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Monthly Archives: July 2008

Staying On Track

If I seem to be in a bad mood it’s because I’ve spent the past few days looking for happy music.

Let me tell you it’s hard work.

We have a major retail client with a new brand that is very careful about the music played in their stores. In this case everything must be happy, singable, bright, and upbeat plus there are a few more requirements.

That sounds easy, but it’s really a very tall order.

We go through hundreds, sometimes thousands of songs to find a hundred or so ‘perfect’ tracks. Every song gets a thorough review and then some.

Then every song is EQ’ed to make sure the audio quality is up to standard.

Nothing is left to chance. We check and double check our work.

This client would never accept what passes for ‘good enough’ at many radio stations.

Recently a friend asked me to monitor his country station. It has a solid rating history, except recently the trends have not been so kind and he’s trying to figure out why.

So he asked for my thoughts.

I think we’re still friends after the review.

Lack of attention to detail is almost always the reason a winning station starts to slip in the ratings.

The station lacked variety with similar sounding artists playing back to back.

In the past the station always had a singable quality to it, but now many of the songs were simply big on the charts. They were no longer being as selective as my retailer client, which is what made the station work in the past.

I questioned how much time is spent editing the logs. For example; two or three females played together followed by two or three Toby Keith type songs. Again, there was no variety.

The nice recorded liners done by artists for the station played into the wrong artists.

The live DJ did a plug for the morning show that was nothing more reading a liner staying “set your alarm to wake up with the morning show”. I asked shouldn’t a live person be more creative than that?

I could bore you with more of the details but here are some of the key points.

  • Review your music log for variety. Are you using your tempo and texture well?
  • Variety is style change. Up to down, Male to Female, Pop to country.
  • Don’t play the chart game. Play the songs that are right for your station. Forget the rest.
  • Have written music rules as to why you add and drop songs. Stick to them.
  • Spend time editing the Selector/PowerGold/MusicMaster Log
  • Spend time editing Prophet or Scott or whatever system you use.
  • A PD should consider him/herself as the station ‘producer’ review all details before they air.
  • Check for crossfades on commercials, music and imaging. Are you as tight as you can be?
  • Is your imaging placed properly?
  • Can you tighten your imaging by hand to make the station flow better? This might be a daily exercise.
  • Are you listening with a log and music log to see where you need to improve the flow?
  • When was the last time you asked someone from outside your station, a friend to review your work?
 
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Posted by on July 31, 2008 in Radio programming

 

Hello Syracuse

The plan was to fly into Syracuse, spend a night with my son and his family and then drive to Canada for a meeting.

Then the flu wrestled me to the mat and changed all that.

I spent the next couple of days in bed asking the ghost to bring a cold ginger ale up from the kitchen.

The house I was staying in is 150+ years old and quite haunted.

There are all kinds of stories of strange happenings in the house. Fans and lights turn on at will and thermostat settings do what they want.

The ghost was either stubborn or lazy because the ginger ale I ordered never arrived.

Syracuse is one of my favorite towns. We lived there for a few years in the 90s. It’s probably not a place I could go back to (is 200 inches of snow per year the reason perhaps?), and yet we have more friends there than anywhere in the world.

Syracuse is a as close to stepping into a time machine as it gets.

For example, the same people are anchoring the news on TV that were there in 1993.

The same people are on the radio.

Some of the stations even sound pretty much like they did then with jock shouts and jingles.

Advertisers use the same tired jingles on their TV and Radio ads they’ve used for decades.

Every promotion this weekend was a look backward. It was a reunion this or a reunion that.

There was a Classic Car Reunion the Disco Reunion and some other reunion.

No wonder I felt like I was traveling in the Wayback Machine.

Ok, I admit I always stop at Heid’s in Liverpool for a hot dog and shake, that’s as retro as you can get.

The ‘Cuse could use a little fresh thinking and so can many other towns.

I don’t care if you’re in Lubbock or Green Bay as a PD it is up to you to pay attention to things around you. Really listen to your station and the competition and find ways to make your station sound fresh.

People inside the stations can be as resistant to change as those outside. Keep fighting for it.

It can be very difficult if your market is somewhat isolated and you can’t hear radio from bigger markets. How can your talent learn?

I strongly suggest you take time to listen to your entire market, here are some suggestions.

