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INSIDE RADIO STUFF #100

RS 100 coverI just recorded and edited the 100th episode of the Radio Stuff podcast. It features an extensive interview with Cumulus and Westwood One personality Jonathon Brandmeier. It also marks the milestone by sharing memories with original co-host Deb Slater and listening back to a few favorite moments. I realized of all 100 episodes this one is among the most challenging. Primarily due to production. This experience reinforced the importance of caring about the details and asking for help when you need it. Here’s how it all came together.

LANDING BRANDMEIER
I had been talking to Brandmeier and his team about doing the podcast even before the new show was announced on WLS and Westwood One. We have mutual friends and had some business dealings in the past year so it wasn’t really ever about IF he’d do it, but WHEN the timing would be right. They wanted to wait until about a month into the new show. Last week I suggested the 100th episode and Johnny made it work.

Our call was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PDT immediately following his syndicated show. I asked for 30 minutes, we talked for an hour. I started rolling tape and talking to the Radio Stuff listeners while waiting for the phone to ring. I don’t have a phone coupler, so I plug the phone directly into the board, place the phone on the desk. I record my part into a microphone and the phone mic sends my voice to the guest. In this case, I was talking for about 8 minutes before he called. Rolling before the interview is an NPR trick to capture everything. I blogged about it with Anna Sale a couple of months ago. My monologue and our opening exchange become a teaser clip I released 24 hours in advance of the podcast. His opening line to me after I answer the phone is the first thing you hear on the podcast.

 

THE CLIPS and DROPS
Brandmeier uses a lot of audio during his show and our interview was no different. However, the phone distorted the audio he was sending down the line. So, I had Brandmeier send all the clips after the interview to insert in post. The clips, for the most part, are longer than what he sent down the line, so I had to find the parts he used, edit, insert them and silence the phone version. For example, I used about 20 seconds of the audio from this video in the show.

THE LEVELS
After recording, even though I thought the levels were perfect, my voice entirely dominated Brandmeier’s, so I went through the entire interview and adjusted all my parts to blend more seamlessly with Johnny and then raised the gain on the whole file.

DEB SLATER
Deb recorded her voice on her end and I recorded my voice on my end. She then sent her file to edit in a higher quality audio. I recorded her right after Brandmeier and forgot to unplug the phone from the board. So, that means I recorded her too. I tried to silence the phone quality version of Deb, but I couldn’t get it all. You’ll hear it switch back and forth especially when she’s laughing or talking over me. My mistake. Won’t do it again.

During our chat she mentioned several moments from early Radio Stuff shows that I found after our call and inserted in post production.

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 1

After receiving that tweet from John Collins about the return of the fake town crier after the second Royal baby was born, I put an all call out for audio of the town crier.

It worked! I received this email a few days later;

Dear Larry,

You asked on Saturday for a clip of the town crier announcing Kate’s baby.
Here’s how 680 News in Toronto reported it.

https://soundcloud.com/bandanachap/royal-birth-town-cryer

Downloadable WAV (but from internet feed), 12MB, 1:10.

There’s a lesson in how radio has no borders any more.

Journalists in London capture the sound, and beam it around the world.

An all-news radio station in Toronto edits the announcement into their piece, broadcasts it to their listeners in Toronto, and right around the world on the internet.

A listener travelling on a train in Britain hears the piece, thinks “that might be interesting”, hits rewind on his mobile app, records it for posterity, and makes it available.

Congratulations on Radio Stuff 100, and here’s to many many more.

All best,
Weaver

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 2
After realizing the town crier was going to be a topic of discussion, I again asked twitter followers for help.

Geoff McQueen saw it and tagged DJ Dapper Dan and within an hour it was done. DJ Dapper Dan also had some thoughts on the fake town crier.

“That chap Appleton did not have the permission to cry from the Royal Family, they just said they didn’t object and that he should consult the relevant local authority which he failed to do as far as we know over here. Anyway he is not a bona fide Town Crier as you have to be appointed by a Lord of The Manor, A Local Authority or Similar level of accepted Government Body. He is not, never has been and is not likely to be. But fair play to him, he got a lot of publicity!”

ASKING FOR HELP – PART 3
I also reached out directly to Radio Today host Trevor Dann to see if he would offer a toast for the 100th episode. Trevor has been a supporter and reoccurring guest over the course of two years and I was happy he agreed to record a little something for the show.

CONCLUSION
I sometimes wonder why I go through all the hoops I do to create a show each week, but it is because I want it to be great. I don’t always hit out of the park, but when all is said and done I’m usually extremely satisfied with the product and proud to put my name on it. Johnny said it in the interview and I believe it to; you have to do the show for yourself first and not worry about who is listening.

