Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #269 – The Assembly Line Mentality: A Voice-Tracking Tip

No doubt about it, voice-tracking isn’t going away anytime soon. But it sure makes people lazy. However, there’s no reason why a voice-tracked MusicRadio show can’t sound like it’s live.

But what happens often is that a jock sits down and thinks “I’ve got to fill 28 breaks” (or whatever the number is), and plows through them as fast as possible.

So here’s a tried-and-true method for voice-tracking that makes it pretty easy to still do a viable show:

Step one is to lay out what you HAVE to do (promoting things, etc.) and slot those in. Separate them by half an hour or so, to avoid doing two “informational” breaks in a row.
Then, take a look at whatever Content you’ve brought to the table, and slot those breaks in. What you have to do first; what you WANT to do second.

Step two is vital – track ONE hour, then STOP and listen to that hour’s breaks, all in a row. If you spot a mistake that needs correcting, or a break where you weren’t at your best or just sort of “mailed it in”, recut them as needed. ONLY THEN should you move to the next hour of tracking.

This few minutes of Quality Control will perform a dual function. Not only will you make subpar breaks sparkle, and in some cases more concise (and therefore more digestible), but that little “rest stop” gives the right side of the brain a chance to “recharge” itself, so instead of going into the next hour running out of gas, you have a fresh burst of creative energy. It’s a “pit stop” to make you ready to WIN again.

Every single time you open the mic, you have a chance to connect with the listener, whether it’s just giving some information, or conveying the “presence” of your being right here beside me, listening to the song, too – or Entertaining me with some little quip or remark. If I (as a listener) think you’re just hammering out breaks with little or no caring behind them, that’s not going to draw me any closer to you…and that means you wasted opportunities to bond with me. That, my friend, would be a real shame.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #267 – KNOW Your Voice

Most air talents assume that if you’re on the air, you must have a good voice. But in reality, about half the people on the air in every format I hear have taken that for granted, and stunted their growth.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty impressive voice actors that you hear on national commercials, station Imaging, and movie trailers every day. And universally, the ones who are the most successful have really studied what makes them unique, and how to fully use the vocal tools at hand.

Here’s what I mean…the other day, I was listening to a female air talent who literally said everything in what would be about a 4-note range if I played the pitch of each word on a piano. I also heard a male air talent the same week who talks so fast, you wonder if he just drank 17 cups of coffee before he got on the air. Then there’s the “growler” that does the station imaging on the Classic Rock station here in Shreveport. Every word that ends a sentence is exactly the same pitch, and he always goes DOWN in pitch at the end. He thinks he’s making an impact, and he’s right – I want to hit him in the forehead with a mallet every time he speaks.

The female voice has unique challenges, too. Being generally more limited in range and volume than the male voice, it’s easy to sound whiny or strident.

The male voice – especially if it’s a “big” voice, can easily sound either mad or tired.

KNOW your voice. Learn your dynamics. Hone your skills. Learn what to avoid. Master varied approaches. Become a competent voice actor. It may sound rudimentary, but if your voice isn’t appealing, it won’t matter what you say.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #264 – Don’t “Present it”; just Do It

Dan Ingram died a few days ago. If you’re not familiar with him, suffice it to say that to a ton of people, he was the Michael Jordan of radio. Primarily known for his work in New York on WABC and WCBS, maybe this Wikipedia quote says it best:

Ingram was one of the most highly regarded DJs from his era. He was noted for his quick wit and ability to convey a humorous or satiric idea with quick pacing and an economy of words, a skill which rendered him uniquely suited to, and successful within, modern personality-driven music radio.

Yes, the style was a little different then, but he was FUN, and you never knew what he’d say next. So with Dan Ingram in mind…
Here’s the difference between being just a “disc jockey” and being a truly viable Talent on the air. When you have a story to tell or something to share, don’t “present it” to me; just DO it. Like a friend talking to another friend.

When you get “larger than life” in your delivery, you lose reality. And especially in today’s social media dominated world, with standup comics that are all about real life, reality shows all over TV, etc., that’s the one thing you don’t want to lose.

Yes, there are exceptions. And some music staging or sound effects can add the show biz aspects – but even then, they should be subtle, and not just some percussion track beating along under your break. But by and large, when people from the “That’s what SHE said” school of humor – playing it too broadly – or Talk show hosts that get exaggeratedly loud and abrasive as just part of their acts, with no real reason to be that way – assault our intelligence with that baloney, we ain’t buyin’.

