Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

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Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

Post by nicksummers » Sat Mar 06, 2010 1:25 am

Much is written today about what a country music radio personality ought to be talking about on the air. A popular dictum says a country music host must reflect the listeners’ lifestyle, share their interests, essentially, channel their daily lives into his/her on-air rap.

Well, that’s certainly one approach. But I want to wave the flag for the country music host who is simply an informed, enthusiastic presenter of the music we love. A warm, exciting human behind the mic who does nothing but communicate a shared enthusiasm for what brought the listener to the station in the first place: country music!

There are lots of great air personalities who don’t have much in common with country radio’s juiciest target – the late 20-ish, early 30-something female. Let’s take me, for example. I’m a radio guy who has a few miles on my odometer. I don’t drive my kids to soccer or ballet after school. I don’t watch American Idol nor the nutso housewives cable channel. I don’t attend high school basketball games and I’ve never been to a parent-teacher conference. I’ll never even attempt to talk about this stuff on the air, because I’d sound like a contrived phony. My station’s target listeners and I have next to nothing in common.

Nothing except an uninhibited, joyous enthusiasm for country music. That’s what I can offer them! Every time I open the mic, every break I do, it shines through. I listen to the artists’ albums, I read up on them. If I can offer an anecdote or two that I know my country-music lovin’ listener will enjoy, all the better. Anytime an air personality puts this great music up in lights, it legitimizes the listeners’ own joy in it.

Plugging in to your listeners’ lifestyle is overrated as an on-air technique. Radio is drippingly saturated with lifestyle babble and reality show recaps. I suggest that listeners have chosen our stations because they kinda like Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum, not necessarily because they want to hear our brilliant “take” on last night’s celebrity mud-wrestling.

If you can naturally plug into your listeners’ “life group” without faking it – great! Go for it! But let’s start acknowledging the often overlooked value of hosts who offer another gift that’ll vibe with those listeners’ hillbilly bone: sharing an unabashed joy in the artists and songs that make up today’s great country music.

Nick Summers
Production Manager and Music Host, KPLM, Palm Springs CA

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Re: Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

Post by countryroadie » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:22 pm

I think you bring up some great points, Nick. But if you think that trying to talk about topics related to your target audience is overrated, and you just talk about the music, what else will their be left to talk about at the end of the day?

You can only talk about music for so long before the topic wears out. Not that there's anything wrong with just talking about music and sharing your love for it with the listeners - but I think there should be more to it than that. You have to keep the listeners engaged with other things that are going on.

How do you keep your particular approach fresh? What other topics besides music do you think jocks can talk about without being "overrated"? I am not trying to be sarcastic, I am genuinely asking...

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Re: Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

Post by bigbadbo » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:52 pm

I think you guys both make some valid points. Did either one of you go to the CRS 'Real People' panel with actual listeners from Nashville.

It was quite eye opening. The only personality in Nashville anyone could name was Gerry House. None of them could name one song by Craig Morgan....and on and on.

These people have a lot on their mind- like surviving from day to day. Do they really give a crap about most of the stuff being thrown at them? Do they not know who the artists are because they're not paying attention? Or because there's no one on the air naming the artists and songs??


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Re: Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

Post by RabbitBro » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:55 pm

I didn't attend that panel, but that does not surprise me.

I am not an avid radio listener, but when I do listen, I sometimes wish the jocks would identify who the artists are and what the song titles are... and dang it, play a bigger variety of songs instead of the same things over and over!

And I agree with Bo, there are WAY bigger things to worry about in our day-to-day lives. I like to listen to music to kind of get away from all of the stresses in my life, so I don't mind either way if the jocks are talking about music or talking about the latest Hollywood gossip. It takes my mind off of whatever I am worrying about at the moment.

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Re: Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

Post by Drakea83 » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:55 am

With the way that corporate radio is handling things, they are just pushing the jocks that read liner cards and blurbs about country artists. There are a few that can do it really well and relate to millions of listeners across the country, but let's face it, not all of them can.

I think your case of being a country music fan relates much more than some people give credit. While you may not have a lot in common with that early 30's female, she would love to sit and hear you talk about the same music that she loves. That, IMO, resonates so much more than being a soccer mom/dad. They want to hear the cool stories we can tell them about Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks. They've got their friends who can talk to them about their kids. They turn to us to give them something extra.

On the flip side of that, I am still a huge proponent of LOCAL radio. Knowing what goes on and what works from market to market is something that is thoroughly lacking in country radio today. What works in Kalamazoo, MI won't always work in Beaumont, TX. If you are on air in Norman, OK on a Saturday afternoon in the fall and you're NOT talking about the Sooners, then you are missing the boat on what those listeners care about.

In talking about the reality show recaps, and blabber about pop news, I think the easiest way to do that is be honest with our thoughts about it. Personally, I can't stand Kate Goeslin. Anytime I've talked about her on the air, I try to make it into more of a personal bit instead of treating it like real "news." I've talked about how she needs to focus on raising her kids and not being a celeb. That is what I truly feel, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a country listening mom who doesn't feel pretty much the same. I don't talk about American Idol, because I don't watch it at all. That's something that I would love to my co-host or a guest that comes in once a week or so.

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Re: Air Personalities - What Should We Talk About?

Post by nicksummers » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:12 pm

Valid, excellent points raised by all. Pop culture, lifestyle, local realability, music talk...certainly they all have a place on country radio.

I don’t want to suggest that connecting to your listeners by relating to lifestyle and popular culture should not be done. Obviously, those topics connect with many listeners. Those air personalities who can do it naturally and without affectation are great! However, to amplify on my “overrated” observation - it seems to me that for some programmers, the integration of lifestyle and pop culture talk into one’s on-air rap has become a yardstick by which we measure the relevance of an air personality.

I contend that a variety of on-air approaches can be successfully integrated into a radio station. I only bring up music-related content because 1) it’s my strength (so I’m writing in selfish self-interest lol) and 2) it’s a natural accompaniment to our number one product – country music! I don’t have research, but my gut tells me that most people who find our stations stay with us because they love country music. Anything an air personality can do to reinforce that love and share the joy is absolutely a big positive for the station!

As far as keeping it fresh, well, we’re blessed in that most country stations are running current-based formats. Gosh, there is a wealth of stuff to talk about every day, and it’s all easily available on line.

There are always new artists and new information about the current big stars. That George Strait recorded “El Rey” because he’s always had a love for the Spanish language shows him to have a multi-cultural awareness.

When Miranda and Blake have a fight and all he has to do is bring her a big bag of Cheetos to make up is funny, human, and makes her more “real” to her fans.

Have your heard Billy Currington’s breakup story? While he was on tour, his ex-gf managed to get his fishing boat impounded by the police. Then, she bought it at the police auction and sold it to someone else! Is there a better tale to tell when you’re backselling “People Are Crazy?”

Now, should this be all a station’s air personalities talk about? Certainly not. But I believe that having one or two people of this orientation on the air absolutely addresses a significant segment of a country station’s audience. Perhaps not the largest, but certainly significant.

I’m just suggesting that an air personality as a “presenter of music” offers an important performance to a station. It’s not the only kind of performance a station needs, but it certainly has an important place. It’s another yardstick to measure the relevance of the guys and ladies who make a station great.

There’s more than pop culture and lifestyle talk that can make a country radio station interesting and fun.

Nick Summers
Production Manager and On-Air Host, KPLM, Palm Springs, CA

p.s. sadly, I did not have the opportunity to attend CRS.

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