked (and if broke, easily fixed) is balance. The music, imaging, spots, even on air content all need to be well balanced.

Let’s dive deeper:

Every fifteen minutes should be an overall sample of what the station is about. Look at your clocks and listen to your station to make sure you don’t have back to back currents, or back to back golds. Never clump the same genres or eras together. Listen to your station for fifteen to twenty minutes. Do you hear a balanced sample of all the categories, genres and eras? Always keep it balanced.

Keep all the elements that run between the songs balanced. Equally spread out the produced imaging, talk breaks, promos, and jingles. Don’t clump the same elements in the same quarter hour. Equally rotate them. Talk, sweeper, talk, jingle, talk, etc. Always keep it balanced.

If you take two commercial breaks each hour and are not sold out, make sure that traffic will equally balance the number of units in each break. If you only have six units in an hour, then do three units in each spot set. Eight units? Then four units in each. It sounds far better to keep it balanced than to have one stop set with six units and the other with only two. Always keep it balanced.

All the content you talk about on the air should be well balanced and focused on the target. It's not smart to only talk only about sports, or only about Hollywood gossip. Be mass appeal in your prep. Hollywood gossip, local, sports, kickers, artist prep, public service, etc. Always keep your content balanced.

Step back and listen to your station. How balanced is everything? Is every fifteen minutes an overall sample of what the station is about? If not, it should be.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Bill Dodd (current PD at KLOG and KUKN in Longview/Kelso, WA) was the first PD I ever worked for. I’ve learned a ton from him and still seek his advice. Out of all the things Bill has taught me over the years, the one that is the most effective and still my favorite is to “speak in telegrams, not complete sentences.”

The principle is simple. Cut out all the extra words.

When you watch an old Western movie and they are reading a telegram, it normally looks something like this:

“Shoot out. Noon. Tomorrow. Saloon. Need help. Come quick.”

If it were an entire sentence, it would read like this:

“The boys are coming and we are having a shoot out at Noon tomorrow at the Saloon. I really need your help. Can you get here as fast as you can?”

Speaking in telegrams is much more efficient, effective and gets you to the point a lot faster.

Here’s how it relates to your next break on the radio.

FULL SENTENCE BREAK (this was an actual break I heard)
"That’s Keith Urban and Kiss a Girl on 93.3, WXYZ. Good morning, the time is 10:20 and my name is John Doe. Coming up I’m going to play more of your favorite songs. I’ll have the brand new song from Carrie Underwood. Our weather looks like this, sunny and 56 degrees today, clear skies overnight and down to 47 tonight. More sun for tomorrow and around 55 degrees for the high.”

"Keith Urban, Kiss a Girl. 93.3 WXYZ. I’m John Doe. 10:20. I’ve got the brand new one from Carrie Underwood next. Sunny 56 later, clear 47 tonight, back to sun and 55 tomorrow.”

38 fewer words in the telegram break and still able to say the same thing.

It’s simple, just use fewer words. You don’t need to use every available word for your break. Not only will it get you to the point faster, it will increase your energy and momentum.

Go back and listen to an aircheck. Did you speak in a complete sentence, or a telegram?

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Phyllis Stark from wrote an article this week in her Stark Country column elaborating more on my recent blog.

Click here to start getting her twice weekly Stark Country.

Can an artist’s “brand” make or break the success of their singles?

Programmers say top tier artists can often get a free pass with listeners, who profess to like their new songs immediately simply due to their affinity for the artist. At the same time, an artist with a tarnished “brand” might not get a fair shake from listeners, even with a great song.

Dial Global VP of programming and Hot Country format PD John Paul recently blogged about the topic after Chris Young landed his third consecutive No. 1 hit with a single his label previously tried and failed with prior to Young’s more recent chart successes. That’s evidence, Paul says, that the format is still artist driven. On the plus side of that equation, Paul says, certain superstars get high marks just for their track records alone.

“We do a daily feature called ‘The Delivery Room’ where we play a new song and take votes,” says Paul. “Many times when people find out it’s someone they know, love and are familiar with, they give it a 10. Some will even say, ‘I didn’t even hear the whole song, but I know it’s George Strait, so I’ll give it a 10.’ Even country listeners will gravitate more to the bigger, familiar and more established stars.”

Quoting consultant Rusty Walker, WCOL Columbus, Ohio, PD John Crenshaw describes it this way: “People don’t know what they like, but they like what they know.”

