New to a market? Here’s a great tip:
Take a different route to work each day. You’ll see where construction is going on, what stores are opening (or closing), etc.
It’s easy. Just turn one street sooner, or one street later from your normal route. Learn the neighborhood, then learn the city. It’s much better to see and feel the vibe than it is to just be given some claptrap about who the “average” listener is.
Dallas radio legend Ron Chapman was a great example. One day, he was plugging a station event, and instead of just giving the name of the location or street address, he added, “You know…it used to be the bank building, and before that it was the Mexican restaurant…”
Genius. Immediately, you know that he’s the guy from HERE, and everybody else ISN’T.
You could be that guy, too. It just takes a little exploring.
You may not think of it this way, but radio IS performance art. It’s not an “exercise”, it’s not just about mechanics. Yes, you want to play the right songs, the right number of them, and a solid rotation….blah blah-blah blah-blah.
But it’s really all just about connecting with the Listener.
Great stations seem to just sort of “hatch” themselves, and they sound different from everything else. They may have a new format for that market, or new production elements, but the differentiating factor is almost always that at its core, they see it as Art. They’re trying to entertain you. That’s the only way it really creates magic.
Watch great movies, read great books, develop a vast vocabulary and the ability to pick just the right wording on the spur of the moment. Get some coaching. It’s not just a job. (But of course it can be, IF you want to limit your own development.)
Most of the truly great air talents I’ve worked with have been constantly learning and developing the ART of engaging and entertaining people. And if I start working with someone who doesn’t get this, after the “basics”, the Art becomes the #1 agenda.
The great movie director Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde, Little Big Man, The Missouri Breaks, etc.) often spoke of what he called ‘happy accidents’ occurring during the filming. Little movements or reactions or lines that weren’t in the script, but were magical.
I see the same thing in radio – breaks that just “appear” out of nowhere and crack people up.
An example comes from my friend Wally, of The Wally Show on WAY-FM. He sent me this break with a note saying, “It works because everyone played their role perfectly and organically. I set it up with a polarizing statement for our audience. Betty (his female partner) provides the correct balance for the listener, and then (Producer) Gavin knew when to subtly add something that led me to an ‘out’ that was pretty funny. None of it planned, just a show firing on all the right cylinders.”
Here it is:
Then, with a different style, a break from Morgan Smith, afternoon personality on KSBJ in Houston. (*Salute to PD Randy Fox, who really gets this stuff):
Each of these just sort of “popped up”, but I think there’s a reason WHY:
When you get fully used to preparing breaks well, some breaks will just prepare themselves.
I’ve found that the more you prep well, the more “happy accidents” seem to happen. Shows that “wing it” more are usually sort of “hit and miss”.
It always pays to be good at constructing breaks. The improv moments “land” better as a result.
New York Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter recently played in his first “Oldtimers Game”. At one point he was asked about the current Yankees team bringing up some young players, and how to handle the pressure of playing in New York.
I think it resonates to anyone in radio who’s looking to move up to a larger market.
He said, “It’s the same game, there are just more people in the stands. I think sometimes when you get up to this level you try to do things a little bit differently, but you have to be yourself. Don’t try to do something that you’re not accustomed to. You have to enjoy yourself, and try to improve each and every day. The bottom line here is you gotta win.”