Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is It "Decision Time" For You?

I think it's safe to say the radio talent world was rocked last week by hundreds of 'R.I.F.' firings at the two biggest companies.  It's put a lot of you (even those still employed) in the position of having to soon ask yourself, "what's next for me?". 

Earlier this year, I found myself in a similar position and it can be...well, challenging.  You may decide to hang in or opt out and re-invent yourself, perhaps in a completely different profession.  A couple of colleagues suggested I re-post this blog so those of you not sure of your next move might see that you're not alone.  You'll hear a lot of noise in the near term, some affirming your love for your craft and others telling you it's the end of the road.  It can be terribly confusing and demoralizing and I feel your pain.  I hope this helps.

Why I'm Not Ready To "Give It Up!  Get Out Of Radio!"

If you've been on the world-famous radio 'beach' for a while, I'm guessing this will sound pretty familiar.  I can't tell you how many times, during my year-long job search, I've heard the following from colleagues, friends and even some family:
  • "Dude, get out of radio.  The business stinks-it's over"
  • "Radio isn't what it used to way I'd stay in this business"
  • "There are no jobs!  Why bother?"
  • "Hey, you had a great run- but it's time to go to work for a living"
  • "Radio sucks.  It's all corporate!  Why would you still want to do it?"
Sorry to disappoint but I honestly don't find myself ready to "give it up" or "get out now".  Why? It isn't a matter of me being stubborn, in denial or not realizing the reality that the business has changed so dramatically during the past dozen years.

I simply can't imagine abandoning radio because I really, truly, genuinely love what I do.  How many of us are so blessed we can say that about our jobs and really mean it?  I love my craft a great deal.  There is nothing like building a fun, exciting, compelling radio station, creating a hot buzz, getting those numbers in and knowing you have something unique and special going on. There's nothing quite like helping on-air talent grow into greatness.  Nothing like bringing a team together and being on a mission. Nothing like brainstorming an event idea and having it turn out way better than you envisioned.  Nothing quite matches the thrill of being part of a group of winners all doing something great.

I love being part of all the cool stuff we get to do. We were almost thrown in jail with the WSNX "Mystery Money Man" stunt.  We set a Guiness Book mark with the "World's Biggest Musical Chairs" and won a free MTV concert for Notre Dame with "Rock Alike" when we were in South Bend.  We debuted 98 Surf FM/ Pensacola-Ft Walton Beach #1 in about 100 days on-air.  Our facility at WOLL/West Palm Beach was a dive with bars on the windows in a crack neighborhood but we banded together and rocked the house (RadioInk's Eric Rhoads did a weekend shift for us and was shocked his car wasn't stolen).  

We got to do an Arrow station in Nashville and cranked it up to #2 for several years (no shame in being second to WSIX in those days) and were honored to have Peter Frampton play St. Nick at our "Breakfast With Santa" event. We had an all-star line-up in Orlando at Big 100 that was the only FM not to simulcast with a TV station during Hurricane Charlie and did a 50kwAM/100kwFM simulcast with our N/T station...their news folks with our seasoned pros (like Mike Harvey, Bob Berry and  Chris Rivers) that kept listeners informed and feeling safe during an amazing, destructive event. How fun it was to do an Adult Hits launch in Louisville (Louie FM) and have immediate success working with Atlanta legend J.J. Jackson and wonderful pros like Lori Bradley and Traci Taylor (one of the few in this format genre that was a big success).

This isn't reminiscing about 'back-in-the-day'. It's reveling in the ability to play a role in an industry that finds itself in a storm of redefinition.  And, save for a day or two here and there, I've loved every minute of it; despite all the changes and challenges, I wake up every day wanting to do it all over again.

Does this mean I don't get the occasional creeping negative thought? Of course not. Staying positive is the one of the biggest challenges when one is looking for work (as millions in America can attest, including many in my home state of Michigan whose families grew up in the auto industry).  It really is vital to have enough true faith so I view any opportunity that closes as a new one about to open right around the corner.

To my friends and colleagues who, out of love and caring, suggest "give it up, dude", sorry but this is what I was gifted to do, the fire still burns within me and I intend to keep doing it until some fat lady insists on singing directly to me.  

Yes, I know...I'm nuts.  But, as you well know, I'm just not the quitting type.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5 Things You Can Do Right Away (If You Were 'Budgeted Out')

Wow, is it getting crowded out here.  Another round of 'reduction-in-force' going on a the biggest radio groups has hundreds of pros on the well-populated radio beach.  If this has happened to you, I'm truly sorry you're having to go through all of this.  Been there and done that and I hope you'll allow me to share some things you might want to consider in the short term.

THE BIG CHILL... Take a couple of days or a week (or a month) to clear your head before you reboot.  It's a good opportunity to recharge your batteries, enjoy some family time, maybe (to quote Bob Seger) get out of Denver for several days.  It's a lot easier to re-energize once you've let the emotion and the noise of these events die down.  It may even be a case of evaluating whether you want to stay in radio at all...many have said 'adios' and some stubborn goofs Iike me (as evidenced on my first blog post) after I found myself in your position.  It may be time to seriously consider professionally re-inventing yourself.

HOW IS YOUR PACKAGE LOOKING?  When is the last time you updated your resume?  Is it simple black & white text or is it different, something that will set you apart from the crowd?  It's a pain for some to send aircheck files in email, so why not create a personal YouTube page and post your audio there vs. clogging the inboxes of those who hire?  Think whether your presentation looks like most others or stands out.  Your package represents YOU...make it cook, sizzle and rock the house.  And, be persistent...a squeaky wheel. 