  • Look for tired promotions and dump them
  • Kill tired language
  • Promotions that are being over done by all of the stations, like ‘reunions’
  • Look for places that people go that have been ignored by the stations
  • Brainstorm a list of new ideas
  • Find fresh events to participate in
  • Buy a WIFI Radio and listen to other markets
  • Or listen on line to stations that stream
  • Network with PDs outside or your market
  • Get your station staff to listen to big market stations
  • Look at websites for ideas

Look at all of the elements, the language you use, the promotions, and especially the ‘sacred cows’.

Sacred Cows make great burgers.

Think fresh.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Radio Geek, or Is It Nerd? (You’re a Dweeb Dad)

If you read these pages you know radios are my weakness.

Big ones, small ones. New ones, old ones.

Universal Radio in Reynoldsburg Ohio is my favorite store. I make a pilgrimage there a couple of times a year.

In between trips the Universal website is a regular destination for me. http://universal-radio.com/

DXing AM radio is my life-long passion. I’d much rather hear Mexican League Baseball coming through the static on XEMR than something clear on XM.

A few of my favorite radios…

Grundig’s new G4 is a compact AM/FM/SW/LW radio with MP3 recorder. It records and plays back broadcasts and mp3 files, which is very handy for radio PDs. It takes a little time to learn, but seems to be a good travel companion.

The Grundig G5 is slightly larger, it does not record but has excellent sensitivity. It is a pretty good DX radio and excellent for traveling.

Sangean DT 200V X is shirtpocket size and a little power house for DX. It has a nice digital display and surprisingly good sensitivity, especially for AM DX.

The Sony 2010 is out of production but a classic. Universal had several refurbished models on sale. This is a truly great radio.

The Sony 7600 now offered as 7600GR is about the same size as the G5. It is close to the 2010 in quality. But the 2010 is more fun to use.

For tabletop AOR 7030 is outstanding with great audio. I just bought software to control mine which is a totally new experience.

The ICOM R 75 is a good receiver but the audio is not as good as the AOR 7030. Still I’ve made some good DX catches on it.

Eton E1 XM is a very good DX radio too. It has many good features and easier to use than the others.

A good radio is important, but the right antenna is critical.

Gerry Thomas of Radio Plus in Pensacola Florida makes the Quantum Loop by hand. This tunable, directable loop comes in a couple of versions and sells for around $200 and well worth the price.

I can’t say enough about the quality of Gerry’s work and his service. Their site is http://dxtools.com/

The best DX radio I ever owned was the first one. A 1940s era Emerson.

That radio takes an honored spot in my office.

The dial still has the location of WMTR marked by pencil to find the school closings.

Don Barry was an early hero of mine.

He read them.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2008 in DX

 

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..The Hits Keep On Coming!

If your staff is still unconvinced about the power of the internet, have them blog.

I started this one in April. It’s growing daily.

I’m very appreciative of anyone that reads my material.

The daily interaction is extremely powerful and lots of fun.

The blog provider I use, WordPress shows you where your hits are coming in from and what is being read.

Hits to the blog increase daily and it is being linked to new sites all the time.

That viral nature of the web is what excites me. One link, brings another, then more.

This is what should excite your staff. Blogging has potential to bring new people to their shows and bond those already listening.

The web is more powerful than television today in spreading the word about your station because it is intimate.

A potential listener can connect to the station and talent even before hearing their work.

I am amazed at the number of people that I knew in the past that have reconnected by email because of reading the blog.

It’s not so much what your air talent says on their blog, but that they are accessible to the audience.

Today request lines are on hold, jocks are voice tracked and studios are empty, it is important to find new ways to connect with people.

Blogging helps make radio feel real again.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Lessons From Retail

It is almost amusing to hear radio stations talk about branding.

They really know very little about it.

In my day job at DMX we create branded music and video programs for retail, restaurants, casinos, fitness centers, etc. Name any kind of retail business and we do something for it.

Retail brands are not created equal.

Some are absolutely meticulous about every detail related to their brand.

Others are less so.

Those paying closest attention sell more and thrive on on Wall Street.

The others just come and go.

I’ve spent the past few days working with a major retailer and their five brands.

At least two of the brands can be considered ‘iconic’.

The others are on their way.

In radio we worry about Christmas music the week before Thanksgiving.

In retail the Christmas floor sets are currently getting their finishing touches, and we’re deep into the holiday music season.

To give you an idea of how far ahead retailers work, ‘Back To School’ is currently in the stores. Next year’s ‘Back To School’ is already in mock-up.

