“Well, isn’t that special…could it be, Satan?”
The memorable catchphrases of the classic SNL “Church Lady” character played by Dana Carvey are so funny because we all know someone like that. We’ve all met some super-religious buzzkill that attributes every source of “fun” as coming from the Devil himself.
If you haven’t met someone like that, then maybe you’re like that.
Fortunately, Contemporary Christian radio, for the most part, isn’t super-religious sounding (anymore). We even have the occasional “family-friendly” fun.
But what if we just had fun and dropped the “family-friendly” part?
Comedian Jim Gaffigan-often described as “family friendly”-shared his feelings on the phrase in his book Dad is Fat:
“As a parent, I know ‘family-friendly’ is really just a synonym for ‘bad.’
Family-friendly restaurants serve horrible food. Family-friendly hotels have
the charm of a water park. Really, anything with the word ‘family’ before it is
What if our stations were the ones known for having fun?
[Disclaimer: This is not an appeal to tell jokes. There are professional comedians, such as Steve Harvey, with radio shows. If you are not a professional comedian, don’t try to be funny. But having fun is achievable for all who are willing to put in the effort and not take themselves too seriously.]
Maybe you’ve heard it said of Christian radio that “fun is not why people come here.”
What if it was?
Frankie Morea, VP of Programming for Positive Alternative Radio, argues it should be:
“Our radio stations are a trigger format for people who find themselves in
need of hope and encouragement in difficult times. We have done a great
job of helping people through loss and the various challenges of life in their
valley.Our challenge is to always be mindful of those on the mountain or
somewhere in between.
Being inspirational and caring is what we do. God touches hearts through
our music and content but let’s keep in mind a merry heart does good like
medicine. Having fun can be a beautifully biblical thing!”
What if you were the go-to station not just for spiritual encouragement, but also for when someone just wants to have fun? As argued previously in this space, everything on your station matters. It’s either engaging or disengaging.
Over 39 million Americans own a smart speaker (Amazon Echo or Google Home). It will be 100 Million within a matter of months, not years. There are approximately a billion ways to hear Christian music or get a “verse of the day” on a smart speaker. If you want your station to be a preferred destination in the voice-command world, a good strategy would be to optimize to make your radio station for fun. NOW.
This article was originally published on AllAccess.com.
Most people don’t love radio. Those of us who do, likely, work in it. When it comes to radio, most people are feckless-that is to say, utterly indifferent.
Ever been on a road trip and tried to convince your travel companions to pop in to the local radio station?
…Just me? Let me tell you … they’d rather hang out at the Flying J gift shop.
Most people, however, do love the feeling radio gives them.
The feeling of connection to other people, to music that stirs their souls; and in Christian radio, a connection to God.
Creating powerfully evocative content, consistently, takes the right talent with intention, planning, and production.
“Live is lazy!” UK Radio Futurologist James Cridland is wont to say. He further explains:
“Used well, voice-tracking enables the best use of great content – yes, repeating it at times (particularly at times of crisis).
Used badly, voice-tracking and automation can make cookie-cutter radio which doesn’t look after your listeners. But then, we can do that quite adequately with live human beings if we’re not trying, too.”
Rather than debate the merits of live-and-local vs voicetracked and syndicated, what if we were all to commit ourselves to consistently delivering exceptional and emotionally-compelling content, 24/7? Does your weekend overnight girl have a coach? What about the production guy? Why not?
“People on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them,”says Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation and career overseer to international pop stars including Rihanna, Shakira, and Timbaland.
Seven seconds. Every piece of content on your station has seven seconds (or fewer) to capture listeners’ attention. Whose job is it to ensure everything passes the “7-second rule”?
Spotify is a free music service, and yet, 71 million people pay for Spotify to eliminate friction (non-music elements).
Of course, there are two major advantages radio has over streaming services like Spotify: 1) personalities and 2) the element of surprise (music discovery). How is your station strategically-capitalizing on this unfair advantage?
The biggest disadvantage for radio is that we have varying amounts of friction-or content-that is not optimized for listeners; namely unplanned banter from personalities and commercials/underwriting.
For listener-supported stations, underwriting is an opportunity to serve listenersbyletting them know which businesses share their values. But is it possible underwriting spots could be reimagined in a way that brings delight to listeners?
Everything on your station matters. It’s either engaging or disengaging (hello, Spotify!). Here’s to bringing back the heart of radio. Let us not be feckless. Rather, let us approach all programming with the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love for our listeners.
This article was originally published on AllAccess.com.
We are charged with being good stewards of what God provides us. Why do we settle for just okay? You may know we’ve got the best message ever to tell people and a bullhorn with which to do it, but then we bury it in okay songs with not great storytellers while we’re trying to convince listeners to come support the thing we’re doing because we think they should and then wonder why listeners aren’t loyal to our station.
