Monday, 16 January 2012

One on One

For years, I advised talent not to think of their "performance" as "a show," but instead to talk to one person, being real, human, vulnerable, engaging, interactive.

It's time to rethink that a bit.

  • Be friend and companion, of course. Talking to one person, I believe, is the most effective way to do so.
  • Keep it fresh and current too.
  • Tell me something I don't know.
  • Entertain as you do it.

It's not easy to be in personal intimacy mode while putting on an entertaining show simultaneously, but being the very best never is.

The listener has too many other choices than to do anything but all of it each time you open your mouth and mic. (Source)

1. You've got to be speaking to someone specific.

Not a demographic, not an average - someone who is very real to you (even if it's a fantasy), and with whom you feel comfortable. Two reasons: first, the safety this Personal Listener affords you - to block out the masses and picture yourself with this one valued friend - allows you to display a spectrum of emotions you'd never reveal to a crowd of strangers. (More about this in a moment.) Second, when you truly believe you're talking to one person, everyone listening who seeks companionship from his/her radio will fantasize that this person is them.

The Personal Listener has a name, a family, a history, an occupation, a hair color and all the other attributes required so you can picture him or her in your mind when you open the mike. And their primary reason for being there is not the music or the information you offer; it's to spend time with you, because he or she enjoys your company. Not what you do - who you are.

2. You've got to be focusing on the person you're speaking to, rather than the words you're saying.

Otherwise one hears strange inflection patterns and often a hyped energy level that sounds phony. A programmer tells the young jock, "Be up and bright!" It's nice when you are, but it's not appropriate coming out of a soft ballad. When you say the station identifier - no one could possibly be that enthusiastic about something they say every five minutes for four hours. You can announce those words and say them authoritatively - but when you feign enthusiasm, you destroy any chance that the listener will relate to you as a person.

3. In order to be perceived as a friend, you must behave like one.

That means doing the things all human beings do. Among them: showing the spectrum of your emotions. Sometimes people are happy; sometimes they're sad. Sometimes they're angry and sometimes they're tender. You don't have any friends who don't show all these emotions - and more - to you, over a period of time. It's something people expect from one another. You can't achieve emotional intimacy - friendship - with your listener without doing it.

4. You have to prepare material for your show.

Most important, you need to be armed with Life Content when you walk in the studio. Life Content: brief bits about your life experiences and your responses to them. Anything which caused you strong feelings is worth talking about with your listener. Most jocks don't do show prep - especially after the morning show. I've heard every excuse in the book. But the bottom line is, they almost uniformly fail to entertain.

Most of the jocks I hear who don't prep rely on station slogans, positioners, promos and whatever other liner-card junk they can come up with. One of the hallmarks of the DJ who has nothing to say is that those crutch phrases get repeated way more than the programmer or consultant requires. These DJs train the listener to tune them out anytime they open the mike. Ultimately, a survey-taker comes along and asks people what they like least about the station, and they'll reply, "The DJs talk too much!" They don't talk too much - they don't say anything worth hearing!

Entertainment means: enabling another to experience his or her feelings in a safe environment. Make a person laugh, make them cry, make them shake their fists in anger - you have committed entertainment. Every bit you do should lead to an expression of emotion, calculated to make your listener feel something in response. This is exactly what the music you play does. You need to do it, too.

Being a radio performer isn't rocket science... But it does require some understanding and a good deal of work - both before air time and during. Or... you could settle for being an interchangeable jock who wonders why you can never make much more than minimum wage.

Trachman, each week for those three decades, wrote three different types of lines.

Topical (from the news)

I dreamed I won $340 million in the lottery, and they were offering me the choice of taking it in one lump sum, or twenty fill-ups...

We just captured al-Qaeda's "number two" man in Iraq? Great - but I can't help remembering, back when Saddam Hussein was in charge, al-Qaeda didn't *have* a "number two" man in Iraq...

