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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Think Beyond Just A Job

It’s been great hearing from people checking in on the blog this week. Emails and comments are always welcome. Don’t be shy.

Several people have mentioned they are between gigs. This is usually not by their choice of course.

I can relate since I’ve been asked to vacate the building on more than one occasion.

Remember being fired is part of the cultural ritual of radio. You must be fired periodically in order to renew your membership in the brother/sisterhood.

Now that you’re out, what do you do?

I recently came came across Dan Miller’s books. The first was ’48 Days To The Work You Love’ and next is “No More Mondays”.

Dan’s mission in life is helping people find their passion and put it to work for them. Perhaps it is in a business of your own or something you do on the side as free lance. He is all about helping you take control of your own destiny.

The Dan Miller 48 Day’s podcast is available through ITUNES. The link to Dan’s website is listed to the right of this page.

Use the time between gigs to really think about what you want to do.

Radio jobs are changing rapidly. You can’t rely on the old ways of finding jobs. Take time to think about your strengths and work on a path that really suits your interests and talents.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says, “Work harder on yourself, than you do on your job”.

In other words take the time to improve your skills, make contacts and work on things that will help more than just earn a paycheck.

View being fired as a great opportunity to meet new people and learn more about yourself.

Most people tell me the new job is a better than the one that turned them out.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Jack Benny

Jack Benny may have been the most influential air talent of all time.

That must seem like a pretty bold statement, especially since Benny’s radio career ended over 50 years ago.

His influence is felt even today.

Benny was a brilliant comedian. But his real gift might have been his ability to know good comedy from bad.

It was Benny who defined roles for his characters in a way no one had ever done before.

He created a true format for the radio show that became the template for modern television sitcoms.

He understood how to build a character and avoid the temptation of changing it simply because he was bored.

I’ll bet most readers; even those who have never heard Benny’s work know a few things about his radio character.

Benny was cheap. He was vain. He drove a Maxwell and kept a guard in his basement to protect his money. He played violin badly and was forever 39.

The Benny character was so well defined on radio that it actually bothered him in real life. He was in fact a good tipper and quite generous.

The Benny cast consisted of several players over the years. The rotund announcer Don Wilson, who was never really as fat as the jokes about him indicated.

Real life wife Mary Livingston played the role of Benny’s not quite girlfriend. She always got the last word on him.

Phil Harris the playboy band leader. Rochester as Benny’s valet, And the naïve vocalist usually played by Dennis Day.

So what makes this show relevant today? In my view the Benny cast was the forerunner of today’s morning show. They built it around characters the listener got to know intimately. The characters interacted through topical humor.

How are your morning show roles defined? Would your listeners be able to explain the characters on the show?

Do any of the players standout because they are so well defined?

Many shows often lack clear character roles. What is allowed or not allowed in their on air banter? Are the boundaries clearly defined?

Imagine your morning show as a sitcom. Are the characters as well defined as those on Seinfeld?

Why is each person on the show? Can you define stronger character traits that they can use to build into their interaction and topics?

What do the listeners know about each character? What can you add that will give each greater depth and definition?

The right character definition helps make the morning show more interesting and more memorable.

Listen to some of Jack Benny shows. The writing is brilliant and they are amazingly topical sixty years later.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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“Big Ron, On The Voice Of Labor!”

Another of the really great jock talents passed this weekend when WOGL’s Ron O’Brien died suddenly from pneumonia.

“Big Ron” was a night-time killer on WCFL Chicago during the early 70s.

In those days we’d tune in at the top of the hour just to hear him do the legal ID.

He generated a certain kind of excitement by doing the liner……”9 O’Clock at the Voice Of Labor, Big Ron In The Night-Time”, followed by the Jingle…”WCFL, Chicago”.

Ron worked on several stations over the years including WFIL, WQXI and KIIS Los Angeles. He adapted to the changes the top 40 format went through over the years, always sounding great.

In recent years it was fun to visit Philly and hear his energy on WOGL.

For years whenever I have needed inspiration, I would always bring out the WCFL airchecks and listen to the IDs done by Big Ron O’Brien.

One of the greats. He’ll be missed.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Real Pirates, The Radio Hauraki Story

We take commercial radio for granted in the United States since it came into existence in the 1920s.

Other countries weren’t so fortunate.

Most people would probably be surprised to learn that New Zealand didn’t allow private commercial radio until 1970.

It took quite a fight to convince the powers there to break the government monopoly on broadcasting.

It’s a fascinating story, involving a pirate broadcaster called Radio Hauraki.