Even if you’re not in a decision-making position at your radio station, you have the opportunity today to strive for better, even greatness. Ask God today to use you to accomplish His purposes. Decision makers, for what are you waiting?
The Natural Church Development process identifies eight characteristics of successful churches and, to get the point across, uses a barrel with staves (helpful for visual people). The lowest stave determines how much water the barrel will hold. Build up that stave and the barrel holds more water. The next step is to identify and build up the next lowest stave. The process repeats until the church is functioning well with all eight characteristics fully developed and engaged. You might imagine, this process never truly ends; rather, it’s a constant evaluation of what can be better and dedication to making it so.
Let’s imagine our on-air product is the barrel with five staves – music, talent, imaging, underwriting/commercials, promotions. What’s the lowest stave in your on-air barrel? To ask it another way, where do the listeners run out? Identifying and building up the low points give your listeners more reasons to stick around and provide you the opportunity to continually evaluate your product while fulfilling the mission.
To be fair, most organizations realize it’s next to impossible to overachieve in all areas and so settle on one area in which they’re willing to be “just okay.” In the store where employees wear blue vests, have you ever tried to find customer support when you had a question? That’s their “just okay” area. Your on-air product should never be the “just okay” part of your radio station.
I encourage you to be invested and interested in your on-air product. If you’re not, why should anyone else be? Evaluate what needs to improve and then effect the changes. Ask for help; you don’t have to have all the answers.
Give the good news wrapped in great songs and relevant storytelling while inviting listeners to be part of something bigger. It is a labor of love and an act of service for it is the King of Kings to whom we answer and by whom we are called.
What needs your attention today to begin the journey to greatness? Expect that tomorrow the answer likely will be different.
Millions of us grew up listening to John “Records” Landecker on the radio.
He’s incredibly talented, for sure. But what separates Landecker from other, less accomplished, talented people is hard work and perseverance.
In introducing Landecker to his 2017 National Radio Hall of Fame induction, Bob Sirott summed it up nicely, “If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, John was the hardest working man in radio”. Sirott goes on to explain the method to Landecker’s madness and how he would often show up 4 hours early to prep. Watch the full clip below to get a peak behind the curtain of a true legend.
It’s not easy or always fun. But we all need coaching.
It’s not easy because you might feel embarrassed, insecure, or foolish when you realize something you’ve been doing publicly is not as good as you thought it was. As self-aware as we think we are, we all have blind spots. When someone questions our work, we get defensive because we can’t believe we could possibly suck that bad.
As my husband likes to say, “embrace the suck” of facing reality and let’s get busy growing.
As much at it might sting, you really do want to know the truth. The truth will set you free to become great, impactful, and relevant. And that’s what you want.
So pick a smart friend. Or ask your spouse. Or find a good coach. And listen.
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” – Proverb 12:1 NIV
Somewhere along the way, there has probably been some artist who captured your heart. For me, it’s Claude Monet. Back in the late 80’s, we got a chance to walk through The Louvre in Paris and we brought home two Monet prints that hang in my house. Often I stop in front of either picture and just stare.
The talent, the care, the skill, the subject, the color choices – they touch me over and over.
One day Tommy Kramer said to me: radio is art. He said it in passing but it stuck. I didn’t understand because I was young and hadn’t figured out much back then. But considering this notion of radio being art has morphed into a deep conviction that 100% yes, radio is an art form. Most people don’t know that or respect the art of radio, but nonetheless, it is.
That next break you snuggle between two songs or perform before a stopset is potentially full of timing, sound, flavor, color, chemistry, volume, speed, depth, feelings, conviction, transparency, layers of emotion, humor, pain, wisdom, and, best of all, you.
Just for a few days, open up your mind to radio being art, and ponder this: what you put between the songs can be much more than safe “blah blah blah” that leads to your Friday paycheck.
What you create has the power to move another human being, maybe for a lifetime.
IDEA: Find a true radio artist and listen a bunch this week. What makes them great? I’ve been inspired by the wit, timing, and presence of this guy.
Lisa blogs for on-air talent in Christian radio. She creates daily shows for stations around the nation, she coaches air-talent, and she lives in Denver with her family and her ever increasing number of Westies. Listen or reach her at www.lifewithlisawilliams.com.
What’s the One Thing you’re working to improve this week?
If you need some inspiration for your show or station, just pick a recurring feature, like say, a “farm report”. There’s a #showhack I first heard from Randy Lane that might help when you are working to improve upon a stale feature, simply ask “What else can we do to make it bigger and add impact”?
The greatest example of making something bigger is when Larry Lujack took the Farm Report on WLS in 1970 and converted it one of the most popular radio features of all time, Animal Stories.
Lujack explained the origins of “Animal Stories” in an interview with Bill Schenold in 1985.
