Tommy Kramer Tip #203 – Think Like a Baseball Pitcher

Last week, I did a “refresher” tip about the two most important basic ingredients – sounding real, and making sure you’re ALWAYS talking about something that’s relevant to the Listener’s life.

This time around, I want to deal with formatic basics, using a specific example: repeating things in the same ORDER over and over again.

I hear this all the time – the jock opens up with the name of the station, the artist, then the song title. Next break, name of the station, artist, then title – just like the last break. (This can happen with anything. Always giving a time check or your name last, repeatedly saying “Good morning” break after break, etc.)

So here’s the deal: You want to think like a baseball pitcher. Never throw exactly the same pitch twice in a row. Even if a pitcher has a 100-mile-an-hour fastball, about the second or third time he throws it at the same velocity in the same location, a major league batter is gonna send it toward the general area of Jupiter.

I DO believe that you should always say the name of the station first – it puts the “label” right out front, and you might as well get in the practice you’ll need to tell Echo or Siri to play it from now on, anyway – but even then, your inflection and pace should differ every time. (A great way to accomplish this is to simply match the tempo or emotional vibe of the song you’re talking over or coming out of. From there, you can change gears if you need to, but this will start you off right in the pocket.) Then you add to that PURPOSELY switching around the order of things, or just the NUMBER of things you do, and you’ve got it.

In the bigger picture, every time you fall into habits – which will automatically take away at least a small element of surprise – you’re just treading water. Brain mapping technology shows that even just a TINY difference makes it received as NEW information. That’s what makes the brain NOTICE it, instead of becoming numb to it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #148 — The Basics: a Tutorial

Many air talents these days can be virtually crippled before they even get to the point of a break. New theories of what works best for PPM are bandied about every month – many of them “incomplete thoughts” (like the “you have to do a tease at the end of each break” virus that’s going around now) – and many of them are based on faulty (or no) research, or are simply opinion without experience to back it up. Let’s work on that a bit…

The SIMPLEST formatics are the BEST formatics. All you really want is an efficient package of very basic things, but they should VARY from break to break. Let me be clear in advance that there are a lot of different ways to skin a cat. Some formats may prefer to not talk over song intros, syndicated shows may not do everything on this checklist, morning shows may have different clocks and needs, etc. So this is not the ONLY way, but it’s a pretty GOOD way to deliver the basic elements with some sense of engagement and style.

Say the name of the station first, every time. (There’s a reason the Jif label is on the OUTSIDE of the jar, not mixed in with the peanut butter somewhere.) The longer you take to identify who you are, the harder it is for the listener to remember you. And no, you can’t just rely on PPM devices to reflect that, because first of all, not every market is a PPM market, and secondly, PPM is simply the report card on listening AFTER the listener has decided to tune you in, which he wouldn’t have done if he didn’t know who you are and where to FIND you – which is easiest when they hear the name first. To PD’s who complain that this sounds the same every time or it’s boring, I remind them that this is not a reason to hide your name. Every single time a network TV show comes out of commercials, they flash the logo on the screen, first thing. We have to do it vocally. So this means that you have to coach the jocks to say the calls like they MEAN something; like we take some PRIDE in working here. (I coach many subtle techniques for this—matching the tempo of the song, matching the emotional vibe of the song, and for advanced students, even starting on the same NOTE that the song is playing.) Burying something because you do it poorly is not the answer. Get BETTER at it, instead.

Music stations’ basics should include the Artist and/or Song Title—but not always both, and certainly not always in that order. (And sorry, but album titles don’t matter. Who buys albums anymore? We just download the 4 cuts we like from iTunes. Stop thinking like an early 1970’s audiophile.)

In “drive” times, time checks should be given at least every time you stop down. DIGITAL time ONLY. “8:16,” not “16 minutes after eight o’clock.” It’s a digital world. Live in it. (I had a talent once who said “it’s twelve minutes after the hour of ten o’clock.” I told him “I don’t have TIME to listen to your time checks.”) And no “double” time checks (“3:15, that’s 15 after 3.”) The listener isn’t an idiot; stop treating him/her like one.

Your name, somewhere…not always in the same place. And not every break. Once in a while, in a song intro. Always, when you stop down.

So the template is: Name of the station first, everything else varies.
I used to write little symbols for each element (calls, artist, title, temp, time, my name), and just switch them around each break, so I didn’t repeat the same things in the same order over and over again. It worked like a charm. And of course, except for the name of the station, not every element was in every break.

Now comes the real art. With the opening “basics” out of the way, get into your Content in ONE line, two at the most. Any longer than that sounds needlessly wordy. Think “newspaper headline” (assuming that anyone remembers what a newspaper looks like).

If you do this right, you’ll be consistent, but you’ll have slight variations every break, which makes the brain receive what you say as NEW information every time. (Brainwave mapping has proven this. It’s not just an opinion. It’s called the Fourier Transform, and was developed at Cal Tech.)

