As a broadcaster, why do we get involved in the radio industry?
As a child, I knew early on what I wanted to do with my life. It stemmed from a gift my mother gave me as a young boy: a transistor radio. I loved it. I carried it with me everywhere I went. And at night, in the room I shared with my twin brother, I would lay it down on my pillow, next to my ear.
Sometimes my brother would ask me to turn it up, especially if I was listening to the Cleveland Indians in the summer, or even during those early iterations of ‘sports-talk radio’. But once he fell asleep, I would turn the dial to see how many faraway stations my beautiful transistor radio could pick up.
One night it would be Cincinnati. The next, Chicago. Stations from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Canada. What I marveled at, though, is the clear-channel frequencies that it locked on, stations such as KMOX in St. Louis.
And the voices! I didn’t know if I had (or still have) a ‘radio voice’, but I sure did want to emulate those people I heard deliver the news, sports scores, play-by-play, or those who seamlessly and effortlessly talked between records, as if those musical artists designed their intros around that mellifluous voice I heard in the deep of the night.
Most of all, these people who graced the airwaves seemed like they were having fun! And I couldn’t imagine going to a job or picking a career that wasn’t, in some way, shape, or form, fun! Aside from my brief journey into study for the Catholic priesthood, there is nothing else that I have ever wanted to do.
I believe it’s why I admire these formats so much. ‘Hot Adult Contemporary’ is a broad term. It covers a whole landscape of mixed musical styles. But what always seemed like a hallmark of this format was that it never took itself too seriously, it relied on balance and inclusion, and the air personalities and people associated with the station enjoyed what they did!
To me, this was a critical factor. It reminded me of those nights glued to the front speaker of my transistor radio. And while the tapestry and texture of the presentation has since been modified, the actual ideas of the formats are the same: tempt people with a great balance of music and entertainment, and do it in such a way that they regard the fabric of the station as an integral part of their lives.
The job of radio, I feel, is to make a connection. I also feel that it’s the same strategy for me as an image-voice. Yes, I have a voice. So do all of the people who use the radio station. And the station wants to enact a message, and they do so in such a way that the message gets heard. These are the foundational building-blocks.
But that which separates one station from another is how they present this connection! My work with radio properties where the claim is that the station plays a wide variety of music is fairly extensive. And within those radio stations, the goal is to use that variety to connect to listeners on a very personal level. Broad playlists, hyper-concentrated air personalities. Long-winded playlists, very focused talent. And the goal? To entertain in the shortest amount of time so that the listener can get back to listening to music!
What I’ve also admired about these formats, aside from their ability to be silly and poke fun at themselves, is their trend towards not being bigger, or more important, than the listeners they serve. You know, when I would drive past transmitters and I would see that flashing red light at the top of the tower blink off and on, I often felt a very close connection to the people who listened to the station. I think there is a legitimate service element to what I do, and I take it very seriously.
Yes, commercial radio stations are designed, on some level, to make money. It’s why they sell advertising and it’s why they’re also constantly looking for avenues inside the digital realm in order to boost profits. But we all join this vocation knowing that, at the top of the list, we serve our communities. True, we must choose a vehicle (format) in order to do that. But having the privilege of being able to entertain and inform is one that I, and many broadcasters like me, do NOT take for granted.
Inside this wonderful format, surrounded by the desire to serve and the need to inform, there is most definitely the ‘fun factor’. Within this ‘Adult Contemporary’ genre, I, along with my compadres, embrace it and celebrate it. I’d love the opportunity to be involved with all of these facets with your station!