“Artist brand name does mean something, and I’ve clearly seen certain artists’ songs test better than reality says,” comments KAJA San Antonio PD Travis Moon. “Pretty much any non-polarizing superstar will ‘get a pass’ from the fans when you put them up for a test.”

“Any established artist with hits will get an automatic thumbs up,” says Paul, “at least at the start of the single. After some time, radio will discover that songs from even established artists could be stiffs. [But] the big acts get a free shot in the beginning.”

KEEY (K102) Minneapolis PD Gregg Swedberg agrees with Paul that even songs by superstars must still prove themselves to be hits down the line, despite getting a free ride in the beginning of their chart life. “Artist brand names can sometimes get a record into power, but after it’s really sunk in, it [might] turn out the song isn’t as strong,” he says. “That’s always a fun conversation when the song has to come out of power.”

But an artist’s name can also work against them. Paul cites Jessica Simpson as an example when she tried to switch from a pop to a country career a few years ago.

“I did an experiment when her first single was released to country radio,” Paul recalls. “I put her in my online callout the first few weeks and didn’t use her name. The song did OK. Then I put her name in the callout and the song tanked, badly. People thought the song was OK until they knew it was Jessica Simpson, and then they hated it. Not only did that happen with our online music testing, it happened when we played the song on the air and didn’t tell people who it was. I would bet that’s part of the reason why her country career went nowhere. It was mostly about the artist.”

WUBE/WYGY Cincinnati, PD Grover Collins says that’s not limited to the country format either. “I remember doing nights at a top 40 station when Donny Osmond’s song ‘Soldier Of Love,’ [was released],” he says. “I was told to put it on the air but don’t say who was singing it so people would judge the song just on the song and not be influenced by the artist.”

Knowing how an artist’s name can affect opinions about their single, KSOP Salt Lake City PD Debby Turpin conducts all of her music meetings anonymously. “I play music for the entire staff every week,” she says, “[and] I never tell them who it is, so they form an opinion of the music, not the artist’s track record. Obviously, sometimes you can tell who it is by the voice, but I definitely get more candid feedback when the singer is unknown. Even after years of doing it this way, staff members still ask ‘Well, who is it?’ while trying to decide if they like it or not.”

One record promotion veteran agrees that an artist’s brand can be a double-edged sword. John Ettinger, now a principal in Quarterback Records and Ettinger Talent, worked all of Shania Twain’s hits and remembers her brand becoming fatigued at one point.

“As we turned from the ’90s to the next decade, all of us at Mercury learned a strong lesson,” he recalls. “Shania Twain’s name alone began to provide a certain amount of built-in burn to callout research. We derived that by telling a listener they were hearing Shania, it could add as much as 20% to the ‘tired of it’ answer in callout. If you never said her name, the burn dropped immensely.

“And, of course, after the merger with MCA, we looked down the hall saw the opposite effect happening for George Strait,” Ettinger continues. “I once joked with [then BNA Records VP of promotion] Tom Baldrica that his superstar—Kenny Chesney—wears a cowboy hat, hails from Knoxville, Tenn., and radio listeners figure they can have a beer with him at any time. My superstar is from Canada, lives in Switzerland, and brought more pop to country than all other artists combined. Which one’s harder to work?”

“I do believe that some artists carry negatives,” agrees Swedberg, who groups a whole gender into that category based on his observations of listener response. “Almost all females start with a minus 15%, and if they have a big hit they erase it over time,” he says. “[I’m] not sure why, but females can’t catch a break, but the hits do eventually test, like the current Taylor Swift … It’s really important to keep testing things, and occasionally you have to ride out first results until you get consistent data.”

That bias against new acts—regardless of gender—can make it really hard for a brand new country artist to break at radio. Paul notes that it’s not just listeners, but programmers themselves who naturally choose established stars over unproven newbies.

“Labels have to work really hard to get that first hit,” he says. “Once the star has a couple of hits, it becomes just a little easier to get airplay on the next single.

“Bottom line: PDs and MDs will automatically gravitate more quickly toward songs from established artists that have some hits under their belt,” Paul says. “If you only have a few minutes to listen to music and you have a new Zac Brown Band and something from a brand new artist you haven’t heard of or met, I guarantee the PD or MD will listen to the Zac Brown Band song. It makes it really hard for any new act to cut through.”