Halloween is coming up on October 31st; know how to spot the kid in the "FEMA" costume? He doesn't show up at your door until November fourth!

I guess I shouldn't have ignored that item in the classified: "Wanted: Supreme Court Justice... No experience necessary..."

Sorry to hear about the recent passing of Don Adams... In his honor, we'll spend just a moment inside the "cone of silence..."

Just a thought: that "number two" guy in al-Qaeda must be getting tired of getting killed and arrested all the time...

You think *you've* got problems? New Orleans police say the flooding completely destroyed two police evidence rooms... Which means there could be up to 3000 suspects they have no choice but to beat confessions out of...

We were sitting in the coffee house complaining about the ridiculously inflated price of gasoline... Over a frozen mocha latte at $6, and a chai tea frappe at $5...

At the very moment the Kansas State Board of Education was debating how to sneak "intelligent design" into the schools, the U. of Kansas opened up a major public display explaining how evolution works; the department head says they didn't plan it that way - it's just pure coincidence... So supporters on *both* sides want you to believe in fairy tales...

Do you get the feeling Bush nominating Harriet Miers is a little like O.J. nominating Johnny Cochran?

Then, he also wrote personal comedy lines about himself, his life and his character:

I wouldn't say my back yard has gotten out of hand - but last week an alien landed in the tall grass and said, "Take me to your weeder!"

Scientists believe there are many intelligent species in the universe... All are owned by cats...

Personally, I always figure exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement...

Ever get the feeling that in a past life you were somebody named "Occupant?" And they're still forwarding your mail?

A tractor-trailer containing a shipment of file folders and Post-It notes was hijacked yesterday... Police think it was the work of organized criminals...

I'm going to have to start watching what I eat... Because I keep missing my mouth...

Handy household hint: if you can't find a screwdriver, use a knife! And if you break the tip off - well, now it's an even better screwdriver!

My wife and I found that planning your vacation is half the fun... So next year, we'll plan *two*, and then stay home - we'll have the same amount of fun, and it won't cost anything!

Thought for the day: life is just nature's way of keeping meat from spoiling...

Lastly, Trachman would write lines/turns of a phrase for songs on the playlist:

All-American Rejects - Dirty Little Secret: Just because it's a sin to believe evil about others... Doesn't mean it's a mistake...

Black Eyed Peas - My Humps: My daddy always said, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose - until you lose..."

Brown - Run It: I never worry about my kid running with the wrong crowd; he'd have to get up off the couch, first...

Clapton - Say What You Will: I always say, "Change is good, but dollars are better!"

Cabrera - Shine On: Love is blind... And it's not terribly bright, either...

Coldplay - Fix You: I asked Cousin Sara how come she married a man ten years younger than she; she said, "I figured, if you can't find a good man, raise one!"

Collective Soul - How Do You Love: Ever get the feeling a lot of people wouldn't fall in love, if it were more clearly marked?

Crow - Good Is Good: My cousin says once she was with two men in a single night; the next day she could hardly walk... Imagine, having two full dinners!

DHT - Listen To Your Heart: Just remember, the great highway of life is littered with flattened rodents who couldn't make up their minds...

DeGraw - Follow Through: I always say, never start anything you don't intend to... uh, whatever...

Eagles - Cloudy Days: You have to take the bad with the good - but you're allowed to gripe about the proportions...

Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We're Goin' Down: Life has its ups & downs... I hope my skin clears up... And my weight goes down...

Goo Goo Dolls - Give A Little Bit: I find that women are more likely to get romantic if I give them my PIN number, rather than my phone number...

Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.: Never miss an opportunity to make someone happy - even if you have to leave them alone, to do it...

Johnson - Dollar: If I had a dollar for every time the boss complimented me on my show, today I could buy - lunch!

Mayer - Daughters: I want my kids to have all the things I couldn't afford... Then I want to move in with them!

McGraw - My Old Friend: My wife ran into her old ex-boyfriend yesterday... But he got away before she could run into him again...