A group of renegade radio guys lead by David Grapes came up with the idea for an off shore Pirate station sometime in 1965.

It took time and effort before a ship and equipment were secured. The New Zealand government even stopped their ship from sailing to prevent the broadcasts.

In the end nothing could stop Hauraki. That included storms that forced them on to the rocks causing the crew to abandon ship at one point.

Hauraki broadcast on 1480 AM in international waters three miles off shore.

Most of the programs were recorded on land about a week prior to air and brought to the ship for broadcast.

The operators applied for licenses several times and finally won the right to broadcast legally from land in mid 1970.

Radio Hauraki exists today as FM Classic Rock network heard throughout the country. It is owned by The Radio Network, part of Clear Channel International.

The Hauraki Auckland studios are filled with pictures of the pirate ship days. It is a station with a proud and interesting history.

Today New Zealand is home to about 250 commercial stations. That’s in a country with population of about 4.2 million people. Can you imagine a city the size of Atlanta with that many stations?

Take a look for yourself. Paste the link into your browser.

http://www.radioheritage.net/hauraki/default.asp

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2008 in Radio History

 

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Great Radios

Several readers sent emails asking about my favorite radios after seeing yesterday’s posting.

At the moment my favorite is the AOR AR7030. It’s a bit pricey but the features and sensitivity are worth it for DX.

Second on my list is also a table top communications receiver the ICOM R75. It’s fun and great when tuning hard to find stations in sideband.

The Eton E1 is a very good portable. It has nice features, but a little too big to be considered a good travel radio.

Eton and Grundig make a G5. It’s a small portable that has amazing sensitivity for DXing.

The best of the portables in my opinion is the tried and true Sony 2010. Mine is 20 years old, and has been refurbished. It works like new.

The Sangean DT-200VX is a great little pocket radio, with very good DX ability.

Believe it or not the Sony Walkman SRF-59 is a mini DX machine. There have been reports of hearing trans Pacific and trans Atlantic stations here in the US. It sells for less than $20 at Target.

A great antenna for AM DX is the Quantum Loop. Each one is hand made by Gerry Thomas. Put a Quantum Loop on any of these radios and you’re really in business.

Gerry’s company is called Radioplus and found on the web at dxtools.com.

You can see most of the radios at the Universal Radio website, which is Universal-Radio.com.

I’d love to hear which radios you prefer. Email me at AlanGFurst@aol.com

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2008 in DX

 

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Pay Attention To Details (and good DX)

Radio was my passion from an early age.

It is still exciting to hear stations from hundreds of miles away while DXing.

People who have worked in radio for years give me a puzzled look when I mention my DX hobby.

DX, for those new to the term means distance and was first used in the days of the telegraph. In radio we use it to mean listening to distant stations.

At night AM radio signals are able to bounce off the ionosphere and be heard hundreds if not thousands of miles from the transmitter.

DXing opened the whole world of radio to me. I could listen at night to stations from Chicago, Boston, Ft. Wayne and Buffalo from my location in Succasunna, New Jersey. (Yes a real place).

Each night was like a virtual classroom for a radio geek like me. There was WLS Chicago, CKLW Windsor and Ron Gregory on WOWO.

The late 60s and early 70s was a period of great radio with amazing jocks. Well they seemed amazing then. I owe a lot to all of them for helping me learn the business.

These days there are very few locally produced night time shows on AM radio. Most are programming talk from a network. That doesn’t keep me from spending too money on nice radios (my wife’s words, not mine) and trying for Radio Reloj in Cuba or CKWW Vancouver.

I’ve logged close to 350 AM stations here in Central Texas. That’s a small number compared to some DX’ers who have 2,000 or more.

But from my DXing habit I can offer some thoughts about why AM stations struggle beyond the simple problem of being on AM.

First on my list is lack of identity. I am amazed how often stations neglect to identify themselves during breaks in the network shows.

I’m actively listening for the ID and location and don’t hear it. A casual listener would have no idea what station they are listening to. They lose the battle in Arbitron.

Secondly, there is almost no promotion of other shows on these stations. Tell me how to use the station. Give me a reason to listen later today or tomorrow.

Thirdly, plant your flag in the local community. Most stations could be coming from anywhere.

Keep the production fresh. It is amazing how many times the promos are out dated or misplaced in the log.

Focus on the details. Have someone who manages the promos, IDs and other elements.

Here are my top five suggestions for AM talk stations.

