How To Save Top 40 Post-Pandemic and Reignite The Flame

Innovate… Differentiate… or Disintegrate

By Jason Kidd – President/CEO of New Generation Radio and VirtualJock.com

This last year has been challenging for CHR and radio in general, to say the least. CHR was already struggling in several markets prior to the pandemic, things since have escalated. The majority of my programming career has been CHR or some sort of offshoot. I always liked going to the stations that were dead in the water that had huge turn around potential. Not one time in my career did I ever go to a station that was already successful. A couple had been successful before, but then lost their way. These stations in trouble would excite me. Today, you can take your pick; there are plenty of underperforming stations, which is why I have chosen to address this issue of where we are as a format today.

There is no question the industry has changed a ton since I started. That’s because it’s supposed to! However, the problem is we as an industry haven’t always been great at changing with it. There have been great professors along the way that absolutely knew how to evolve and reinvent—many I either worked under at one time or greatly respect like Steve Kingston, Scott Shannon, Dan Mason, Dr. Dave Ferguson, Jerry Clifton, Jay Stevens, Kid Curry, Steve Rivers, Steve Perun, Randy Michaels and Dom Theodore, just to mention a few. Most of these guys are now out of the day-to-day programming life and enjoying life on the beach, deservingly so. The problem was once guys like these left, there’s been very few to step up and fill their shoes. In the CHR world, there are about 8 or 9 programmers currently, who I greatly respect, that are real innovators, and their stations are winning because of it. A few of them are in high level corporate positions. Then, we have several others who have it in their DNA but may feel their hands are tied. With the lack of innovative risk-takers today, CHR’s progression, reinvention and evolution has slowed down dramatically. Much of the music has gone back to being driven solely by the record companies. With over 1000 Top 40 stations across America, less than 10% of them are still innovative at a time where it should be happening more now than ever. Join me, as we address CHR’s biggest “doldrums” and how we fix it before it’s too late.

32 things that could save CHR (and radio) tomorrow, before it’s too late:

 

Certainly, technology has played a part in competing for audience, but should it?

 

Over the decades we battled vinyl, cassettes and cd’s, the Walkman, MTV, video games, iPods, and Napster. What’s different about today? One big thing that played a huge part, which may sound a little crazy is… law enforcement. See, I told you, a little crazy, right? Not really. You see, once states implemented the hands-free law, it allowed Bluetooth to become front and center—a HUGE disruption. While it may be much safer then holding a phone up to your ear while driving, it has hurt radio listening tremendously in the automobile. Before, a personal people meter (used to measure radio audience) could still pick up audio from the radio while the driver was on the phone. Today when stuck in traffic, you make or take a call and the next thing you know you’ve been on it for 80% of your ride home. That doesn’t exactly help your time spent listening! However, let’s play devil’s advocate here for a sec… what if the product was really that good? If there was an engaging conversation being had, maybe people would wait on picking up that call.

Is the music cycle really that bad right now? 

I hear programmers complaining how there isn’t great product right now. I’ll be one of the first to say we’ve seen stronger years. 2010 through almost all of 2019 was a pretty strong decade. No doubt the pandemic has set the music world back, so we don’t have as many superstar artists putting out songs. Plus, it’s also allowed many tertiary songs to rise to the top more than they would have under normal conditions. With that said, it is not nearly as bad of a cycle as some may have you believe. Even with all the new real time metrics out there now, we still have a lot of radio using traditional call out research. It’s like reading a newspaper; it’s old information. Not to mention, who is picking up their phone from an unknown number in 2021? Radio MUST rely on real time stats. Things are just moving way too fast today.

Is CHR repeating an ugly history by ignoring the real hits?

I am once again seeing a big disconnect with the music I see people streaming locally in various markets and what’s currently being played on Top 40. 12 to 24-year-olds who stream YouTube, Spotify, etc. are not streaming half of what is played on Top 40. Billboard’s HOT 100, SiriusXM, TikTok, Apple, Shazam, Spotify, and Pandora also are quite different than what I am hearing on terrestrial CHR. That is very scary. “Up” by Cardi B, “Streets” by Doja Cat, “The Business” by Tiesto, and “Sea Shanty” The Wellerman have all been huge on TikTok, some for as long as 6 months. Where is Top 40? Well, I hear things like “they don’t test” or “I don’t see it on Mediabase yet”. So instead, we force songs like RITT MOMNEY “Put Your Records On” up the Mediabase chart. An okay remake of a once AC hit—just what the format needs right now (sarcasm). We have “What’s Next” by Drake and “Hold On” by Justin Bieber… monster artists in the demo that are big across the streaming platforms that are barely registering on Top 40 as of the publish date of this article. Oh, and let’s not forget “WAP” by Cardi B, a number 1 song on the HOT 100 (and many others) last year. Very few CHR’s got behind this… about 9 nationwide actually. How are we ignoring a #1 song? Because of sexual content? It was bad enough this was happening 34 years ago with George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex,” but we’re still doing this in 2021?  The difference today is listeners have plenty of other places to go. We cannot IGNORE THE REAL HITS.

When I go back to the ‘90s and look at the Hot 100, My friends (who are non-industry) know all of the songs in the top 10. Not because Top 40 embraced them, but because they got them from MTV or the rhythmic/crossover or alternative stations at the time. Programmers and consultants were afraid to play the hot new cutting-edge sounds at the time (Grunge, Hip Hop, Dance) in fear of blowing off adults. Instead, these programmers would still try to force feed irrelevant artists like Billy Joel, Elton John, and Celine Dion. These artists by this time should’ve been primarily AC, a lot of those programmers and consultants probably should’ve been too for that matter. The end result was CHR would lose over 800 stations within a 6-year period. It was billed as a horrible music cycle for CHR. To anyone my age at the time, it was some of the best music of our youth. So here we are today in 2021, and surprise, many of those responsible for that downfall era are now at a corporate level or are consultants still telling these stations how to program CHR. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few out there that very much evolved with it and still get it… Mike McVay is one who comes to mind, but many others need to retire to AC, with all due respect. For Top 40 Radio to succeed in today’s world, the torch needs to be handed over to Gen-X/millennials at the higher levels. Top 40 should not be scared to play anything in this era.