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK...  Reach out to everyone you know and let them know you're available, especially your mentors. It may sound silly to ask, but are you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Googie+?  It might make sense to create a separate 'fan page' for you, the radio guy who's looking, and there are ways to dress them up (and for free, as with Pagemodo or Wildfire) so you can be more than average or ordinary.  An even better question might be, "are you on any social network(s)"?  If you aren't today, you might want to get going so you're not irelevant tomorrow.  There are tons of websites that can help (like Mashable or the Facebook page Social Networking For Radio Stations).  Remember back in the day, when we had to record airchecks on cassette, UPS or FedEx them, etc. and please keep in mind that social networking involves one cost:  your time.  Use these great (and mostly free) tools to spread the word and present yourself and, most importantly, to build and cultivate relationships.  You always hear about engaging with your audience; engage with your network, as well.  Avoid posting just shill about you looking for a gig and focus on sharing thought-provoking items. Those doing the hiring are there- are you?

STAY MOTIVATED BY STAYING PLUGGED-IN... Keep in touch with what's going on in our industry.  Sign-up for the daily emails on important websites like, Jacobs Media,, and (among others).  To widen your perspective, subscribe to free blogs or Twitter feeds from thinking people like Mark Ramsey Media, Chris Brogan, Eric Rhoads, Social Media Insider, Brand Channel, Triton Digital and more. You'll be asked about a lot of the things they discuss and present on these pages and now that you have some extra time, take advantage of it.

KEEP BUSY... Take up a new hobby, get more involved in your church, take some college classes, use this time to do more with your family, start a new workout routine or volunteer your time (because giving your time to others will help keep you positive).  Knock out some of those home projects you've been putting off.  Think about having a yard sale (in case you end up moving, plus the dough will come in handy). Feeling sorry for yourself day after day will get you nowhere.  You actually should grieve some- losing a job is one of the most stressful things you'll ever go through but please don't drown in your grief. Until you land your next job, you'll have good days and you will have bad days.  You'll go days and maybe weeks without getting any action... that's just the way it is these days. 

One think I know for sure is I don't have all the answers but maybe something in this piece will serve as some decent thought starter sor you..

If you still love being in radio, keep the faith, hang in and please remember these words from the late Jim Valvano:  don't give up, never give up.

Thanks and, more than ever...KEEP ROCKIN'!
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'Men Of A Certain Age' Still ROCK.

Consolidation, force reduction, budget cuts, contraction.  Call it what you like but the talent squeeze has been on for years in radio and one group seems to be fading faster than any:  over-50 Programmers and Personalities.  Two years ago at the NAB in Philadelphia, Edison Media's Larry Rosin, who has piloted their "30 Under 30" talent search, observed, "we are fast becoming an industry of old men".


There's no doubt that quite a few in the Over-50 Club are being left behind.  Some of it can be justified:  the vets who cling helplessly to 'back-in-the-day', wishing all radio was still live in the studio, answering the hitline for four or five hours a shift.  Refusal to embrace voicetracking, multi-tasking (no more 'four-and-hit-the-door') and social media.  I can't argue with some of that, having seen it first-hand.  Technology is moving at a continually rapid pace and, for some, keeping up just isn't in the cards.

Yet, even Larry Rosin believes, as I, that this fraternity still has a lot to offer our industry. There are many highly experienced radio veterans who are focused on where radio and media are headed vs. the obsession with where we've been. They understand great content comes on a variety of delivery platforms and are eager to be part of it.  We've all heard something like, "fifty is the new forty" and, for those who are forward-looking and embracing the cutting edge, I believe there's some truth to it, especially with entertainers (radio Programmers and Personalities).

If you're in this Over-50 Club, you know far too well how difficult it's been to get noticed and hired the past several years.  Common perceptions range from, "they'll want too much money" to "they're over-the-hill" and "we have to have youthful energy".  Some of these stereotypes are not only inaccurate but terribly short-sighted and unfair for a great many of the most seasoned in our industry.  Here are a few reasons you (doing the hiring) can actually help yourselves by giving serious consideration to passionate, engaged, forward-thinking members of that Over-50 Club:

CRITICAL THINKING/PROBLEM SOLVING:  If you've been in the business for 25-30+ years, there's little you haven't seen and had to deal with.  Great decision-making skills and discernment cannot be underestimated.  Successful radio vets understand teamwork, professional conduct and how to turn potential disasters around with positive solutions.  They know how to handle themselves in critical situations, how to protect the license and how to develop relationships with sellers and clients.  They are pros. 

IDEA MACHINE:  It's been said there are no new ideas, just new twists on old ideas and that often rings true.  Accomplished industry veterans have not only done just about every crazy, successful promotion and contest ever created, many understand how great today's digital tools are at making them even more effective and enthusiastically embrace all the advantages at our disposal (that didn't exist just 10-15 years ago).

MENTOR/TALENT DEVELOPMENT: I can't tell you how often I've heard something like, "wow, the talent pool in radio is worse than ever!" and I just don't buy that.  I do believe some who had the blessing of being taught by great mentors and leaders have failed to 'pay it forward' to recent and current generations of talent but many have and they understand the privilege and the obligation to groom up-and-coming talent as they were so fortunate to have in their formative days of broadcasting.

BEEN THERE-DONE THAT:  Seasoned, successful radio pros know how to take care of business, how to get things done, to cut through the to make things happen.  Few are Rhodes Scholars but most are incredibly skilled when it comes to the nuts & bolts of making great radio (delivery platform notwithstanding).  They understand what makes relevant, compelling and entertaining content.  They know how to interact with their audience (and, now, embrace social media to be more effective than ever).  They come from a period (because most began at smaller or mid-market stations) where relationships were everything.  They get it.

