The Thousand Percent Factor ... It's The Little Things
September 1, 2015
Listening to your show and the station is important. You don't know how they sound until you do. I recently gave a listen to the station of a client and heard some serious problems; during a song-to-song situation I heard a recorded liner/drop/jingle which said, "Now back to more music." It gets better; at the end of a fade of the very next song a new song started but suddenly the previous song came on again before giving way to the song which had begun to play. Wait, there was one more thing: At the end of the very same song, it ended abruptly and a new tune started. My friends, all of these things happened within a 10-minute period.
Even an average listener could have figured out something was a bit off. I called the owner/GM/PD of the station to find out if he was aware of the problems on his midday voice tracked from another show. He was a bit embarrassed and indicated he would call to check with his production guy to see if the station was having problems with its automation system.
In the middle of our conversation he said, "It's the thousand percent factor, it's the thousand little things that can add up to hurting the station's numbers and image."
I agreed with him because it's never one thing but a bunch of little things which, by themselves seem like small glitches, but if there are lots of these minor problems on a daily basis, it means your show or station is off the mark. You have to listen to your show or station regardless of whether is automated, semi-automated, syndicated (Weekly/Weekends/Holiday Specials) or voicetracked.
Every Moment Counts
One of the first things I do when working with an air personality is to have a casual conversation. These casual talks provide insight into their verbal skills -- talking too fast, wordiness, phrasing, the use of voice, and the ability to express clearly. We are drawn to those who can effectively communicate.
Make A Connection
Every time you open the microphone, it's a chance to connect with both the passive and active listener. Give the audience a reason to stick around for the next moment on the radio. It might be a brief humorous back-sell concerning an artist or song or pre-promoting something coming up after the commercial break. Either way, the more times listeners can be persuaded to come back, there is a potential for increased ratings.
Jocks get in the habit of saying unnecessary things like, "Thanks for being here." It would be okay to say if it were attached to an event or something the audience took part in during the show. It is a very general statement without meaning. Now, if it were a part of a recorded promo receiving lots of impressions or a catch phrase, it might be something people would take to heart and associate with the jock or the station.
Necessary Versus Unnecessary
The more the unnecessary is eliminated, the sharper the on-air moment and the show. There was a time when PPM and trends didn't exist; only two books a year were released and each rating period lasted only a few weeks. The programming goal was no mistakes. When you think of necessary versus unnecessary, extra words for no reason, focus on being word-efficient. Radio is an inexact science; record every show and analyze your verbal presentation. A programming buddy of mine always says," You don't have to be funny or informative, and don't take long attempting either one."
Voicetracking is the new norm for our business. Complaining will do you no good, so you might as well learn how to do it right. The term is relatively new, but the practice isn't; it used to be called 'Record and Playback.' Realistically speaking, Casey Kasem, Dick Clark, Mike Harvey, Walt Love, and all such shows were and are actually voicetracked. Think about it.
There are legendry stories of personalities recording parts of their shows for a variety of reasons ranging from dating hook-ups to heading off to a non-station paid personal appearance. Usually it was the 7p-mid or overnight jock who would do these things. The board op for Sly Stone of Sly and The Family Stone told me that sometimes Sly would record the last two hours of his show and split for weekend singing gigs. Yes, the same Sly who just won millions over back royalties was once an on-air personality in the Bay Area.
Another instance is the movie classic 'Play Misty For Me' about the crazed groupie who had a thing for the DJ character Clint Eastwood portrayed. He would record and play back parts of his show so he could take care of all sorts of late-night business. The point is, done correctly it sounds warm, friendly and live!
How Do I Get It Right?
You're an actor; know your lines and deliver them in a believable fashion. Whatever you're going to say, do it out loud before you record anything. It is a mindset; eventually with practice, you will be able to voicetrack talk-sets in one take. Your whole approach must be as if it were live -- do show prep, especially local stuff. I always suggest going back and listening to your first break for voice and energy levels. No cheating; you cannot re-record. It is going to take a lot of production room practice, but you will begin to sound live.
If you are voicetracking to another market, get the station or stations to provide the web address of the major local paper, TV stations, colleges, high schools, parks and points of interests. Once a week, try and connect with the OM or PD of the market for a 10-minute conversation to get a feel for things. In your show prep, check the website or sites of the station, any newspapers and one of the TV stations for any content you might be able to use.
The key to any pre-recorded situation is listening to what has been recorded. Listen before it airs to make sure the mechanics of the broadcast sound right and to make sure you don't sound like a robot. It has to sound real. One thing, do not re-record a ton of takes when it comes to your verbal content. You'll strain your voice and you'll get ear fatigue. Like I mentioned earlier, it is going to take a lot of practice to sound real.