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Eight Ingredients of Remarkable Radio Shows

There are a lot of remarkable radio shows in America and they each have found success their own way. Which means there are far more than eight things to consider when trying to build a show up, but this is a great start.

These tips ring true to me which is why I isolated them from original interviews I conducted with each of these hosts. All the conversations can be found on the Radio Stuff Soundcloud page.

Notice none of the talent talk about billboards, bumper stickers or social media. Great shows can benefit from those things, but bad shows cannot be made great with marketing.

RELATED: SEVEN INGREDIENTS OF GREAT RADIO TALENT

And now, eight ingredients of remarkable radio shows.

beanyellowtee (1)

Gene “Bean” Baxter

Be consistent, but not predictable. “Show up every day, be prepared, and evolve.” Gene Baxter a.k.a. Bean of Kevin & Bean explains, “We’re not the guys, generally, that are doing the same bit we did 10 years ago or 20 years ago. We’re looking for new things to do and new things to talk about. As hard as it is to get young people to listen to FM Radio these days I think that’s why we’ve had some success bringing them along because we are still trying to talk about contemporary things.”

Be authentic. “There’s a lot of fake conservatives on the air, a lot of comedians disguised as political pundits, and I avoided the temptation to do that,” Tom Leykis remembers when he was offered an opportunity to be a conservative talker. “I chose to go my own road and that means to not lie about who I am, to not pretend about stuff, to say what I mean and mean what I say.”

Build a team you can trust. I chatted with Elvis Duran about this at Radiodays Europe this year, “Being surrounded by people who get the message and understand that what we do is monumental to so many people. The people we work with and support us are the most important people without them I could never see myself going to work every day by myself. I couldn’t do it.”

Strive to be interesting. ESPN host Colin Cowherd advises host to stop worrying about being right, “Just try to be interesting. It’s not about being right. Guys tend to want to be right instead of get it right. Just be interesting. Try to get it right. Try to find compelling topics that everybody can play along with.”

BJ and Larry

BJ Shea, Larry Gifford, Producer Steve

Everyone knows their role. The BJ Shea Morning Experience in Seattle has a big crew, but everyone has a job. “What I do right is not get in the way, because what I used to do is get in the way” BJ explains his job is to be the host – NOT the producer, “I would think that I have to run the show, I’d have to be part of the planning and I’m an attention-deficit mess. I disrupt everybody else. My ideas are good in the moment, in that manic, bi-polar high moment where, “Holy Cow! This is the greatest idea ever!” and my entire life I have ruined everything because I really shouldn’t be that guy. I should be performing. So, Steve truly is a producer. He is in charge of the whole show. If Steve doesn’t like it, it doesn’t air. And I would say probably – honestly – 10% of my ideas get used. And I give Steve a lot of ideas. But, I also empower him to say this is it. I’m kind of afraid of Steve now. It’s kinda cool. I’ve made Steve the boss of the show to the point that I don’t want to disappoint him.”

Appreciate the audience. “More radio hosts, especially new ones getting into the business, have to get back to basics, understand sports and connecting with their audience,” JT the Brick of Fox Sports Radio refers to sports talk, but his point is actually format-agnostic. “I think there is a big disconnect now between the super successful sports radio hosts who don’t go to any games, don’t meet their audience, and preach to their audience about how good they are or how good their show is or what they believe is the future of sports. Compared to the hosts, hopefully like I am, who continues to want to touch, and shake the hands and kiss the babies and meet these guys, because that is the connection I think you need to have.”

Tom Leykis in his Burbank studio.

Tom Leykis

Create a show filter. A filter helps your focus on the right stories and influence HOW you talk about them. This may not seem like a formula for success for an active rock morning show, but BJ Shea swears it works, “The soul of the show is relationships. Whenever we’re talking about anything I’ll always bring it back to relationships and basically the key relationships are familial, you got your husband/wife, brother/sister, mother/father, and then that of course can translate into the work place. That’s the soul of our show, because it hits everybody.”

Remember radio’s mission. “I’m a radio personality,” says Tom Leykis. “I’m not here to get people elected or get people impeached. I’m here to generate revenue. So many people in our business now have forgotten what our mission is. My mission is to get as many people to listen to your station as possible and then to get advertisers to buy those ears and compensate us so were drowning in money.”

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Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Secrets of a Successful Rock Morning Show

bjshea

BJ Shea has been in radio for 30 years. The last 15 years he’s been entertaining listeners in Seattle. In 2006, The BJ Shea Morning Experience took over for Howard Stern in the morning on KISW. Unlike, David Lee Roth, Rover, and Carolla – he’s seen ratings and revenue success on the heels of Stern. So much so, Entercom just renewed his show for another multi-year contract.

