About tommykramer

Tommy Kramer has spent over 35 years in radio as an on-air talent, Programmer, and Talent Coach, and has worked with over 300 stations in all formats, specializing in coaching morning team shows, but also working with entire staffs. In addition, he works with many premium voice actors that you hear every day on Imaging, Radio and TV commercials, and Hollywood Movie Trailers. Tommy was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. Call Tommy @ 214-632-3090 (iPhone), or email coachtommykramer@gmail.com

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #278 – What you can learn about Radio from the NFL

The National Football League may not be what you’d think of in designing a great radio station – but it’s an excellent example of what CAN happen.

The “old” NFL was grind-it-out, three yards and a cloud of dust, run the ball most of the time, pass when you had to, cautious. In a word, BORING.
The new NFL is “let it fly” quarterbacks who’ll throw in ANY down-and-distance situation, “go for the ball” defensive backs, “sack the quarterback” pass rushing linemen, trick plays. Pinball-fast pace.

So which description fits your station? Do you grind out “blah” Imaging, play the same 280 songs until people are completely sick of them, clot the hour up with huge commercial blocks, have jocks reading promotional stuff (or spouting out your so-called “Positioning phrase”) all the time? Does it seem to the listener that practically every break end with your website address? (A pet peeve of mine.)

Or do you have TRUE momentum (not just a fast pace), where every song has the cue tone in EXACTLY the right place, breaks are short and purposeful, Personality is encouraged, and it just flat MOVES, so you never waste the listener’s time?

You can create a station where the #1 thing is Momentum, and #1A is Relevance. And yes, my area, talent coaching, is a key. But your commitment to moving forward to a NEW “golden era of radio” is THE decision.

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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 #277 – Dick Clark and the “Room Temperature” Voice

Man, there’s a lot of “Foghorn Leghorn” loudmouths on the radio these days – especially in Sports and Talk formats, but they’re honking away at full blast in other formats, too.

You do know you have a microphone, right? And the mic is the Listener’s EAR, so there’s really no need to shout into it.

Turn on the Game Show Network sometime and watch “The $25,000 Pyramid” and you’ll see the great Dick Clark.
Dick was really the first “veejay” doing American Bandstand, became known as “America’s oldest teenager”, did countless other things (his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcasts were legendary), and was a terrific guest, if you ever had the chance to get him on your show. I did, with my first team show partner, doing “Hudson & Harrigan” on KILT in Houston. Dick prepped with asking our names, how we said the station’s name, and a quick summary of what he wanted to promote. Then, when we got him on the air, he treated us like he’d known us for 20 years and we’d just met for a backyard barbecue the day before.

On “Pyramid”, Dick was the consummate pro, handling the rules of the game effortlessly, showing contestants where they might improve, joking with the guest celebrities, etc. – all the while keeping the momentum crisp and the excitement up, with a “room temperature” delivery that never shouted at you. He didn’t need to be loud. He knew that by being a little quieter, it would sound more real, and that this delivery would draw you closer to him. You wanted to hear what he had to say, rather than wanting to find the volume control or the “mute” button.

Settle down. Talk to the listener. Be a human being. As Dick Clark proved, it works – for a long, long time.

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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 #276 – The 2 Most Important Content Guidelines

In a coaching session this week, it occurred to me that most talents today might not have been as fortunate as I was in terms of who influenced them. The names might not mean much to you, but I started off working for a wonderful P. D. named Larry Ryan in Shreveport, my home town, whose mantra was “Do something! Any idiot can intro songs.” That gave me permission to try – and equally important – permission to fail.

Then I worked for radio pioneer Gordon McLendon (who, with Todd Storz, INVENTED Top 40). Gordon was all about Creativity too, and P. D. Michael Spears taught me tight, concise formatics to harness that creativity.

Others followed: the great Lee Abrams, who infused “Stationality” to a stunning degree, and made me realize that TRYING to be funny was the wrong path; being yourself (and therefore unique) was far more important. Bill Young in Houston, who rarely said anything, but when he did, it was like gold coins dropping into your hands. Jack McCoy, creator of the best contest ever, “The Last Contest” at KCBQ in San Diego.