No more 15-year-old “AC” songs on CHR.

I’ve seen and heard some top 40 stations playing “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé, Kesha’s “Tik Tok”, “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake, or Jay Sean’s “Down.” These songs were great 10 and 15 years ago… But now? Really? I have some programmers say to me, “well they test well” or “the music cycle is bad right now.” Hmm… okkaayy. Then play a recurrent. Maybe a song that came out post-2010? Can you imagine back in the day growing up hearing a song on CHR from the 1970s when it’s 1992? I mean that is real cutting-edge radio. Come on, what are we doing? They test well? Well, I guess so, they’ve been out forever and are most likely playing on the local AC station in town. Why don’t you throw in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” while you’re at it? CHR needs to get back to being innovative. Radio as a whole needs to do that, but especially a format like top 40. If we do not regroup and find a way to bring in 12 to 24-year-olds, we will have no future in CHR or any other format for that matter. This is it. Some could argue that it’s too late. I still believe there’s time… but we have to move fast.

Time to head back to the swamp in Secaucus. 

Okay, maybe a little extreme, but it is an absolute necessity that radio downsizes its facilities at once. Over the last 20+ years, radio companies have spent millions on leases for oversized, fancy facilities in some of the nicest neighborhoods in the country. I get the days of having little hole in the wall buildings next to swamps and railroad tracks were not exactly ideal, but the listeners had no idea. A lot of these stations were also some of the best in the country. These beautiful, huge facilities were mostly created for Wall Street. Now, most of these buildings are only a quarter full. Instead of decimating your staff, cut down on the size of your operation. Hold a zoom call with your staff every week, do some one-on-one’s by meeting up for coffee or HH once a week. Maybe a hybrid schedule. Your brand will flourish and so will your revenue.

More PDs need to take chances. 

Okay, I hear you loud and clear. Job stability sucks more than ever now, how are you supposed to push the envelope? The best case scenario is to work for a company that truly gets it in 2021. Believe it or not, there are still several. With these kinds of situations, you can make a name for yourself and win in the process. If you find yourself working for a company where your hands are tied, search for another situation when they become available. Sure, you could certainly stay there and toe the company line and play it safe for the paycheck, but you will never cut through as a PD and make a name for yourself. Also, even if you play by their rules, you can still be let go at any time. Why not make a difference and set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd, be a true innovator!

Learn from HBO and MTV. 

Yes, TV has had its own issues over the years too. HBO learned you can’t just rely on movies forever. Once Blockbuster Video gave way to Redbox, it became clear to HBO that anyone can have access to movies at the touch of a button. So to fix that disruption, they created their own content—huge original series!  HBO’s series are far bigger than any movies being shown across their platform.

As much as we joke about how MTV doesn’t play music any longer, can you blame them? It was becoming increasingly clear in the late ‘90s with the internet growing and the advent of websites and services like AOL and YouTube that they were going to need a lot more than just music videos to survive. Ironically, Bob Pittman, the creator of MTV, went on to launch AOL, which then became a huge disruption in the marketplace—including to MTV. MTV countered by also creating their own content. They developed series like, “Road Rules,” spearheaded the reality tv revolution and capitalized big on it. Their ratings in the last 20 years are higher than ever. Now, its radio’s turn. With the exception of maybe middays, every other daypart on a CHR station (and other formats) should be more talk and entertainment based, especially in the major and biggest markets. There, the usage of streaming platforms is not nearly as strong. In the smaller, more rural areas, people still tend to use radio for music. With that said, even there, talent should be doing more than just talking over intros. I have either worked with or evaluated several successful morning shows and their meter performance. They all would take a big dip anytime they played a song. The goal is to have that problem in other dayparts. Again, I’m not saying throw the music away, just extend the length of the content. As long as it is entertaining and compelling, it will beat out playing Justin Bieber for the millionth time that the listeners can get anywhere.

Stop shutting your talent down.

I am the talent’s biggest fan. Upon creating VirtualJock.com (6 years ago this week), I saw many talents not being treated with a whole lot of respect. Clearly if we’re going to become more talent driven, we can’t be handcuffing them. Countless times, PDs make the mistake of shutting talent up just so they can get back to another Justin Bieber song that they will hear in 10 other places. This was absolutely fine at one point in time to keep it short and not get in the way of the music. However, today in 2021, music is no longer the star at top 40, and most formats for that matter. One push of a button on the dash or a smartphone, or there are even cars where you just can just say, “Play The Weeknd ‘Save Your Tears’” and it plays instantly. Talent, entertainment, a real connection MUST COME FIRST. Everything else is second. I agree, there will be a percentage of the talent that will not be able to evolve and do more long form content. However, the ones that have it, let ‘em have at it. WIYY (98 Rock) in Baltimore is a great example. They are more talk than they are music during the week. They just produced a brand new 30-second TV spot, and it doesn’t mention the music once. All talent focused, mornings and afternoons. Guess what? They are number one. Not because it’s a rock station… but because it’s entertaining. They are even beating the local CHR’s with women. Again, funny, entertaining, mass appeal. The fact that it’s also super local doesn’t hurt either.

Afternoons, the new morning drive? 

More and more, especially post-pandemic, afternoons are becoming the new morning drive. Don’t throw away afternoons to 6-second breaks and a lot of music. While at WWMX/Baltimore, VP of Programming at the time, Dave Labrozzi already saw where things were heading and implemented a full-on morning show in afternoon drive– which I was a part of for a few years. The listeners still coming to radio want more than just the music. Put shows on the air that are entertaining; stop the music and perform and make people laugh. Again, Hollywood stories alone will not get the job done.

Lose the music beds. 