These brands have full working models of their stores at their offices. They set, reset, set again until the store is perfect. Then they outline in pictures and writing for the managers how the store is supposed to look.

Find a radio station that thinks like that.

Perhaps Ron Jacob’s systems at KHJ were closest. But it is rare to find a station that thinks past this quarter, or plans in such detail.

This is what it takes to be an iconic brand. Detail, detail detail.

Competing retailers sometimes say they want their branded music to be our like our client’s.

Inside I laugh.

They have no idea how much attention goes into the details.

Greatness looks easy. But it requires enormous work.

Take a walk through the mall and notice the brands that stand out. Think about the radio dial and do the same exercise.

Would you be able to focus on the details down to the softness of the fabric and color of the displays?

What do you accept that compromises your station brand values?

Have you outlined your brand values in writing?

Does everyone on your staff understand what your brand stands for?

Do you live it, eat it, sleep it?

Great branding is details, details, details.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Platinum 96.7 Dallas

We visited our son in Dallas yesterday and heard Citadel’s new station Platinum 96.7.

This launch was much anticipated in the market.

It sounds DOA to me.

Platinum can best be called a soft oldies station.

It plays a steady dose of slow tempo songs from 60s and 70s. The overplayed kind like Carpenters.

It feels a little like the old KVIL, probably because Ron Chapman is the voice. Much of the music played was popular when KVIL dominiated Dallas ratings.

KVIL was a powerhouse a long time ago. Dallas is not the same town now.

I don’t know who Anne Murray appeals to today. Certainly no one under 55.

Platinum sounds like a radio station created as a ‘radio format’, not as a format for listeners.

Liners like “we’re heard in boutiques, offices and Ors, sounds so much like radio it becomes silly.

Why not “No Funk, No Punk, No Elevator Junk”?

It’s the same thought process.

My day job is head of content for DMX.

Our company creates music, video and message branding for retailers.

I used to think the world of music revolved around Billboard and Radio And Records charts. It doesn’t for ‘real people’. You know the kind, the ones you see on the street everyday.

There is so much interesting music available that I am baffled as to why radio plays the same tired, dated stuff.

Platinum 96.7 has little chance of being a key player 25-54 or in any other age group.

When will someone stop, pay attention to the audience and build something interesting?

That station will be created by someone who comes from outside of radio.

Radio people know too much about radio.

Put the Whitburn books down, get out from behind the computer go find out about people again.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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The Real ‘Big Kahuna”, Ron Jacobs And The KHJ Story

The best book written about radio programming is called KHJ: Inside Boss Radio by Ron Jacobs.

It is part history book, part text book.

Jacobs was one of the architects of KHJ in the 1960s who along with consultant Bill Drake and an amazing staff created one of the all time great radio stations.

He later developed American Top 40 and other long running programs for syndication.

Today’s generation of PDs can learn so much from Jacobs. He was a master showman creating some of the era’s most exciting radio promotions.

But what struck me most was his attention to detail. Nothing was left to chance.

The book covers much of the format details and systems used by KHJ. This is an amazing study of building blocks and small pieces required to build a great station.

Jacobs air staff was one of the best in history with talent like The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan and Charlie Tuna. Every new jock came to KHJ from a major radio station, and all did practice shows off air before they went live.

Anyone who has spent years designing hot clocks will find this to be a fascinating study of a great station.

The information can be found at http://www.93khj.com/ (see link to the right under ‘Great Stuff’)

Ron’s Blog is also posted under “Blog Roll”

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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Getting Time On Your Side

Program Directors are always telling me that time management is an on-going challenge.

It’s no surprise that “Manage Self, Not Time” is one of the most viewed articles on this blog.

There are dozens of good time management systems, tons of books and plenty of software available.

It takes practice and discipline to use a time management system effectively.

There are so many demands placed on us today that often a combination of systems is needed.

Franklin Quest was the first system I encountered in 1993.

It was paper based and was great for tracking information and commitments. But, email and cellphones really didn’t exist then.

Advances in electronics and computing took our time pressure from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye.

The Franklin System generally helped me stay organized.

But in time something else was needed.

I tried Franklin software, Palm Pilots and a variety of add ons but nothing seemed to be one hundred percent effective. They only made my system more bulky.

Tony Robbins RPM or Rapid Planning Method offered a totally different approach.

Robbins is best known as motivational speaker whose style can be a little over the top for some.

