Saturday, June 19, 2010
WHAT MAKES FOR "GOOD" MORNING RADIO?
I've been doing radio for the better part of 18 years, starting with my first radio station in the small town of Carlsbad, NM. Since then, radio has taken me from Texas to Arizona, working at various radio stations in a variety of formats. The one constant thing for me has been that I've done morning radio for almost my entire career. I get asked all of the time, "What makes good morning radio?". My answer? I don't know. But, I will do my best to answer that question in the following paragraphs. That being said, I would like to say that these are ONLY opinions, and should not be thought of as the law. LOL!
First, you have to answer the question "Why would you want to do morning radio?". My answer when I first started doing radio was simple...the money. Except for some rare cases, morning radio personalities earn more $$ than their colleagues in other dayparts (middays, afternoons, nights, overnights, weekends, and "we need a body in the building in case of a fire at 3:30am on a Sunday morning"). You see, the fact that I'm a morning person has NOTHING to do with why I do morning radio. In fact, most morning radio personalities I know are some of the most non-morning people I know. The real answer is that I want to entertain people.
Let me take you through a typical day for a morning radio personality. First off, your show usually starts at 6am (5am for some, but truth be told, most if not all of that 5-6am hour is some form of a repeat from a previous show...shhh). With a show starting at 6am, I was usually up at 4:30am. I tried to be out the door of my house by 5am. I had a 10 minute commute, so I arrived at the studio around 5:15am. This gave me a 45 minute window to do what folks in the radio biz call SHOW PREP, one of the most important aspects of your show but unfortunately not always used by some radio folks I know. Show prep is where you gather any important info, audio, or video for your personal DJ blog on the station's website. What happened from the day before or overnight? Did a celebrity or public figure pass away? Did Lindsay Lohan get into another car chase at 3am? Did Kate Gosselin have another child overnight? Major car accident on the local freeway? You must gather all of this info and be ready so that when the show begins, you aren't on air sounding like an idiot who just woke up yourself. Remember, people count on the morning radio DJ to get this info and get their day started (shower, breakfast, commute to school, work, etc). If the morning jock isn't prepared, it will come through on air. Have you ever heard a morning show come on air and not have audio ready to go of the movie starlet's funny acceptance speech from the previous night's awards show? All you hear is "Hey. Do we have that audio? Oh we don't? Well we'll play it for you later...it's good stuff...trust me!" This is a show that isn't prepared...showing a lack of show prep. If people can't trust the morning DJ they hear to give them trivial info ("Hey! Oprah cursed on Leno last night! Listen to THIS!"), how can folks trust them with news, weather, or traffic?
Well, now you're on air. Play the tunes, right? Of course, but you also have to give away prizes and take phone calls. This is both the best and worst part of any DJ's job, mornings or not. Now before you get upset, let me explain. When you start your day as a morning jock, you have to not only see what prizes you have to give away, but you also have to decide how you want to give them away (caller #9 when you a certain song? "Battle of the Sexes"? etc). Guess what? Giving away $100 to a listener just because they called in and asked for it isn't on the list. Unfortunately, most DJ's have to deal with these types of callers more than any other type. Folks in radio call these people "prize pigs". I call them something else, but I won't get into that right now. These people call for EVERY contest...EVERY day...without fail. When they win, they are usually told about rules that restrict them from winning again for another 30 days. They say they understand. The next morning? You guessed it. There they are, calling in. They are caller #9 and they want to take today's prize and give back yesterday's prize. Or they call in to win and ask if they can put today's winning prize in their mother/daughter/father/brother/dog's name, as to not break the 30 day rule. Don't believe me? The next time you should meet your favorite DJ, ask them about it. If they don't dodge the question, you'll see that I'm correct.
I was told a while ago by one of my radio mentors (every DJ has at least one...kind of like a "radio Yoda") that a morning radio show isn't one long 4 hour show, but 12 shorter, 20 minute programs. Truth be told, most people don't listen to a morning show for the entire program. Good morning radio programs have these 12 "mini-shows" and find ways to entertain the listener for each and every one of them. Phone topics, celebrity gossip, personal opinions, games and giveaways, and info(traffic & news) take up most of these. Again, it's all dependant on a show's ability to be prepared each day.
Now, good morning radio isn't completely reflected in the ratings. In my 18 years of radio, I've heard numerous morning shows claim to be #1 (Thank you for making us NUMBER 1!"). Truth is that these shows usually have other facts working in their favor, most of which have absolutely NOTHING to do with their show. Their show may air on the only, say, country radio station in the market. Or maybe they work for the staion in town that has been number one since radio was invented. Good morning radio is just that...good morning radio, regardless of ratings. I've heard shows before where I say to myself "Wow! What a good show. Too bad their station has a bad signal and no one can hear the show." I've also heard shows where I say "Man, this show is awful! They sound confused and unprepared. I can't believe people actually listen to this."
I may or may not have answered the original question to this article. Chances are that I didn't...LOL! I guess I honestly feel that good morning radio involves a lot of variables. Personality of the DJ, being prepared, ability to connect with your audience, gaining the trust of your listeners, and entertaining them. Radio folks may or may not agree with what I wrote here, but again, it's just opinion.
For those of you that aren't in radio, maybe you'll open your ears to listen for what good radio actually sounds like. So the next time your DJ says "Oh...we don't have that audio" or can't remember the name of the celebrity that fell down on the awards show last night and just says "Oh...whatever her name is", you'll realize that the show you're listening to isn't prepared, which isn't good. On the flip side, if the morning show you listen to is engaging you into conversation, always has you updated on important(and not so important) information and most importantly, keeps you from thinking about changing the station dial...then you know you're listening to good morning radio. Thanks for reading, and as always...KEEP IT REAL!