These are fine for night shows, but if we are doing long-form entertaining breaks more than a minute long, get rid of them. Talk dry.

Immerse yourself in the market. 

Still amazing in my travels speaking to programmers how many couldn’t tell you the names of their counties in the metro area or have even been to all of them. Get out of your office (or your new home office) and talk to the people. Relying on a piece of paper with data will not lead you to the promise land. If it were that easy, you could just give the receptionist at the front desk the research and have them plug it into MusicMaster or Selector.

PDs.. stop playing your biggest songs over 100x a week. 

This was the reason why “Hot Hits” fizzled so fast back in the day. 130x a week is great out of the gate for a new station, but it can’t be long term. After a while it becomes annoying, and your listeners will grow tired of it quickly. Add a 2nd top 40 in the market doing the same thing and then it’s really annoying. Top 40 in its biggest decades spun its songs between 70 and 99 times. That’s plenty.

Stop using the word ‘new’!

When it comes to music, radio has nothing new. Most of it is out way in advance on TikTok, YouTube, or another platform before radio discovers it. So just stop. The imaging I hear stating “new music” going into a song that I’ve been hearing for 6 months on another platform is lame.

Stop waiting for labels to get you the music.

Labels have some of the best music available, no question. However, even they sometimes miss one. Go out and find the hits. Whether it’s the local bars or local streaming. Top 40 should be cutting edge. Without the 12 to 24 demo, there is no future. Stop waiting for the hits to be handed to you. Go out and find them.

Top 40 played songs you wouldn’t hear on other stations or in other markets. 

Top 40 stations always had unique playlists over the years, different from market to market—album cuts, local artists. The big hits were not always the singles. See what the listeners are listening to from these albums. Then put it on the radio. 2/3 hits nationwide, the other 1/3 were hits local to the market.

Stop programming a station the way you did 15 years ago. 

The listening world has changed; change with it or die. Why are we still waiting a full week to do rotations on a top 40 station? As fast as the listening habits are today, don’t be afraid to make changes throughout the week. Innovate… Differentiate… or Disintegrate.

Stop using the phrase “what you don’t play can’t hurt you.”

That’s BS in this era. What you don’t play WILL hurt you. They will go elsewhere. Evolve your thinking.

For the love of God, get away from the 12-minute stop sets.

This was going on 10 years ago when I was at WPGC. How have we not evolved from this yet? I get it, we have to make money, but the days of long stop-sets must change. Commercial free hours do not work any longer. But neither do 12 minutes stops sets. The happy medium is maybe 2-minute stop sets every 3-4 songs, or 1 or 2 sponsors that can own the 30 minutes or hour with little 5-second spots in between songs. Home run, and your listeners will thank you with bigger ratings. With all of this said, we can no longer rely on revenue just from spots. While working for CBS in Baltimore, we bought a bar, hired a catering company, and sold sponsorships like Southwest airlines. The bar was open every Sunday, hours before the Ravens game started. Years prior to that, we bought a parking lot. We made money off the hundreds of cars every Sunday who were coming to the games. Events and radio shows are great, but we got to think bigger.

Make the stop-sets matter. 

Over the years production departments have been dismantled and centralized and in a lot of cases the spots just don’t sound compelling like they used to. Commercials do not have to be a tune-out. If your station needs help with that, we can absolutely assist through our killerspots.com division. Their creativity is some of the best you’ll ever hear.

No more Hollywood fluff. 

No one cares. Every research study I’ve been involved with ranks this dead last. Now don’t confuse “fluff” with real Hollywood stories like Kanye and Kim divorcing. However, these should be few and far between. Find four or five biggest things going on, especially locally and hit them like powers. Put your spin or opinion on them. Make it funny, make it entertaining.

Get back to “showbiz”

Radio talent over the years has gotten too realistic to where it’s boring. Most radio people I know don’t have exciting lives. Sorry, its reality. Even Howard Stern has a pretty boring life overall, and uses people around him for “show biz entertainment.” Enhance your “act” a little bit—get back to “showbiz.” As real as Howard Stern is, there is plenty of showbiz going on constantly. He is the best at it.

We must stop doing the same 6 or 7 formats in every market. 

Let’s come up with some new stuff. So much great music out there today and over the decades, be creative. Lord knows SiriusXM and others have.

Reboots! 

It started with Fuller House, Roseanne and now recently, Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster. All huge hits and all have been reordered for multiple seasons. Cobra Kai is even bigger. The most popular series on Netflix, taken from a movie series that started all the way back in 1984. These series are not just huge with 35+ year-olds, its huge with 12-34’s as well! Radio companies should be all over this and taking advantage of this massive opportunity in their local marketplace. A station that had a massive following/connection with your local market in the ‘80s, ‘90s or 2000s, and if it’s done right can be a huge win for a floundering station. Some of these stations from the ‘80s do not need to necessarily come back as “Classic Hits” stations. They could be CHRs again today. You would get a lot of the adults who have kids today, they all would listen.

Stop playing solely to the meters.

There are classic hits stations playing a song from 1982 as many as seven times a day. That’s absolutely absurd. Games like that work in the short term, but then once those meters are gone, good luck replacing them with future audience. You’ve run everybody else off.

LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL!

Mentioning towns on the air is not being local, it’s being lazy. There’s no substance there. When talking about these cities and towns around your metro, have a purpose behind it. Have a story. While spending 3 years in afternoons at WRQX/Washington, DC 90% of what I discussed, made fun of, etc. were all LOCAL and people were talking about it. It resonated with the audience as we saw it in the ratings. Apps like Spotify and Pandora are not able to produce local, entertaining content or encompass what’s popular musically in your market.

Podcasting.

Some in radio blow it off, other companies have gotten behind it. It’s the real deal, though, and it’s only getting bigger. People want longform entertainment which radio has not been providing. The app Clubhouse is also a huge up-and-comer and will completely change our listening environment. Radio must embrace these technologies and platforms to make their product better without trying to be like them.

