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Ron Robinson

Research Is For Rubes

While acknowledging emailed charges to the contrary, I insist I am not writing Music Radio off entirely, as there are still some exceptions and examples of my own listening experiences that are, at least partially satisfying. Yes, I still get to listen to some great Talent out in the hinterlands and online!

Here in Toronto – a market of 5 million - I’m often happy, for example, to snap on Q-107 (Classic Rock) at any time and be quite satisfied I am hearing, to a large degree, Professional Talent. These are folks who have actual lives and are willing, capable and, as importantly, allowed to share that info and those insights that come from unique experiences and influences.

As readers of these articles are aware: I am in the process of offering a multiplicity of exciting, tested methodologies and techniques that would increase the influence of other broadcasters and I would love to work with those who already are considered: Pro.

There is nothing in Radio quite as satisfying as “owning” a day part in a Major Market and having the opportunity to perform – with very few restrictions - day after day, year after year. That privileged experience is about stomping on hallowed ground and sucking rarified air.

Yet, as I have been submitting, there is another category of broadcaster that can rise above that of “Performer”. That being: “Master Communicator” – a broadcaster who is knowingly in control of his/her communications; is aware of the impact of those comments; has an Outcome in mind for making such verbalizations in the first place and who has influential options available to themselves for communicating an idea or a thought in more than one way.

Now, I don’t know if station management actually celebrates these Personalities or if they feed them their checks begrudgingly. But, so far, the folks are still workin’. (Success of a kind, I guess.) Given: Big Talent Does Not Come Cheap. Nor, should it. Big, Effective Talent Is GOLD!

Though I continue to assert that even the already witty and clever, Large Chargers could significantly improve their chops, an extraordinarily important and more general opportunity for Music Radio is in bringing the level-of-skills of the less well-endowed, on-air gang (those that remain) to a point where they would be actually appealing to an actual audience over continuous periods of time. There is, after all, more than the one day-part. Nevertheless, I suggest, all day-parts with the exception of some Morning Drive shows have become gouged-out, clear-cut, barren deserts when it comes to an audience being exposed to live, local and compelling Talent on an ongoing basis. I am also unaware of any planned reclamation projects.

Significantly improving the skills of and, repeat: and increasing the participation of Talent during the rest of a broadcast day would be an extraordinary boon to the competitive edge and prosperity of any station. Is it not fair to say, if not holler hysterically, that the strategy of “Ten-Twenty-Thirty-In-A-Row-Commercial-Free” should have been given the needle years ago - with the body being donated for medical research?

To my mind, the greatest potential of any station lies in the Personalities they can present. I am referring to real Personalities, by the way, and not those canned, manufactured, cardboard, mailed-in, Robo-Jock facsimiles.

There is another pertinent matter and it has to do with Research. Implementing Programming strategies and content based on research and having no gratifying responses from an audience that was being offered what they said they wanted has been a mystifying experience for decades. Research, however, does leave a great table on which to lay the blame for poor performance – a PD’s dream, if not salvation. It is my contention that no question be asked at all, and even the one that is - is the wrong question. This may be so, particularly when it is framed as "What do you want (in a Radio Station)?" This is based on 3 assumptions. 1.) individuals know what they want. 2.) those individuals can articulate what they want. The more important and number 3. on the list: that those questioned can guarantee they will support what it is they just said they wanted.

Historically and based on Research, Music Radio stations have become no more than extremely limited music-machines – while owners have completely filleted the Talent-pool. This, I submit, has been as a result of implementing that which quizzed audience-members requested:  "We want more Rock and less Jocks! And while you're at it - lose the commercials."

If Detroit (car manufacturers) depended on such research, they would have been building Ladas with roll-cages that delivered 50 mpg at the price of a Filter Queen vacuum cleaner – and, subsequently, disappeared from the automotive map. If Detroit (Motown) had relied on research, they would have continued producing Nat King Cole MOR-records. No Tops. No Temps. No Gladys. No Diana. No Pips. No Stevie. No Marvin. No Smokey. No. The responsibility on Radio Programmers and, for that matter, designers of any consumer product or service is to develop those things to which people will respond - emotionally! This, whether the consumer has awareness of or can even describe their experience of the product or service.

It's no wonder (to me) that so many Programmers lament about how they provided exactly what the audience said they wanted, but the numbers just never came in. This is understandable, of course. But, it sure ain't satisfying.

By the way, I wouldn't put a dime into Research. Not for a radio station. I'd take those funds and invest them back with someone who can train the Programmers and the Talent. The audience then gets what we say they are getting because we would have done the spadework and paid more attention to those elements to which they will respond. This is far more effective than delivering what they say they want. (No self-interest in this boy, either. No, Siree!)

The alternative, by the way, is continuing with the muffled and gagged, banal and superficial gibberish of the occasional drop-in from disinterested, poorly trained and hardly motivated Talent. Pulling a shift could still be an exciting, concentrated challenge rather than just another tedious stretch of announcing “More of the Greatest Muuusic of All Time on Schtup 99!”

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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