Are You The Next Big Thing?

March 15, 2020

"One would swear I had broken both radio legs with the “crutches I was using in my imaginary broadcasts."


You’d have to hold play and record to activate the “mic record” function on the tape deck I got for my 11th birthday. It gave me hours of entertainment growing up as I mimicked what I heard on the radio and TV. Short, three-question interviews with family members were recorded and played back for a giggle. Not once in that time of the “mic record” years did I ever consider that I could turning my three-question skills into a job, mainly because at that age I was also a race car driver and a singer in a band.


In the 90’s when “less talk, more music” was the recipe for making radio and gaining audience, lots of slick radio jargon made its way to my “mic record” sessions.  If I wasn’t back at top of the hour, I was keeping you company till three PM, or asking you to keep your finger on speed dial as I wanted to know how you were doing (thanks Joey Tribbiani). My audience were keeping it locked on my dial, the music was always locked and loaded, there were great things in the bag, I was always back on the other side of a commercial break or paying the bills and the clock on the wall said it was time to crank it up.  One would swear I had broken both radio legs with the “crutches” I was using in my imaginary broadcasts.


Fast forward twenty-five years and “less talk, more music” has been replaced with “content and context”. The radio crutch is however still as prevalent as it was behind my tape recorder. I’m sure as a broadcaster and a listener you’ve developed or heard a crutch or two! The radio crutch gives the brain time buffer the next thought and allows you time to think what you’re going to say next.


“Um, you know what I mean?” This was my first crutch. I asked that question so many times starting out on campus radio, you would have thought I was broadcasting in a foreign country. The process of developing these crutches is a defence mechanism that goes unnoticed while you are doing it, but is blatantly obvious when listening back to yourself, you know what I mean?


The professional and dedicated broadcasters listen back to themselves and iron out their crutches on their own. They take pride in the product they deliver and strive to make it better every day. Barney Simon once asked me, “Why do radio DJ’s play music?” I answered something to the tune of “because we are a music station”. He replied “no, we play songs so we can think of what to say next”. It changed how I thought about my job. From that day the studio monitors were turned down so I could collect my thoughts for the following link. Presenters present the show to the listener and must package their links for the maximum enjoyment of the listener.


The great presenters, the ones who make it sound so easy that every listener thinks they could do it, have a common thread. They are well prepared. They know what they want to say in each link and how they will interact with the content, audio, sound effects, callers, guests and team members. Like a conductor in front of an orchestra, the great presenters conduct their links to flow like a symphony. They listen back to themselves, critiquing the content and asking honestly whether they achieved what they wanted to achieve.


The opportunity for young talent to put in the 10 000 hours Malcolm Gladwell expounds on in his book Outliers, has become much simpler in the digital era. No “mic record” needed to record those three-question interviews in this digital age.


At a recent Creative Industries session my fellow “mic record” and radio colleague Tim Zunckel told students they don’t need traditional platforms to help them build a broadcast career.  Technology has enabled multiple platforms for curation and practice.   


Young broadcasters who want to know how to get a radio job or what makes the perfect demo need to know that content on YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook or a podcast series is the way of the future. It shows growth, critical thinking. It also shows failure and potential successes. The “next big thing on radio” is probably already on radio because they are broadcasting today (most without even knowing it). The skills they are picking up on digital media broadcasts are the “mic rec” of the digital age.


The “next big thing on radio” has been broadcasting for years, even if it was from the front of their race car or from the stage their band was playing on. They will have crutches and will need to refine their craft and skill, but the “next big thing” is busy preparing, you know what I mean?


Did you also hit "mic record" I'd love to hear your story.



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