Replace PPM with an app.

Ever since Shazam, I’ve been screaming this. I know I can’t be the only one. The intel I get from people in the biz is that it’s not as easy as it seems. The app developers that we’ve spoken with say that is simply not the case. Our guess is that Neilson probably does not want to make it seem that easy. It can be done. Radio companies, come together and create your own. I know there are things currently in the works with a couple of companies and that’s exciting to hear.

Promotions.

The days of the booth handing out cookbooks and having them spin the ‘ole prize wheel are long gone… at least they better be. Someone I’ve worked with for over 20 years at just about all of my stations, the one and only Promotions King, Paige Nienaber from CPR promotions says, “It needs fun contesting. Desperately. With winners. Can you imagine Monty Hall having people enter their emails and then not even have the winner on? When concerts and experiences come back, have some fucking fun with them.” Once again, he nails it. The one thing radio can still deliver that streaming platforms can’t are experiences. We’ve put listeners in the front row, backstage, on their tour bus, hell, I’ve had them fly on the band’s private plane to the next show. Who else can do that, but radio?

Social media.

Radio has always been a 24 hour a day marketing platform—the original social media! Don’t waste an opportunity to market your brand in a fun, creative, entertaining way. At the same time, utilize other social media platforms in incremental doses. Watch the number of posts and FB lives per week. Have a reason when you do it. If you do it all the time, it won’t resonate, and it will be a turn off—a wallpaper. Make sure your station or show on social media is always on top of whatever’s current. It should always match your on-air product.

Processing. 

Not sure how we lost the art of sounding better than an audio stream, but we did. Processing was one of the few things we still actually got, and we’ve managed to mess that up too. I generally find 2, maybe 3 stations in each market who still get this. The others make me want to listen to a streaming platform because most of the time it does sound better. It shouldn’t. There are some great processing boxes out there today by groups like Omnia and Orban. Part of the issue is there may not be an engineer in the building on a full-time basis anymore and the local PD may not know how to fix it. The other part of the issue is what we are going to bring up next…

Turn off the Voltair box.

This with the combination of Neilson’s eCBET make radio stations unlistenable. PPM is literally driving people away from local radio. Together, they make the audio quality at times sound horrific. Radio, especially CHR always had an unduplicated sound. It shouldn’t sound like it’s coming off a PC or an iPhone. It should always sound better than any app can produce.

Imaging. Slick presentation

I still hear a lot of imaging that sounds like it did 20 years ago. Lots of filtered stuff and non-processed voices that sound like commercials or wallpaper. My vision for a CHR station when it came to imaging was always to make it larger than life. A bunch of dummies came in years ago and tried to reinvent the wheel by making their imaging “conversational.” That’s great if you are an AC, or Adult Hits, perhaps… but CHR? That makes me want to vomit. Your talent is the one connecting with the audience on a conversational level. The imaging brings you in and makes you remember what you are listening to. CHR’s like Z100/NY, WKTU/NY, KISS 108/Boston, B96/Chicago, Q99-7 Atlanta, KDWB/Minneapolis, WLLD/Tampa and LIVE 95-5/Portland all still get this, but they are the minority as it is becoming a lost art. When I had a competitor that was already doing a “larger than life” presentation, then we would do the opposite and strip everything down to almost whispers, but still with an attitude. Very Jerry Clifton-esque. Any way you could stand out. Build stagers out of stops sets with forward momentum so the jocks can have some energy and excitement into the music. The stagers, drones, contest solicits, etc… all should sound like Elon Musk’s SPACEX launching.

It should suck listeners in!

Programming Tips for Radio Stations

Do you run a radio station and want to take step it up a notch? Are you planning to increase your fanbase and get more listeners? If so, then you need to get your programming perfect.

Programming is much more than chatting and playing music. In a world filled with streaming and social media, you need to entertain. Below, we give our must-know programming tips for radio station presenters. 

Get Current

People want new content, and they want to know about what is going on in the world at the current time. This means staying on top of what is new and reflecting trends and events that are taking place. Avoid bringing up old ideas and discussing dated topics on your radio show, unless they suddenly take their place in the news once again. 

This does not mean your station has to change its whole approach to be new and fresh. Every demographic and genre will have new events or news occurring daily. If you are playing older tracks and music, then supplement it with new releases related to the genre or artists you have on the station. 

Finally, if you have promotions and competitions then keep them fresh. Even the most successful of promotions will start to lose its effectiveness over time. Stay on the pulse by offering something new and inventive. 

Use Programming Tips on Podcasting

How people listen and consume media has changed. They now want more choice, with regard to how and when they listen to shows. For you, that means that you may find your live show is no longer the primary method in which people engage with your radio programming. 

Combat this by embracing the podcast. You can either record the live shows or create additional supplementary programming to put on your website. The beauty is that you will already have the skills and equipment to create podcasts, you just need to find a great show that people can listen to whenever they want. 

Avoid Dead Air

While this is a broadcasting basic, not every station follows this rule. No one wants to listen to silence on your radio show. People tune in for entertainment and information, and if they are not getting it from you they will go elsewhere. 

Try to make sure you have enough material to fill all of your time slots. If you are a commercial station, make sure the segmentation between advertising, music, and programming is seamless. 

Of course, sometimes things do go horribly wrong and you may be left with dead air. This could be a mishap in the studio or with technology. In this instance, make sure you have a backup plan which may be soundbites, advertising for another program, or particular tracks you have lined up ready to play. 

Get Social

Being on social media is a key part of any radio station’s marketing efforts. Not only does it allow you a direct way to talk with listeners, but it also allows you to share news and upcoming events. By using it to interact, you are forging better relationships with your audience, fostering their loyalty. 

The platforms you choose to use for social media are totally up to you. However, if you have a small station it may be better to stick with just one or two. 

Finally, you should seriously consider doing live streams to social media channels. Video is one of the most engaging content types, and with the simple addition of a camera on your radio shows and a live stream, you can increase your audience exponentially. 

