|Long ago, all you needed
to be successful in radio was talent, the ability to have fun on the air
with your listeners, and to play some music.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In today's radio environment, it's really easy to lose sight of what made us a success. Which element made one station more listenable and successful than another?
Sure, people want to hear the music -- but they also want to be entertained. If it was only about the music, everyone would just have an iPod and call it quits.
But that's not where we are. We're on the cusp of another evolution in our business -- not just with competition from iPods and the Internet, but from satellite radio as well. (I ought to know; I was there in its infancy.) It's creeping into our lives at an alarming rate. Radio owners and programmers are concerned, and they should be.
So, how do we keep people tuned to the radio station?
Start with a four-letter word: FFUN. (Con Funk Shun, 1977.) Keep it light, have a laugh, take a step back, and relax -- things have gotten so serious! Take a deep breath and smile. :-)
This brings me back to talent, and letting talent do what they were hired to do -- talk and entertain. Keep it local, and keep it moving. Give your talent time and room to connect with your audience. It saddens me to think of all the great talent we've sent packing, because they wanted to be more than just card-readers. It's the industry's loss. If radio is going to survive, it's going to have to provide something that its competitors cannot: live, local personalities. So it's essential to hire the most talented people you can find, and let them work in a fun, safe environment.
Put your talent in front of an audience, whenever possible. It's important to be top-of-mind -- and to do that, you must be visible. Promote the station actively, and make sure you have a presence at local events which appeal to your listeners.
Okay, we started with personality and fun on the radio. Next step: music. The music is key. You can read research reports all day, but it's crucial to know who your listeners are and who you want them to be in addition to who you've already got. You also have to have a great gut instinct, and luckily, I do. I have an ear for great music that fits into the format, and elevates a boring station to one that's not too homogenized and predictable. I'm also strong in finding musical trends, and that's a great advantage right there.
Now let's talk about the relationship between Programming and Sales. In many markets and at many stations, "The Wall" remains -- and this is a barrier which must be removed. There is no good reason why the two cannot co-exist; they rely on each other, for content and for cash. It's a two-way street, and if compromise is what's best for the radio station, that's what there should be. I would always be looking for a way to tear down "the wall" and create new, lasting relationships that will help generate income.
These are some of the most
important elements of making a radio station successful; never lose sight
of the fact that it is a business -- but as history has shown,
hard work and fun do not have to be mutually exclusive!