The Lost Art Of Air-Checking

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(By Gary Berkowitz) If you are a regular reader of my articles here at Radio Ink, there’s one thing you know for sure; I believe in being “brilliant with the basics.” One of the most basic (and important) jobs a PD can do is critique talent. But with today’s busy PD schedules, this often gets ignored. Believe it or not, when I speak with talent, one of their biggest complaints is that they have not been air-checked in a long time.

So now that you’ve been reminded, give your talent what they want. Your time. Set up an air-check session today. To help, here’s a rundown of important areas to review with them.

MORNING SHOWS

– Trying too hard to be funny. There is a difference between “fun” and “funny.” Being fun is important and much easier to do. Most jocks are not funny.

– Not enough time checks. Too much time in between time checks.

– Not enough benefit-driven recycle mentions to “listen at work.” Use the morning show to get them into listening during the most important daypart, at work.

– Being an “Island” from the rest of the station. Not promoting what will happen later in the day on the station. Making the rest of the station part of your morning show.

– Laughing at everything said. Laughing when it is not funny. Nervous laughter (especially with sidekicks).

– Bits that go too long. In focus groups, most listeners “zone out” after about 20 seconds (unless it is really good).

– If you’re still doing news. Stories that have no interest whatsoever to the target listener. Use of words like “officials” and “authorities.”

– No promotion of what is coming up next. Whether diary or PPM, appointment setting is critical to increasing TSL.

– Talk for talk’s sake. Music is still a very important reason that people listen in the morning.

– Failing to sound warm and friendly.

– Weak or tired old-fashioned benchmarks. Drop the weakest one.

– Too much reliance on pop culture, show business, entertainment “blocks.” Most AC listeners rate this very low in importance.

– Companionship. Are you a good companions for your listeners?

OTHER DAYPARTS

1. Jocks who sound stiff/formal and unnatural.
2. Not promoting the stations unique benefits enough.
3. “SAYING” liners versus “SELLING” them with personality.
4. Not promoting tomorrow’s morning show.
5. Sounding bored and uninterested.
6. Failing to realize that you are their workday “companion.”
7. Use of DJ crutches such as:

• Good Afternoon
• Good Evening
• With you
• Thanks for listening “everybody”
• On a (day of week)
• “Everybody”
• Hump Day (if your jocks use this PLEASE eliminate)
• Saying goodbye at the end of the shift. Instead promote what’s next.

This Christmas, give your talent what they want the most. A slice of your time in an air-check session.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in AC and Classic Hits formats. Contact him at (248) 737.3727. Email: [email protected], or visit www.garyberk.com.

7 COMMENTS

  1. It is fair to say that giving talent feedback in any format and in the form most appropriate to the talent—=IS the most important PD job. I am shocked when talent tells me “I have never heard anything from anyone in management.”

  2. One important tactic you forgot, Gary was “teasing ahead”, especially across quarter hours. When I was a PD I did critique sessions at least every couple weeks with my jocks and was able to greatly increase the station’s ratings with zero promo budget.

  3. Definitely agree with most of your points; however, at least here in New York City, you as an air talent would not be allowed to put into practice a good deal of what you suggest. On most stations the jocks are downplayed in favor of the music and when you *can* talk it has to be a quick, sometimes mindless, comment about pop culture or reading of a liner card. Even if you have the talent, there is no opportunity to develop it. There are a number of excellent DJ’s locally who were fired and cannot get work because they “talk too much — even though they have the talent.

    Also, the fact that many morning shows (and other dayparts) are syndicated precludes them from giving time-checks and other local content that can make a show a lot more interesting.

    Here’s the bottom line: My personal collection of radio shows that I personally recorded in the 80’s and 90’s and the collection of airchecks which I have bought, traded and acquired from others runs in the tens of thousands. If I were just starting out listening to radio today, I would have no interest in wasting my time. Back in the days, even most commercials were very creative and fun to listen to especially if you had someone like Dan Ingram doing a live read. Today, not only are they not creative, but many of them are for questionable products and services.

    My standard is The Scott Shannon Z-Morning Zoo (including the Ross & Wilson iteration) and the overall sound and imaging of Z-100 (WHTZ) here in NY. Also, WCBS-FM through the 80’s and 90’s with all the great former WABC/WMCA DJ’s who were allowed to be themselves and became appointment listening (and recording) radio — especially the specialty shows. I also echo what Marty Brooks said above in reference to the jocks on other great NYC stations.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any of this ever coming back.

  4. I think they DJ SHOULD say goodbye at the end of a shift (but also promote the next show). If the DJ was with you, s/he wouldn’t get up and leave without an explanation because it’s rude. The the DJ should always make it seem like there’s 1:1 communication and they’re “with you”. Back in the day, when radio creativity was at its peak because DJ’s were actually allowed to be more than liner card readers, people listened to stations for their overall format, but they really listened to particular shows. For example, in NYC, the listened to Murray the K or Bruce Morrow or B. Mitchell Reed or a bit later to Rosko or Alison Steele. In L.A., maybe it was Charlie Tuna or Don Steele.

    If music radio wants to have a future and compete against streaming and satellite, they need to differentiate. And the only positive differentiation they have (they already have plenty of negative differentiation) is to get listeners to listen to shows again and return to the days of very strong air personalities.

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