Use It Or Lose It

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on January 13th, 2022 

Let’s face it, most music stations are averaging about four talk breaks an hour, and in a PPM world, if executed according to the “less is more” strategy, those breaks are short. That’s why it’s critical to make sure those few breaks allotted to talent are compelling and make a connection with the listening audience. That’s why DJs are called “talent,” because they are supposed to be saying things that actually mean something to listeners vs. just making empty statements.

I’ve been hearing a lot of useless talk breaks done by live and voice tracked talent lately. No real content, just introing or back selling songs, or promoting Sunday morning countdowns or things that are obvious assumptions for listeners about their chosen radio stations. As managers, we should be making sure we are getting our money’s worth if we are paying talent to host a show, or voice track one, or why spend the money? Station imaging can handle song intros and back sells, or empty liners. As talent, we should be making sure we do prep and say things that the target audience can relate to, so it’s not just background noise.

I have often wondered why radio programmers continue to put regular countdown teases into formatics for jocks to cover? There is a reason National countdowns are airing on Sunday morning on stations across the county. It’s filler content at a time when not a lot of people are listening to the radio. Same thing with Sunday night countdowns. Unless it’s a New Music Show, it’s just filler. And since we’re only getting four times an hour to open the mic, why aren’t we making the most of those opportunities to make a real connection.

Think about it, at least 1 or 2 of those breaks will be dedicated to a client during prime time so we can pay the bills. When that happens, talent should be doing everything they can to make the client mention interesting or exciting, otherwise it just sounds like commercial content and it’s boring and causes tune out. If you can slide in a quick compelling artist fact or pop culture relatable to go along with it, perfect! If not, get creative and make a connection for the station and the client. In other instances, make sure what is coming out of your mouth (live or not) is compelling, especially if you are voice tracking. Too many stations right now sound like the lights are on, but no body’s home.

Other content you can focus on which will move the needle are:

  • BIG station promotions like cash or exciting trips. Pizzas on the night show or lunch at a local restaurant does NOT move the needle, except when you are actually doing the giveaway. Nor do DVD’s.
  • If Your station has big local talent in AM or PM drive and they are stars in the community, promote them first. They are what separates you from other stations in the market. But get creative. Talk about a quickie they did, or a bench mark that people will tune in for. Give them a reason to tune in or stick around.
  • If you are going to promote other talent, make sure you are giving more than just the time slot they are on.
  • Talk about something that is local and relatable, Pop Culture or Lifestyle that listeners in the community can relate to in a big way. Especially if it’s sports, weather, local celebs, a giant breaking news story or big event.
  • Do some research or prep on your artists, talk about a big story or a funny story that will get people’s attention. Like Snoop Dogg wanting to start a brand of Hot Dogs called “Snoop Doggs.” Or Brittney Spears putting out a new album after being released from her conservatorship. Even Paramore making a new album for the first time in five years. Even that is more interesting then promoting that the AM show will be giving away the “Enemy of the State” DVD at 7:15 tomorrow morning.
  • If it’s a specialty countdown, or some kind of countdown that is relevant to the demo, like a “Most Requested,” and it changes every night and it targets teens or young adults who care about that, then promote it. But don’t promote the 80’s countdown that happens every night at the same time and there’s no real payoff. No one cares.

And more importantly, LEARN TO TEASE. Not “Lunch for two coming up in 15 minutes.” More like, “Have you tried to get into (insert exciting new restaurant here)? It’s impossible to get reservations right now. But I’ve got you covered. I’ll treat you to Detroit’s hottest new restaurant in 15 minutes.”

You get my point, right? If not, let me spell it out for you. If you basically only get four talk breaks an hour (or less), make them count. If you don’t, you’ll cause tune out or give the perception that your station is boring, or just like all the others, and that will cause tune out as well. Either “Use it or Lose it.” Don’t be lazy and lose to yourself. It’s not that difficult to figure out.