It won’t take long to master this stuff, and if everybody buys in, you’ll have another layer of “stationality”. Why not start now?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #147 — The Last Logical Place

One of the major themes in science fiction is that as the technology gets better, the skills atrophy. That’s why you see those old monster movies where alien beings had giant brains, but machines and computers did all the work for them, since their arms and legs had gradually degenerated to being useless twigs.
On our own planet, in Music radio, we’re hearing more of this “the machines are taking over” factor all the time. In a music sweep, for example, a song’s ending is a chord that hangs for 3 or 4 seconds, but one-tenth of a second into that hang time, the next song slams in (or the antsy jock starts talking), abruptly cutting off both the previous song and the mood. Cue tones on music, Imaging, and commercials are often set to fire the next element too soon, so the last word obliterates the beginning of the next thing, or gets drowned out by it. Or a song will end with a fade, but instead of hitting the next element at the end of a sentence, where it would seamlessly appear, we hear an extra couple of words (“And…if…”), then BLAM!…next song. Woof. Clumsy.

When it doesn’t even sound like you’re engaged with what you’re doing, why should I be, as a listener? I constantly hear stations with live jocks that sound voice tracked because of their lackluster board work.

As a Talent Coach, I want to help everything you do, not just what you say. Try this exercise: run the board manually for a few days, only putting it in “auto” mode when you go into stopsets, and your board op skills will get razor sharp. An element of FEEL will enter the picture, and then the cue tones can be changed to match it. Slamming songs (or elements) together is careless and random sounding. But waiting too long to hit the next thing makes the momentum stall out. The right timing is somewhere in between. The right place to hit the next element in a sweep isn’t “at the last place” in the song you’re playing. It’s “at the last LOGICAL place.” Let that little artistic touch into your brain, and you’ll sound alert and in control—and like you’re actually listening to the music with me.

Then, when you open the mike to say something, maybe I’ll pay more attention to it, because something as simple as your board work drew me in a little closer to you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #122 – Say my name, say my name

Time for a little “basics” check. How good are you at saying the name of the station? There are a lot of different factors that play into this supposedly simple thing…

First of all, you should say them first—the first thing out of your mouth when you start a break. Not just “somewhere in there”. There’s a reason the Jif label is on the outside of the jar. They don’t put it inside with the peanut butter.
When you say “That’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran on 92.9 KSLL” that’s about Ed Sheeran, who’s on 1200 stations, one of which happens to be yours.
But when you say “92.9 KSLL and Ed Sheeran with ‘Thinking Out Loud,’” it’s YOUR song. You own it, and that’s the kind of music that YOU play.
Ownership MATTERS.

Yes, I’ve heard PD’s say “but it sounds more conversational to just drop them in at random.” But branding isn’t about being “conversational”. It’s about branding. (Which, by the way, is why you shouldn’t just segue two songs back-to-back without a short produced piece or a jingle between them that gives your name. You’re just throwing away a branding opportunity. PPM will never measure someone who doesn’t tune you in a second time because they don’t remember who you are.)

But let’s move on to the performance itself—the art of saying the station’s name. Here are just a few of the techniques I coach:

1. As a voice actor, you have to be able to deliver it in multiple ways, with several different inflections and variations in timing. It’s easy to just toss the name out like a robot, which always sounds like you’re just trying to get it done with so you can get on to the more “important” stuff. (I’ve actually edited together every time a talent says the station’s name in an hour so he or she could hear the bad habits that have set in — same tone of voice every time, same inflection, always going down in pitch at the end—there are tons of them.)

2. Matching the pace of the song. (Fast song, uptempo delivery. Slow song, slower delivery.)

3. Matching the emotional “vibe” of the song. (Sad song, more somber tone. Happy song, more upbeat delivery.)

4. Starting on the same NOTE the song is on. (The great Marice Tobias also teaches this.)

…and there’s more, but in John Lennon’s words, “I have to have money first.”

Suffice it to say that unless you’re good at saying the name of the station—the first thing you should master—chances are that people won’t remember you, and ratings won’t be as high as they could be. I’ve seen Arbitron entries for stations that don’t exist anymore, and air talents that have been DEAD for two years. That’s the power of good branding.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #81 — The Only Two Elements

Normally, these coaching tips are for air talents, and this one does apply to your air work. But it’s primarily for MusicRadio Program Directors, simply because I don’t want Air Talents to get in trouble with their bosses over something that I said. The old “it’s easier to get forgiveness than it is permission” thing isn’t really true in this day of Corporate Programming templates and marching orders from above. Now, all too often, “This is the way we do it,” good or bad, is the way of the world. So if you’re a PD, please just take a few minutes and read this through, then take a day and let it wash over you.

No matter what you think, to the listener there are only two elements:
1. Music.
2. Things that aren’t music.

“What about our Imaging?”
Well, it’s not music, is it? Your “Imaging,” to the listener, is just a commercial for you. So when you play a song, then a recorded Imaging piece, then another song, you do not necessarily have the image of playing more music, even though the deejay didn’t say anything. In the mind of the listener, it was song, commercial for you, song.