But all that aside, people like those aren’t very prevalent anymore, so let me try to help you with what I believe are the two most important guidelines for Content:

1. Today’s show should be about TODAY as much as possible. Recycling old material usually sounds like just that, recycled, calculated. Some days are “drier” than others, but Wednesday’s show can’t just be a repeat of Tuesday’s show. In this era of voice-trackers reading crap off a computer screen, or taking “click bait” stories from the internet or social media, there’s a lot of nothing being said.

2. RELEVANCE is the key. If it doesn’t matter to the listener, you’re just “a voice saying words” – a dull, droning noise to be tolerated (maybe), but not really connecting with the listener in any meaningful way.

So, as I wrote in my session recap with a good talent who has it in him to become a great talent yesterday, “Today, if at all possible. Relevant, always.”

If you’ll sift everything through those two thoughts, I guarantee that you’ll get better, no matter what your level of experience is. We ALL had mentors. If you’re not still learning, you’re regressing.

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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 #275 — You’ll Use Everything You’ve Ever Known – IF…

There’s a famous story that David Letterman tells about Johnny Carson. One night on The Tonight Show, fairly early in his career, the young Letterman was a guest. And he and Carson got on one of those rolls where everything each of them said was funnier than the last thing. The audience was in stitches laughing at each line, and finally Carson broke into the “patter” he had used as a magician when he was young – the absurdity of which resulted in uproarious laughter that led perfectly into a commercial break.

During the break, with the set darkened, Carson, who was a mentor to Dave, leaned over and said, “You’ll use everything you’ve ever known.”

Truly great air talents know this, and it’s a really interesting parameter to work on as a coach. But the key is IF you can figure out exactly what the “fuse” is to light that “nugget” up. Often, I see air talents with a good concept, but no idea of how it might work. Using something just because you have that bullet in the chamber doesn’t mean that you can just fire it indiscriminately.

Think “What would facilitate this?” Because it has to make sense in the flow of the conversation, or it’ll sound awkward.

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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 #274 – Everybody Cares

Over decades of radio, including working with literally hundreds of stations in all different formats, I’ve found that there’s one thing every truly great station has, and the ones that aren’t great don’t have: Everybody cares.

In a station where everybody cares, no sloppy Production is done (or left for someone else to do), attention to detail is a “given”, and bad or uncooperative attitudes are simply not tolerated. You find high-profile, high-level talent, but no prima donnas. Everyone is clear on what the Strategy of the station is, and that strategy is carried out on every level, from the person answering the phones to the General Manager.

That may sound pretty obvious, but if it’s so “obvious”, why don’t more stations have it?

Here’s the deciding factor: if even ONE person DOESN’T care, that poison gas will eventually affect the whole staff.
Example: a person who voice tracks a show when he or she could have done it live leads to another jock, who puts in MORE effort, feeling unappreciated – especially if the one with a better work ethic is making less money. And then the dominoes start to fall. Resentment sets in, grudges are held, communication stops – and in the communication BUSINESS, that’s a killer.

I walk into stations sometimes where you can’t HEAR the station at all. No audio coming from speakers in the hallways, deathly quiet offices, no “buzz” about what’s happening on the air. This drives me crazy. If YOU don’t care enough to listen to your own station, why should anyone else?

Just this past week, a PD of a major market station told me that her afternoon jock had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for one of his kids DURING HIS AIR SHIFT – which is only THREE hours – and voice-tracked his show that day. This should not be tolerated. Those three hours should be blocked out as untouchable by anything else.
So that station is doomed. Dead Man Walking.
Disclaimer: Yes, I realize that there are exceptions, and I’m not urging you to violate HR concerns. Your kid woke up sick, and that was the only time you could get him in to see the doctor, or a single parent scenario not giving you any options. But this wasn’t one of those instances. This was just someone electing – with other options available – to knock out his show when there was alarming weather coming in and Traffic complications that it would cause, and he should have been on live.

So from a coaching standpoint, here’s the bottom line: simply CARE. Infuse the other air talents around you to care – about their performance on the air, their Production, their interest in comparing notes and listening to each other and always trying to get better. And make that your default setting, with NO exceptions.

Because in the end, winners and losers are often decided by who cares the most.