Please don't view this post as me shilling for on-the-beach buddies and long-time radio guys who can't seem to find work in our continually-evolving industry...some are indeed 'over it', ready to move on and they probably should find something new to get excited about.  It's not exactly like ownership has been making all the right decisions or has great vision about where things are headed, so some of their skepticism is valid.  But, there are still owners, operators and market managers who can make their jobs one helluva lot easier and a ton more successful by at least giving serious consideration to those in this Over-50 Club.  You might be surprised at the passion and quality you can add to your

As always, we'd all love to hear your thoughts and perspectives in the Comments section below.

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Monday, October 3, 2011


My last several weeks' worth of blog postings have addressed the repetitive noise in radio; air talent using the same phrasing and verbiage every time, the generic nature of assembly-line voicetracking and shows just cranked out instead of crafted with care and relevance.

Our latest topic is sure to endear me to production directors and copywriters all over America:  'blah' commercial copy.  I'll beg advance mercy because I'm keenly aware of the pressure production departments are experiencing these days.  As with jocks voice-tracking, however, I'm not sure it excuses us from the trap of overusing already over-used radio-speak terms and crutch phrases seemingly straight out of the RAB style book from 1975 (if our goal is to connect with listeners and speak their language).

Here are some faves (and, please forgive a bit of the 'Andy Rooney irony' in some of my comments):

  • SUCCULENT:  why does only seafood get the 'succulent' description in commercials?  It's really unfair for beef, pork and chicken.  A better question might be, "do real people ever use the term 'succulent' to describe their meats?
  • CONVENIENTLY LOCATED:  just once, I'd love to hear a commercial say, "we're not very conveniently located but we have a really great service!".
  • DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U (or, dubya dubya dubya, depending on your locale):  it's been at least the mid-90s since using "www" was needed to use in browsers.  If you say, "find us at", I'm pretty sure they'll know it's on the world wide web thingy.
  • PURCHASE/RECEIVE:  the last time I heard somebody say, "I'm going to the store to purchase some groceries"?  Never, ever.  "Purchase xxx and you will receive..." is in countless commercials.  Most of my friends and colleagues would say 'buy' and 'get'.  
  • YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID:  who are they, Ms. Cleo, knowing I'll be glad in advance?  I'm guessing if I'll be glad I did, it won't because that line was in their commercial.
  • IT'LL CHANGE YOUR LIFE:  a cure for cancer or eliminating poverty are life-changing.  Calling your 800 number for new catheters won't.  
  • LOCATED (AT):  one of my top pet-peeve/totally useless phrases.  When you give the address, you're implying location.  Not to mention 'located at' is in seemingly half of the radio commercials out there.
  • PLAY-ACTING SPOTS:  you know, the two supposedly 'real' people having a conversation about a product or service and we just happened to sneak a mic into the room to record them for 59 seconds (nod nod, wink wink).  They're either two uber-familiar production voices (in other words, wallpaper) or a couple of untrained, bogus sounding interns.  I mean, really...these are supposed to be believable?  Unless it's a brilliantly-written, very funny concept, these are just noise and, Mr. Advertiser/Mr. Copywriter, nobody's buying it.
  • BEST SELECTION/LOWEST PRICES:  since most car dealer ads make this claim, can there be one ounce of truth in it?  In the age of being real, genuine and engaging, biggest/best/most just isn't believable.  If yours really is the best selection, please tell me why, don't just make an empty claim.
  • HEY GATOR FANS, HEY BUCKEYE FANS, HEY SALUKIS FANS:  I guess I missed the memo that said every commercial on sports stations (and, this is especially true during game broadcasts) have to begin with the "hey, whatever fans!".  If they're listening, they already know they're fans of their favorite team- we don't need to club them upside the head with non-stop reminders.
There are more and I'd be grateful if you'd share some of the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard crutch phrases that drive you nuts.  We could also get into infomercials ("but, wait!") but that's an entirely new topic.  

The take-away here is that just a little more time and a tiny bit of thought would go miles in our radio commercials not being like every other and would speak to our audience in their terms.  Taking stock copy and replacing the business and tag-line every time is cheating your clients, boring your listeners and turning your commercials into wallpaper.  Banging it all out assembly-line style is just as bad writing and producing spots as it is doing your radio show like that. 

Ordinary is out, fresh, different and authentic are in.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Have A Soul- 'Denise' Does Not (Pt. 2)

As some of you know, I'm on a campaign to keep 'artificial intelligence' DJ software like Denise irrelevant.  I addressed this topic recently, released a follow-up on "How To Keep Denise Out Of Your Life" last week and started this based on hearing from so many of you, "I keep reading how I need to engage but nobody's telling us how".  I'm blessed to have worked with so many talented personalities and learned a ton from them. Thus, my postings to help get you thinking about what you do, how you can do it and help keep radio relevant.

TALK TO YOUR LISTENERS-NOT ABOUT THEM:  Like you (unlike 'Denise'), your listeners are breathing, thinking, active human beings.  Listening to a lot of radio, you'd think they were ornaments on an end table as many refer to them as 'people' (i.e.:  "wow, we had a lot of people at our event Saturday" or "thanks to all the people calling in").  That's what I mean by talking about your listeners, as if they're not actually part of the conversation.  How about, "hey, great to see you at the..." or "lots of you calling in...".   Think "you/we/us" vs. "they/them/that".  A lot of us were trained to put a photo of a target listener in front of us and talk to them- that's actually not a bad visual.  The way you connect and engage is to bring them into your show and not keep them at arm's length.  Just this morning, as I was about to publish this, I saw a video of Valerie Geller, author of "Beyond Powerful Radio", talking about this very thing with Mark Ramsey and it's absolutely worth taking ten minutes to check it out.

TELL STORIES vs. READING COPY:  I've no doubt driven many jocks batty by reminding them to "stop reading the forecast- just tell 'em the weather".  You're thinking, "the weather- really?  Not very big-picture"  but, it's a good example of typical, generic radio-speak to which many of us can relate.