In 1970 WLS switched me from afternoons to morning drive. This was back in the days when they still had Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club on the air. Early in the morning, prior to 5 a.m., we had a farm show on the air. It consisted of five minutes of reading the hog prices and stuff like that — which I thought was really boring to do.
I started getting hold of a bunch of farm magazines — you know — WLS having been the “Prairie Farmer” station. Even though we were playing Beatles and Stones, we were still getting these farm magazines. I began thumbing through them and finding these weird stories about farmers and their animals. I started reading them on the air instead of broadcasting the stupid grain prices. A lot of the stories were about farmers getting attacked by their animals, horses having quadruplets — and other strange things. People started calling up the station — and geez they really liked the farm show. I couldn’t believe that. Rock and roll fans were actually calling up requesting that the farm show be made longer. After the farm show got dumped by management, I just renamed it Animal Stories and branched out. Animal Stories was not only about farm animals — but any kind of animals. Without a doubt, this feature was the most successful thing that I’ve ever done from a listener acceptance standpoint. It’s just a great common denominator thing: everybody at one time has had a pet dog, or a pet rabbit, or a pet cat. Everybody likes to go to the zoo — everybody likes animals.
In the movie City Slickers, Curly, the crusty old cowboy played by Jack Palance, says the secret to life is “one thing.” When asked by Billy Crystal, playing a stressed out, overwhelmed New Yorker what that one thing is, Curly replied, “That’s what you need to find out.” Great. Thanks a lot, Curly. While I’m not offering up the secret to life, either, I can tell you that “one thing” is the secret to that mounting to-do list of yours.
The “one thing” concept is not revolutionary or original by me. It came into focus for me years ago when I was programming a radio station and its music. The music scheduling software had endured years of many different hands being involved and therefore had a mish-mash of different ideas, theories, and work. Clocks, schedules, coding, song information, etc. Anyone who has ever scheduled music, know there are seemingly endless nooks and crannies to scheduling software and to that end, seemingly endless ways in which it can be messy, aggravating and overwhelming.
Now you might not use the word “overwhelmed,” but I am guessing you have encountered a time when a project (or just your workload) seems so daunting, complicated, or messy, you don’t know where to begin, so you never do. You put it off. You procrastinate. And it remains this overwhelming mess.
This is when I decided to take the approach of “I cannot do all of it today, but what is one thing I can do this week.” Just one thing. So one week I worked on shaping up clocks. Another week it was creating consistency in song coding. The next week it was updating categories and so on and so forth.
I chose one thing a week, just because I had more on my plate than just music. But for you, maybe it’s one thing a day. I realize this seems overly simple. It is. And yet, we easily forget and get paralyzed by all that we have to do at any given time. Start with one thing and then do the next “one thing.” I realize this might not be as exciting as the secret of life and probably won’t be a signature moment in a movie, but it could help you feel less overwhelmed at work.
Rube Goldberg was an illustrator famous for depicting complicated gadgets that performed simple tasks in convoluted ways. A Rube Goldberg radio contest is similarly complicated.
“Most Christian radio station contests are WAY too complicated. People aren’t going to orient their lives around winning your prize,” writes syndicated radio personality Doug Hannah.
The only exception, I’ll add, is that if you are going to Rube Goldberg your radio contests, go all the way and, at least, make it entertaining.
Let’s talk transparency on Christian radio. Think about its purpose and the different ways to be transparent. Recently, some really talented radio people have said to me, “I don’t know how to share my personal life on the air.” So it got me thinking about the why of transparency.
Two premises we could think about:
1) If you open up to people, they will open up to God.
2) Knowing and loving God is the most important thing.
If those two things are true and if you are called to Christian radio, then it’s worth the effort to consider artistic and God-honoring transparency. Maybe fear of being too transparent keeps you from trying. Sometimes people have been too transparent with you and it was like they barfed on you. You don’t want to do that.
Brush against your life.
My first thought on transparency is: do the personal work of becoming a healthy, honest person off-air. You may have already done this work, or are in the process of this kind of work, but it takes opening up to others. Maybe it’s a trusted friend or family member, an accountability partner, a therapist, a spiritual coach, a life coach, a 12-step group, a trusted small group Bible study – whatever works for you, find a place to be really honest, to heal, and to grow.
Then bring to your show things that are healed (or in the process of healing) and brush against them on-air. Find words to communicate the universal truth of your life and/or suffering. You don’t barf or bleed on them. But you sit beside them and you share your humanity and point towards Him. You take your life that is hammered out or in the process of becoming healthy in Him and you point towards the listener’s life and Jesus.
Consider the value of becoming honest, embracing your humanity, and how that could lead to hope in Christ for a listener someday. Because if you can connect them to Him, they can find healing and true life. But start with you and Him, and honest, deep healing.
Then brush against it on-air. Your story is about the listener.
Something to think about: There’s more value in your wounds and scars than you know. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 in the Message