Hostage Tapes


(By Buzz Knight) I’m stating the obvious when I say the last many months have been stressful and it has taken its toll on the workforce. Specifically, it has been incredibly difficult on a sector of the workforce that is so critical to success which is the air talent.

All talent had to revert to a completely different method of delivering live or recorded content for their audience. This scenario had not been imagined and it threw off the rhythm in many ways.

By and large, the audience did not get their content delivery from radio interrupted which is a tremendous accomplishment that can’t be ignored. Hats off to programming leadership, talent and engineering staffs for pulling this off.

With that change it was certainly OK for brand managers to give their talent some latitude on all things quality control. But now as the new abnormal settles in it’s important to take a look at some of the bad habits that have crept into performance.

Pardon me for this analogy but some of the performance execution has the same tone and quality as a hostage tape that we have seen in these instances of weak performance.

Live (or Live recorded) commercials are the life blood for sales teams and in so many instances they are being mailed in without the proper passion and preparation. Granted, there are still excellent pitch masters in the talent universe, but many read the copy as if it is being read for the first time. They are robotic lacking passion and they sound like there is a gun to their head demanding the copy be read.

If the talent is still broadcasting remotely there is still the tin quality of the audio that sounds amateurish and hollow. This delivery does not suit an advertiser goal and creates a bad impression for the audience. This situation is killing future business and has to be nipped in the bud now.

Another example of the hostage tape scenario relates to talent and their performance execution of National Contest copy.

I hear so many examples of a heartless, disconnected and a robotic read around the particulars of a National Contest and how the audience can participate. There is no fun and enthusiasm for the campaign when you hear a contest presented in this manner.

Quite honestly, if you are in a decision- making position either as a brand manager or a market manager I would save the money and kill the contest if you can’t stop this bad habit. Save the money.

We are at an inflection point with audiences in a post pandemic world. Their habits have been disrupted and in many cases they have sought out other forms of entertainment.

In many cases they are just being reintroduced to their favorite radio brand. Welcome them back with excellent execution and please put a stop to hostage tape performance.

The audience is very smart and and THEY make the final call.

Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]m


  1. “Nipped in the bud”….
    Anyone using this term should not be advising talent, of any kind. Unless it’s for an AM oldies station in markets 200 or smaller. Radio: Get FRESH consultants!


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