Saturday, January 23, 2010

Filling In The Blanks…

A PD’s Guide To Creative Voice Tracking

Boiled down to its simplest terms, Voice Tracking is “Filling in the Blanks”. The music is scheduled, edited and set in stone. The imaging is done, scheduled and set in stone. The commercial breaks are scheduled and ready for the merge. Here are some actionable items to consider in making voice tracks one of the most-effective elements on the station.

  • Rule #1 - The Jock must take control of his/her show. On most stations, it sounds like the jock is just along for the ride, just like the listener.
    Your jocks are your market’s Tastemakers. “I heard (insert jock’s name) play the new song from George Strait yesterday.” So, why fight it? Take a tip from hip-hop: their dj’s, in the creation of their “mix-tapes”, are the tastemakers of their genre.
    Many programmers are so focused on their station’s brand that they forget that, for most of Country Radio’s P1’s, it’s personal. Coach your jocks to take ownership of their shows and the music they play. Use the word “I” instead of “We”.
    Be local…REALLY local. Coach your jocks to insert one of the 3-L’s (local names, local places, local events) into every break. Nothing generic, please! Not city names, but locations, place names. Help them find ways to insert local celebrities, community leaders and businesses into their bits.
    Slow Down! The most-common give-away that a station is voice-tracked is that the jock appears to be in a hurry. Consider requiring your jocks to put an allotted time into each show. And don’t allow them to track more than one show at a time.
    Sound LIVE! Here’s a thought: if you’re going to voice track, do it from your main studio instead from a production room. If you can’t do that, select one production studio for voice-tracking and try to create the look and feel of an on-air studio. So much of what we sound like is colored by our environment.

    Rule #2 – Make the show the priority
    At the legendary KOL/Seattle, there was a sign on the main studio door that read: The Most Important Thing Happening in the Station Right Now Is Happening in This Room
    For many PD’s and APD/MD’s, being overwhelmed is a part of the Job Description. The show somehow gets pushed down to the lowest priority—and it sounds like it on your air.
    Have Your Jocks Do Their Shows first…before their day has pushed them into a near-panic state. Try prepping over that first cup of coffee, then into the studio for a great show with no distractions, no holdover emotions from meetings, phone calls and other interactions of the day.
    Make It The “Fun” Part Of The Day! Being on the air should be the most-enjoyable part of working in Radio. Nothing any of us does dictates the success of the station more than our time with our listeners. Make it fun! Make it carefree!

    Rule #3: It Ain’t Final Till It’s On-The-Air!
    In the recording studios in Nashville, there was a saying, “It Ain’t Final Till It’s On Vinyl”, meaning that the song could (and should) be modified and improved upon until the master is pressed to vinyl and it’s in the store. Same for voice tracks.
    Any track can and should be updated in the light of current information. Yes, you may have to re-merge a few times, but making sure your station always sounds “live” and “today” should take the highest priority. For example
    Changes in weather – even if the difference is between “warm” and “hot”.
    Emergencies – major traffic incidents – severe weather conditions –power outages
    Special events happening in the community
    If, for example, some local event is receiving abnormal television coverage, the station should respond—with something! Perhaps playing a special song or at the very least, some involvement by the air personality. Continuing to play music and ignore what’s happening is a sure sign the station in is voice-tracking.

    Rule #4: Don’t Hesitate To Go Live!
    When severe weather strikes the area, things get jammed up quickly. Travelers need information – make sure they get it, even if it’s late night or overnights. The service will be noticed! Better yet, pre-sell it to one of your station’s valued clients. Have commercial copy ready to go and be ready with on-call personalities…just in case. Being able to react to special circumstances is what has made radio the choice of local and traveling listeners.

    With a little creative thought and a great deal of flexibility, your voice-tracked station doesn’t have to sound like somebody is just “filling in the blanks”.