Almost every station does the weather and most of the time it's, "partly cloudy/mostly sunny/30% chance of", right?  National Weather Service meteorological terminology.  Can you imagine getting up in the morning and asking your spouse "what's it gonna be like today?" and hearing "well, dear- it'll be partly to mostly sunny with a 40% chance of rain and a high in the low to mid 70s".  They'd probably say, "looks like it could rain but it'll be 75".  A cool example of this was on a spring break, my friend Bruce Peckover and I drove to South Florida...we're on the beach, all sun, Y100 rockin' on the radio, and Don Cox comes on over this six second intro and says, "Y100 Weather...great today, better tomorrow.  It's 84 at Y100".  No NWS phrasing, no attempt to sound official.  He told the story and, if you were listening, you got it.  This applies to any content- promos, music info, contests...engage them by turning somebody else's (liner writer) words into something they can conceptualize and understand.

Anybody can open a mic and read words-use your special gifts and personality to develop your on-air character and tell the story.

GET PERSONAL:  Quite often, we hear "hi to Sue, listening to us at work today" and if we're being totally honest, about 95% of the time, it's made up...right?  Why not  keep a copy of your station's loyal listener database in your studio and, a couple of times an hour, do actual personal shout-outs BUT say their first name, last name and where they work/where they're from.  Yes, saying an actual listeners whole name and workplace!  Why?  There thousands of "Sues" listening but only one "Sue Daniels working at PNC Bank".  If you're voicetracking, it doesn't matter if they're actually listening the precise time you do it- it's the fact you're confirming that other real listeners are tuning in (making the same great choice as your other listeners) and you're truly grateful that they listen.  And, on the off chance that somebody who knows them hears it, that's an added bonus when they say, "hey, Sue- they said HI to you on XXXX!".  This is great social proof, further cementing the bond with your audience.

Admittedly, this is pretty fundamental and basic (as was Part One) but if we Programmers aren't teaching our talent more than what to do but how to do it, we won't really hear it come out of the speakers.  When CBS Radio's Dan Mason announced his thoughts on the music recently, I shared some ways on how to actually do it effectively so you'd have some direction and so your audience would hear it and appreciate you for connecting the dots for them.

Radio is the most intimate form of show business...does your show live up to that?  Are you ordinary or engaging, entertaining and memorable every day?  Do your listeners think, "he/she is like me" when they tune in or is it all the same old noise to them?   Please don't allow a 'Denise' to replace you because she can say what you say, just cheaper.

Please feel free to add your comments or suggestions- we're all in this together.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!

502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Friday, September 16, 2011

How To Keep 'Denise' Out Of Your Life (Part 1)

I recently blogged about the new 'artificial intelligence' radio personality, 'Denise' and got lots of feedback on it.  Her creator, Dominique Garcia, has also gotten some interesting response, as you can imagine.  

The spirit of my post on Denise wasn't that a computer-generated disc jockey is the answer for anybody or that developing her was radio blaspheme but that if today's radio talent want Denise's aircheck relegated to Programmers' junk mail folder, some should probably make sure you don't sound canned, generic or like everybody else and promised some upcoming messages on easy ways to stay fresh, unique and memorable.

I guess I'm just one of those delusional Programming types who still believes in the value of our on-air talent and how you can be what distinguishes us from being just a jukebox or a Pandora.  In these days of smaller staffs and more duties, it's not uncommon to take an assembly line approach (even unintentionally), however it shouldn't be an excuse for being ordinary.  Much of what you'll see over the next several postings will seem terribly obvious to many but I'd challenge you to listen to a lot of radio in various markets and tell me that, save for a few driven, motivated stars, there's much inspired, passionate, fired-up radio going on.

SMILE, HAVE FUN AND GET INTO WHAT YOU DO! There's nothing more boring than hearing a radio personality sounding detached or uninterested.  Whether live or pre-recorded, think of some sort of 'pre-game' ritual to get fired up before your show.  Deliver your station's calls/logo and positioner with passion and enthusiasm (never just rush through it just to get to what's next).  If you don't sound pumped and interested in your listeners, they'll likely never be interested in you.

GO IN WITH A PLAN- It's been said that great radio talent is in show prep mode 24/7/365 and that makes a lot of sense.  What's the day's big buzz?  Who's saying crazy things?  What are your listeners talking about?.  It could be a hot movie or major local event, tonight's big game or some unusually great/ bad weather...there's always something.  If your listeners are talking about it, you should be talking about it.  The best talent aren't just great at talking but also at listening...hearing what's going on around you and your audience.  Prepare your breaks and how you're going to get in and get out of it so you're totally confident.  More than ever, being totally focused and concise is vital.

YOUR VOICE IS YOUR GIFT...SO IS YOUR MIND- When I got into radio as a teenager, I was worried I didn't have a good enough voice to be much and was told "it's not what voice you have but how you use it".  How true.  Examine your pacing, intensity, inflection.  And, use the great range God gave you as an artist uses different hues and colors.  The calls/logo doesn't necessarily have to sound exactly the same all the time, nor does your pacing.  Tailor your approach to the song you're presenting or coming out of.  If you just rip through breaks, they'll all tend to sound the same.  Just think of going through a fast food drive-through and how much of their introduction tends to sound like 'noise'.  Why?  Because they repeat basically the same thing the same way hundreds of times a day, smoking through it so they can take your order.  That's why many of us think, "huh???" when we hear them.  Since you're far more talented and skilled, please don't allow yourself to fall into that trap.