Hire Marketing Staff

Many large radio stations have a designated marketing team. They are in charge of promotions and social media. While you may think that they are an added expenditure, they can actually bring in a lot of revenue. 

A marketing team can offer advertising packages to companies. The companies will then have adverts or joint promotions with the station. This could be the sponsorship of events or more traditional advertising methods. 

You can send your marketing team out to meet the public to promote joint ventures. This markets your station and advertises the paying business. With a few shout outs on your shows, it is a great, all-encompassing marketing strategy for them to use. 

Match Your Presenters to the Correct Time Slots

Finding the best presenters for your station is down to the demographic and preferences of your audience. However, putting these presenters in the right time slot is an art form, that if done correctly, will pay dividends.

Your most energetic, vibrant presenters will probably want to be placed in the prime morning and drive time slots. This is when people most need a lift and some positivity, as they begin and end the day. 

After this, place your more mellow, niche presenters in the evening slots. This is the time people want to unwind and need some relaxation. Unless of course, it is Friday or Saturday night, in which case you need some party people who are heavy on the music and lighter on the chat. 

One great technique is to pair up presenters on your flagship shows. This gives both people someone to bounce off, making their job easier and reducing dead air time. If you are really lucky, try to find two people who are quite opposing in their personality that still have a natural chemistry on air. 

Experiment Off Air

When using these programming tips, do not be afraid to experiment. Combinations of presenters, new formats, and competitions can all be tried beforehand, in one-off guest slots or on podcasts. Once you find a method that works, then run with it. 

If you still need assistance, then Virtual Jock is here to help. We have a host of great services, from talent to format advice. Contact us today to discuss your needs and let us supercharge your station in the coming year!

What Makes A Successful Radio Show

radio show

Thinking about starting your own radio show?

Today, it’s easier than ever to start a radio show. There are certainly perks to doing so.  There’s no better way to express yourself, talk about things that interest you, retain creative control, and even possibly get paid.

However, it’s not always clear which steps you need to take to make a successful radio show. It’s also not apparent to some people what they need to do to be a likable radio host, which is absolutely key.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you have to do to make your radio show successful.

Establish a Clear Topic

In today’s digital age, your show has to be about something. And whatever it’s about has to be clear right away.

There has been an explosion in podcasts and radio shows in recent years. The best way to stand out and help listeners find you is to create a show that communicates what it is right away. That helps it not get lost on the pile of other radio shows.

Ideally, the topic you choose to focus on is something you’re passionate about. Being a likable radio host is important, and passion is one way to instantly attract people to you.

You’ll most likely be knowledgeable on the subject you discuss on your, which adds value to your listeners.

Have a Hook

Parlaying off the first tip, you want your show to be original. Creating a hook or giving your show some type of twist is always a good idea. This helps your show stand out from others in your genre and give potential listeners a reason to check it out.

But how do you create a hook?

Say your show is about basketball. There are thousands of basketball shows out there. So, take some time to plan out what makes your show different from the rest.

For example, maybe you make your project the definitive radio talk show for basketball trivia. Or pregame fashion reviews. Or whatever you want—the sky is the limit!

A great way to figure out your hook or twist is to listen to shows in your genre. See what your competition does well and what you don’t like. Try to fill a void or market need that isn’t being met.

Publish Content Regularly

The best way to grow a radio show is to publish regular content. In the early days, it may be challenging to find motivation when your listener numbers are low. But grinding through this phase is necessary for growth.

The content you publish should always come out at the same time. Either your live show airs at the same time and hour, or your prerecorded version gets released on the same day.

You want people to be looking forward to Thursdays at noon for your show! 

Advertise Your Show on Social Media

Social media is an amazing platform for promoting your radio show or podcast. You don’t have to be on every platform—in fact, you probably shouldn’t be at first. But the more channels you can create, the more potential listeners you’ll have for your show.

In the early days, it’s best to start with one or two channels. This way, you don’t get overwhelmed with creating content. As the show grows, you can expand to other networks.

Give People a Way To Download and Listen Later

Not much beats a good live radio show. If you want to host a radio show, this could be an awesome format to choose. However, you should still give listeners the option to check it out later if they want to.

Did you know the average person consumes almost 7 hours worth of content per day? One reason for that spike is platforms allow users to watch what they want when they want it. (This is also a reason cable television is seriously struggling right now.)

It’s probably a good idea to have a website linked to your RSS feed. This way, people can download your show from popular podcast apps and stay up to date. Remember, any way you can get new listeners is a good strategy.

Adjust as You Go (Listen To Your Listeners)

The audience is always right. Okay, maybe not always—but it’s still important to listen to your listeners. They will ultimately tell you what’s good about your show and what you can do without.

Avoid overplanning if you’re starting a radio show. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s actually the best thing you can do. Having a loose outline for what your show gives you the freedom to adapt and grow as you go.

Your show is yours (of course), but asking listeners for feedback is always a good idea. Give them ways to easily message you on social media or email – to offer suggestions on ways you can improve the show. You’re there to serve them – remember that.

Content First, Money Second

The best radio show broadcasters have one thing in common. The host of the show makes it their “own.” No one else could replace what they do well. Your show won’t be an exception to this rule.

Ultimately, the content of your show matters most. What you talk about, how much planning goes into the show, and all the other variables are up to you.

It’s exciting to have so much creative freedom. But too much creative expression and not enough value won’t help you grow an audience. And that could limit your ability to make money or sustain this venture.

Radio shows and podcasts are notorious for making money these days. But if your content isn’t good and easily marketable to a wide range of fans, you won’t make any money. Figure out the creative side of your show before you dive into monetization.

Hosting Your Own Radio Show

Many things go into hosting a successful radio show. The core of it is caring about your audience and identifying what your show is or what it does.

Make it so people can easily find you, and create killer content that they’ll want to share with their friends. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising!

