What ever happened to live radio?

15 Jan


What ever happened to live radio?

I remember when I first started in radio EVERYTHING was live except for the advertising and station IDs. In those days we’d cut, splice and load the carts. The sound of a jock getting ready for a shift was reading the newspaper and magazines and the clang and crash of retrieving and loading carts. Quite often one wouldn’t fire off and you’d need to quickly push it in properly and off it went.

But we always came on live after the commercial break. It was scary. The adrenalin would pump. Who knew what we’d say. Maybe that was the problem? Maybe that was the beauty of it.

Radio is in my blood and I will cling to a semblance of a radio career until the day I die. Radio is magic. It’s a one-on-one medium. How close do you feel to your favourite radio personalities? Their voices, their stories, the music they play and topics they discuss really do shape our day.

Not a lot of it is live anymore. If it is live it is delayed. The shows that are clearly live are the ones I love. As a traffic reporter in this new radio age, most of my work is pre-recorded but for the next three weeks I am live on two stations and it is so much fun! We’re interacting. We’re connecting. I’m being asked questions and included in discussions. Isn’t this what radio is all about? Isn’t this how radio maintains its soul?

Gosh how I wish we were more like Howard Stern in Private Parts. Boy did that take some guts. I have watched that movie hundreds of times. He was so brave. Some of his management were so brave. Other announcers have tried to take a leaf out of his book with mixed results. Sometimes when it works, radio magic is made.

Why is everyone so cautious these days? Why can’t we just let the conversation flow? My favourite shows are the ones that are so comfortable and familiar that they could only have taken years to build. It takes months and years for that initial chemistry to segue into brilliance, not just one survey result. Radio is so jittery these days. Honestly, I can’t keep up with the changes and the desperate promotion of shows yet to air.

As proven by recent pre-recorded radio segment scandals, pre-recording segments and shows doesn’t necessarily result from or in good judgement. Sometimes you go too far because you figure that because it is a pre-record, you can edit it or just not play it. When you are live you have to have your wits about you. Good judgement has to become instinct.

I remember an episode of The Simpsons which aired while I was a breakfast radio announcer. In the episode a machine called something like the “DJ 1000” is brought into the studio. The jocks are horrified. One says, “Don’t praise the  machine.” This became a mantra my co-host and I lived by. Each time we were told to pre-record something we could easily have done live, we would say to each other, “Don’t praise the machine, don’t praise the machine.”

I make more mistakes when I have to pre-record. When I’m live, I make less mistakes.

Radio sure has changed since I made my first desperate attempt to get a job as a jock some twenty years ago. I do have to say that the truly gifted announcers out there have the ability to make pre-recorded shows sound utterly and completely live, because after they hit record they are in the moment. In their minds, they are live. They connect. They have a background in live radio so they know what it takes, how it feels.

Everyone in radio should have to go live for years, as part of their training. Ironically it is only through the awkward mistakes, moments of dead air and unplanned content that you can truly become a gifted announcer today. And the stories we all have about what when to air are just gold. Like the guy lined up at Ticketek who dropped both the ‘c’ and the ‘f’ bomb during our show one day. It was horrific at the time but boy have I told that story a few times! He communicated his frustration. He connected. He just got us into massive trouble in doing so and that was the trigger for our segments to all be pre-recorded.

I really miss live radio. Sometimes when it’s live just gold.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi


2 Responses to “What ever happened to live radio?”

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