1+1+1 = ?

Why do listeners choose to listen to a particular radio station?

It’s a slightly misleading question, as it can’t be answered accurately without clarifying what daypart or format the question refers to. The shows on talk stations are, or at least should be, ‘destinations’ in their own right. And dayparts on music stations have different ‘motivations’ for choice.

On a music station, listeners choose a station at breakfast and afternoon drive because of the on-air talent. Whilst the music must ‘fit’, and be in the slot for the target, it is not the primary reason for choosing a station at breakfast. 

The music is, to a large extent irrelevant, it exists to complement the breakfast talent.

Conversely, listeners generally choose a workday station based on the music images, and the music, of a station. The announcers should complement the music. Essentially the reversal of the breakfast driver for listening.

This article is written with music dayparts as the focus.

As a broad observation some announcers in a music daypart, if not airchecked effectively by their programmer, have an unrealistic view of how much attention listeners actually pay to their content. There is often a disconnect.

This often results in long, unfocused breaks, with multiple elements contained in the break.

Put bluntly: it doesn’t matter how entertaining an announcer thinks he or she is in a music daypart (and I used to be a pretty average one before programming), the listener is more interested in hearing the current big hit, hot new song or great gold track for the format.

This is not to say the announcers role is not important, in fact it is essential to provide ‘context’ and a ‘heartbeat’ to the radio station – otherwise it would be a soul-less jukebox. However in the same way that breakfast shows have effective and clear role definition for the various characters, music announcers also require role definition. 

Their role is to keep the music flowing, and ensure that the content in their live breaks connects with what the listeners are doing, watching, talking about, thinking. To make the music, the format, and the station ‘the star’.

To do so with an understanding that listeners are not hanging off their every word.

This means tightness. It means ‘one thought per break’. It means being able to inject personality and content in a focused way into a 12 second break with a caller over an intro. There is clearly a time and place for longer breaks, not all breaks can be this tight, however a highly crafted speed break is a fundamental tool of successful music announcers.

When we were launching Nova some years ago, I recall Dean Buchanan using the following equation, and I quite shamelessly pinched it and have used it for years since.

 

  1 + 1 + 1  =  1/3

 

Three elements in a talk break will have 1/3 of the impact. 

Many times announcers have told me that it’s impossible to have any personality and engagement in a 12-second speed break, and that requiring them to do so is robotic and sterile.

They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.

Successful music announcers understand that focusing on one element in a break, keeping the music flowing, whilst injecting personality, topicality and/or localism into a tight break is essential when conducting their show.

If you are good enough, you can do it.

If you are committed enough you can learn how do to it.

And if you think it can’t be done, then you’re not good enough.

It’s called crafting. And it’s what all the great music announcers have the ability to do.
 

Note: For the purpose of this article, when noting the reasons for choice, I’ve ignored the significant number of listeners who listen to a station in a workplace where the station is selected for them with no input.

 

Dan Bradley is Executive Director of Kaizen Media; a boutique international radio consulting and artist management company, working with radio stations, media talent and music artists.

You can contact Dan here.

 

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