Learn more about our services and get started with your own show today!

The Best Mic for Beginners at Your Station: What to look for

best mic for beginners

Microphones are the most essential pieces of equipment for a radio station. After all, you can expect anybody to listen to you if you are not able to provide high-quality content.

It’s relatively simple to find the best mic for beginners, but not everyone knows where to start.

Let’s explore everything you should keep in mind during your search.

1. Price


As you may anticipate, the price of the microphone is one of the most important factors to consider. In general, you won’t want to purchase highly expensive equipment for a beginner since they won’t have the experience to make the most of it.

Additionally, beginners don’t always handle microphones as carefully as they should, which can easily damage the device. So, purchasing a microphone that costs thousands of dollars is generally unwise in this scenario.


However, this doesn’t mean that you should aim to purchase the cheapest microphone possible. Although this equipment is easy to replace if something happens to it, you will likely find that it produces subpar quality.

Instead, a reliable microphone for a beginner should cost around $200-$300. 

2. Directional Capability


There are many different microphones on the market that all have different functions. Some are specifically designed to pick up sound far away, while others are perfect for close-range speaking.

There are four directional categories that you’ll encounter:

  • Cardioid
  • Omnidirectional
  • Bidirectional
  • Shotgun

In the context of a radio station, cardioid microphones are the most favorable type.

Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound from every direction, as the name suggests.
 This can easily prove to be an issue when you have multiple speakers on your show.

Although not quite as much of a problem, a bidirectional microphone can still be difficult to implement. Shotgun microphones are geared more toward filming as opposed to speaking.

This information will ensure that you make the decision that’s best for you while also streamlining the purchasing process. 

3. USB vs XLR


This is a debate that many people find difficult to settle. For those unfamiliar, a USB microphone plugs directly into a computer via a USB port.

In general, there is no additional required setup, but you may need to download drivers in order for the microphone to function. More often than not, you can get the microphone functioning in seconds.

An XLR microphone, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated and is the type of device that you’ll often find in a music studio.

This device requires an XLR cable to be connected to an audio interface. The interface is then connected to the computer. 
Due to the way an XLR microphone functions, it requires a secondary source of power in this manner.

The main benefit, though, is that your recordings will be of a much higher quality. You will also be able to adjust the gain on your audio interface, which can help give the recordings a bit more fullness.

For beginners, it really depends on the type of quality you’re looking for. If someone new at your station simply needs a microphone to use, a USB microphone will suffice. If you need a warm, professional sound, though, it’s best to go with an XLR microphone. 

4. Frequency Response


All sound exists on a spectrum. The range that most of us can hear from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz. Interestingly, microphones typically do not convert sound on a one-to-one ratio.

This means that some frequencies will be a bit more focused while others will be more muted. When speaking directly into a microphone, it’s best to have a bit more emphasis on the highest frequencies while maintaining a dip in lower frequencies.

This is due to the fact that the lower frequencies of somebody’s voice often make you sound congested or muffled. By enhancing higher frequencies, you’ll give the audio recording a more crisp, warm sound.

Although you can use software to change these values, many people prefer to use a microphone that is already crafted to accommodate this endeavor. For a beginner, the same concept applies. Even if you choose a USB microphone, you will want to find one that is built in this manner for the best results.

5. Durability

As previously mentioned, cheap microphones will need to be frequently replaced. But, microphones that are highly durable are ironically often also cheap.

Microphones that can produce high-quality recordings are often extremely sensitive to movement or shock. Dropping one even a single time could sometimes be enough to affect its performance.

However, beginners are not always the most careful when handling microphones. So, it’s best to find a microphone with a good balance of quality and durability.

You should also consider the general longevity, as well. By reading online reviews, you’ll be able to learn from other people’s experiences with the device and determine how long you can expect it to last. This is especially important for smaller stations that don’t have a particularly large budget to keep purchasing new equipment.

To increase the longevity of a device even further, be sure to properly train your users on how to handle them.

Finding the Best Mic for Beginners Can Seem Challenging 

But the above information will make the process far smoother. From here, you’ll be able to ensure that you find the best way for beginners and prevent any issues from arising in the future.

Want to learn more about what we have to offer? Feel free to reach out to us today and see how we can help.

9 Creative Radio Show Ideas for Right Now

radio show ideas

You turn off the radio, frustrated. It all seems to be the same old thing. You want to hear something new and interesting, or at least a new spin on the same topics. 

If you’re looking to spice up your local radio channel, there are plenty of radio show ideas to explore. No matter what radio programming you choose, having enticing show topics is what will keep your listenership levels large. 

Are you feeling stuck with brainstorming radio ideas? Don’t worry! Here are some of our favorite radio show ideas to help you make some changes to your radio show content. 

1. Politics and News Galore

There is no shortage of world politics and news in 2020. A radio show sharing pertinent politics and news are in high demand, and you’re guaranteed to have a lot of people tuning in to get their fill. 

From COVID-19 pandemic updates to exploding American politics and more, you will have plenty to talk about and share with your listeners. Check out our services to see how we can help you make your radio show ideas a reality.

2. Media: Movies, TV, and Music

Thanks to quarantine and nationwide lockdowns, many are turning to old comforts to get them through these times. One great example is Netflix streaming all of Avatar: The Last Airbender (in addition to the sequel The Legend of Korra). Returning to an old movie or TV show favorites with a fresh eye will appeal to a lot of listeners. 

There are several different routes you can go. From character analysis to general rewatch commentary, you have a lot of material to work with. 

You can also focus on music as well. It’s radio, so talking about your favorite music and playing it for your listeners will give them something to relax to! Maybe your listeners will discover new musicians to follow thanks to your suggestions. 

3. Gamer Paradise

Quarantine means gamer paradise (well, maybe)! A radio show dedicated to the newest, up-to-date news in the gaming world will also bring in a lot of potential listeners. 

Reviewing gameplay can help listeners decide if they want to play a game or not. It also provides listeners with any affirmations about how they feel about a game. 