BJ and LarryI spent the morning with BJ and his crew this week and interviewed them for the Radio Stuff podcast. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Everyone on the show has a character profile. They’ve gone as far as mapping out the traits on a white board.
  • Everyone on the show — and I counted eight of them — has multiple duties including individual podcasts that support the show brand.
  • They consider the show a performance and they abide by the rules of improv. Always.
  • BJ’s success started when he began to trust his team. The team success started once they were trusted by BJ.
  • BJ and his producer Steve network, go to talk show/morning show boot camps and conventions and can quickly turn the page from performer to strategist.
  • They genuinely like each other. All of them. Everyone is fair game on the air.
  • The “soul” of the show is relationships. Every story they share, every news item that decide to discuss always is framed in the context of relationships (husband/wife, parents/kids, co-workers, girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse/inlaws, etc.)
  • The goal each day is to start the listeners day of with a smile.

As you plan your show, regardless of format, it would worth identifying the show’s characters, people’s responsibilities, studying improv (I blogged about that here), building trust amongst your show unit, networking, identifying the “soul” of your show and having a single mission each day.

Counting Down the Top Posts of 2013 #15 to #6

LGM 2013 count down

As the New Year approaches we continue the 2013 Count Down of the year’s top blog posts (#25 to #16 here). Interesting to note, one of the blog posts below (#12) was written and posted in October 2010, yet still gets tons of traffic each year.  Another  (#15) was posted in May 2012.

#15 Brock & Salk Turn a Battleground into Common Ground

Despite being posted in May 2012, this post detailing the relationship and partnership of Seattle sports talkers Brock Huard and Mike Salk was popular, because Salk left the show for a gig in Boston this year.

#14 Does Internet Radio Value Radio More Than Radio?

Observations of a radio guy seeing signs of how the internet has hi-jacked the brand of “radio” that the industry has developed and earned through decades of blood, sweat and tears of building relationships with listeners.

#13 Recipe for a Paula Deen Parody

Oh, Paula Deen…

#12 Look Who’s Talking: Jim Cutler

Profiling one of the best voice artists in the world.

#11 The Producer Game Is Changing

I offer a response to a host’s open letter in Talkers about his producer and I offer 20 Tips on being a more effective producer.

#10 For Different Results – Change

In the wake of my resignation from KIRO Radio, I offer some observations. “Too often, I hear employees (hosts, producers, board ops, etc) want more, expect more, and demand more, but are unwilling to change to get it. There’s an overwhelming sense of entitlement in our business from the newcomers to the veterans…”

#09 Arbitron Panelist,”F— this!”

Real audio from a real panelist fed up with PPM.

#08 Wanted: A Passionate Disruptor or a Computer Literate Promo Assistant

One reason why traditional radio stations are having trouble attracting young, creative talent.

#07 77 Websites for Radio Hosts, Producers, Anchors and Reporters

A growing list of must-bookmark websites.

#06 The Keys to Sports Radio Success

The inspiration for this comes from a sports radio chat on twitter (#srchat). The question — what are your biggest pet-peeves of sports talk radio? — was posed to everyone on the chat including special guest Clear Channel’s VP of Sports Bruce Gilbert. I’ve taken their answers and turned-them-inside-out like a secret decoder ring to unveil the keys to sports radio success.

The top 5 posts of 2013 will be unveiled next week!

Radio Brothers Bond over Sports and Chemo

41pOd+u2ScL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BOOK REVIEW 
The Handoff: A Memoir of Two Guys, Sports and Friendship 
By John “JT the Brick” Tournour and Alan Eisenstock
Available on Amazon.com 
 

I admit I was reluctant to read The Handoff, because I know how the story ends – with the untimely death of sports radio’s bigger-than-life ambassador, mentor, friend and programmer Andrew Ashwood. However, I am better for having pushed through.

This is a book about brotherhood, determination, vulnerability, passion, certainty, self-confidence, self-awareness, and one guy’s successful rise from high-octane, motivated, passionate stock broker to high-octane, motivated, passionate sports radio host.

Through his journey of excesses, friendships, and passions, we accompany JT (currently a host on Fox Sports Radio from 1a-6a ET, 10p-3a PT)  as he comes-of-age over and over again. The reader witnesses his evolution into a man, a husband, a father, a friend and talk show host. We are there as  John transforms into JT and we are cheering with his buddies when he earns the name “Brick.” It’s funny, intense, authentic, emotional and ultimately hopeful.

Click HERE to LISTEN to JT the BrickJT rips his heart open for examination allowing the world to peer into his dreams, doubts, passions, and feelings. From being elected president of his fraternity to moving across country away from his boyhood home and then again when he quits his lucrative stock broker job only to pay his way on the radio – you will be rooting for JT.

