The Magic of Radio By Andy Meadows

As close as we are to the business of radio, it’s easy to lose sight of just how magical listening to the radio can be for our passionate listeners. That’s why its so important that our on-air talent do everything they can to add to that mystique and nothing to take away from it. In this age of transparency, it’s easy to give in to the urge to let the listeners behind the curtain. But, the truth is, they don’t really want to see how the sausage is made, they just want to eat it. 

Virtually all really well-done radio shows are staged to varying degrees. Some calls are faked, interviews are pre-recorded, the occasional bit is fully scripted, and almost all content breaks are at least pre-structured. However, when done well, the listener has no idea any of it’s staged. To them it all sounds adlibbed, at least until we say or do anything that kills that magic. Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I’m a big fan of radio talent creating video content. I love the idea of cameras in the studio, provided they’re not used to capture the behind the scenes process and show how everything comes together. There are plenty of ways to use video to expand our on-air content before, after and even during the show. But, we want to be careful not to use them to take away from the magic and the theater of the mind we’re creating on-air. 

On team shows, we should be cautious to not make any statements that elude to any scripting, pre-planning or staging. It’s also a great practice to seed phone topic breaks by asking listeners that call for any reason throughout the show (And even the prior day’s show when possible), so when we hit it on air we’ve already got several good options banked. It helps to word our question the same way we’re going to live on the air so it seamlessly transitions. But, there’s no reason to ever make a comment that let’s the listener know that any of that process took place. 

Great radio doesn’t just happen. It takes great preparation, strategizing, post-break analysis and coaching to make it all come together. The thing we all have to figure out for ourselves is the delicate balance of planning versus winging it that works for us. The trick I’ve always used is to over-prepare, doing a minimum of thirty minutes to an hour of prep for every hour I’m on the air, to know how I’m getting into/out of every break. But, at the same time, always being willing to abandon anything pre-prepared if something better comes up organically. However, in my opinion, the listener shouldn’t see any of that behind the scenes process. 

What do you think? Comment below or email me at 

Pic by nejron for envato elements.