You can also speak about upcoming releases and what gamers are anticipating in terms of the game. Don’t be afraid to ask listeners what they would like to hear you talk about too in terms of gaming! 

4. Appeal to Your Fellow Foodies

If you’re not a gamer, you’re definitely a foodie: who isn’t?

Talking about food isn’t just reviewing the taste of food. It can be sharing new recipes or speaking with cooking experts about tips and tricks. 

Having a radio show about food should explore local options as well if your listenership is local. Supporting local businesses during these times will provide them with free advertising and will also incentivize them to recommend your radio show to potential views. It’s a win-win for everyone! 

5. Radio Drama for Those Missing the Theater

The theaters are closed! Drama nerds everywhere are itching to be back listening to stories unfold onstage. Well, if people cannot gather in a theatre, they can listen to a radio show performing radio dramas

Radio dramas are not a new concept. Because of the pandemic, podcasts and other radio shows are growing in popularity. Cater to a new audience with radio dramas. 

From Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worldsto new devised pieces, a radio drama could provide your listeners with some well-needed creative release. 

6. The Sports Zone

There’s nothing wrong with having a good old sports radio show! 

Between sports like baseball and football making returns amid the pandemic, you still have plenty to talk about. Analyze teams’ and players’ skills and project scores. Allow your viewers to call in to get their thoughts known too. 

Better yet, consider talking about fantasy football line-ups and prospects as well! 

7. Travel (But Not Today)

Travel isn’t an option right now due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think about it! 

A radio show focused on travel can provide listeners with travel tips on certain places, as well as showcase more unique travel destinations that listeners maybe aren’t familiar with.

Take time to acknowledge how the travel industry has been hurt but also the importance of staying safe during the pandemic. 

8. Stay Healthy! 

A health and lifestyle radio show isn’t a bad idea either. Given the current public health crisis with COVID-19, a show about staying healthy is important. 

Talk about proper precautions to take to keep people and their communities safe. You can also explore which foods keep people more energized or helps to boost their general immunity. Bring medical experts on your show to give their point of view as well. 

In terms of lifestyle, speak to how people are staying active despite the pandemic. You will inspire your listeners to take steps in their own lives to stay active too! 

9. Listen to the Listener

If you are feeling unsure about content, you can always reach out to your listenership to see what they are interested in listening to. 

Your listeners tune into your radio show because they are interested in what you have to say, so let them offer topics or suggestions on how to spice up your radio show a bit more. They know best, as the consumer! 

No Shortage of Radio Show Ideas

Radio show ideas are plentiful. You can take your radio show in any direction you would like to. Most of these topics are flexible and won’t get old. 

Are you looking for assistance on virtual PD, imaging/voice talent, or formats? Contact us so we can help you make the most of your radio show! 

Why You Should Hire a Voice Tracking Radio Personality

radio personality

Are you looking to create a new show or radio commercial to appeal to your target market? Do you want to find ways of attracting your customers to your brand? If so, then you need to hire a radio personality to add life to your new radio endeavors.

Doing so can give you the help that you need. Rather than going through the motions and reading off a script, the radio talent you hire will bring those words to life and open your customer’s ears!

See below for all of the reasons that you should hire a radio personality and give your new show the excitement it so desperately needs.

1. Represents Your Brand

The voice that you use in your new show or radio advertising initiatives will play a pivotal role in whether or not listeners receive your message. They can tell when you’re merely reading words off of a script.

A radio personality can connect with the listeners and give an exact representation of the brand image you’re going for.

For example, if you’re wanting to make a fun show that talks updates listeners about the hottest celebrity gossip, you want someone with a fun and zany voice.

If you’re running a show about answering medical questions from callers, you’ll want someone with a firm and professional sounding voice. Someone that can put it into terms that you understand. You get the idea.

Be sure to reach out to find the right radio voice talent for your project. Doing so will get your show off on the right foot from the get-go.

2. Generates Excitement

Generating excitement for your show isn’t as easy as it sounds. It means that you have to bring the same level of energy to the mic every single show. 

You have to deliver the same tone and vibe that the audience is expecting. You either have it or you don’t. No amount of coffee is going to fix it if you don’t have that particular skills. Listeners will turn you off faster than you can say “radio”.

No matter what type of show you’re running, the show’s voice(s) have to create excitement from within. 

If you’re a murder mystery show, then the radio personality will have to create suspense and intrigue. If you’re a top 100 songs show, the radio voice has to generate enough interest to keep the listeners tuned in to see what song made it to the top.

You don’t have to have a unique show concept to get a following. People tune in for the person behind the mic. Without the right level of energy, you could turn people off to your show. They may never turn back to it again.

3. Encourages Listener Engagement

The listeners of your new radio show are a lot like customers. They want to be told what to do. If you’re fortunate enough to earn their trust, then they will consider everything you say as a firm fact.

That’s the power of an attractive radio personality for your show. They’ll be able to connect with your audience in a way that you otherwise couldn’t. They will encourage your listeners to engage with your brand on multiple levels.

For example, if your radio show is throwing a nonprofit event at a small business nearby, then your radio voice can pump up the excitement of the event.

They’ll make it sound more appealing for your target market, which will lead to you getting face to face with more qualified listeners. People want in on the fun, and with the right radio personality, you can direct your audience any way you want them to go.

4. Create Familiarity

Put yourself in the shoes of a member of your show’s audience for a second. You hop in the your car after a long day of work, turn the ignition, and what’s the next thing you do? Turn on your favorite podcast and/or radio station.

Why? Because you’re familiar with that radio station. You know that you’ll enjoy listening to the radio personalities on it and the songs they play (if applicable). This is a prime example of familiarity, and it’s a powerful tool for your up-and-coming show.

If you have new voices running the show from show to show, your audience can never get comfortable with your show’s vibe. If a listener tunes in expecting to hear “Froggy Tom’s” voice, then they’ll be disappointed to hear a different voice.

