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'!
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