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.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE RADIO BUSINESS?
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.
WHAT TIME ARE YOU ON THE AIR?
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.
WHAT IS YOUR TYPICAL DAY LIKE?
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.
HOW OFTEN TO DO YOU MEET WITH YOUR PROGRAM DIRECTOR TO DISCUSS YOUR SHOW?
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.
DO YOU DO APPEARANCES? IF SO, HOW MANY PER WEEK?
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.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT STATE OF RADIO IN NIGERIA/AFRICA?
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.
DO YOU GUYS HAVE "BUDGET CUTS" EVERY YEAR WHERE PART OF YOUR STAFF IS CUT?
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.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST COMPETITIVE THREATS TO YOUR STATION?
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 Lagos....so 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)
WHAT'S YOUR STATION'S WEBSITE? CAN WE STREAM YOUR SHOW?
Yup....we are live on air. www.thebeat99.com. click on the listen online button and voila! You’re tuned in.
ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL RADIO BROADCASTERS IN THE UNITED STATES?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Yahoo.com. 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.