Powter - Bad Day: How come a fool & his money are never around when you need them?

Underwood - Inside Your Heaven: Cousin Sara told everyone she wanted to marry a ghost... I can't imagine what possessed her...

Vertical Horizon - Forever: Imagine how life would be if you had to renew your marriage license every few years...

I hope that, though several years out of date now, the specificity, quantity, brevity and variety of the material he wrote inspires you to work a little harder to keep Trachman's way of relating alive and present in your daily content as well.

My goal is not to have you go out of your way to then use these lines he has written, but I hope you’ll try this on for size - to get you started prepping what you’re going to say when there’s nothing else to say when a topic comes up, a song plays, or an aspect of his character arises in conversation.

It’s all about planned spontaneity, making listeners think you’re naturally funny. It takes forethought, writing and preparation. Replace all of the “typical DJ” words and phrases we all use with things “only YOU’ would say and in your own, unique manner.

Source :

Personality is the natural state of radio, for most listeners.
I think most people who turn us on want some form of companionship, whether it be the limited contact of the DJ on a music-intensive Rocker, or the full-blown camaraderie of the morning host on a full-service station. What chases people away is chattering jocks saying little or nothing worth listening to.

I believe we spend too much time begging people to remember us, and far too little in giving them some motivation for *wanting* to remember us.
In real life, we remember individuals because of the things they say, the unique ways they impress us; the way they impinge on our thoughts and feelings and make us think and feel in return.

In radio, we hope that people will remember us because we say our names (call letters, frequency) and positioning statements so often.
Whom do you think you're more likely to remember -- someone who gets you to respond to them? Or someone who keeps repeating a couple of facts which are important to him, but practically meaningless to you?

What's been lost with all the emphasis on formatics is everything else.
The contact with the listener; the sense of humanity; above all, the creative impulse of the performer. I believe the right thing to teach young jocks is this: "Here is our format. I expect you to follow it strictly... *unless* you have good reason. If, for a few minutes, these rules interfere with something you've *got* to do, something both you and your listener will enjoy, something that will make your show more appealing to listen to, then *do it*! Be prepared to explain your reasons to me later. If they're good, I will not only approve, I may even take you to lunch. If they're not, well, you had my permission, so let's talk it over and see how we can fine-tune your approach."

Have something to say.
So obvious. So elusive. Personality radio isn't in trouble because the DJs talked too much; it's in trouble because we said too little that was worth hearing. Talk about your community, this day, your listener's life and your own. How are you going to sound intimate and real if you never ever Share something real from your own life with your friend, the listener? If all your raps have the same inflection, and you never express a true feeling? My name for the condition that destroys jocks' credibility and leaves them sounding like machines: "Up And Bright Mania." How come the PD never says to you, "Once in awhile, be down and tender..."??

My advice is: LIVE all you can.
You don't become an interesting personality by couching out in front of the TV every night, and you don't learn to talk intelligently and *colorfully* about the world by experiencing it second hand. Listeners expect us to be slightly "larger than life," more active, more involved, more interesting than most people. Ideally, we turn ourselves into the kinds of people *they* are in their own fantasies.

Emotional variety is one of the things that makes you believable on the air.
All real human beings display it. One minute you're up, the next you're down. Sometimes you're assertive, sometimes intimate; you're funny, then serious, then sarcastic, then empathetic. The emotional repertoire you can call upon is among the things which define you as an individual: a "personality," as opposed to an "announcer." Not everyone will like the "real you." You can't win 'em all. But if you never show who you really are, you don't even give people a chance to like you. And if you're worried about offending anyone - reflect for a moment on how you might spend Howard Stern's paycheck,

Make sure that your new listener feels included in everything you do.
Every break should be self-contained, as though that may be the only break your listener will hear this day. You may have given the station's phone number out a thousand times, but to assume I know it, when I'm just sampling you for the first time, insures that I'll feel left out. Each time you refer to station personnel, they should be identified. Not, "I was talking with Sheila before...," but "I was talking with Sheila, your overnight host on KJT before..." Whenever you promote or play a contest -- although your regular listener may have heard about the prize and how to enter a hundred times, HE'S not the one the contest is for! You've already got him. It's the new listener you're trying to entice, and he or she doesn't know the prize yet, nor how to win it.