DITCH THE CLICHE WORDS/PHRASES:  In other words, speak your listeners' language.  "On your Tuesday", "your chance to win", "keep it here", "register to win", "by request"...many jocks say this sort of thing hour after hour, day after day, week after week, all at about the same pace, tone and intensity.  There are about a thousand ways to say nearly everything but most talent don't get much past #2 or 3.  If you have a crutch you're having a tough time breaking, one exercise is to get a legal pad and write your crutch phrase at the top; then, give yourself sixty seconds or so to jot down alternative words or phrases.  You won't even have to take that into the studio- the exercise itself will stimulate your mind and help steer you out of the ditch.

I realize a lot of these things might seem like Radio 101...basic, fundamental, obvious stuff.  Yet, as multi-tasked as you're asked to be, it's sometimes easy to just crank your show out and not put lots of thought and preparation into crafting your content so it sounds fresh, different and uniquely you.  None of us wants radio talent to become irrelevant and if we're constantly finding ways to stand out from the crowd, we'll more easily maintain our value.  Radio is, after all, the most intimate form of show business.  Are you putting on a show or just whipping through to get it out of the way.  That is our choice.

I'd love to see your thoughts and suggestions, so please click on 'comment' and share.

Next up:  part two on keeping 'Denise' unemployed.

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!

502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Denise": Hot, New Chick Or Your Replacement?

Have you heard about "Denise"?  She's the new, computer-generated, "artificial intelligence" DJ who made her debut on a public station in San Antonio last week.  Some of us probably tuned into to Denise’s debut and, with the build-up and hype, were a little surprised to hear…well, a computer-generated voice. Didn’t matter that she gave away a prize or had some content on a song she played. 

There's a terrific piece on "Denise" from Jacobs Media today that features Denise's creator and it really got me thinking that if we're being totally honest with ourselves, we also hear ‘live’ (or Memorex) talent that may as well be computer-generated. Radio peeps often complain about how repetitive radio is but it’s almost always in reference to the music. How often do we hear the same jocks on the same stations say their calls/logo, positioner, name, etc. exactly the same way at the same pace & intensity ever break, every hour, day after day?  Far too often. I’ve referred to this as “McDonald’s Drive Thru Syndrome”, where the voices on those little boxes are often just noise because they say the same ol' scripted greeting hundreds of times a day and just rip through it as fast as possible so they can get to our order.

Do we really buy the "radio's talent pool isn't what it once was" lament?  I sure don't.  I do believe that some in our business have dedicated a lot less time coaching and developing great talent.  There are a lot of bright, skilled, terrific personalities on-the-air these days who simply aren’t being coached and encouraged to break out of the “by request”, “partly cloudy”, “register to win”, “keep it here” mindset and go for sounding fresh, using words as colors to make your canvas unique and different every time you grab a brush.

Many things in our business have changed a lot in the past 10-15 years but something that should never change is inspired talent using your skills, heart and words to be anything BUT programmed, predictable and assembly- lined into a digital delivery system.   As an industry, we're pretty silly to concede developing great talent simply because of voicetracking and force reduction.  That feels like an excuse for stations (and jocks) who don't sound topical, relevant, entertaining and inspired.

Live or tracked, WE have the choice. I suppose if a PD or market manager OK with their jocks just mailing it in, they’ll get out of the speakers what they’re putting in- not much.  This is not at all intended to be preachy or a lecture but simply encouragement to keep voices like Denise irrelevant by making sure we aren’t… ever.

Over the next several days, we'll share some thoughts on how you, as an on-air talent, can avoid the usual ruts and routines that might have you sounding ordinary instead of fresh and unique.

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!

502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Sunday, June 12, 2011

LeBron or Dirk The Chemistry Major?  What do chemistry and hoops have to do with radio? 

I just finished watching the NBA finals and remember when Miami signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play with Dwayne Wade, there were all sorts of predictions the Heat would be the greatest NBA team ever...they might go undefeated...should have the best record in NBA history.  It was an historic threesome, talent-wise, and great things were expected, especially in South Florida.

EXPECTATIONS.  The Heat started slowly but ended up with the third best record in the NBA- a teriffic season for most teams.  But, with all that talent, more was the team and their fans.  How could they NOT win the NBA title?

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to South Beach.  The Heat played the Dallas Mavericks, a team that had never won an NBA title; the team with seven players who had been to NBA finals without winning a championship.  Both teams got through the playoffs and the general consensus was there's no way the Heat, with all that talent, could lose to the Mavs, with just one superstar, Dirk Nowitski.

IS LESS ACTUALLY MORE?  The Mavericks not only won the NBA title but they won it in six games, clinching in Miami!  Everybody predicting the Heat would skate to the title forgot about one thing:  team chemistry.  The team that plays together often wins together, even if they can't really match up to their opponent talent-wise.  These finals were a great example of that...the Dallas Mavericks just wanted it more and you could see it throughout most of the series.  Great talent with lousy chemistry almost never wins; average talent with excellent chemistry can almost always win.

IS THERE GREAT CHEMISTRY IN YOUR CLUSTER?  It used to be (before consolidation) that that you could build a team, create a great atmosphere and have success.  A team of hungry players, playing and winning together.  It's more difficult to do so these days with a radio station because, in most cases, there aren't many stations with enough local 'players' to have much of a team.  That means we have to be a lot more creative, more resourceful and build a cluster-wide chemistry.  Is there fun in your hallways?  Is there a good synergy between the different stations?  Do you make your voicetrackers feel like they're really part of your team?  Is there a healthy spirit of competition between stations in your cluster?  If your answer to all three questions isn't a confident "yes!", there's work to do.

MAKING IT HAPPEN.  We've been blessed to have some true superstar air staffs (like Big 100 in Orlando) that had success and some teams with talent that may have lacked experience but had the commitment and fire inside them to win.  Our direct competitors may have had more established/talented individuals but they couldn't match our enthusiasm, passion, drive to win and to do so as a team.  That's up to the head coach (the PD) to foster that mindset.  You can't fake or manufacture this- it has to be genuine and sincere.