And the good news is, you don’t have to be Dan Ingram. But you do have to be YOU – the best, most believable version of you. So relax and drop the B. S. Entertain me. Be my companion. Sure worked for Ingram.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #263 – Be A Good Disc Jockey, Too

A lot of air talents are not even aware of talent coaching. They have aircheck sessions with the PD – maybe – and that’s about it. I don’t know every talent coach working these days, but most of the ones I do know concentrate on Content – the search for it, the storytelling skill set, how to dig inside yourself and reveal things that (hopefully) the listener can identify with.
And that’s fine. That’s the “big picture stuff”, and it matters. If you’re fortunate enough to work with a Valerie Geller or Randy Lane, for instance, there’s no doubt that you will get better, and understand a lot of things you probably never “got” before.

But there’s something else that plays a huge factor in being the Full Package, and that’s simply being a good disc jockey. Sad to say, with the advent of voice tracking, the computer running everything, long stopsets that lull you into not staying as sharp as when we had to run everything manually, sloppy cue tones…well, let’s just say that compared to the heyday of the Top 40 Wars, things are sometimes just not very sharp right now.

It matters that your delivery matches the pace of the song you’re talking over or coming out of. Or the emotional vibe of the song. Or both.
It matters that you learn to trust saying things once, really well, then moving forward – without spelling everything out to the listener and repeating everything you say, treating the listener like a 3-year old.
It matters that you put things in real, conversational wording, rather than just reading “print language” off a computer screen. And there are literally dozens of other things that I coach – but the point is that it REALLY matters that you develop your voice acting skills to sound sincere and like you’re here in my car with me, right this second, listening to the song with me.

Of COURSE you want to come across as a good companion in the car; a good neighbor; hopefully a person the listener considers to be a good friend. But you have to START with being a good, skilled disc jockey.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #260 – Why Your So-Called Positioning Phrase Doesn’t Work

“The Best Variety at Work…”
“(City)’s Best Music…”
“We Play More Music…”
“The Home of the Fifty-Minute Music Hour…”

We’ve all heard these.

None of them – not one – is true.

So why are you using them?

In a world surrounded by B. S., why are you adding to the junk pile of words thrown together like they fell out of a bowl of Alpha Bits and made what sounds like a sentence?

What do any of these say about the Values of your radio station? Or your city? Or anything, really, that’s meaningful to your audience?

Let’s take a close look…

“Best variety at work” – do you play “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles? Do you play the “Flying” theme from E. T. by John Williams? Do you play Keith Urban, Pit Bull, Mercy Me, the Grateful Dead, Rihanna, Frank Sinatra, Cream, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, and Vince Gill? My iPhone does. Looks like IT’S got a better variety.
Oh, and “best variety at work” doesn’t even register at 2am when I’M NOT AT WORK.

“Houston’s Best Music” – really, now, do we even need to discuss that? Re-read the last paragraph.

“More Music,” “Fewer Interruptions”, and “Fifty-Minute Music Hours” just tell me (1) that you play more music than some other station (but NOT more than Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music), (2) you’re actually INTERRUPTING the flow of music to tell me that you have fewer interruptions, and (3) I’m gonna have to pay through the nose with some ungodly long commercial cluster after you give me a 55-minute massage – and you only do that a few hours a day, anyway.

Oh, and I heard a younger-demo Christian station that plays hip-hop, aggressive music that mentions Jesus say “Hits, Hip-Hop, and Hope” the other day. Hits? Really? Hope? Well that part’s right. I was hoping that I didn’t have to hear anymore of its music.

Listen, please…
I would recommend that you use your energy to simply say the name of the station, so people can become familiar with it (in diary markets) and know what station to tune into (in PPM markets) so the device will register that.

Your NAME is your Brand. The things you do are your ingredients. Your AIR TALENT should be the main ingredient in connecting with the listener. I can get the music anywhere. This is why I’m a Talent Coach; so there will be people on the air that reflect the things your listener cares about, and seem like friends – that cool friend that you always like being around.

Stop wasting people’s time trying to tell them what you’d like them to think about you.

When radio gets more honest, doesn’t try to tell people what to think, and becomes a viable place to visit, get information, and be entertained by, it does well. All the slogans and Positioning statements in the world are just noise.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #257 – Avoid the Obvious

I’ve written about this before, but recent listening to stations in three different formats, it begs being revisited.

Here’s the magic key to becoming someone out of the ordinary on the air: Avoid the Obvious.

Example: Years ago, doing a morning team show in Dallas with my wonderful partner Rick “The Beamer” Robertson, there was a massive wreck on I-35, one of the city’s main arteries. It turned out that a huge truck full of books was involved, and we knew we needed to talk about it. Immediately upon seeing the story, Rick said “set it up, then throw it to me.”

I opened the break with a warning to anyone traveling in that direction, saying they should get off I-35 NOW and find an alternate route, or they’d surely be WAY late for work. I added the detail that a truck overturned that was full of books.