Somewhat surprising for a sports host known for his scratchy, bullhorn of a voice and for banging the phones, JT is refreshingly self-deprecating, self-aware, and reflective. Even though I knew how it ended, it was a captivating roller coaster of a  journey. The book gives an honest behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in life and radio. You’ll be motivated by JT’s hustle and moxy, and feel the urge to reconnect with friends from the past.

One of the lessons Andrew passed along was to “make someone’s day.”

Reading this has made mine. Thanks JT.

The Keys to Sports Radio Success

I was going to title this blog entry “How Not to Annoy Your Boss and Co-workerBG-Headshots,” because the inspiration for this comes from last night’s sports radio chat on twitter (#srchat). The question — what are your biggest pet-peeves of sports talk radio? — was posed to everyone on the chat including special guest Clear Channel’s VP of Sports Bruce Gilbert. I’ve taken their answers and turned-them-inside-out like a secret decoder ring to unveil the keys to sports radio success.

Be humble. You are not the smartest guy in the room. It’s okay to say –I don’t know.

“The point of your radio show is not to prove how smart you are, it’s to entertain, inform, and make people think.” – Bruce Gilbert, Clear Channel VP of Sports

Be adult. Accept the fact that sometimes callers swear and we have to dump them. The 14-year-old boy inside you thinks it’s hilarious. No need to make a deal out of it on the air though.

Respect the listener. Everyday have a plan and pour your heart and soul into it. No room for laziness. Keep conversations about tech issues, chatter with board op and producers, office gossip and inside-jokes off the air.

Callers ≠ Success. Callers can be great, just remember they are not a reflection of your success. Don’t let the blinking lights guide you.

Prepare For Interviews. When interviewing keep questions focused on the topic, keep them short, make sure each question is a question and not just a statement and forego the opening interview niceties (i.e. “How are you?)

Play the hits. Immerse yourself into the big stories and relish it. When sports hosts complain about having to discuss the top stories, ESPN Radio exec Pete Gianesini points to the weather channel and wonders aloud if they would ever stop covering a hurricane in the middle of the storm because they were tired of talking about it. He’s got a point.

Be a leader. On and off the air talk to people not down to them – includes coworkers, listeners, clients, guests, interns, etc. Work with people smarter and more talented than you and treat them better than they treat you.

 

Identifying Hit Stories

“Go find a group of guys in your target demo, eavesdrop on them, and listen to what they’re talking about.”

rick scottThat’s one way Sports Radio consultant Rick Scott of Rick Scott & Associates suggests you know if you have a hit story on your hands. I called Rick up after the arrest of ex-Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder. To me, it seems like manna from heaven for sports talkers who typically have a hard time finding talk-worthy topics in June and July.

“It’s life. Sports is a microcosm of life.”

Rick agrees, this is a whopper of a story, “When it happens in sports there is a magnifying glass on it because all of these athletes are special performers who make a lot of money, they’re in the spotlight, and like any other celebrity people have an interest of what’s going on.”

What surprised me is the lack of interest outside Boston and some other select cities. On the Wednesday night’s #SRCHAT on Twitter, hosts weren’t engaging with the story. Owen Murphy recapped the conversation on his “Steal This Idea” blog here, but among the highlights were these gems.

  • One host said: Scale of 1-10 it’s a 2 in my market. People are amazed it happened, but it won’t be a day to day listening driver.
  • Another said: it was a news story, but I found it a difficult topic to drive a show with today
  • And another said: it’s not that big in (my market). It’s fun to riff on but not attracting new audience

Rick doesn’t buy it,

“Anybody who says that I think is being naïve.”

During our interview on Episode 8 of the Radio Stuff podcast, Rick points to the speed of these stories circling the globe as being a major reason why markets who aren’t seemingly connected are still interested. Fans have access to all the news now and they’re interested in hearing what local hosts think about these big stories. (He joined us at 39:00 into the podcast to discuss a radio ideas festival and then Hernandez. You should listen to the whole exchange.)

Once you know you have a hit, what do you do with it? Rick has taught many hosts and PDs the “Topic Tree” method of topic development. Imagine the trunk of the tree as the core story and the branches are all the different ways you could talk about it.

“You sit down and say what are the various angles? You may want to take it from the angle of him being an athlete, you may want to take it from an angle that he’s had a troubled past and this isn’t the first time he’s been into trouble, you may take it from the standpoint that athletes don’t get exceptions — nobody gets a free pass, and  you just branch it out from there. There are so many different avenues you could go and that’s what is great about it – we each have different views and opinions and take it down a different path. And that’s really what the audience is looking for – that insight, that perspective — what does this mean?”

Hernandez Topic Tree

Aaron Hernandez Topic Tree Sample

There you go.

  • Play the hits.
  • Find a way into the story.
  • Make a topic tree.
  • If you don’t think your listeners care, eavesdrop on them.
  • Don’t be naïve.