by Tracy Johnson
I’ve never known of a legendary music station without great personalities. And I’ve rarely heard of truly dominant personalities on a music station without a strong music base that supports them. Personalities promoting music can be a beautiful thing.
But it’s becoming a rarity in radio today.
Now, I’m the first to claim that stations built exclusively on music are on a collision course with oblivion. Consumers have so many choices for consuming music without commercials or interruptions. It seems obvious that broadcasters depending on music formats may maintain ratings share against other stations but are rapidly losing the battle for increased quarter hours, top of mind awareness and ultimately, fan support.
Still, it’s a mystery why so many personalities and even some program directors end to place little value on enhancing their music brand through personality.
Programmers and music directors spend hours and hours agonizing over music decisions with the goal of crafting the ultimate music flow that will optimize time spent listening and station branding.
Then, air talent treats music as an after-thought. And I’m not just talking about moving songs around or dropping songs. At more and more stations, personalities tend to ignore the music. It’s almost like the songs are commercials taking up space between the times they get to talk. And it’s not their fault. I’ve heard many programmers tell air talent not to promote the songs or artists because “our audience already knows those songs.”
First, they don’t. Not nearly as much as you think. Even the hits in power rotation. And second, even if they do know the songs, embracing the music is an opportunity to send a marketing and positioning message that defines your radio brand.
The songs are a path to connecting with the audience.
Here’s the thing: On most music stations, listeners are coming for the music first. They want to be put into a good mood, use the station as a soundtrack or hear a favorite hit. So doesn’t it make sense that the fastest way to become a popular personality is demonstrating that you love the same thing the audience loves? It’s common sense.
That’s why it’s so disappointing when air personalities fail to connect with the audience through the songs. It’s a missed opportunity to make the station sound better and become more popular at the same time.
On the other hand, great personalities promoting music by showcasing the songs, artists and format can make a radio station sparkle. That increases the popularity of the station and the daypart. And, it creates a bigger platform on which to demonstrate personality.
The relationship between great personalities and great radio stations is intimate. Personalities NEED the station, and the station NEEDS personalities. That’s how radio will remain relevant in an ever-expanding competitive world.
Promoting the songs (and other elements) on the air while a personality is performing is a basic fundamental that should be baked into the DNA of every radio personality on a music station. If you’re not embracing the music and making it important, that must mean the music isn’t that important.
And if that’s the case, drop some songs and turn up the personality. I’m the last person to advocate for a more music radio show. Long-term, they’re probably not going to hold up well. Moving more in the direction of personality and talk is where most stations should be trending. But for now, if music is on the air, make it important!
Personalities promoting music is a wonderful thing when talent takes it seriously and sees it as a benefit to listeners and their career.
Mastering this skill is part of what I call ize-ing personality content. There are four “izes”: Personalize, energize, localize and commercialize. Embracing the music is part of energizing content, and it’s one of the easiest things to execute. It just needs to be an important part of daily show prep. By the way, here’s a great show prep hack that will streamline the process.
Then, make it exciting, creative and important by reviewing and reinforcing the importance during brainstorming and coaching sessions.
It’s easy to take it for granted, but if music makes up a large percentage of the entertainment value, doesn’t it make sense to do a great job connecting to it?
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