Creating purpose in what you do on-air

Another secret to producing reactive radio is PURPOSE. This must come through in everything you play and everything you say. This is, excuse the pun, easier said than done.

The shift in most music format radio stations is to reduce speech content under the maxim of ‘more music, less talk’. Combined with strict playlisting, this means that on a radio station with such a music-dominant format, it is very hard for any on-air talent to create any identity for their show and to ensure that it differs from the other shows. In some stations I have been to, the playlist simply rolls over from one show to the next, further reducing any differentiation between shows.

So what can you do to seek ‘the edge’? That’s easy – fool the listener. We all know that you follow a music playlist, but the listener must have the perception that you walk into the studio with a pile of CDs under one arm and a pile of show prep under the other. By referring to the music you play (“I thought to myself the other day that it’s ages since I played some Foreigner”) conjures up the image that you had a PURPOSE for playing that song.

You don’t have to so this for every song, just every now and then. Another example is to think about some notable event, say on the TV news the previous night, and link it to one of the songs you are playing. Example: “So Brad and Angelina have just had a baby girl. When I heard that I thought to myself I bet this is, now, the most listened-to song on Brad’s iPod”, then play Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely. This may be corny, but it’s also cute corny.

The secret here is to imply that you specifically selected the music for that show. The listener is then left with the impression that it is your show, that you put thought and PURPOSE into it and that you are presenting it just to them. The last thing you want the listener to think, no matter how true it may be, is that you simply slide into the chair in the studio at the start of the show and follow a computer-facilitated playlist created by someone else.

More importantly, you want the listener to think that you’ve been itching to get on-air and share the amazing music you’ve selected for the show, as well as all the brilliantly witty bits and pieces you’re going to use. You want the listener to think that you are presenting a complete radio show – with a beginning, middle and end – and that there is a purpose in everything you are doing. This can be achieved by using phrases such as the following:

  • “…if I’ve got time, I’m going to play you…”
  • “…guaranteed, within the next three hours, you will hear…”
  • “…I’ve got a song lined up for later that will…”
  • “…I was hauled over the coals the other day for playing a song a while back, and, dammit, I think I might just play it again…”
  • “…there are three songs in my show today that share a particular something in common…”
  • “…I was listening to my iPod while walking my cat, heard this and thought…”

You get the idea. Using phrases like these creates the impression that you are in control of the music and therefore you have compiled a show.

By putting thought into how you segueway from one song into another also shows that you have taken ownership of the show and that you are passionate about putting everything into the show for the listener. If you don’t, it just sounds like you’re going through the motions. Besides, if, in the space of playing three songs in a row, you can’t think of something amazing to say, you shouldn’t be on-air; you should be outside in the carpark making sure no-one is stealing the PD’s pick-up.

When designing your show prep (and if you’re not designing show prep for every show you should be poked in the eye with something sharp, like the bow of a cruise ship), ensure where possible that it is current and relevant. Again this will contribute to the impression that there is purpose in your show. Saying “here’s an interesting story about an Eskimo in Alaska…” suggests you’re just ripping stories from an American website. Talking about something that is happening now, and just around the corner from your listener, and then somehow linking it to a song on your playlist shows that you’re a high-level operator, a true radio professional. It shows you understand PURPOSE.

Remember the PD may be listening and there are few things more infuriating for a PD than knowing that a presenter is simply sitting down, playing the songs that are scheduled and back-announcing the songs thinking this constitutes a radio show.

Far rather create the impression of PURPOSE, and the PD will nod when you do so and smile, knowing you have ‘the edge’.

[All the work here is original. Nothing has come from any other resource. So, if you’re going to use or repost any of The Edge then please give due credit. If not….fine – be an asshole.]

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