The other day my six-year-old son and I were in the home studio. I was cleaning up some stuff from past video sessions and he made a bee-line for the mixing board. He grabbed the headphones, dramatically adjusted the faders, grabbed the mic and yelled into the microphone so loud it made engineers up and down the California coast cry, “IN THE NEWS… IT”S RAINING. NO RACE GAME TODAY! GOODBYE.” He giggled at hearing his own voice filling the space between his ears.
Then it hit me.
Radio and audio is still magic to him.
He’s not been jaded by anyone telling that radio is dying or cliché or uncool. He just knows we listen to radio and podcasts a lot and Mommy and Daddy seem to like them, so he’s curious, engaged and wants to know how it works.
That’s how I found radio too. My Dad was an avid radio listener. I believe one year we counted 20 radios in our home and some had nick-names because they were for special uses. For example, his radio for listening to Red’s baseball was the Big Red Machine. The near non-stop chatter of ballgames and the local full service radio station combined with my desire to speak into every microphone I came across was a potent combination to fall in love with radio.
It hit me.
Radio and audio was magic to me.
And it still is.
For Valentine’s Day let’s remember how we fell in love with this medium and why we still love it. A renewing of the vows for our commitment to radio.
I take you, radio, to be my inspiration.
To care for and create,
In sickness (buy your own mic sock) and in health,
For richer or poorer, (usually poorer)
Until video / CDs / MP3s / Apple Music / Podcasts/ apathy kills you off.
Add your radio love story in the comments!
I’ve been telling all the talent I work with that 2016 will be about context, context, context and concerning ourselves with the verbal and the vocal. The verbal and the vocal? Yes. A little something I picked up while chatting with David Lloyd, author of “How to Make Great Radio.”
“Verbal is the words. Vocal is how they are delivered,” explains Lloyd in Episode 121 of the Radio Stuff podcast. “Listen to great presenters and the way they speak, the way they use their voice, the way they pause, the way the words come out of their mouth.”
He’s right, you know? The great presenters or on-air talent have a way with words and know just how to deliver a line or tell a story to engage the listener and make them care.
Lloyd continues, “Words are so critically important. When you’re doing a coaching session with a presenter you can see their eyes roll as they say, ‘Ah, for goodness sakes it’s only a word.’ But words are all we have. Words are what set one radio station apart from another. You know you can play the same records as your competitor in the same order, but what sets you apart is your imaging and the words you use. I think to focus on those is critically important.”
It’s not just a radio thing. How any business talks with its customers is critically important.
“I was in a shopping centre last week and I came out of the toilet and there is a big sign and it says ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ and an arrow,” shared Lloyd. “And I thought, ‘Wow, someone has thought about that.’ Because they could’ve had a sign saying ‘Shops.’ But they said ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ The emotional response to a sign that signs ‘Let’s Go Shopping!’ compared to a sign that says ‘Shops’ — you can’t compare the two.”
Yes, thinking about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it takes time. But, it’s a thousand little decisions about the words you use and the intonation you choose that sets you apart.
“You hear a lot of radio and think you’ve just thrown up the fader, you have not given any thought whatsoever to how you’re going to frame it.” Lloyd suggests, “If you are going to talk about “X” how are you going to describe it? What are the words you’re going to throw in there? You don’t need to write a script, but just to have thought about the colors, the textures, and the conversation you’re about to have with your listener.”
Along these same lines there is a great TED Talk by Julien Treasure about how to get people to hear what you have to say and it also reflects this theme of the verbal and vocal. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time.
You made 2015 the biggest year yet for this little blog. Thank you. The Top 5 posts of the year are listed below.
#5. “The Controversy of Making Radio Sausage.” My take on a country radio consultant who cautioned programmers against playing too many female country artists. It got ugly.
“If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,”- Keith Hill This is he biggest bunch of BULLSHIT I have ever heard.
— Miranda Lambert (@mirandalambert) May 28, 2015
#4. “Eight ingredients of Remarkable Radio Shows.” Bean from KROQ’s Kevin & Bean, BJ Shea from Seattle’s KISW and Tom Leykis are among the talent offering insights in this post.
