This may seem academic, but I’m hearing a lot of that “bull-horn” delivery lately.
Finding the right volume isn’t usually something you just “get”. It takes exploring different mic techniques, and learning as much as you can about your vocal “instrument”. Being able to “caress” something, vocally, is important. We’re voice actors, not just “personalities”.
Voice trackers, in particular, often sound totally out of touch with the music, because they don’t think about volume and intonation. Or, as the great voice coach Marice Tobias calls it, “noticing” a word, rather than the typical instruction to “inflect” or “sell” it.
Let me try to quantify this for you:
The Standard is what I refer to as “normal plus ten percent.” You work in either direction from that “setting”. The extra ‘ten percent’ is simply to guarantee that you can be heard in the car, in traffic.
Louder than that – if it’s just a big boom-y “deejay” delivery – will make you sound robotic, unmindful of the “texture” that whatever you’re saying needs. Softer is okay if you move closer to the mic to project a bit better, but if you get TOO soft, you may not be heard at all. And THAT would be a real shame.
Content, Content, wherefore art thou?
Minutia, “filler” items, stupid lists like “12 things you can do with chili peppers,” reading vapid social media postings that a lot of people’s own relatives don’t care about. Why are we settling for this?
I probably get asked about Content and Show Prep more than anything else. It’s impossible to tell you what will be good Content tomorrow, but I do know the principle that makes it easier – and FAST:
You can’t MAKE something matter. It either does, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, blathering on about it or making stupid jokes to try and “dress it up” won’t work.
So how do you know what matters? KNOW YOUR LISTENER. Not some cold, hard, station profile; but who he or she is, what they look like, where they came from, what their lives are like. The more you can put yourself in the listener’s shoes, the easier it is to serve subjects up like Bobby Flay fixing breakfast.
Hold your feet to the fire on NOT doing ANYTHING that doesn’t matter. It’s magic.
In this era of voice trackers in one or more dayparts, multiple responsibilities that take time, etc. it’s not unusual for me to see stations where the morning team may have never even met, say, the evening air talent.
Although this might not seem to be an area for a talent coach to work on, it really is. I think it’s essential for all the people on the air staff to know each other, communicate with each other, and share with each other.
When you know something about the talent in another daypart, ways to mention/promote them become easy, and the station sounds less compartmentalized. It adds a human touch, and helps create the magic “Stationality”.
Sharing your thoughts and ideas with the other air talent leads to “new blood” in your own thinking process, too.
In my experience, the staffs who know each other well perform better. It’s also alarming to me how many staffs these days hardly ever have conversations with each other ABOUT the station.
Predictably, the people who don’t talk about their radio stations always work at crappy ones. Discussion shows Passion.
One of the main things I deal with as a coach is getting air talent to sound more natural. Especially to younger demos, sounding “like a disc jockey” isn’t what they want to hear. But that’s not all there is to it.
There are lessons everywhere, so here’s one with a visual aid. It’s a You Tube clip of Carole King and James Taylor doing her song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”…
Two “old pros” pretty much knocking it out of the park, with what I think may be the best song ever written about teenage girl angst and hopes. King and Taylor seem totally relaxed and the performance feels very natural, but it’s also EXPERTLY nuanced.
People work hard to attain that level in both of those areas. So remember, it’s not enough to just be natural; there also has to be attention to Performance.
The Wizard of Oz is a magical film. Ostensibly a children’s movie, it’s filled with little “morality plays” about good versus evil, the use of power, family, friendship, and the choices we all make.
To me, it boils down to The Scarecrow or the Tin Man. One wants to be smart; the other wants a heart: Brains versus Emotions.
When you think about it, the Scarecrow stands out in our minds because of what we felt about him BEFORE he got brains. The Tin Woodsman cried (which rusted him up, and made him creaky), and as children watching it, we all cried. The lesson: There’s certainly nothing wrong with Smart, but Heart matters more.
Remember this the next time you open the mic. If you’ve left your heart out of the equation, you’ve missed the boat. If I listen for an hour, and don’t learn something about how you FEEL, that was a wasted hour.
With the way the so-called “News” is going nowadays, the easiest thing to do is to simply bring a subject up, then mock it or put a cheap punch line at the end.
But here’s the thing…radio – in ALL formats – owes the listener more than that. We’re primarily here to inform, entertain, or both. But I hear music formats that sound lifeless, Imaging in some formats that seems to be sneering in their delivery, “Content” that’s just celebrity gossip flotsam and jetsam, and Talk Radio shows that are just “adopting a posture” and spouting the same one-sided opinions every day.
Radio isn’t dead by any means, but it is largely lacking the one thing it should provide: Positivity. Simply put, it’s a “glass half full” undercurrent, even to things that aren’t necessarily “happy” in nature. Maybe it’s just sounding like you CARE with your delivery. Maybe it’s rejecting the easy-but-negative joke about something. Or maybe it starts with just saying the name of the station like you’re actually proud of it.
In coaching sessions every week, I push air talent to challenge themselves to not settle for the cutting comment, and to COMPEL THE LISTENER TO COME BACK FOR MORE. Even a negative emotion can be expressed in a positive way. (Example: “Normally, I’m not a huge fan of hers…but I LOVE this song…”)
That’s all it takes. So make an effort. Or just continue to let streaming services and Sirius/XM siphon off your listeners. It quite literally is up to you. C’mon, let’s have some fun!
Here’s a little tidbit I heard and wrote about years ago, but it bears revisiting.
The story is that Steve Jobs, in an Apple “think tank” meeting, challenged everyone with three questions:
• What would be cool?
• What would be fun?
• What would benefit the life of the customer?
If you want a real “mission statement”, that’s it. And it directly applies to radio. If we’re always thinking “What would be cool?” “What would be fun?” and “What would benefit the life of the listener?” we can’t go wrong.
I would back this up with three questions of my own:
• Does your station even think about this?
• If not, why not?
• And how long do you want to totally miss the whole point of even HAVING a radio station in the first place? 🤪
As you develop your storytelling skills, be wary of getting too far off the subject.
I recall a Yankees vs. Twins baseball game a couple of seasons ago. The difference between the Yankees broadcast team (all of whom are excellent) and the Minnesota Twins broadcasters was never more evident than when a Twins announcer – during an inning – talked ad nauseum to a lady with a bird refuge. ???
I was dumbfounded. It served no purpose whatsoever. A way off target “human interest” interview that went nowhere and had me shouting at the TV. The only thing I could think to ask her that would have been relevant to baseball is “Remember when Randy Johnson exploded that seagull?”
I remember a couple of seasons ago, a contestant on “Survivor” told about his getting back home after the show was taped just in time to see his mom before she passed away. Time just STOPPED as I imagined that scenario in my own life. (This is just one reason why Survivor has lasted so long.)
YOUR responsibility as an air talent is to make the story as concise and as easy and logical sounding as you possibly can. Survivor is the best-edited show in the history of television; a perfect model for film editors and writers…and storytellers.
You’ll know a great break, a great story, when it takes virtually NO editing to make a promo out of it.
Years ago, when I was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, I found myself sitting with an entire roomful of radio legends. All sorts of “war stories” were flying around that room, and although there was an incredibly wide range of differing personalities, it seemed like we all had one thing in common:
Never Fear Bombing.
Every mistake you make will lead to getting better, because no one wants to make the same mistake a second time.
As a talent coach, I WANT you to jump, THEN see if there’s water in the pool. “Playing it safe” is for people who don’t have very much talent.
Now obviously, you shouldn’t do something that will get you in trouble with a client or the FCC. But those are the only cautions. DO something! TODAY.