THE HEART TO WIN.  Whether you lead stars or the less-seasoned, you stand a better chance at having a great sounding, successful station if your team is together...on the same page, pushing each other to get better, pride in their craft and the willingness to be among the hardest working talent in show business.  These essential qualities can overcome a lack of polish and experience, pus they can also overcome a competitor with big talent but no heart.  Personally, I was average in science and too 'height challenged' to be great at basketball.  But, thanks to those I've learned from, I've been fortunate enough to build very strong, winning teams and had fun doing it.


Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!
"Hire JJ Duling!" Facebook page

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

GaGa /Weiner Uniqueness - Is Your Station Special?

As Lady GaGa and Anthony Weiner continue making headlines for different reasons, I want to tell you about something else pretty unique.

This past Saturday and Sunday was "Crusade Weekend" in the Louisville metro and region, which is pretty much how locals refer to the annual WHAS "Crusade For Children" event that benefits a wide range of children's charities throughout central Kentucky and southern Indiana.  Though they haven't been co-owned for a quarter century, WHAS radio (840) and WHAS-TV continue to partner on this longest-running radiothon/telethon in America.

One hundred percent of the donations to "Crusade" go back out as grants.  This isn't one of those big-bucks, huge donor fundraisers but depends on a big volunteer network and smaller donations collected by area fire fighters at busy intersections.  Local fire departments actually compete against each other on WHAS radio and television throughout the weekend.  This year's topped $5,300,000 and since it's inception in the '50s, Crusade has raised over $138 million for special needs kids.

What's so cool about this event and why it's successful lies in the spirit of community it generates.  If you're outside on Crusade Weekend and see a fire truck coming down your street, you know there's probably no fire but local firefighters roaming the neighborhoods as they compete for bragging rights. 

It's live, local and with long-time WHAS personalities like Terry Meiners (along with a cast of many at Clear Channel-Louisville and WHAS-TV doing months of planning and coordination), it's done so much good for so long because of it's grass-roots nature and everyday people giving what they can to the firemen's boots, pickle jars in restaurants and hundreds of other fundraising events throughout the community.  If you got to listen, you'd swear the entire community was involved.  It's become such an institution that it's not unusual to have three generations of families involved in Crusade.  Millions of children have been helped over the decades and their families, in turn, volunteer.

In a radio age of homogenization, force reduction and increased competition, "Crusade For Children" is more proof (as has been demonstrated in those communities devastated by recent tornadoes) that radio is the most personal of mediums.  Radio can reach out and touch lives and communities in a way Pandora and satellite never will. 

I'm not suggesting you try to copy "Crusade For Children" in your market, but rather ask what is your station doing to do good, to make a be something special and unique beyond format boundaries?   It's easy to gripe about radio being downsized but it's important for all of us who love our craft to be important and positive in our communities so we can stay special and unique and not just another option that's not much different than satellite or internet radio.

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!
My "HIRE JJ!" Facebook page

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why The Heck Should We I.D. The Music?

Much is being made about the piece we saw on AllAccess and Radio Ink with CBS Radio's Dan Mason about air talent announcing the song titles and artists on-the-air and appropriately so. Our hits, our bread n' butter, have almost become an afterthought on more and more radio stations.  "Yeah, well maybe we'll ID some of the songs after we do our promo liner, shill for Saturday's remote and pump our website" is pretty typical.

I've also noticed that teasing upcoming songs has become a lost art in many markets.  In 25+ years of Programming, we spent considerable time coaching our talent to make the most of front and backselling.  After all, the music we play IS the #1 reason they come to us first. 

Well, it's one thing to say, "we should ID the music" and quite another to do so effectively and it's likely many of the air talent on the radio today haven't been coached on doing effective music backsells or billboards, so here are some thoughts I hope you find helpful:

  • Don't assume they know most of the songs your station plays.  When I was a Brand Manager for Clear Channel, I remember a market visit where we met with the jocks and discusssing better ways to connect when the PD piped up with a "you don't have to backsells...they KNOW who we play".  Really?  Consider your audience's values and what's important...their world doesn't revolve around our station or our music, so make sure to connect with them vs. going over their heads.
  • Speak your listeners' language, say it the way they know it, especially with upcoming songs; prepare your break so they get it.  Making a big deal out of Deep Blue Something, Five For Fighting and Stealers Wheel...well, you might as well be speaking Greek.  If you said marquee names like Van Halen, Sheryl Crow or Lady Gaga, they get it. And, if you said, "Breadfast At Tiffany's, Five For Fighting's 100 Years and Stuck In The Middle With You", there's little doubt what you'll be playing and you've given three great reasons to keep listening. 
  • One of the best at the tease then payoff?  Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio.  Yes, a sports talk guy.  Check out how he'll go into a break with his tease...he makes them intriguing, so you think, "what?" and almost have to stick with him to hear the payoff.  Music stations can do this, too.
  • Vary how you billboard your songs.  In other words, avoid ruts like always front-selling 3 songs, always giving complete title & artist, etc.  These breaks should be efficient, relevant and well-prepared to give your audience real, tangible reasons to stay with you.  Keep your sells fresh and fun. Never just mail it in.
  • When you start taking an 'assembly-line' approach and are just whipping through the next 3 acts on the log, it eventually becomes just noise.  Why be like the McDonald's drive-thru people who say their prepared routine 200 times a day and rip through it so fast we often can't understand them?  Every title you play is the favorite of a lot of our listeners and we should sound as excited to play it as they are to hear it.
  • Always have prepared concert or new music release info handy to help dress up any billboard or backsell.  You can also use a great line from the song you're coming out of when talking down the fade so you connect with the song like your listeners.  This was one of the traits of the great Top 40 personalities over the years and a quick listen to some classic airchecks (like or  Some of you might think it silly to check out some of these 'old school' jocks but they were the best out there and had incredible success.
  • This is my 'pet peeve' paragraph:  please avoid "keep it here" and "after this" after you do your what's-coming-up sell.  They've been pounded for years and are crutch phrases. Why not do something like, "...and Nickelback's 'Photograph' at 3:35" or "within ten minutes".  Appointment listening is critical these days, so it may be helpful to give the time a hot song is coming up on a somewhat regular basis. 
  • Some are probably asking, "is it that big a benefit?".  Just ask WMMO in Orlando, where then-PD Cary Pall installed "we ID all the songs we play" as a key on-air benefit. WMMO still does it a couple of times each hour and has been a consistently successful radio station for years.
Whether you're in a PPM market or not, every word counts.  We're in show business, so prepare, entertain and connect with your listeners so well they'll want to keep being your listeners.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!
My "Hire JJ!" Facebook page
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Friday, May 13, 2011