Go retro. Before this modern template of Imaging playing every other song, the jock usually talked over the song intro, or sometimes a jingle played between songs. (People will sometimes sing your jingle. They’ll never sing your voiceover guy’s Imaging liner.) At the end of a music sweep, we stopped down, did some Content—briefly—then went into a stopset. It was perfect, IF the jocks were concise, and had something to say that informed or entertained.

“But we have things we want to promote.”
When you allow the jocks to talk more often, things can be talked about. There are more opportunities for meaningful teases to be given, for the personality of each jock to emerge, and for true forward momentum to be the first impression a person gets of your station.

“We have limited resources. Some of our jocks aren’t all that great.”
Add the word “yet.” With budget restraints, or a young or inexperienced staff, it’s tempting to not let them talk much. But that’s counterproductive, because no one can learn to ride a horse if they never get in the saddle.

There are only two elements. Play great music. And when you talk—which should be fairly often, but not lengthy—say something worth hearing.

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Tommy Kramer
Radio Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2014 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #67 – Bumpers: Why?

In the continuing battle to get more “right brain” elements into radio stations, I recently had a client station that was still playing “bumpers”—those things that would end a break by the morning team with a bumper (what some people call a “punctuator”) like “Shaker and Blotto…on 102.5 The Rock” into the commercial stopsets.

Bumpers were a bad idea when they first came on the scene a couple of decades ago, and one of the main uses for them was in syndicated shows. The thinking was that you had to remind the listener (who apparently must be an idiot to most programmers) what the name of the show was, and/or what the name of the station was. But in the real world—the listener’s world—he hears the show’s name or the station’s name, then a commercial. So guess what image is carried forward? You = commercials. Plus, the bumper destroys the First Exit, the most powerful radio technique I’ve ever come up with, by literally stopping the momentum instead of moving forward seamlessly and having the spotbreak on you almost before you’re even aware of it. (If you’re unfamiliar with The First Exit, please see Tip #3 on my blog site.)

It’s easier to see how nonsensical this is if you visualize a real-life conversation. If we’re sitting over lunch talking and I make a good point, I don’t have an announcer come over to the table and say “Tommy Kramer!” after it. That would be very weird.

This is just another one of those old radio things that sounds Strategic in the planning stage, but is actually an incomplete thought. If you’re good, identify yourself regularly when it’s appropriate to do so, and have true Momentum, people will learn and remember who you are and where they heard it. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory don’t use bumpers into commercials, so why should we?

Momentum trumps everything else. Period. Bumpers are an impediment to momentum. No amount of so-called “branding” can overcome that. While radio people see promos, bumpers, and commercials as different things, in the listener’s world, there are just two elements—Music, and things that aren’t music. To the listener, the bumper is just a commercial for you.

Oh, and let’s do away with the little movie and TV “drops” too. They were great 20 years ago, but they’re not new anymore. I say just get into the spotbreak, and make everyone else sound like they have to quack their names out before they can move forward.

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Tommy Kramer
Radio Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2014 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #15 – How to give Time Lines

I keep hearing these dysfunctional Time Lines…”coming up,” “in a few minutes,” “later” or “later in the show,” “soon,” in minutes, ” “straight ahead,” etc.

All meaningless. To the listener hardened by “teases” with no follow-through for years, all lies. You might as well just say “…but not now.” Or “sometime before we all die.”

Here are the ONLY three ways to give Time Lines that actually work:

1. A SPECIFIC time—“7:20″ (NOT “about” 7:20 or “around” 7:20). If you make an appointment with me, be on time. (If you’re a network, use “at 7:20 Eastern” or something similar.)

2. A DURATION—a clear time FRAME, like “in the next twenty minutes” or “this hour.” Use five or ten-minute incrementsnot “in six minutes” or “within nine minutes.” (That’s too exact. I’m not listening with a stopwatch, and it isn’t the way people really speak.) If it’s going to come up in 17 minutes, say “in the next twenty minutes.” Keep in mind the purpose of giving a Time Line in the first place—to tell me how long I need to listen in order to make SURE that I’ll hear what you’re promoting. So you want toovershoot to the next five or ten-minute increment, so I won’t miss it.
Oh, and instead of “just after 8 o’clock” or “in about an hour” (too vague), say “between 8 and 8:30.”

3. “Next,” meaning that it will follow what’s playing now—this song, or this stopset. Do NOT say “after this” into commercials (or the silly “on the other side”); that just points out the commercials. Don’t say “when we come back,” either. That just says you’re “going away” somewhere while I sit here, waiting—or more likely, tuning to another station. And don’t say “in sixty seconds” or “in two minutes.” (Again, too exact. I’m not sitting here with a stopwatch. I’m busy.)

The CBS promos don’t say “The Big Bang Theory…sometime Thursday.”

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Tommy Kramer
Radio Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2013 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.