  • Identify the station. Do this at beginning, during, at end of commercial breaks. Don’t be shy about your name.
  • Promote the shows coming up later today and tomorrow. Help the listener listen.
  • Be local. Make sure the weather report sounds like it belongs in your area.
  • Keep production fresh. Eliminate all outdated material.
  • Pay attention to all the details, listen to your station with a ‘listener’s’ ear.

The National Radio Club website can give you more information about the hobby of DXing. http://www.nrcdxas.org/

Happy listening and good DX, 73s

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2008 in DX, Radio programming

 

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The Power Of Written Goals

This is an invitation to join a bunch of odd balls.

Statistically only three percent of the population have written goals.

You join an exclusive club by simply writing your goals on a piece of paper.

But why write them?

Simple.

Once you commit a goal to paper your subconscious mind takes over. It’s as though you are pulled to complete the goal.

Goals kept in your head and not written down are merely a wish.

Written goals keep you focused. They help you stay on the right track even when you are pulled in many directions.

Lot’s of people make New Year’s Resolutions. But most of these are forgotten within weeks.

It’s April. When was the last time you heard someone mention their New Year’s Resolution to you? My guess is January.

Make your goals simple, specific and time dimensioned. The more clarity you have, the better your chance of following through.

Over the years I’ve met only a few Program Directors with written goals. They always have the best stations, make the most money and enjoy the greatest overall success.

So join the three percent.

Lots of great books explain goal setting. But forget the books. It’s a very simple process.

First, carve out some serious quiet time and go somewhere that inspires you. It might be the beach or a lake. You get the idea.

Then let your mind go. Write down ALL of the things you want to do. The big and small stuff. Try for a list of 100 things you want to do in your life.

This is brainstorming, so avoid judging. Get it all down on paper.

Once you have the list break it into 1 year, 3 year and 5+ year goals.

Then rank the most important ones each group from1 to 10. One being most important. Ten least.

Now you have 10 one year goals, 10 three year goals and 10 goals for 5 or more years.

This is a great start. You might want to rank all of your goals at some point or even add to the list.

Now write each of the goals as though it was already happening. Put as much detail to your goal as possible, and set the time by which you plan to achieve it.

Review your goals daily or at least weekly. These are now the basis for your project plans and weekly action lists.

There’s one more thing to do before you finish.

Write down the very next action you will take to achieve each one of the goals. Once you have taken that action, do it again and again until you have reached the goal.

Use the idea of the ‘next action’ to keep you moving forward all of the time.

If you need help, I suggest reading Brian Tracy’s “Goals”. He gives a very detailed way to create and achieve your list.

Once you begin to see the results you’ll be hooked for life.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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The Station In My Head

Several years ago, the late Don Clifton of SRI/Gallup created a way for us to identify and measure Program Director talents.

You may be familiar with this approach through books like “First Break All The Rules” and “Go Put Your Strengths To Work”.

Clifton’s team studied a group of the most successful PDs by observing their work and asking lots of questions.

The result was an hour long interview that we could use to evaluate PD skills. This became a fairly reliable way of identifying strong applicants for our openings.

One of the most interesting findings was how successful Program Directors talked about the station they heard in their head. In almost every case they described the station they wanted or heard in extreme detail.

Over the years, I’ve only really found a few PDs who talked about their station in this way. But in every case they were a breed apart from the average PD.

This type of talent often showed itself when the station was off track to the PD’s ears. Many of us seem to have an internal ‘something’ that knows when the station is right and when it is not firing on all eight.

In my experience, a PD with this ability will be edgy and unhappy until the station is right to his ears.

Recently, I’ve been surprised by PDs who tell me they don’t listen to their station. They’re too busy.

What??

Frankly it shows. Many of these stations sound sloppy and unfocused.

I don’t think they’re too busy. Today’s software has made them lazy.

Automation and voice tracking is no reason to think that everything is running properly on your station.

These systems require tremendous attention to detail.

Every PD should make time to be a listener. It’s part of the job.

Spend time away from the station focused on the morning show or listening to the night talent. Have a notebook in hand and use it.

Even network shows need attention. Listen for the crossfades, liners, IDs–and how the whole package goes together.

Listen for the music mix. Make sure you are getting the tempos and textures you want all of the time. Sit with the log. Take notes.

Listen carefully to your imaging and talent presentation. Make sure the right message is on air often enough, in the right way.

Paul drew was famous for listening to KHJ all day with a transistor radio. Sony makes several models that cost under $25 that are perfect for this purpose.