(NOTE:  re-posted from May 13 due to technical difficulties)

It's amazing how far we've come with regard to information accessibility on the internet.  All the cool stuff available at the click of a mouse is phenomenal.  It's educational and enlightening, motivating and inspirational.  But, at times, can it feel like just T.M.I. (too much information)?  I mean this in a mostly positive way-not complaining at all.

Here's what I mean:  in just one morning I read a post from RadioInk on "Today's Hottest WiFi Radio Devices", how "Traditional Radio Matters" at Digital Music News,'s "How The iPad Is Transforming Retail Sales", a Mashable story on how "Five Ways Social Media Has Changed Marketing Campaigns", a study on "Are There Bullies At Your Workplace" at OpenForum and Mark Ramsey's "Think of Your Digital Platform as a Relationship Engine".  There was an outstanding piece from Jacobs Media on "The L Word" (and, it had at least ten embedded links, all to other great stuff). 

And, just for fun, the breaking news on Ashton Kutcher joining "Two And A Half Men",  Ken Levine's blog post, "Confessions Of A Pathetic TV Addict", Jon Stewart's latest bit of brilliance and the stash of porn found at Bin Laden's compound.  Oh, almost forgot the 66 new emails, messages/status updates on Facebook and ordering my dogs' heartworm medication online.  This doesn't include any actual pleasure reading, either. 

Starting to sound familiar?

It's often said we only use ten percent of our brainpower ( about it here) but when we consider our thirst for knowledge and basic human curiosity on top of our daily routine (job, family, church, honey-do, maybe a little sleep), it's understandable that sometimes our heads feel like they'll just freeze up (like your computer or PDA does when trying to absorb all this information).  But, I love it- it's exciting, challenging, I enjoy the ever-increasing flow of information and like to think I'm learning something new every day.

So, what's the answer here?  How do we balance the wondrous and ever-increasing access to information/entertainment and just plain life?  If I could solve that one, bottle and sell it, I'd have beaten out Microsoft over buying Skype.  For now, I'm logging off, leaving my cell phone on the charger and going out to the peace and solitude of mowing my lawn.
"Hire JJ Duling!" Facebook page

Friday, April 29, 2011

Will & Kate - Giving Your Audience What They Like

I should begin this post with a disclaimer:  I don't count myself as a huge fan of the whole Royal Wedding thing.  I get it but it's just not the big deal to me it is to millions of others.

That being said, I'm pretty shocked at how many in the media (those we see nationally and among our friends in TV and radio) not only aren't fans but seem to go out of their way to riducule those who do get into it.  "People who waste their time on this are idiots", "nobody really cares about this", "I can't believe so many Americans get sucked into this" and "what moron would wake up at 4am to watch this crap?".  I'll bet there are radio personalities (sorry, mostly guys) who have refused to say a word about the royal wedding because they don't get it and they don't like it.  And, even worse, they've decided if they don't like it, their audience won't hear about it on their show.   I don't think I'm exaggerating because I've watched these comments and hundreds more on social networks (and, occasionally, on the radio/TV) for weeks.

My question is: when did it become our responsibility to decide what our audiences like or want?.  I don't ask this from a holier-than-thou spirit but from a heart that craves for radio to continue being rellevant and important.

We can have a discussion about how much the Brits spend on the event, watching it for 2-3 hours, the pomp and circumstance, etc., but there's no denying that the wedding of William and Katherine is of great interest in the U.S.  The T.V. networks, under pressure to keep a clean bottom line, wouldn't drop millions and devote so much air time covering the wedding if they didn't know their audiences wanted it.  WHY it's such a big deal is an entirely different subject for discussion but the fact is they do enjoy it and expect our media to engage with them about it. 

And, isn't that what getting and keeping an audience is all them what they want?  Look, I don't totally understand why some songs or artists, movies or TV shows are popular- I've never seen a "Harry Potter" movie but I know they're hugely popular and when the next one comes out, I'd be sure to include it in my show prep and make sure my jocks were talking about it...because our listeners expect it.

I'd challenge today's radio personalities to ask yourselves which camp you're in...are you in the critical, cynical camp who won't engage in 'the moment' with your listeners because you aren't interested in it OR are you part of the "if they want and like it, I'll give it to them" camp? 

If you want listeners to keep coming back to you and you want your station to be successful, I hope you're part of the latter. 

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!


"Hire JJ Duling!" Facebook page

Thursday, April 21, 2011

SIZE DOES MATTER- Making Your 'Little Thing' Really Big

Despite the apparently cheap and gratuitous lure of this posting's title, the thoughts I'm about to share are genuine and sincere.