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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 #273 – That’s How Dogs Live

If you have a dog, you know this to be true: most dogs lie around waiting for something to happen, then – and usually ONLY then – they get up off their duffs and JOIN you. Dogs are eager to participate, but they’re not usually self-starters. My best friend’s two dogs lie around on the bed until one of us goes into the kitchen, or outside, then they LEAP off the bed, ready to join in on the sandwich I’m making, or if I go outside, run out the door with me to do whatever they think I want to do (which apparently is bark at squirrels).

Waiting for something to happen, then joining in. That describes a lot of air talents today, content to just do the basics, promote something, say some nebulous “glad to be a part of your day” language, then go back to looking at their Facebook pages while the song plays. But that’s how dogs live.

Pick a subject, think up an angle on it that’s personally revealing and entertaining, then open the mic and DO SOMETHING.

A talent who’s just spewing out the artist’s name and the song title, or doing some generic liner, is pretty much just a waste of time. Honestly, I’d rather you just play the sound effect of a dog barking. That would be more entertaining.

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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 #272 – Don’t Try To Make It “More”

I’m really saying this a lot in sessions these days: “Do something today that you haven’t done before.”

My friend Don Godman is one of the people I hit with that thought recently. And the first attempt he sent me was really quite good, except for one fatal flaw:

Coming out of the weather guy doing the forecast, Don said, “It’s really hot – 99 – and it’s supposed to be even hotter…”
Then we heard the sound of a refrigerator door opening and the unmistakable ‘hum’ of it, as he added “In fact, I’m just gonna do the rest of the show from this freezer. Awww…that feels so good…”

Really cute. It caught the ear, surprised us, and his inflection was perfect. So GO! Right there!

But no; he continued with “Very nice. You know I think I may be suffering from something called Post-Traumatic Thinking of Heat Overreacting,” and then went hopping down that bunny trail for another sentence that led to a more obvious, theoretically “bigger” ending.

But that never works. You can never have another moment of ‘discovery’ as powerful as the first one. Had he stopped with that delicious “Awww…that feels so good” thing and the little chuckle in his voice that ‘flavored’ it, then he’d have done the perfect break.

The lesson is simply “Don’t try to make it ‘more’.” Less is more. And more is too much.

The reason those scenes in movies that we all remember are so great is that, unlike real-life conversations, they’re EDITED.

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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 #271 – If You Can’t Do a Short Break, You Can’t Do a Long Break

As we continue to hear the buzz word “stories”, it seems to me that people are talking more, but not necessarily being all that interesting. Every movie is edited. Every book is edited (usually multiple times). Highlights are watched more than actual games. Top 10 lists are the vogue, not Top 100 lists. Stand-up comics start with a good 10 minutes, not a 90-minute HBO special.

The cardinal sin in radio is wasting people’s time. And from a coaching standpoint, believe this: if you can’t do a short break, you can’t do a long break. Most people tend to wander around, stagger into “related” thoughts that can easily take us off the main road into the forest somewhere, and instead of taking the First Exit – the first place where there’s a “reveal” of some sort or where the subject resolves – they keep trying to top themselves or fire more bullets into a dead body.

Try this for a month: not letting any “Content” break or story take longer than 40-60 seconds. Only after you MASTER that length should you do anything longer. And even then, my rule is “Take as long as you need, but be as brief as you can.”

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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 #270 – Something You Haven’t Done Before

Here’s how you jump start (or reignite) your creativity: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before.

I say this a lot to talents who are “pleasant” but not really creating anything memorable on their shows. And I don’t really care what that “something” is. The point is to go where you haven’t gone before; to add another arrow to your quiver.

The reply is usually “Like what?”
ANYTHING besides “same old – same old”. I don’t care if you whistle the song, or it can be just a remark or observation that stretches the boundaries of what you’ve been doing. Failure to grow creatively SHOULD result in diminished listenership. We OWE it to the listener to try and get better, expand the envelope of what he or she expects to hear, and continue to surprise. (OBSERVATION is the key. Look at the things around you, and comment on the ones that connect with your listener’s life. Simple.)

You’ll be amazed at the results. The feedback you get will be more active and connected. More synapses will start firing in your brain. Ideas beget MORE ideas.

So I say again: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before. It’s the only way to “stretch” and get to the next level.

Then the next day, AGAIN do something that you haven’t done before. Rinse and repeat, EVERY day until I say “Stop.” That’ll be about 30 years from now.

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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 #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.

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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.