5. Off-Air Connection

The personalities and people on your radio show will extend far beyond the time restraints when you’re on the air. If a listener likes the brand you’re selling, they’ll want to connect with you and your radio voice off-air as well.

That means following you and your show on social media, on your website, relistening to your episodes on playback, and so on.

Without a proper radio personality, you risk not connecting with your audience in a strong enough way. You want listeners to view your show as a must-listen. That way, they’ll not only listen to every episode but follow your every move as well.

Find the Right Radio Personality for Your Needs

Now that you have seen all of the different reasons that your new radio show needs a radio personality or two behind it, it’s time to start your search for the right voice.

Be sure to read this article for more information on what characterizes an outstanding on-air broadcaster for you to use while you search.

To hear some of the industries top radio voice tracker’s or if you are or if you want to speak with one of our radio talent gurus. Ready to take the next step to higher ratings?  Let’s chat! Contact Jason Kidd, CEO of VirtualJock.com today!

7 Factors to Consider When Building A Radio Station Format

A Microphone in a Recording Booth

When Marconi made the first transatlantic radio wave, he probably never imagined we would be where we are today. More than 244.5 million American adults listen to the radio each month. In the competitive climate of radio today, you’ve got to be top-notch to grab the attention of listeners and earn your way to the top of the market. Whether you are starting a radio station or changing your format, you know that you have an important decision to make. The foundation of your station lays in your format and you have to know your audience to provide relevant programming. Keep reading for 7 factors to consider when building a radio station format!

1. Consider the Competition

Just like any product or service on the marketplace, the first step is seeing what is already out there. Using All Access and Nielson’s ratings you can see where the market is too saturated. If there are decades-old stations that you know listeners are committed to, you might stay away from that format.

If you’re up for a challenge and have a great idea, go for it. However, the best option is looking for formats that aren’t tapped into yet. You want to offer something unique and interesting to grab the listener’s attention and then retain it.

It’s important to pay attention to companies as well. Sometimes watching how a company is behaving in a market can let you in on some secrets. If they are planning to sell or change their game plan, you’ll be able to make a better decision for your future.

2. Research the Demographics

Another marketing plan must-have, you’ll need to find out who is listening. Meaning you should know exactly what demographics make up your market. You’ll need to find out information about age, race, sex, employment, education, income, marital status, and more.

These factors can give you a major hint as to what they would like to hear. Most radio broadcasting companies will create a “sample profile” of one of their station’s listeners. Whenever you need to come up with content, you refer to that profile. If they would most likely be interested, your content is good to go and works when it comes to trying to target your audience.

The more information about your potential listening audience that you have, the better you can relate, sell, and provide relevant information to them after you have decided on the format.

3. Can Your Team Sell It?

It would be great to just pick a format that you think is the most interesting. When building a radio station format, you’ll need to consider how you are funding this operation. 

Sales are the way to do it. Making an informed decision about business comes down to money. If you think you have a great idea about which format to go with, sit down and think about how marketable it is. Ask your team if they believe in the decision and what challenges they think you may face.

Depending on the format, you may have vastly different clients looking to advertise on that station. For example, your local smoke shop might not be interested in advertising on your gospel station. In that case, you probably wouldn’t want them to either.

4. How Are You Going to Promote It?

When it comes to radio stations, marketing is a double-edged sword. Thank your Promotions Manager, they have a lot on their plate! Not only are you concerned with promoting your clients in the best way possible but you have to make sure you are getting your station out there too.

The big question is how are you going to create a unique identity for your station.

Think about ways that you can promote the format. Non-profit involvement is a wonderful way to get out there and make a name for yourself while making a difference in the community. Depending on the attitude you bring with your format, some non-profits may be hesitant to work with you.

On one hand, you could have the edgiest rock station ever and be super successful. On the other, you could have a talk station full of angels. Both have their own benefits. Either way, you’ll need promotional materials to get you to the top. This means coming up with creative ideas and then all of those logo-ed out materials that we all end up with way too much of.

Also, think about remotes. How is your format going to look out at businesses and how exactly does it come into play when you are on-site with listeners? Your street-team will need to know how to represent your unique identity and have the right tools to do so.

5. Syndication, Clocks, and Programming

Another big question is syndication or no syndication? Where are you getting your radio shows from and what does that sound like in your market? These are very important questions to ask yourself and will save you some pain once you’re deeper into planning.

Furthermore, think about clocks. Sometimes there are formats that stick to a general idea about how clocks should be composed. Your rotations for commercials, music, and voice-tracking will be the foundation of how you compete in a market against other stations. This includes how you schedule your shows. A one minute difference could throw your whole game off.

Your format will come into play with your sweepers and liners as well. These will act as another key identifier for your brand. Working between programming and production is an important relationship to consider. Virtual Jock offers production services to help out! 

6. Who Is Your Talent?

You could have the greatest program director in the world and still miss the bar if your talent isn’t on point. Consider the factor of who is going to be on your station if you choose a certain format. These are the voices (and nowadays faces), of your station.

We love sounding local when it comes to radio. You’ll need to find talent that fits your format, sounds good, and if they aren’t local they need to make it sound local. Hiring outside of your market can be intimidating so if you’re looking to make sure you’re getting the right people, check out our talent.

7. What Isn’t Working?

Back to the competition, but not so competitive this time. Pay attention to who is failing. If you notice there is a format that is overall underperforming in the ratings, find out why. Depending on the answer you know you have a chance to make something happen there or you know to stay away.

Securing the Right Radio Station Format

Keep in mind that radio is a service and a product so you still need to think about the marketing plan when you are trying to figure out which radio station format will work best for you. Taking these factors into consideration will help you plan for the long haul and create the best station possible.

Set yourself up for success and next time the ratings book comes out, you’ll be sweating a little bit less and the office won’t be so dead.

We offer great format design at Virtual Jock, make sure to check out our services and see what we could offer you!