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.