Jeepers! The fact that there are even 621 of these Frost Advisories (every week for pert near a dozen years) might suggest that there is a lot to this programming stuff. I reckon’ that’s so, and I love discussing higher concepts with smart people, but I also know there are some simple truths.
A simple truth is that there are only two distinct elements to programming a radio station.
Music and Words
These are the only tools we have to impact lives, achieve ratings, to make revenue goals, or to hang gold records in the lobby to show visitors that we are really, really a neat station.
The Words we use
We learn to talk by imitating our parents. It’s so instinctive that we hardly notice that Mommy is referring to herself in the third person (“Give it to Mommy”), inverting the perspective so the child learn will learn to say it correctly.
Your station’s tribe has a language.
Music is the language of your tribe.
But perhaps not in the way you may think.
“Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context.”David Byrne
Music is a language of culture, which is different than being the language of the music industry.
Unfortunately too often we program our radio stations with a calculator rather than a heart monitor.
We’re tempted to focus on quantity, logistics, bow ties, and efficiencies. We have 14 of these, we have 5 of these, we have one of these in a row. It’s like determining your listeners’ favorite colors and then mandating that 45% of your logo needs to be red. Art and science are two distinct concepts.*
When we promote music events using language like, “they’ll play all their hits and some of their all-time favorites,” we’re speaking the language of the industry not the language of the tribe. And worse, we actually impede new listeners from feeling like welcome guests.
But your listener is asking “How does it make me feel?” “Does your station speak my language?”
“Radio isn’t just filling a slot with audio. It’s a chance every time to love someone in the middle of the mess.”Sam Kelly
Our format is the only one that speaks the language of real life, from the depths of despair to heights of joyous shouts! But you have to speak the language of your tribe to be able to sing their song.
“There’s singing at people,Tim McGraw
There’s singing to people,
There’s singing about how you feel
Then, there’s singing about how THEY feel”
*I’ve just read a really nifty book where the author frequently uses asterisks and notations. I found it a clever technique so I decided to start doing it so you’ll think I’m clever writer, too.
*We should apply art where art goes and science where science goes. And I’ve learned where the asterisk is on my keyboard.