When you're doing an interchange, the other party (be it contestant, partner or news person) becomes a "surrogate" to the listener.
The way you treat him or her is the way the listener will feel treated. So don't put him down, correct him, make him look foolish or play "one-up" with him. Never leave him/her sounding or feeling like the "goat," or your listener will sense this bullying tendency in you and identify with your "victim."

In one way or another, a lot of us function -- or *seem* to function -- normally, even wonderfully, in the little dream world we've created.
Nobody can see our obesity, smell our breath or see our limp or our balding head. Or... Or -- if we're good at it -- sense our insecurity. At the other end of this fantasy is a listener who *wants* to believe; someone who wants to think of us as a little larger than life, as the perfect companion, the intimate friend. Between our fantasy and theirs, the illusion can work perfectly -- provided we're talented enough to offer our friendship and to create the illusion that we're talking directly to him or her.

Satellite radio is a very listenable sound for many people.
It's surgically clean, clutter-free; when it's running well, you don't hear a lot of mistakes. No erratically performing jocks, no long-winded, self-indulgent chatter. You don't hear any local chatter or much real intimacy either. But, all other things being equal, it appears more people will be drawn to an antiseptic, remotely-programmed station, than to a poorly executed local

Save good news about your community whenever it clears the wire or is reported in by your news department, staff, or listeners.
Use it to counter-balance the usual run of grim stories. Make sure every shred of "good news" about your market is spiked and re-written as often as necessary. The effect is to position yourself as the station that always has "something nice" to say about the town. A very nice position to occupy, indeed...

I believe radio is more like other businesses than we like to admit.
Our managers are no flakier than managers in other fields, no less humane, no more callous. In my experience, managers, to borrow a quote, are not "like" the rest of us--they *are* the rest of us. Some of them are nice people; some of them aren't. Some of them are faithful to their long-term self-interest, some are self-destructive, and a lot are both, at different times. And because their skills are very different from those of "production" people (that's us, folks), we often have problems communicating with each other. So it is; so it always will be.

(What we have just started calling "terrestrial") radio will survive or perish as a local medium.
There is nothing non-local we do which can't be done better by others. Not news: we've lost that to TV. Not music: anyone with an in-car CD player or satellite radio knows better. Not high-powered non-local personality: see Stern, Howard. What we *can* do better than any others is to be neighbors, members of the community, companions, symbol and distributor of the local life-style.

Generality: If you just play the hits, you can't go too far wrong.
Specific: But if everybody's "just playing the hits," then doing so gives you no advantage.

In the long run, I believe the ability to be (and thus, to sound) intimate on the air flows from self-confidence.
It's a by-product of feeling good about who you are and how well you do what you do. For most of us, this comes with maturity. I don't know any way to rush it. I didn't begin to acquire that kind of self-acceptance until I was past thirty. But perhaps my pointing out to you that this is one of the keys to success as a performer will help aim you in the right decision.

If you believe, as I do, that one of radio's few remaining exclusive strengths is its potential for intimacy, then it's to your advantage to sound like you're talking to one person.
And in my experience, the only way you can sound that way is if you think you *are* that way: talking to one person. To anyone who listens to a lot of DJ tapes, the difference is glaringly obvious: so many DJs today sound like they're talking to "no one in particular."

I believe a station becomes fun to listen to when it is perfectly obvious that the DJ's are having fun themselves.
You can't mandate it; "Have fun, or you're fired." But when they're involved with *this* community on this day, participating in the life of the listener, expected to be creative, invited to respond to events, I think you'll find most of your air talents are having fun on the air, and that's contagious. As I've mentioned a few times before, Having Fun Is Good For You.


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