Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #305 – The Modified Q Format

This is what I hear a lot of the time nowadays: A jock stops down in the middle of two songs for no apparent reason. Then he or she reads some idiotic story from the internet that most people saw five days ago, adding a C-minus punch line. (Or the jock does some piece of trivia, or some “cheerful thought for the day”.) Then they lurch forward into another song.

But back in the day, when radio had tons of forward momentum and much bigger ratings, there was this thing called the “Q” format. It was somewhat the same as the Drake format, in that jocks talked over song intros (and at the end of a music sweep, the jock talked at the end of the last song, of course, and did some Content into a commercial break).
But the Q format was often thought of as screaming, hundred-mile-an-hour jocks cramming as much as they could into an intro before the vocal hit.

So over the next few years, it morphed into a modified Q format, where we were more conversational and real-sounding. A song ended, the next song started, and we did a thought over the intro. Easy-peasy.

And it MOVED. “The big wheel kept on turning” (the music didn’t stop until we were going to a commercial break), and “Imaging” was more sparse than it is now, better produced, and brief – so it stood out more.

Guess what. It still works. And if you’re the “stop down and kill the momentum” station, you’d better hope that the modified Q format isn’t your competitor.

This is what can save radio today. Podcasts aren’t the answer; they’re used in a different way. (And with hundreds of thousands of podcasts available, the podcast ADDICT still only downloads about seven.) Spotify can’t compete, because when you have Momentum plus Content, you have something they don’t. And streaming (iTunes, Amazon music, Pandora, etc.) doesn’t comment on anything local, or tell me it’s going to hail tonight at 2am.

I would say “Let’s Make Radio Great Again,” but I don’t have orange hair and don’t want to build a wall around Spotify. So let’s just try Momentum + Personality.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #302 – Looking in the Window

Here’s a little something that happened in a recent session with a great morning team in Austin. I always try to do video sessions, and during this one, they were on location somewhere.

As we talked, I could see people behind them looking in the window. The people were just curious, wonder what they were doing, and what the two of them were like.

And that’s what happens every time someone tunes in, too.

It’s kind of like a remark that Garry Shandling made to Jerry Seinfeld in a “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” episode, when they talked about seeing Robin Williams for the first time: “You don’t remember what he SAID so much as you remember what he WAS.”

So think about who YOU are, to the listener. Are you just another person “broad stroke” over-performing, larger than life – but not in a good way? Or are you someone I can identify with, who’s entertaining, but also surprisingly down to earth and someone I’d like to hang out with? What you project is a choice. Choose wisely, because Shandling was right.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #301 – Stop TRYING to be Noticed

One of the prime ingredients in all truly great talents is that they connect with the listener on a daily basis.

And one of the keys in getting to that place is:

Stop TRYING to be noticed.

Instead of constantly trying for punch lines, or “talking points” that just get the same five people to call in with the same types of reactions we always hear, the ‘Real Deal’ is to just be part of the listener’s life each day. Talk about things that we all have in common, then put your individual spin on it.

Think about this…the more you try to be noticed, the more it’s just about YOU. But the more you just try to be part of something that we share together, the more it’s about US.

And that’s what gets ratings. If you build your show around having something going on that I can relate to each day, I’ll come back – over and over again.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #299 – Discovery

To the listener, it’s all about Discovery.

As long as I’m discovering something (if it’s relevant to my life and interests), we’re good. When that stops, it’s “See ya.”

So you have to avoid repetition, and you have to always be moving forward.

This is why, as a coach, I can zero in on what a show needs quickly, because I’m always looking for the answers to two questions:

“What did we learn?”

And “What did we learn about you?”

Both of those things are essential.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #297 – Producer, or just a Board Op?

The description “Producer” seems to be thrown around pretty loosely these days. So let me try to help you with what a Producer really should be:

A true show producer is a right-hand man (or woman), an extra set of hands and feet, and a resource in finding material, in addition to the right “framing” for something (music, sound bites, etc.).

A great Producer should have superior Production skills, too.

And you want a Producer to be a source of feedback, so a Talent has someone he or she can count on to weigh in on whether something is a good “fit” for the show, or in some instances, will even work at all.

Most producers I see work with morning shows, although there are some exceptions. But a lot of these so-called “Producers” are pretty much nothing more than board ops.

When one of the shows I coach is looking for a Producer, we start there: we want a Producer. If we needed another air talent, that’s what we’d be looking for. (Frustrated air talents usually don’t make great Producers.)

Editorial comment:

I really don’t like – and have never liked – the idea of a Producer being a board op. I don’t like the idea of ANYONE running the board instead of one of the air talents. If for no other reason, it’s really hard to get the split-second timing it takes to master the “First Exit” if you have to point to somebody else to hit the button for you.

A great Producer can be a valuable asset. But be sure that your description of Producer is an accurate one.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #296 – What You Can Take from Super Bowl LIII

It’s so easy for an air talent to think “I have to do something BIG to stand out against the competition,” and yes, radio is all about creating memorable moments that make people want to come back and listen to you again tomorrow. However, as New England showed against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, you don’t want to go outside your comfort zone or change your identity to accomplish that.

Once again this year, the Patriots demonstrated that you win by doing the right thing at the right time. That’s what puts you on top. So here’s what you can take away from the Super Bowl, in radio terms…

Things to stay away from:

Don’t try to cram in too much over a song intro.

Don’t try for a second punch line. 99% of the time, that second line will not be as good as the first. Stop trying too hard.

Lose the thought that 3 minutes (or more) is a decent length for a Content break; it’s actually half that…or less.

Things to remember:

Do what YOU do best. (You may need coaching to realize what it is. Most talents do.)