I was inspired by reading several pieces this week, including Fred Jacobs' great blog post with the story behind Van Halen's brown M&M obsession (the parent story at, Business Advice From Van Halen) plus a good read shared on Facebook asking, "Is Good Radio Winning?".

Spoiler alert:  this will not be a 'corporate-radio-sucks' rant.  Those of you who know me well won't be surprised that I refuse to blather on about what I can't control but focus on what we can...and, what we, as Programmers and Air Talent, can influence is what we do.  I also don't intend this to be preachy but encouraging...that it's so important to find the time, to make the time, to put as much TLC into the sound of our product as we can.

As Programming talent, we're asked to do more than ever these days; being great multi-taskers is an assumed part of the gig.  But, is the price we're paying all the 'little things', the mundane details and routines that now concern not just one but, in many cases, multiple stations?  I commented on Fred Jacobs' blog that I'd remembered (since the advent of digital delivery systems like AV and NexGen) fellow PDs and colleagues sort of ribbing me for going through every day's loaded logs (music/imaging/spots) to check every hour for missing elements, for tweaking & tightening music-imaging-music elements, re-stacking stopsets for the best sound. I've even gotten some strange looks when talking about editing and massaging every hour of each day's Selector logs for spending around 30-45 minutes each day on tweaking, double-checking, etc.  My response was always, "if we want the best 24 hours of content possible, isn't it worth about an hour a day? I'd love my stock portfolio to deliver that...1 share invested, 24 returned".

All these little things indeed add up to one big thing:  our product.  What comes out of the speakers means everything...every piece, every hour, every day, all the time.  Nothing less than our best is expected by our audience.  A recent road trip made me realize how many stations were existing but not succeeding, not inspired; how so many voicetrack talent were basically mailing it in vs. producing a kick-ass radio show. 

We're all busy-we get it.  Our customers (our listeners, consumers of our product), however, don't know and they really don't care.  What they expect is our best.  If you're thinking, "this isn't very big-picture" considering where our industry is these days, I just hope your station is already something in which you take great pride and is a top performer.  In the end, all the slick logos, huge signals, big voices, marketing & research and Facebook posts will be useless if the product you're promoting isn't consistently great.

Let's let 'the suits' do what they do because Programmers and Personalities carping about it isn't going to change that end our industry.  Let us focus all our energies, the heart & soul, blood & sweat, that makes great radio great, 24/7/365. 

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!

"Hire JJ Duling!" Facebook page

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Strategic Alliance with Tom Kent Radio Network

I'm pleased to announce a new stratetic alliance with the Tom Kent Radio Network.  I've long-admired Tom for his forward-looking vision and commitment to making great music radio content available to more and more broadcasters.  We're working on some cool things and each of our passion and vision to topical, relevant and entertaining content makes this a fabulous match. 

From Tom Kent's press release:

TKRN President/CEO TOM KENT said, "I've had the pleasure of knowing Mr. DULING for a number of years. His expertise in research and programming development along with his vision for our business are exceptional. His extensive experience in multiple formats make him the perfect person to help guide us into the future."

DULING said, "What a pleasure it will be to work with TOM KENT, whose not only one of the truly great personalities in our industry but has built an amazing radio network that has the industry abuzz! Our shared enthusiasm for making great radio is a match made in heaven."

Monday, April 11, 2011


A few cool updates from Vegas that caught my eye today, along with some brief observations.

CBS Radio President Dan Mason tells this morning’s RAIN Summit “I have a much clearer understanding about where radio fits” in the media landscape than 3-4 years ago, and he says with various media “in tandem, you get much more media usage” overall. His biggest frustration is “educating and bringing along our own people” to learn that lesson.

My two cents:   His last observation is (or should be) a bit scary, in that many in our industry still don't get that we're no longer just big sticks in open fields on FM or AM.  Content is still king, regardless of delivery method, and the better the content, the better it's shared with your audience will separate contenders from pretenders.  If you (as a Programmer or an on-air talent) are still on that "all that really matters is what comes out of the speakers" thing, I hope you also understand those speakers could be on a PC, laptop or in ear buds.  If not, you're allowing your competitor to be more available and more engaged with your potential audience.

Kurt Hanson's Tweet from earlier today:  It's likely that internet radio now accounts for 6-7% of all radio listening; Pandora at nearly 3% on its own.

My .02:  Kind of puts where many think we are into perspective, doesn't it?  If you think this isn't a big deal, please think about how much of that 6-7% you'd like to add to your current shares.

Fred Jacobs/Jacobs Media:  89 million listened to online radio last month; 57 million last week. Weekly online radio audience doubles every five years.

My .02:  For those who still believe the digital threat is still far down the road, it's probably a good time to ask how much T.L.C. you're putting into your radio station's live stream and how much you're interacting with them.  To put this all into perspective, please keep in mind Facebook had 100 million users in August of 2008 and by January of this year was up to 600 million. 

Paul Krasinski, Arbitron SVP of Digital Media and Analytic:  Fastest growing demo in social media? 35-54s rule (young people are already there).   

My .02:   If you have an upper end programmed adult station and have always thought Facebook is just for kids, please remember what was the original social network:  radio.  Growing up, your audience got the first buzz on nearly everything from their favorite Top 40 station.  Your listeners are already there-are you?

More from Paul Krasinski:  Smartphone ownership has doubled in last year. Half of 18-34s do. And, six in ten favor smartphone over T.V.

My .02:  I hope you have an app for them.

And, this shared by Lori Lewis, the new Digital & Media Strategist at Jacobs Media: 

I posted these nuggets to help understand that the technology available to us is growing at an accelerated pace.  For those still trying to wrap your arms around all of it, I'll ask a simple question:  do you want to be part of where radio/content delivery is going or get left behind hanging on to where radio's been?

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!
The "Hire J.J.!" Facebook page