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Radio Secrets


For many years decades actually, there has been a widely held understanding that: There are no secrets in Radio. The standard explanation for the premise has been that since whatever it is that comes out of the (Radio) box is all so obvious, that is the full and complete representation of everything there is to know about any particular station. Audiences, advertisers and even competitors from down the street have been making judgments and executing many decisions about a station based only on what they hear. (More specifically: What they understand about what they hear!) As do owners, managers and staff when considering their own stations.

Radio-folk have been wandering the Music Radio wastelands for years, laboring under another presupposition that states: There is nothing more about Radio to be learned. Both of these separate distinctions, I submit, continue as dangerous and crippling positions to hold. Nothing to Learn No Secrets. These are what I like to call - at my end of the business: Deleted, Distorted and Generalized Assumptions. That is, they are not universally held, they are not absolutely accurate and contradictory evidence is available. As assumptions go, they certainly arent useful.

When I was developing and testing my advanced communication strategies for broadcasters over a 10-year period, I was able to do so on-the-air with impunity and without ever been called out for what I was doing that was any different from the norm. So, I guess I could argue that what I was implementing was a secret. But, even so, it was a secret that was hidden in plain site! Its also a testament to the lack of sensitivity to what is or isnt being put on-the-air that I was able to engage, adjust and test a series of unique strategies-of-communication, and that I was able to do so with absolute impunity.

Meanwhile, professional broadcasters and their consulting colleagues have been yelping of late about the need for, essentially, two elements that are missing in much of Music Radio: Content and Local References. These are both, I suggest, responses coming from the panic mode. Still, when groping in the dark for anything of substance, those do seem to be the only elements that have any kind of form. That they also feel a little squishy and have a strange, pungent odor is only an indication of some future, unattractive revelations.

Content is instantly available in so many media, especially the one were accessing right now. I suspect the arbitrary addition of more pure content will not be a solution of any real significance to anybodys radio station. Likewise with local references. While slightly reassuring to some local listeners, the inclusion of these references will, I predict, be of extremely limited value. This, then, brings us to the next, logical step the inclusion of more Local Talent.

Now, it pains me greatly to submit the following points, as I am Talent. I support Talent. I believe in Talent at all levels and that includes strong, multiple insertions of live, local Talent. But to disregard what, to me, are the obvious and expensive downsides of these inclusions would be more than hypocritical of me it would also render me as someone who was not also taking the interests of shareholders and managers into consideration.

Unless Talent is delivering their content and local references with greater efficiencies and more appeal than at any other time in the history of Music Radio, I expect an addition of more local Talent, more content and more local references will be an extremely unsatisfactory and expensive experience with minimal returns.

There are many of us who can recall the glory days of Radio when showing up was more than enough to have some fun and make some money. Even though there were, then as now, a handful of exceptional performers on the air, the majority of on-air people were, basically, announcers. They were instantly replaceable and they could be kicked - without penalty or remorse - to the curb on any thin or sickly premise including committing the simple, unforgivable sin of breaking format. These Holy Formats, by the way, were and are, no more than the official crutches on which PDs have to lean as they have little else to provide in terms of Talent-development. Unchallengeable Dogma is more than enough to keep the on-air folks sphincters clenched and their imaginations clamped in irons.

Many Music Radio morning shows, though, do have a small, but unique advantage assuming the Talent is witty and clever. Morning group-gropes, operating with some combination of The Main Stud, the Giggle-Chick or Guffaw-Guy and the Drive-by Crack-Meister, can have audiences participating as voyeurs. That is, they get to be at the periphery of a pretty good party and quite often thats all thats needed to keep that audience engaged. When one of them, however, turns directly to the audience is when the scenario falls apart and the vicarious association stops. Even more so, its the other day-parts that suffer. The single Talent, with management coercion, presumes they have to go one-to-one with the audience. That they fail utterly is hardly open for discussion. After all, in terms of time-spent on-the-air, they can hardly be heard at all or they have already been replaced by syndicated programming or the even more innocuous V/T. That is more than enough evidence to convict for lack of affect.

The owners and management of Music Radio outlets are coming ever closer to a time when decisions will have to be made. Either they get involved with developing extraordinary Talent or their stations will be rendered superfluous. Many are already having that experience exactly.

That stations are streaming online is hardly of any lasting, useful or promising consequence whatsoever. Crossing over to online only means they will be competing with The Large Lads who are not constricted by any of Radios Rules either government mandated or culturally implied. If the source (the local station) sucks, no amount of online exposure is going to turn that around even while some extra revenue streams might be successfully developed.

As most of us are already aware: We can go online and regularly get our minds rotted and socks blown off in mere minutes. It might take hours or a day of listening to Music Radio to get even a mild tingle or a twinge. So far, we cant compete with outrageous content. We dont have the horses. My contention is: Our opportunity is in the development of superior, appealing Communicators.

Criticism and rejection fuels the fire over which some people toast their marshmallows dripping with succulent, gooey goodness in each rich, creamy and delicious mouthful. (That sloppy quotation may have been lifted from a dairy-ad. But, it might have come from a porno.) Still, the previous sentence is a pretty good example ofTheatre of The Mind? For those who enjoy a little bit of linguistic puffery with their corn flakes, that switch is also called a Context Re frame. Others might just go with a Disgusting, potty-mouth vulgarity.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website

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