Trust that it WILL be enough…that it WILL work. That confidence comes across.

Forget imitating anyone else or stealing someone else’s bit or punch line. Come up with things that not everyone else will do or say.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #289 – Talent versus Music

A station I’ve worked with for years now faces a huge challenge. Their longtime morning man and PD is leaving the station after many years of exemplary service and success. At the same time, they’re being pressured by a relatively new GM to get ratings and revenue up, and part of that is to reduce expenses by going to fewer air talents being employed (doubling up on a jock by putting him or her on two different stations in the cluster) and going to more voice-tracked shows on the weekends.

So I want to speak into that as a bonus for any PD or GM reading this, while at the same time focusing on what will help any talent under the gun from his boss to do better.

First, if you live by math (ratings statistics and projections) as your starting place to the extent that you think more voice-tracked shifts are an answer, that’s not gonna fly. In radio today, both in the short and the long run, Talent doesn’t DELIVER the product, talent IS the product. If you go to more voice-tracked shows with no compelling Content, you’re just another playlist. People remember what PEOPLE SAY, not where they heard a song. Songs are everywhere – Spotify, Pandora, iTunes music, Amazon music, terrestrial radio, etc. Memorable STATIONS create memorable MOMENTS, and it takes talent to come up with those.

Look at professional Sports as an example. Spend the money; get the players. You can’t win with bargain basement rosters. And no talent likes doing a second shift after pouring everything he/she has into the primary one.

Now, as an air talent, here’s your challenge: Deliver memorable moments. Not everything has to be some fantastic production or be knee-slapping funny; but the listener deserves having you be PRESENT in every moment you’re on the air, because a lot can be said with your inflection, your mood, even your silence. But when you’re on autopilot, we can ALL TELL.

Radio isn’t just about Sales; it’s about creating something saleable.

And Talent isn’t just about walking through a shift; it’s about creating a SHOW.

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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 #285 – The Brain, The Heart, or Both

Let’s make this one really simple:

With your Content, you can engage the brain, or you can engage the heart…or you can engage both. What you SHOULDN’T do is only engage the brain. That’s boring.

If you need help with this, get some coaching, do an aircheck session with your PD, or maybe swap ideas with some of the other people on the station. Because if you don’t understand how to do it…and do it well…you’re going to save a lot of time by NOT thinking that it’ll somehow just magically “come to you”.

It’s like that scene in “The Odd Couple” when the slob, Oscar Madison, tells his finicky roommate Felix Unger that he thought gravy just “came with the meat.” As Felix said, “No, it doesn’t. You have to MAKE it.” Sometimes we need help to make it.

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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 #281 – Less is More, and More is Too Much

Note: This is a music radio tip, primarily. However, there is an application to Talk radio that I’ll do in another tip someday.

It’s a terrible thing to say, but honestly, I’ll bet 90% of the breaks I hear are too long. Sometimes just a word or two too long. Sometimes an entire paragraph too long. In severe cases, an entire additional Subject too long.

Who has time?
Brief history lesson: Radio sold its soul several decades ago when it devalued its own product – TIME. When you could buy a :60 second spot for the same (or about the same) as a :30-second spot, people started buying :60’s. Stopsets got longer. Music sweeps got shorter. And the thought in a lot of air talent’s minds was “So when I stop down, I want to do a big long break, because I’m not gonna get another chance very soon.”

But that was wrong. Adding more verbiage to the already increased verbiage of longer and/or more commercials just turned everything into a Talk Wall (in music formats). The main complaints became “they play too many commercials” and/or “they talk too much.”

There are very successful morning shows that would be twice as good (and have twice the success) if they talked half as much. Talking more often, spreading out short bursts over the course of the hour, used to be how music radio was done in the Drake and “Q” formats – and it worked; BOY, did it work. We made the old-time Top 40 jocks sound like they COULDN’T SHUT UP, and we still got our “shots” in, but we fit them into song intros or short, one-thought breaks when we stopped down to go into commercials.

“Well, that would never work today.” Want to bet?
Yes, it does. Dramatically so. But it takes a buy-in level that’s hard to get because jocks seem to think they’re paid by the word. But you’re not. You’re paid by the CONNECTION.

Tighten things up. It’s 2018. Everyone has a three-second attention span. And be clear, it’s not that I just don’t want you to talk. Quite the opposite; my whole thing is developing true Personalities. But this is the formula: One thought, developed properly, then get OUT. No “the moral of the story is…” ending. In a team show, be willing to let the other person have the last word. Or let a caller, or a contest winner have the last word. Assume that the listener is at least as smart as you, but has less time to spend. You’ll be amazed at the results. Less is more – and more is too much.

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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 #280 – What You’d Say to Your Best Friend

The old saying is “Content is King.” And there’s no doubt that Content HAS to be relevant and memorable to make people want to listen to you more today, or again tomorrow.

But Content isn’t “King”, PERFORMANCE is. If you sound like a game show host, or have that “disc jockey delivery”, you’re becoming a Deejaysaurus Rex, an extinct species.

So a lot of the work I do, after simplifying the search for Content down to reflecting on what the listener actually CARES about each day, is just about Performance (read that as “Delivery”).

Here’s an easy guideline to follow: Is what you just said on the air something you’d say to your best friend? Because if you talked to your best buddy like an “announcer”, he’d probably just look at you like “What is the matter with you?”

You want to project just enough so you “penetrate the mix”, meaning that someone can hear you in the car, with traffic around them. But any more than that, you’re a cartoon. I call this “Real plus ten percent.” But an overwhelming majority of air talents are “Real plus fifty percent.” I can spot those people in ONE break on an aircheck or a live “listen”. And so can the listener.

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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.