WYCD Detroit OM/PD Tim Roberts thinks “quality” can still cut through that clutter. “Sure, artists with negative reputations are going to hurt their chances of gaining acceptance,” he says. “However, honestly, a quality record like Kid Rock had with ‘All Summer Long,’ [even though he] may not be thought of as ‘country,’ can push through because of the quality of the song.

“Certainly with our core fans, a familiar artist probably gets a hall pass and probably is taken a little more seriously,” Roberts continues. “I believe the reason is that a power artist name probably piques interest and makes the fans listen a little closer, especially if the on air talent sets it up correctly. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that air talent really talk up new records.

“Ultimately, great music always rises to the top, but a great name or power artist can help it happen faster for sure,” Roberts adds.

KAJA’s Moon also believes the way the song is positioned on the air—or in the research—can have a big impact on how listeners react to it.

“Sometimes there is some bias in how the song is positioned for the listeners to give you feedback,” he says. “I’ve always tried to keep the testing climate sterile when I do ‘Travis Moon’s Test Tune.’ I remember when we tested Jessica Simpson, I just called her a mystery artist and let listeners grade it on her own merits. Her tune did pretty well in the test. But if I came on and said, ‘Wow, Jessica Simpson is trying to go country. What do you think of this song?’ it is a veiled attempt to fish for negative feedback. I’ve always found that you’ll get the reaction you are looking for depending how you frame a new song in a testing feature.

“That goes for research questions too,” Moon adds. “You can pretty much easily predict the results of this awesome loaded question: ‘Do you prefer hit songs from superstar artists or new songs from brand new artists?’”

“When you have a new song from, say, a Kenny Chesney, he is a brand that listeners are familiar with, and they are going to be much more excited and intrigued to hear a new song from someone that they already have a relationship with than an up and comer or brand new song,” says Collins. “I can’t even tell you how many occasions that we have sat in music meetings, heard a song from a new artist, and the comment would be made ‘That would be a No. 1 song if Kenny Chesney recorded it’ or ‘That would be a No. 1 song if George Strait recorded it.’ It’s forever going to be an ongoing battle, and it’s harder now, obviously, for these new artists with the record companies not making any money, because basically you get one or two shots.”

“Ultimately, listeners like what they know, what is familiar, what has been tested and proven to be quality over time, and what they can count on,” says Clay Hunnicutt, Clear Channel’s VP of country programming, and operations manager for the company’s Atlanta cluster. “Think of George Strait as Coke and Jessica Simpson as an energy drink. There is a certain segment of the audience that wants the new energy drink, but the masses want Coke. The energy drink is important and can carve out great fans and additional usage, especially on the young, engaged end, along with helping to redefine the future with more choices of drinks. As for Coke, people know it, love it, have memories of it, and it’s part of their life. The same with George. He’s been there. His music is a part of us. It’s set time markers in our minds with key events and life changing moments.

“That said, I think that as programmers—and music lovers—we have to build new brands and try to find the next Coke, or the next great ‘brand’ in an artist,” Hunnicutt says. “Because if we only have one choice, and it’s the same year after year after year, the music becomes predictable, disengaging to our audience, and detrimental to finding hits for radio and labels.”

“When you have a string of hits that is years long, it’s hard to deny the instant familiarity of voice and style,” says consultant and veteran programmer Barry Mardit. “For instance, when I hear a George Strait song for the first time, I immediately know it’s George. I can picture George, maybe even what the performance will look like in concert, [and] the video plays in my mind. Therefore, I’m more able to concentrate on the lyrics, which completes the package. An unknown or unfamiliar ‘newbie’ doing the same song doesn’t have that advantage, so it may take longer to sink in.”

In Providence, R.I., however, WCTK (Cat Country 98.1) PD Bob Walker says things can be a little bit easier for new artists. “Our listeners use us as a ‘hit machine,” he says. “The song is usually bigger than the artist (with [Brad] Paisley and Chesney the possible exceptions). We’ve had several big names that can’t run a song up our callout over the past couple of years, while Sunny Sweeney and Thompson Square exploded onto the scene—both with hit songs—almost instantly.