The PD is responsible for every element on the air. Take the time to make sure all of them are working as intended.

Review the music log every single day before you load it to the automation system.

Review the entire log for music, spots, sweepers and voicetracks before leaving each night. Reposition tracks or add crossfades where needed. Be tight. Make it flow.

Pay attention to the smallest detail.

Take time to create systems that will make sure your station sounds right all of the the time.

No job in the world shows how well or how poorly you perform like that of Program Director. Your work is on display for all to hear 24/7.

Make sure you are making a great impression.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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A New Day

Knock off the anger and get back to work!

Radio is never going to be like it was ten years ago.

The rules changed partly because the technology changed and oh yeah, the rules changed too. These things happened at virtually the same time.

Joel Barker would identify this as a ‘paradigm shift’.

It is every bit as big a shift as the quartz crystal brought to Swiss watch making. It killed the business and inexpensive Japanese watches dominated the market inside of six months.

Radio has been through this before.

One can only imagine how soap opera actors were none too happy when they lost their jobs to a bunch of screaming disk jockeys in 1954.

The NBC sound effects man either learned to operate a television camera or he was out of work.

Change brings opportunity and so it has this time.

Let the whiners complain on Allaccess and Radio-Info about how the business is over.

But don’t you do it.

Take a deep breath then look around for the next big opportunity. They are out there and probably not in a traditional job role.

No company can guarantee your employment. It is up to you to guarantee your own employability.

Have you learned a new skill lately? Have you taken the time not only to learn but master the software at your station?

It amazes me how many people say they can’t do some of the simplest things with software. Sorry, but if you were piloting an airplane you’ve be required to know the equipment.

Yes, it is possible, even probable that your station will endure layoffs. So, what have you done to make sure you offer a broad range of skills that will keep you there?

On that ‘Black Monday or Tuesday” somebody is going to be picked to stay and someone will leave. Why should they choose you to stay? What makes you the keeper?

Smaller staffs mean opportunity for somebody. Perhaps you are great at voice tracking, or fast with production. These are valued skills in today’s radio station.

The more you can do, the better your chances of staying around.

We can’t bring back the all-night show as a training ground. Hey, didn’t you hate doing over-nights anyway? I did.

The four-hour live jock shift is gone too. Be real. Do you really need a live, college educated person waiting around in a studio to do four ten second breaks an hour? Not with the technology that exists today.

Come to think of it, most of the people complaining about loss of live four hour shifts were always outside smoking.

The question to ponder is how you can take the tools available and use your talent to create interesting and different radio?

The person able to think differently about the technology and find new answers will thrive.

The person longing for cart machines and CD players is a dinosaur. Home Depot is hiring.

This column could have been written ten years ago. All of this stuff has been in place that long. Yet, blogs are filled with yesterday’s PDs and jocks talking about how great they were and how bad it is now.

They’re living in yesterday.

Today’s tools are better than ever. Multi-track editors offer endless options for great production where once only four-track existed.

Let the others complain. But not you.

There is magic in those Prophet Systems. You just have to make it happen.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Blog For Program Directors

Any jock has a good chance of becoming the PD in today’s radio station.

A strong pulse and being in the right place (or wrong, depending on how you see it) is all you need.

Lately I’m hearing from first time PDs every week. Most were literally thrown into the job with little warning and less training.

“You’re the PD. Good luck. We’re all counting on you.”

Yikes!

Many are programming in top 50 or even top 10 markets.

Certainly the rules have changed.

These first timers are often left on their own with little direction and no one to call for help.

Where do you go for help? Who can you ask?

That’s the purpose of this blog.

It is designed to allow questions and offer advice. A place the first timer (or any PD) can go for information and ideas.

We have a couple of rules.

  1. No question is off limits.
  2. There are no stupid questions.

May PDs of the last generation were fortunate to have a mentor. Veterans like Paul Drew, Scott Muni and Ed Salamon took pride in helping the younger talent. Today there are very few mentor types left. We hope to help fill that void.

Today’s Program Director manages budgets, handles recruiting and HR issues, works with sales, creates promotions and does the things that have always been part of the job.

Many PDs are a ‘one man’ show working with voice talent who’ve never even visited their town.

Every PD is expected to produce results. That usually means ratings and even those rules are changing.

My hope is we can create mentor networks and some training to people who want to be part of this great business.

Most of the radio threads and blogs I’ve read have a negative tone. They’re mad about how the industry changed.

We don’t have time for that here. Our business is about finding the tools that will help all of us all move forward.

Let’s get started.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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