#3. “Seven Ingredients of Great Radio Talent.” The recipe for being a great talent on radio is really a witch’s brew; a pinch of this and a touch of that. Everyone I talk to seems to have a bit of the trade secret to share, but tragically there is no mysterious vault where the “great talent formula” is locked-up. From my experience at least some of it is gut instinct, DNA-related, or luck.
But, we do have the start of a recipe thanks to some heavy-hitters in the radio world who’ve been gracious to give time and insight to the Radio Stuff Podcast. So, here is the start of a winning blueprint for being a great talent.
#2. “Logo Confusion.” This was inspired by a trip to Vancouver in August and a night watching Canadian football.
The #1 post this year was “The Real Difference Between Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick.” I wrote it back in February when a feud between the two hosts was heating up. It quickly became the most popular post ever on LarryGifford.com
I want to tell you about five little words, that when used genuinely, can be a dynamite weapon on radio. The five words are:
“I want to tell you…”
It’s a phrase that signals to the listener that you are thinking about them. It adds intimacy and instantly connects you, one-on-one, to each listener
The listener perceives you personally offering them something of value. It makes you a social influencer. A sharer.
“I want to tell you…” is as powerful of an introduction to a story as “Once upon a time…” It alerts them that what you have to say is worth leaning in for or turning up the radio. It focuses their attention on what comes next.
Each time you chose to use “I want to tell you…” and you pay it off, you build trust with the listener.
Don’t overuse it or abuse it. Always make it special.
Consider it another tool in your radio tool box.
In the Golden Age of radio, the 1930’s and 1940’s, radio actors created theater of the mind. Each night a different character in a different radio drama from Sherlock Holmes to the Shadow. Foley artists brought the shows to life. Game shows were launched. And news was the backbone bone of a growing entertainment industry. It was new, exciting and fun. Ideas were being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry was evolving even through the war years.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s Rock-n-Roll took hold of radio and shook it up. The DJs are still legendary today for having the guts to introduce listeners to music most decried as sinful, distasteful, and obscene. Not only did the great DJs of Rock-n-Roll find new artists and spin their records, many become concert promoters in their town bring big acts to cities across North America: Elvis, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and hundreds more. It was new, exciting and fun. Ideas were being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry was evolving.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, FM radio exploded. Despite having been patented in1933, FM radio didn’t exceed AM listening until 1978. Many AM juggernauts had FM sister-stations that station owner’s didn’t want to mess with. So, they let employees who were interested play around with it. Budgets were non-existent, no one told them what they couldn’t do and they re-invigorated radio for another 35 years or more. It was new, exciting and fun. Ideas were being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry was evolving.
In the 2010s, Podcasting is exploding. Some are great, some are horrific. Some are theater of the mind mysteries, while others are based in news, music discovery, current events or something else otherwise indescribable. These podcast hosts are their own promoters, appearing on each other’s shows, creating events, selling partnerships and evolving what is possible in the audio space. It is new, exciting and fun. Ideas are being dreamed and hatched daily and the industry is evolving.
The future of radio (spoiler: there will be a future of radio) is in our hands. By the 2020’s, it is paramount that the industry discovers what’s new, exciting and fun. We need ideas dreamed up and hatched daily in order for the industry to keep evolving.
Kooza is a Cirque du Soleil show currently underway in Vancouver. It combines two great traditions of the circus: mind-blowing acrobatic performances with the art of clowning.
Take a minute and watch this video.
I was at the show last night and saw this awesome assembly of remarkable talent. It’s a really, really talented troupe. A couple things struck me as it relates to radio.
The talents were unpredictable and diverse. All these people brought their own unique skills to the show, each was showcased, celebrated and included in the team.
Despite having perfected their craft over many years and having insane talent in what they do, they didn’t just jump in front of the crowd and wing it. They prepared as a team, created a narrative, built anticipation, created suspense and paid it off for the audience time and time again.
The trust the team of performers has in each other is necessary and admirable. You don’t flip 30 feet in the air up-side-down and land on the shoulders of a guy on stilts if you don’t have trust. Trust is the key to a performer’s confidence and is the foundation for being vulnerable in front of an audience.
Finally, I know this was rehearsed a thousand times. I know they scripted much of it. I know the jokes weren’t spontaneous. And I didn’t care. I was surprised, delighted, entertained and just because it wasn’t spontaneous and organic for the performers doesn’t mean it wasn’t for me.