Tue. Aug 21st, 2018

The Music Matters

I am writing this column on Friday, September 15th. As I type, the Foo Fighters new album Concrete and Gold, which dropped earlier today, is blaring from my computer’s speakers. The Foo Fighters are my favorite band and have been for a long time. My friends and former partners Mike Maniscalco and Lauren Brownlow will attest that if I were still on air in Raleigh, new tracks from this album would have bumped us into and out of every break today.

It’s not just because they’re my favorite band, it’s because it would create content for the show. As hosts we can be so focused on refining our takes that we forget about the executive producer’s ability to contribute meaningful content to the program. As EPs we can get caught up in making sure every guest is booked and confirmed that we overlook how important something as seemingly inconsequential as music can be to the show.

No one in sports radio has done a better job of making their bump music a living and breathing part of their show than Bomani Jones and his EP Shannon Penn. I find myself wondering why they choose the songs they do each day and look forward to what Bo has chosen for the Old Soul Song of the Day and the story he will tell about it. I highly recommend you look up the day that Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” had the honor.

Before he made the move into the sports world, Bomani wrote about music. He’s very open with his tastes on Twitter. His love for music and what he plays on the air are key aspects of my relationship with him as a listener and fan.

There are three reasons that the music you select for your show matters.

1. It tells the audience who you are

It is human nature to assume that if a song is bumping the show with your name on it back in from a break you must like that song. It’s something that I found to be true during my time in rock radio.

You are smart enough to know that we didn’t select our own songs to play, but listeners don’t always realize that. I HAAAAAAATE Aerosmith, but when working on a classic rock station, you play one of their songs seemingly every hour, so naturally, my listeners assumed I knew the ins and outs of Steven Tyler’s career and life.

In sports radio you can choose the music. So, if you’re the host and you’re turning music selection over to the EP, ask him on air when you hear something new. Find out what he likes about the song or artist or even just what the name of the album is that the song comes from.

It creates a 90 second bit of content that causes an emotional reaction from your listener, because people connect to music the same way they connect to politics, sports or religion. Also, you have given the listeners a chance to make a personal connection with one of the show’s cast members. You don’t have to do it every break, but once a show or once every other show will establish that music is an important element in the formula that creates the on air product.

2. It is great social media content

There are so many ways to use your show’s soundtrack on social media. Chris Kroeger from WFNZ in Charlotte shares his show’s playlist on Twitter everyday. I only know Chris casually, so I can’t tell you how passionate he is about each song on the list, but I do look at it everyday with a keen eye.

I once had an idea to give my show’s playlist a theme everyday. I’d post the full playlist on Twitter and take listener guesses as to what the theme was. It lasted about two weeks and then we could no longer find a sponsor to provide a prize for the winner. It’s too bad too, because here was a piece of social content that kept the audience engaged and interacting after the on air product had come to an end for the day.

Finally, use Spotify! There is no easier way to make your music choices social than uploading the songs to Spotify and sharing the playlist. Do it everyday and you will find yourself in the enviable position of being a destination for listeners’ music discoveries as well as their sports opinions. Those playlists can be shared across every platform, so if a listener hears something they like but aren’t familiar with it, they can find it easily.

3. It sets the tone for the show

When John Cassio joined SiriusXM as program director of what is now ESPNU Radio, he told his hosts and producers that their bump music choices had to change. “Do you guys like anything made before 1988?” one of his hosts said Cassio asked him.

Cassio was making a very valid point. If you are bumping back with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 2017, it tells the listener that you are old and out of touch. Even if that isn’t truly the case, that is the message it sends, either consciously or subconsciously to the audience.

As someone that has worked in the industry for a long time, I hear a show bump back with “Highway to Hell” and I know that that show isn’t putting effort into every second it is on air. That doesn’t sound like a host or producer that likes AC/DC to me. That sounds like a producer is blindly firing whatever bump music is in the system. That doesn’t get me very excited for your show coming back from break.

Maybe you’ve just rolled your eyes at this dissertation on the importance of music. That’s fine. It does read as a tad pretentious. I promise you, though, that letting bump music just fall by the wayside as “unimportant’ is at best a wasted opportunity and at worst careless.

You have worked so hard to get where you are. There are so few of these jobs. Why would you want to be in this position and be thought of as careless or wasting the opportunity you have? Every second of your show offers you a chance to make an impact on the listener. Do not let one slip by.

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