Talk Less About the Music By Andy Meadows

We’ve all been guilty of it. Falling into the ‘That was…”, ‘This is…” trap to use as filler content either because we were too busy to prep or we’re still adjusting to a new format/demo and we simply don’t know what to talk about yet. Scrambling thirty seconds before the song ends and googling the artist to see if there’s a nugget of recent news to spice it up a bit. 

But, this default mode of announcing the tunes does virtually nothing for the listener. Unless you’re on a AAA or independent music station, they’re familiar with 99% of what you’re playing anyway and if they’re not it’s prominently displayed on most of the platforms they’re listening on now. Literally every second is mission critical now, so finding faster ways to come out of/into songs leaves more room for the things that really do move the needle, teases, hooks, content, engagement, local info and outs. For example, if we’re coming out of the new Justin Bieber tune we don’t need to say ‘That was Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caeser and Giveon with Peaches.’ If we say anything at all it could just be ‘Bieber Peaches’. Across just Spotify and Youtube that song had over 70 million plays last week alone. I’m pretty confident they know it. 

I know we’ve all had a PD/OM/GM who thinks the main thing people want to hear from on-air talent outside of mornings is who’s singing the song they just heard, but they’re wrong. That’s a dated philosophy that’s mainly used to shorten up long-winded talk breaks. The creative challenge today’s air talent face is how to be compelling, interactive and interesting within the shortest amount of time possible. A good exercise to do that is to prepare for a whole show as if we were going to have to execute the entire shift without knowing any of the songs on the log, relying entirely on pre-prepared content, features, benchmarks and the handful of stationality stuff we have to hit. Then, find simple ways to incorporate the song info into that without it getting in the way. 

The fundamental question is this, are we announcers or on-air personalities? If we’re content to be announcers than by all means we should continue dedicating the bulk of the words we say into mics every day to the music, weather and whatever liners are scheduled. If we truly are on-air personalities, then we should prepare so much content that it’s a struggle to figure out where to fit those other things in. 

Here are my 5 keys to a successful content break and my thoughts on making digital part of the prep process

What do you think? Comment below or email me at andy@radiostationconsultant.com. 

Pic designed by rawpixel for www.freepik.com.

2 comments

  • Bill Clary
    Bill Clary Kentucky
    It is astonishing to me that someone can blithely say that they know what generic mass "listeners" want from a talk break without putting one fact in evidence to back it up. A friend of mine did a focus group with AC listeners a couple of months ago, and the biggest frustration expressed by the people in that room is that radio stations did not identify the songs often enough. I would not argue that the results of one focus group are demonstrative of some deep universal truth, but it falsifies any blanket assertion that listeners in general do not want disc jockeys to talk about the music they play. I would agree that merely identifying the records has very little entertainment value, but there are entertaining ways to talk about songs and artists...even songs and artists that have been on the radio somewhere for 40 years or more. It is also quite wrong to assume that every listener knows automatically what songs are...even songs that you or I would assume were universally known. Here is an anecdote: the news director of the cluster I run (a woman in her early 30s), asked me the artist and title of an Adele song from a few years ago that was playing on our AC station. Because of her tastes, she would not be a P1 for this particular station, but she liked the record and she wanted to know what it was. Servicing that need in a way that is entertaining and informative will not necessarily harm you. Yes, every moment is critical; but that is an argument for crafting one's communication about anything more carefully and thoughtfully. It is not necessarily an argument for or against any particular generic category of content. Moreover, there is not much useful about blanket statements about what "listeners" want, particularly when such statements are not backed up with data or other empirical evidence. I suspect that what listeners in the aggregate want differs considerably from format to format and from station to station. I also suggest that even within the larger subset of listeners to particular stations, the needs and desires of individuals will vary widely.

    It is astonishing to me that someone can blithely say that they know what generic mass "listeners" want from a talk break without putting one fact in evidence to back it up.

    A friend of mine did a focus group with AC listeners a couple of months ago, and the biggest frustration expressed by the people in that room is that radio stations did not identify the songs often enough. I would not argue that the results of one focus group are demonstrative of some deep universal truth, but it falsifies any blanket assertion that listeners in general do not want disc jockeys to talk about the music they play.

    I would agree that merely identifying the records has very little entertainment value, but there are entertaining ways to talk about songs and artists...even songs and artists that have been on the radio somewhere for 40 years or more. It is also quite wrong to assume that every listener knows automatically what songs are...even songs that you or I would assume were universally known. Here is an anecdote: the news director of the cluster I run (a woman in her early 30s), asked me the artist and title of an Adele song from a few years ago that was playing on our AC station. Because of her tastes, she would not be a P1 for this particular station, but she liked the record and she wanted to know what it was. Servicing that need in a way that is entertaining and informative will not necessarily harm you. Yes, every moment is critical; but that is an argument for crafting one's communication about anything more carefully and thoughtfully. It is not necessarily an argument for or against any particular generic category of content.

    Moreover, there is not much useful about blanket statements about what "listeners" want, particularly when such statements are not backed up with data or other empirical evidence. I suspect that what listeners in the aggregate want differs considerably from format to format and from station to station. I also suggest that even within the larger subset of listeners to particular stations, the needs and desires of individuals will vary widely.

  • Sloan
    Sloan Kansas
    I agree with Bill (above). Survey after survey done by an entire slew of different research companies (Burns Media for one) shows unequivocally that listeners come to broadcast radio FOR MUSIC. The important part is how the content is presented and what 'music news' we're imparting. Your P1s have more to their life than scrolling for hours and looking at what every artist they like does on IG, FB or Patreon. It's a good personality's job to sift thru the bull and present artist info in a clear concise way in context with the song and your target listener. In addition, that content you impart better be on your website in a more in-depth manner, and you better dang well be sending your listeners to that article with your megaphone (airshift) and your social media.

    I agree with Bill (above). Survey after survey done by an entire slew of different research companies (Burns Media for one) shows unequivocally that listeners come to broadcast radio FOR MUSIC. The important part is how the content is presented and what 'music news' we're imparting. Your P1s have more to their life than scrolling for hours and looking at what every artist they like does on IG, FB or Patreon. It's a good personality's job to sift thru the bull and present artist info in a clear concise way in context with the song and your target listener. In addition, that content you impart better be on your website in a more in-depth manner, and you better dang well be sending your listeners to that article with your megaphone (airshift) and your social media.

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