“Now if both majors and newbies are releasing hit songs at the same time, then the major gets the nod for sure,” Walker adds. “It’s comfort food. But when they don’t meet our fan’s expectations, even a big artist name doesn’t get off the ground.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I listen to a lot of radio on the weekends. All different formats. One thing is consistent, most remotes sound terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with remotes. I think they are a great way to billboard your station, (as long as there are tons of banners and the vehicle is parked in a highly visible place) meet listeners and welcome new ones. Most PD’s despise remotes and consider them a tune out. I don’t agree. It’s the client’s :60 commercial. If you weren’t doing the remote break (where you have total control over what goes into that break) traffic would fill the :60 with something else. Most likely something you don’t have control over. Look at remotes as another :60 seconds that you can control. With proper guidance and coaching they don’t have to be a tune out. Here are some tips:

Keep the breaks at :60. Many jocks end up going 1:30 or longer. Unacceptable. If the client is paying for a :60, then that’s what they get. Get a timer for the jock.

Try not to do the breaks via cell phone. Take a laptop and do them in Audition then FTP them back to the station.

Edit the break down before it goes on the air. If you have to interview the client, edit them down and make sure it’s the best :60 seconds. Not only does this benefit the station, it also benefits the client.

Have the talent get there early and walk around the store. They should talk to the owner and get a feel for the business. Just like prepping for their show, they need to prep for the remote breaks. You can always tell when a jock doesn’t know much about the business. That’s when the rambling and clichés hit.

Speaking of clichés, avoid them at all costs. While there are many, here’s a few:
Come by and say hi (this is awful)
You can’t miss us (I recently heard this three times in the same break)
The deals are amazing/unbelievable (avoid hype, while the deals may be good, I’m sure they are not amazing or unbelievable)
We’ll be here until 2 (nobody cares)

Run a pre-produced open for the break voiced by your voice guy. Don’t let the in studio jock talk to the jock doing the remote on the air. That will only make the break longer (and only be entertaining to the two jocks).

Treat the remote break like a commercial. Run it first in the stop set. After all, you want listeners to show up. There’s a better chance of that happening if the break runs first in the stop set and not last. Remotes are a premium and should be treated as one.

If you have a street team/interns with you on location, don’t talk about them being there or put them on the air. Nobody cares.

Focus on the benefits for the listener. Keep the message focused and brief. Your job is to get people to stop by. You don’t do that with a laundry list of things going on. A long list doesn’t make it sound any more exciting. Things the listener cares about will make it more exciting. Find the biggest benefits and promote those.

Every remote should have a special that’s only available while the station is there. This will make the remote even more of a big deal. Work with the AE and the client to find something to promote or win.

Remotes don’t have to be a tune out. If you eliminate the negatives and focus on what makes them great, they can be a win-win for everyone. Put some time into improving your remotes and embrace them. Work with your AE and promotions department to make them special. Who knows, maybe your cume will increase AND you’ll help the bottom line.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This one is going to strike a nerve and be pretty polarizing.

Chris Young is proof that country radio is still artist driven. He has the #1 song in the country this week with “Voices.” The exact same song he released a few years ago and it didn't do much. Back then he didn’t have any hits under his belt. Now he’s had two back to back number one songs and the label decided to try the song again as a single. It worked.

Miranda Lambert is another one. She had mediocre songs that didn’t really catch, then finally after several tries, “The House That Built Me” paved the way for her to have hit after hit after hit. She’s now up for 7 ACM’s and on fire and it's well deserved.

A weaker example is Jessica Simpson. I did an experiment when her first single was release to country radio. I put her in my online call out the first few weeks and didn’t use her name. The song did OK, then I put her name in the call out and the song tanked, badly. People thought the song was OK until they knew it was Jessica Simpson, and then they hated it. I would bet that’s part of the reason why her country career went nowhere. It was mostly about the artist.

We do a daily feature called “The Delivery Room” where we play a new song and take votes. Many times when people find out it’s someone they know, love and are familiar with, they give it a 10. Some will even say “I didn’t even hear the whole song, but I know it’s George Strait, so I’ll give it a 10.” Even country listeners will gravitate more to the bigger, familiar and more established stars.

All of this makes it really hard for a brand new country act to break at radio. Labels have to work really hard to get that first hit. Once the star has a couple of hits, I expect it becomes just a little easier to get airplay on the next single. PD’s and MD’s will always gravitate to the more established artists with proven hits. Count the unique artists you have in your Selector or Music Master, and then compare it to a CHR or Hot AC. You’ll see my point.

In order for country music to survive, we will always need new stars. That’s why it’s so important for you to find the best new music and when you play it, sell it on the air. It’s part of our job to make new music familiar and create fans of these artists and songs. The bigger fan someone becomes, the more they will listen to your station to hear their favorite star or song. That equals cume and TSL.