Because no one had been hurt, Rick then said that the books were a shipment of thesauruses, and “The wreck was awful…”
Me: “Really?”
Rick: “Terrible”
Me: “Really!?”
Rick: “Dismaying”
Me: “Wow”
Rick: “Tragic”
Me: “Uh-huh”
Rick: “Appalling”
Me: “…uh, yeah, got it.”

With just a little imagination, Rick saw a different way to handle it than anyone else. That’s what made him special.

And not doing the obvious will make YOU special, too.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #253 – Your Show as a Demo Tape

Whatever you do well, congratulations on that. I mean that sincerely. The good things that you do each day make a great impression.

Similarly, when you say things more than once (as radio continues to do, trying to beat a thought into the listener’s head), or you do “the moral of the story” obligatory recap at the end of something, or say radio clichés (like “on your Monday morning,” “Hump day”), or do something silly and outdated (like “The Mindbender Question of the Day” or “This Day in History”), those make an impression, too. As my friend and partner Alan Mason says, “Everything counts.”

So, weed the garden regularly. Listen to your own show at least once a week. Add new ideas all the time. Consistency = Good. Predictability = Bad.

Think of your show as a demo tape. Because to the listener, it actually IS.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #252 – Hire STARS

Way too often, radio stations settle for hiring B or even C-level air talent, because they think they can’t afford better, or that an A-level talent will be “difficult” or just too expensive.

The reality, of course, is that when you hire a STAR, it changes the whole culture of a station.

Whenever you hire a racehorse, the other horses think “Why am I hitched to this plow?” Hiring a major league talent serves as a beacon for the other members of the staff, and makes them start trying things that lead to more and more “memorable moments” – and that’s what stations need to reach a new level of performance and establish a “learning and performance” vibe that runs through the hallways, spreads to every other department (particularly Imaging and Production), and infuses the Sales staff and management with a brighter outlook every single day.

Hire stars, or people who can BECOME stars with coaching and direction. When you settle for less, you’re putting a cap on what you can become. Plus, when you already have stars onboard, other stars want to come work for you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #244 – The Cure for “Puking”

Just last month, an associate sent me this email:

Do you have any suggestions for how to correct a “Ron Radio” delivery? A client of mine in a small market sent their night jock’s audio to me. He is kind of a puker. It’s been forever since I’ve dealt with someone who pukes on the air. I was going to have him put a picture of his wife (or similar) in front of him to maybe make him more conversational. I remember you having a better way of having someone visualize speaking to another person.

My reply:
The picture of your wife works for most people, but with pukers, they have to move in closer to the mic so when they get loud and exaggerated, it really stands out to them. What I do is play a break where the pukey thing happened, then ask the talent to “Say that again, right now, just to me” to create a sense of intimacy. Intimacy kills puking.

The worst disease in radio (or in life, really) is to try to be “bigger” and more expansive. It just makes someone sound like a blowhard. Drastic measures are sometimes necessary. I always remind those people that I’m only two feet away, not twenty. And if that doesn’t work, I let them in on how really great jocks always mock pukers. (No one likes to think of himself being mocked.)

The “Ron Radio” thing may have worked at one time, but not now. One of the best things you can do as a PD is help someone lose that sound.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #243 – Make Sure it’s Fully Baked

Despite all the zillions of VERY specific tips that I coach, the people I’ve worked with the longest know that I’m all about developing Personality on the air. The most important mentors in my career stressed that – particularly as “cookie cutter” formats became dominant – Personality was the sweet brown liquid inside the Coca-Cola can.

Just the other day, a guy I’ve worked with for several years took a foray into the world of creating a character voice to do his weather forecasts, and ran it several times during his show. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t ‘ready for prime time’ yet, either. Here’s part of what I wrote in our session recap:

I don’t want to quash your aspirations, but we have to make sure that something is fully baked before we serve it. Characters or other contributors need some sort of backstory to legitimize their presence. And even if a character voice works, something this specific can’t work more than once in a show until it’s really fleshed out and defined. Repeating it later in the show, at this point, is overuse.

For the time being, let’s talk about these things before they hit the air, so you’re not bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Characters don’t have to be fictional, either. My first boss, Larry Ryan in Shreveport, Lousiana, made a seemingly nerdy ‘engineer’ type named Ralph Montgomery, who basically just ran the automation machines on our “Beautiful Music” sister station, into “Mr. Weather” after hearing Ralph do a forecast so deadpan that it was hilarious. Mr. Weather became a HUGE star as Larry helped him develop.

Growth happens a little at a time. It rarely just bursts out in full bloom. But you should always be on the lookout for something you can use to be relevantly different on the air.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.