Saturday, February 2, 2013

Radio NEEDS personality

Throughout my career, I have shared my thoughts regarding radio with those who are involved in broadcasting as well as those who are not.

A five-part column was posted on an industry related website.  I have attempted to edit it to portions I believe are very important to consider.


One program director, who asked both his name and radio group be withheld “for fear of losing my job”...“We’re told by the group PD that our DJs are merely a bridge between the songs.  I don’t necessarily agree, but if I don’t agree, they’ll find someone else who does.”


"Too many people in this business put music above personality and care nothing about presentation.  Radio is an art..."

Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs...the “personality” part of other formats are also very important.

“Depending on format, personalities are either #2 or lower, until you come to rock,” where Jacobs notes, there is a tie for first with favorite songs. “They expect a personality component...As we all know, music is available in a variety of different places other than ‘us.’  Often times, proprietary differences come down to everything else and personalities are a big part of that.”

...Jimmy Fink...

“We have to be local...”

A former disc jockey who worked in several Midwest markets and asked not to be identified since he had just lost his job during a budget cut says, “When I was on the air, year after year we began talking less and less because that’s what our PD was ordered to do by those above his pay scale.  Now I fear after spending almost 20 years in radio that I just lost the last job I’ll have in this business.  Being a DJ isn’t the same anymore.  The word ‘personality’ isn’t a part of being a DJ for a large radio group anymore...”

“You can’t throw DJs away.  You have to work on making the disc jockey an attraction.  The history of radio proves that,” says RadioInfo publisher Michael Harrison.  “Just because you immediately assume people have short attention spans, doesn’t mean the DJ doesn’t play a role in holding their attention.  A few well-chosen words, a heavy dose of charisma and a spark of enthusiasm can actually entice a listener to pay their limited attention to an upcoming song that they otherwise might have either burned out on or worse not realize they want to hear.  Personality is not necessarily a tune out.”

Harrison adds...“Music is merely the first layer of a larger cake.  Personality is another important layer of the cake...Disc jockeys can make a difference in the product, if given the opportunity and they can give radio a perceived ‘ownership’ of the music culture as well as a binding tie into the community.  But that requires work – work in the form of directing, coaching, nurturing, scouting and the investment of capital.  Is there anyone with power left in this business who loves radio enough to step up to the plate and do it right?”

{Joel Salkowitz, the president at Sound Ideas Programming Consultants, is also the founder of “Pulse” and an innovator credited with the creation of “Hot 97” in New York City...}

Says Salkowitz, “Radio is not going away.  There is a slow and steady decline, but there are also more and more choices out there for the listener.  Radio can’t become a jukebox...It shouldn’t always be about the PPMs.”


...The disc jockey may also be heard in numerous markets too through voice tracking, but you rarely hear their name, and if you do, there may not be personality within the product.

“A lot of that is self-inflicted by these radio companies,” says longtime top 40, rhythmic, and dance programmer Joel Salkowitz.  “Resources are not being put in place to work with and coach DJs.  The personality DJ is fading away, and by no fault of their own.”

“...What we did was talk about what was most meaningful to our audience,” says Salkowitz.  “One of our biggest complaints from listeners in the study, and it wasn’t just limited to any one station, is not telling listeners what song was playing, and not talking about what is important to the listener.  You have to talk about what people are interested in.”

...large companies have it all wrong; they won’t listen to what the listener really wants.

...John “Records” Landecker.

“...The DJ used to be the salesperson’s best friend, because we sold the station and the inventory they brought in...”

“...A DJ is a performer...Anybody can read a liner, but can they sell that liner?...”

Landecker also says some stations and companies have forgotten what is fun for the listener.

“...We have things we have to say, have to read...we’re supposed to make it entertaining.  That’s what we’re here for.”

...Kid Kelly states, a great radio talent can make great radio, if they are motivated and dedicated to the craft.

“...most radio stations would become great again and can return to a time when the host/DJ would be considered an asset and not a cost center, and one of the most essential people in the building...”

“The future is solely up to the radio station owners...”

Michael Harrison...

“...Radio also needs to bring back the local personality and the music director, positions that have disappeared and need to be returned.  How can you do this financially?  Find a way!  Cut at the top if you need to. Use that money to restore a local and human element.  These people — disc jockeys, music directors, program directors — they are doing what truly needs to be done during very tough economic times: giving life and meaning to this medium.  And they are absolutely vital to the success of the property.”

Says Salkowitz, “You need to give people what they are interested in. You have to be creative and take chances.  Unfortunately, some would argue that it’s easier to take the path of least resistance.”


...“Shotgun” Tom Kelly...

“ can’t just be talk.  It has to be music – and it has to be live.  My hope is that we can get people back on the air again who are live and local, and DJs have to get involved locally and with your listeners.  Listeners are your customers.  There is no radio without listeners.”

...Jimmy Fink...

“Local will be the savior of the DJs, because people who listen to the radio want to know what’s happening in their own backyard...Companies will have much more success if listeners can become a part of the show, and feel like they are a part of the show.”

Fink also believes that radio stations that simply become a “jukebox” of music will be disregarded by the listener, because that’s something they can already do themselves.

“What’s the incentive for the listener?” asks Fink.  A computer can generate a playlist, and using algorithms expand on that playlist...the human connection – the DJ...Companies can still be profitable, maybe even more so, by thinking local.”

...Joel Salkowitz.

“The role of the DJ has to change.  The music is important, but the DJ must engage the listener, not just read liners...”

...the future of radio “is solely the decision of the radio station owners.”

RadioInfo publisher Michael Harrison...“You have to give the listener something more than just continuous music, and it needs to be extremely relevant.”

According to Harrison, “Radio has to be an art form – even information radio.  Radio has to evolve but never to the point of being exclusively utilitarian.  If it doesn’t adhere to that fundamental guideline – keep the art and have a heart — it will lose its specific identity to the vast internet and likely become irrelevant.”

...the DJ has been the person to get us to and through work, the creator of interesting fodder at the water cooler, kept us company during the nights and “third shift,” and made the ride on the weekends more bearable.

According to Harrison, the importance of the disc jockey will not fade away...

“...If radio can begin developing, nurturing and encouraging this unique brand of human being – none of these other audio services will be able to dislodge it from its historical and rightful place on the spectrum of media.  I believe the DJ is the crucial component to the survival of music radio – and the survival of music formats on the FM/AM dial is crucial to the continued health of spoken word radio.  We are all in this together. The job ahead is challenging – but quite simply, if it takes saving the world and all the little niche worlds within it, then that is what we must do to save radio.”

...It will also take brave ownership to adapt to the “personality” of radio, and as Kid Kelly says, “allow disc jockeys to come back to what I like to refer to as ‘essential,’ or one of the most essential people in the building.”

According to Kelly, “If you can create compelling, exclusive, unique content – you win.”