The RPM system is his best work, at least in my opinion.

Instead of a hard core system using ‘to do’ lists, RPM teaches you a system of thinking. It’s very powerful when used consistently.

You begin by doing a ‘mind dump’ on paper of all your tasks, calls and commitments . This is followed by ‘chunking’ like items together and creating very specific outcome statements.

The idea is to get you very clear about what you want to accomplish. The more specific you make your outcome the better.

You then have a shorter list of manageable key outcomes. Often you’ll find the things on the ”to do’ list were unnecessary in getting your outcome.

The focus becomes getting real results.

Robbins recommends planning across a week and adjusting the plan daily.

RPM also features a very simple yet powerful way to handle project management.

RPM is a ten day course on CD offered through the website tonyrobbins.com. It’s not cheap, but worth the investment.

A paper planner is available but not really necessary.

I sometimes drift from following my system. When that happens, it’s time to review the CD and that gets me right back to the basics and feeling in control.

Whatever system you choose should be simple to follow, and help you keep track of important information.

Most of all your system should feel effortless.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2008 in Time Management

 

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Stormy Weather Ahead

People living on the coasts don’t want to hear it, but Hurricane season is back.

Bertha is the second named storm of the Atlantic season.

It is far out to sea and potential landfall is yet unknown.

This is the time to prepare especially if your station is in a region where the big storms track.

There are several good websites with great information.

The Hurricane Watch Net is one is one of the best. It is located at http://hwn.org.

The site contains information about active storms and provides the latest coordinates and graphics.

It was especially helpful three years ago when Rita was headed toward Houston and we needed to evacuate family.

Amateur radio operators man a network when a storm is near landfall. A shortwave radio is all you need to hear them.

The frequencies and times the network is active are updated on the Hurricane Watch website.

It is a good idea to collect frequencies for NOAA, FEMA, Red Cross, and other emergency services. Even hurricane hunters can be heard as they fly into the storm.

The National Hurricane Center Website is http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

Monitoring Times has a great website filled with frequencies. The link is http://www.ominous-valve.com/hurricne.txt

A good communications receiver can be very helpful during storms. But, most of these services are heard with an inexpensive shortwave radio provided it can receive in upper and lower sidebands.

The Sony 7600GR and Grundig G5 sell for around $150. Both are small, but excellent radios.

Grove Electronics, Universal Radio and Radio Shack are just a few places you can find shortwave radios.

To learn more about shortwave and utility stations, try these publications.

  • Monitoring Times Magazine
  • Passport To World Band Radio (updated annually and available in most book stores)
  • The Shortwave Listening Guidebook By Harry Helms (available at Universal Radio)
  • The Complete Shortwave Listeners Handbook By Hank Bennett, Harry Helms and David Hardy. (Also through Universal Radio) Universal Website is linked to the right of this posting.
 
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Posted by on July 4, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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The Less You Get It, The Better

About five years ago my youngest son did a project at his high school that surveyed radio listening among students.

The findings would shock most broadcasters.

The students at that high school did very little listening to radio.

Fast forward to today.

If you surveyed that same group of kids they would probably say they listen even less.

He’s in college now, and most of Andrew’s friends never listen to radio.

They all listen to music and are constantly finding new and interesting bands.

But those bands rarely make it to radio and if they do it’s when they are ‘over’ in their eyes.

Broadcasters have their head in the sand or somewhere else, it they believe this generation is like the last one.

They are not.

IPODS, Facebook, You Tube and all of the interactive sites are their media world.

Radio is something your parents might listen to, no your grandparents.

It’s that far off the radar.

Radio doesn’t speak their language, talk about their interests or play their music.

What happened to the program directors that lived and breathed the audience?

Top 40 PDs of an earlier generation spent time in the schools and sock hops to find out what the audience cared about and to learn their language.

I know CHR PDs today that just go home to the suburbs at night. Their only contact with the listener is when they are looking at the callout.

Ever wonder how research companies contact the participants? None of the people in this age group that I know have home phones.

Makes you wonder about the research.

Radio owners have a very serious problem on their hands.

I don’t know how radio will win younger listeners back.

Perhaps a company should hand over a signal to this twenty-something group to allow them to create their own radio station.

Pick some smart creative types and let them go at it.

The result will probably be a great interactive website with a radio station attached.

Not the other way around.

My guess is you won’t get it at all, but they will.

And there’s the win.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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